November 21, 2011

Thai Pham didn’t always know he wanted to be an electrical engineer. But while working as a sales assistant for a wireless phone provider, Pham decided he wanted to do something different with his life. Pham enrolled in Baton Rouge Community College and began working toward an Associate of Science in Pre-Engineering degree.

LSU College of Engineering and BRCC partnered in 2010 to create “Bears to Tigers” program.” The program makes engineering more affordable and practical to many students who might have difficulty entering LSU, whether due to financial issues or entry requirements. The partnership allows participating BRCC students to become involved at LSU and experience additional opportunities specific to their major.

In addition, the Office of Diversity Programs received a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to provide financial support for approximately 35 academically talented, financially eligible students, who have completed the Associate of Science in Engineering degree at BRCC and will transfer into an engineering degree program at LSU. 

As part of the program’s inaugural class of five Pathway Scholars, Pham received a $7,500 per year scholarship for two years along with four other Bears to Tigers participants.

For Pham, now an electrical engineering junior at LSU, receiving the Pathway Scholarship has taken a huge weight off his shoulders. “This scholarship gives us more opportunities. We don’t have to worry as much about finances as we did before and can focus on completing the task at hand—getting our diplomas,” Pham said.

Similar to Pham, Julie Clark decided she wanted to go back to school for a degree related to math or science. Originally thinking she wanted to pursue a degree in chemistry, Clark decided a chemical engineering degree would make her more marketable. She enrolled in BRCC and worked toward transitioning to LSU. 

Clark, a chemical engineering junior at LSU, was also one of the inaugural recipients of the Pathway Scholarship.

“The scholarship allowed me to only work on the weekends and focus on schoolwork during the week,” Clark said.

In addition to offering financial security, the scholarship also provides opportunities students may have otherwise not had.

“The program and the scholarship have given me a chance to go to job fairs, do interviews and get an internship,” Clark said.

The Pathway Scholars will work to propose ideas for programs that will help students’ transition from BRCC to LSU.

“We are excited to have awarded the first group of students with the Pathway Scholarship. This group of students was chosen primarily for their academic achievements,” said Kelly Rusch, associate dean for research and diversity programs, LSU CoE. “Our Pathway Scholars serve as ambassadors and mentors to future students. We look to these students to encourage others to transfer while helping to improve the process to ensure the move is seamless.”

“It’s refreshing to know you’re being awarded for your hard work and studies,” Pham said. “What excites me about the scholarship is that even as an nontraditional student, I was able to be one of the first scholarship recipients.”

As far as the future goes, Pham is ready to complete his summer internship with DOW Chemical and “get out there and be an engineer.” And for Clark, she’s ready to have a “grown-up job” working as a chemical engineer.

For the Pathway Scholars and other “Bears to Tigers” participants, an engineering education—and career—is an achievable dream.

For more information about the Office of Diversity Programs, click here.


For more information, contact Cassie Arceneaux, College of Engineering, or (225) 578-0092.

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