Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications
The daughter of a postal worker who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica, Noelle Bowlin never even heard of the field of oceanography when she was growing up in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.
“I never heard of those kind of things. It wasn’t a discussion topic at the dinner table – not at my house,” she said. “It’s not for lack of trying. My parents killed themselves to give us what they could. But you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Now a top doctoral student in the biosciences department at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Bowlin has made it her mission to ensure that as many disadvantaged youths as possible grasp for opportunities that may seem beyond their reach.
Right, Noelle Bowlin receives diversity award from Chancellor Fox.
“I want to be able to help expose people like the little girl I was to all these cool things in the world that I never knew about,” she said.
One of the many outreach programs Bowlin helps spearhead at Scripps and the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center brings middle school girls from across San Diego County into the institutions’ laboratories, where they get hands-on experience working with top female scientists.
“I want them to know that there are women just like them that do these things – that do research,” she said.
Bowlin was one of 25 individuals, units and departments who received 2011 Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action and Diversity Awards at a program Feb. 14 at the Price Center ballrooms. The awardees were recognized for everything from chairing the Black Staff Association Scholarship fund, to heading a campaign to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among low-income African American families, to staging film festivals showcasing prominent African American artists as part of the campus celebration of Black History Month.
“Over the last few years, we have made great strides in increasing and celebrating campus diversity,” said Chancellor Marye Anne Fox in presenting the awards. “And all of you have had a tremendous role in accomplishing that.”
Two years after racist incidents on and off campus sparked student demonstrations at UC San Diego, Bowlin was recognized for working with a group of Scripps students who traveled to Compton High School with Vice Chancellor of Marine Sciences Tony Haymet to meet with students. Bowlin said she and the other students requested to make the trip after a Compton High teacher came to UC San Diego to read student letters at a campus teach-in.
Bowlin returned to Compton High to teach science classes and work with students. The outreach efforts by Scripps soon blossomed into an annual summer program in which Compton High students work in Scripps labs and even travel out to sea to work side-by-side with scientists.
IDEA Student Center Director Terrance Mayes shakes hands with Chancellor Fox.
“I went to sea with them, and it was amazing to see their faces,” Bowlin said. “They had never seen anything like what we were doing.”
In addition to the 15 individuals who were presented with awards for their contributions in support of UC San Diego’s commitment to diversity, several programs also were recognized with awards.
One was the IDEA Student Center at the Jacob’s School of Engineering. IDEA, which stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Excellence and Advancement, aims to attract more underrepresented students; improve retention and graduation rates; encourage undergraduates to pursue research; and get students in elementary, middle and high school excited about a career in engineering.
“My team and I are appreciative of this award but recognize that we still have much work to do in helping to foster a climate of diversity, equity and inclusion at the Jacobs School,” said Terrance Mayes, the center’s director.
The creation of the center would not have been possible without the Jacobs School chapters of the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers and the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers, as well as the faculty and staff across the Jacobs School, he said.
Mayes added that he hopes the award will increase the center’s visibility on campus and across the country to show that efforts combining academic enrichment, mentoring and student life can serve as a model to successfully retain students who have been historically underrepresented in engineering.
The center plans to expand several of its programs, he said. The Jacobs Undergraduate Mentoring Program (JUMP), a new student-driven initiative, doubled the number of students it served in its first quarter to 140. The program also will now include alumni, who will mentor graduate and undergraduate students.
The IDEA Scholars program also will expand from 22 to 40 students in fall 2012, comprising about four to five percent of the incoming freshman class for the 2012-13 academic year. The new program is designed to increase retention and graduation rates for under-represented students at the Jacobs School. The goal here is to improve these statistics by offering a wide range of services and opportunities for students. This past quarter, IDEA Scholars’ grade-point average was higher than the average GPA of all students at the Jacobs School. All IDEA Scholars take part in the Summer PrEP program, a residential summer program designed to prepare students for the transition from high school to the Jacobs School’s rigorous engineering program. Summer PrEP will expand from four to five days this summer.
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