The secret is "culture"!
Why is "culture" important?
"I came to see in my time at IBM that 'culture' isn't just one aspect of the game - it is the game."
-- Lou Gerstner (1942- ) Former IBM CEO, credited with its turnaround
Culture is your organization's DNA - the blueprint for everything you do. To be better at innovating - your culture must expect and foster innovation. To improve customer satisfaction - your culture must expect and foster great service. Great leaders realize this. They know that "culture" isn't a single item on a task list. And it can't be delegated to a committee. It's all encompassing. It's the real work - and legacy - of leaders. (Source: Fast Company)
"Culture" is the reason why the City College MESA Program is the best academic support program for students in math, engineering and science majors: the MESA Program has a culture of success, with a language of success! The MESA culture connects everything and everyone in the MESA program. The MESA culture expects and fosters excellence in student achievement. The MESA culture produces scholars and leaders!
Definition of Culture
MESA is the best academic support program for students in Math, Engineering & Science majors. The secret is "culture"! The MESA Program has a learning culture of success, with a language of success.
Culture is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as:
- "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group"
- "the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time <popular culture>"
- "the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization <a corporate culture>"
We each have a personal definition and understanding of culture: it is who we are. Our culture is taught to us by our families, friends and communities. We learn what foods to eat, what clothes to wear, how to communicate, how to behave, and what is important.
But culture is also related to success in college: to be successful in college, students must know the culture of the college, the college standards and the college system (see Pyramid Model). This is especially true for success in Math, Engineering and Science. Fortunately, culture is what the City College MESA Program does best!
MESA Cultural Experience
The MESA program has a culture of success, with a language of success. More than a program or community, MESA is family, with shared beliefs, practices, and behaviors designed for student success:
- MESA students are Creators
- MESA promises a transformational experience
- MESA Creators know the Secret to Success - also known as the "African Village Story"!
- The MESA Program Capstone identifies the purpose for the learning: Skills, Knowledge, Wisdom, FREEDOM!
- The MESA Foundation for Learning is the cornerstone of the MESA culture
- MESA offers many opportunities for academic, professional and personal development
- MESA Creators work together and support each other; they share common classes and common majors; and they work closely with their professors in math, engineering and science classes
- The MESA Center is a second home on campus for MESA Creators
- MESA Creators achieve success
More than knowing the MESA culture, MESA Creators own the MESA culture. They take the MESA culture wherever they go. MESA Creators are successful in school and in life, and they achieve FREEDOM!
Secret to Success - African Village Story
Storytelling is very important in every culture. Stories are used for entertainment, for teaching, for passing on values, beliefs and wisdom. This is also true in the MESA learning culture of success. The MESA culture has the "African Village story" to pass on the secret to success and teach all MESA Creators what it takes to be successful in life. MESA Creators "want to breathe"!
Here is the African village story:
A wise man lived in an African village next to a lake. He knew every secret of life. One day, two village kids decided to test the wise man. They asked him, “What is the secret to success?” Without saying a word, the wise man took each kid by the hand and walked them to the lake and into the water - until they were completely underwater! The kids didn’t know how to swim, and they began to panic. But just before they could no longer hold their breath, the wise man pulled them out to the shore. Taking deep breaths, the kids wildly began to catch their breath, and they screamed at the wise man, “Are you CRAZY? You could have killed us!” The wise man answered, “Just before I pulled you from the water, what was most important to you?” The kids replied, “We were going to drown. We wanted to breathe!” Sharing his wisdom, the wise man said, “Exactly! When you find something in life that you want as much as you want to breathe, then you will find the secret to success.”
The Arican village story is adapted from story by Dr. Edward Prather -
Emerging Ethnic Engineers Program, University of Cincinnati
See "Secret to Success - African Village Story" handout (PDF)
MESA Cultural Stories of Success
The MESA culture has many stories of success. MESA Creators rise to their potential and beyond. They are often the best in their classes. They often earn the top scores on tests. They achieve success at City College, and they successfully transfer to continue their journey towards FREEDOM!
Here are sample MESA stories of desire, persistence and success!
"I want to breathe!"
