The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) celebrates its STEM students and programs today on National STEM Day – and every day – while continuing to grow a broad list of courses, certificates and stackable credentials to help students – and professionals – excel in high-demand STEM careers.
STEM – which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics – doesn’t necessarily involve working as a scientist or engineer or even require a degree these days. “The STEM careers are diverse, including jobs like psychologist, software developer, civil engineer and statistician,” points out U.S. News and World Report in its 2021 listing of Best STEM jobs. “STEM jobs are often referred to as the jobs of the future, so as this sector continues to grow, take a look at what the STEM industry really looks like.”
CSM Pre-Engineering Coordinator and Adjunct Faculty Jehnell Linkins said she works hard to show her students that STEM careers “are cool.” She and her daughter CSM Alumna Jehnae Linkins have worked together in recent years to sponsor CSM’s “Engineer Like a Girl” summer programs for high school students and serve as advisors for the college’s various Engineering clubs – among them CSM’s National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chartered last December.
In January 2021, Jehnell Linkins and CSM Instructor Judith Moore also started CSM’s new Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Club. And in February, Linkins accepted on behalf of CSM proclamations from area elected officials for the college’s ongoing work to increase understanding of, and interest in, engineering and technology careers.
CSM’s steadfast commitment to helping women in STEM is because “despite making up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, women are still vastly underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce,” according to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau today.
And that’s a statistic that two CSM’s students plan to change, including Rhey Mesowski, of Lexington Park, who returned to college after a 10-year hiatus.
“I had to put my degree on hold to work full time to help my parents send my siblings to college,” Mesowski explains. “For a 30-year-old returning student like me, there is always that fear of not being welcome in a college full of students fresh from high school. But CSM became my second home the moment I stepped foot on the campus for the first time. I just felt this sense of being somewhere I know I belong.”
Mesowski now serves at the president of the Student Association at the Prince Frederick Campus and the 2nd Vice President of the CSM Student Government.
“I’ve had so many great experiences at CSM,” she shared. “My professors have always been supportive and understanding of my schedule as a working parent. My amazing mentors in the STEM group motivated us to take on challenges that would help us become the best version of ourselves. I got my accounting degree finished at CSM and I am currently in the AS Mathematics and Sciences program. I am a believer in lifelong learning, so I will be in school for some time, and a career as a data scientist or an actuary is my goal.”
St. Mary’s County resident Asha Gaines came to CSM after transferring home in 2020 from the Engineering program in West Virginia University (WVU) as COVID-19 required most students to move to remote learning environments.
“With the online forum at CSM, I was able to connect with people by creating virtual study groups,” said Gaines, whose career goal is to become an astronaut. “Then later as I became more comfortable in the new environment, I gained support to create the first National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Chapter at CSM. This accomplishment could not have been attained without the support of my peers and advisor Mrs. Jehnell Linkins.
“This fall I’m finishing my associate degree at CSM and have an internship at Patuxent Naval Air Station’s Webster Field,” Gaines continued. “I plan to transfer to the University of Maryland to complete my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. After UMD, I will work at Patuxent Naval Air Station, attend graduate school, and become eligible for the NASA Astronaut program.”
CSM offers a number of STEM transfer programs to four-year colleges and universities, including the local partnership with the University of Maryland (UMD) that Gaines has chosen.
In the UMD partnership, students are offered a seamless pathway to a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering or Electrical Engineering in which they earn their Associate of Science Engineering Degree at CSM and then transfer with junior status to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering at UMD. Students also have the opportunity to do an internship with the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), a division of NAVAIR, with a possible employment opportunity upon successful graduation and completion of all Pathway Program requirements. Students can take all the classes in Southern Maryland at CSM and then at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (SMHEC) to complete their junior and senior classes with UMD.
CSM has a financial way forward for students seeking careers in those fields thanks to a $953,243 award from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Scholarships in STEM (S-STEM) program, and a second NSF grant for $257,912 to help students pursue degrees in cybersecurity.
Learn more about CSM’s STEM Pathway and the many scholarship available to help students keep their STEM dreams achievable by visiting, https://www.csmd.edu/programs-courses/pathways/stem/index.html.