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Starting the Pipeline from High School to College

Posted October 22nd, 2010 by staff

The OSU campus is normally a quiet place at 9:00 am on a Saturday.  But on October 9th, 20 students from Benson Polytechnic High School were busy in a lab dissecting the many layers of disposable diapers in a lesson on the chemical engineering of superabsorbent polymers.  Benson teachers Jean Eames, Matt Pellico (OSU ’82), and Fred Wong (OSU ’72) believe that their twice-yearly overnight visits to OSU which expose their students to the college environment and college instructors “helps them think seriously about college and…helps everyone adapt to college [when they get there].”

professorThe college instructors couldn’t agree more.  “It is a great example of a pipeline activity.  During each Benson visit MANY former BHS students show up to visit with their former teachers and also help with the activities. This is a clear example of the substantial impact that sustained ‘longitudinal’ exposure to opportunities can have on the lives of young people,” says Skip Rochefort, associate professor of chemical engineering and a long-standing collaborator. The partnership between OSU and Benson High School has been on-going since 1997 in conjunction with STEPs (Scientists and Teachers in Education Partnerships), formerly Science Connections, and generous funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The most recent visit focused on Engineering and included a tour of the facilities with College of Engineering Ambassadors – undergraduates that work to recruit women and minorities, a presentation by the Sustainable Energy Initiative on biodiesel, the disposable diaper lab, and an activity about oil spill recovery technologies led by Rochefort and a team of undergraduate students.  Other visits include presentations from other key faculty collaborators: chemistry with Margie Haak, entomology with Sujaya Rao, biology with Indira Rajagopal and biochemistry with Kevin Ahern.

Rochefort summarizes the impact of the program for both the Benson high school students and OSU.  “The simple fact is that bringing these students, most of whom are female and/or ethnic minorities, to the OSU campus and introducing them to science and engineering greatly enhances their likelihood of attending a four-year university. Many of these students end-up at OSU in some STEM field.”

3 Responses to “Starting the Pipeline from High School to College”

  1. Jean Eames Says:

    Actually we do between four to five trips to OSU each year Two visits to Skip and Margie, one to two trips to Kevin Ahern, One trip to Oceanography and or to the Salmon Bowl held by the Oceanography Dept at OSU.

    We usually have a waiting list of 10-15 students depending on the time of the year that we are visiting. It is the most popular extracurricular activity on the Benson Campus aside from sports. This visits also allows the teachers to teach at a higher level and the students DO BUY INTO the higher expectations because they can see that it will help them later on in college. This “pipeline” has allowed Oregon to keep some of our “brightest students” from leaving the state and contributing to the “brain drain”.


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