Loyola Marymount University’s first Descartes scholars are ready to begin their college careers. “This is a very exciting time for these 12 students,” said Herbert Medina, professor of mathematics and director of the Descartes Scholars Program. “If we didn’t have this program, many of these students wouldn’t be coming here.”
More than 30 students were considered for the scholarships. Those selected are as diverse as the university itself. Asian-American, Latino, African-American and white students, drawn from L.A.-area high schools, are represented in the group of six women and six men. But they are united in their choice of majors. The Descartes program’s goal is to boost the ranks of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
“Loyola Marymount was one of my top choices before I knew about the Descartes Scholarship,” said Esmeralda Villalpando, who will study mathematics. “When I found out that I was a recipient, I was filled with joy because then my decision wasn’t about the money but about the perfect fit.”
Medina made at least a dozen visits to high schools to recruit qualified students. Choosing a major before beginning of the freshman year is a difficult decision for most students, he says. But, he added, “the fact that these students have decided to major in challenging math, science and engineering disciplines indicates a level of commitment that we’re looking for.”
The program is funded by the National Science Foundation and is in its inaugural year. Members of the cohort will receive a $10,000 award each year for four years, provided they continue in their major and remain in good academic standing. Because the program funds one cohort of students at a time, Medina is seeking additional funds for subsequent contingents.
He also plans to reapply for NSF funds after the first cohort graduates in four years, to ensure that these Descartes scholars are not LMU’s last.