A student joined MESA in Fall. He was a Math major. On his own, he had worked his way up to a Calculus III level, with average success. Also, he previously attended Morehouse College, but it was not the right time and place in his life. MESA came at the right time for him! He was introduced to the MESA culture, he learned the MESA strategies for learning, and he became a MESA Creator. He excelled in Fall, passing both Calculus III and Linear Algebra. But there was more room for improvement. In Spring, carrying 12 units, he earned A's in all his classes (a 4.0 GPA!), including Differential Equations and Discrete Math. He mastered all of the MESA learning strategies, including BPR, Big Picture Approach to Problem Solving, speaking with professors during office hours, and the use of the Smartpen! When asked about the strategies that helped him the most, the student responded, "All of the MESA strategies are great, but the thing that stuck with me the most was the African village story!" He not only remembered the story, he owned and applied the message from the story. Talking about his new academic success and his perspective on life, he simply said, "I want to breathe!"
MESA Master Fighter
A student returned to school and she joined MESA. She was a pre-med major. That first Fall, she took Calculus II (the most difficult class of the 3 Calculus classes!). It had been 5 YEARS since she last took Calculus I. She scored 12 out of 100 on her first Calculus II exam - by far the lowest score in the class! Her professor expected her to withdraw from the class. He didn't think that she had a chance of passing. But she wasn't like other students - she had a desire to succeed, and she was a MESA Creator! She took advantage of the MESA Program. She worked hard to learn the MESA culture and the MESA strategies for learning, including BPR, Big Picture Approach to Problem Solving, speaking with professors during office hours, and study groups. Her efforts helped! On the second exam, she raised her score to equal the class average. She was on her way to success, and she continued working hard to truly master the MESA learning strategies. Although the third exam was very difficult, she succeeded to score 82 out of 100 - an increase of 70 points from her first exam! She went on to score over 84 on the final exam, and she passed the class! More than a master learner, she proved to herself that she truly was a MESA master fighter!
#1 - Best in Class
A MESA Creator transferred to San Diego State University. He was a Mechanical Engineering major. In his first semester, he enrolled in a full load of classes, including Calculus II (the most difficult class of the 3 Calculus classes!). There were 132 students in the Calculus II class! Compared to his classes at City College, it was the largest class that he ever had. Large classes can be intimidating for many students, especially transfer students. However, the class size did not matter to him. As a MESA Creator, he transferred with confidence. He took the MESA culture with him, and he applied the MESA learning strategies, including BPR, Big Picture Approach to Problem Solving, speaking with professors during office hours, and study groups. On the first Calculus II exam, he earned a "B-" grade. He was disappointed by the result. He expected a higher score. So he worked harder at applying the MESA learning strategies. On the second exam, he was #1! He earned the highest score in a class of 132 students - he missed a perfect score by only 2 points on a difficult exam! (Note: the class average was a "C" grade) He then went on to earn an "A" grade in the class for the semester. Not only did he prove to himself that he belonged at San Diego State University, he proved that he was one of the best and brightest. He proved himself as a MESA Creator!
Lost & Found
A student enrolled at City College after graduating from high school. Because she was a Math major, she participated in the City College Academy for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Success. The Academy was a summer bridge program for female students interested in STEM majors. With 25 other first-time female college students in the Academy, she was trained in the MESA culture and MESA learning strategies, including BPR and Big Picture Approach to Problem Solving, she was mentored by female MESA Creators, she met counselors and STEM faculty, she toured City College, and she met role model, female professionals in STEM. She received the best training to be successful at City College! She also joined the MESA Program. But when the Fall semester began, she did not apply her MESA training. Instead, she approached the learning in the same way that she approached the learning in high school - the wrong way! She received a "C" grade on her first exam in Intermediate Algebra. It was a wake up call! She learned her lesson. As a MESA Creator, she accepted responsibility, she took action, and she began to apply her MESA training. She received a "B" grade on her second exam, she received an "A" grade on her third exam, and she continued to receive "A" grades on all her work! With the MESA culture, she found her way back to the top! She is set for success at City College and beyond.
"You need to be in the MESA Program!"
A student was taking Trigonometry at City College. He was a Mechanical Engineering major, but he was not in the MESA Program. He failed his first Trig exam. Fortunately, he had a friend who was in MESA and knew the power of the MESA culture. She told him, "You need to be in the MESA Program!" Because he cared about his success, he took her advice and joined MESA. He was trained in the MESA culture and MESA learning strategies, including BPR and Big Picture Approach to Problem Solving. He immediately distinguished himself as a MESA Creator by applying the MESA culture and working hard to improve his math scores. He earned an "A" grade on his second exam, and he went on to earn an "A" in the class. The next semester he also earned an "A" grade in Precalculus. When he reached Calculus, he earned the highest score in the class on the first exam! As a MESA Creator, he demonstrated that he in fact owned the MESA culture. With the MESA culture, he is set to create his own success at City College and beyond!
Going for 100% - I want my free dinner!
A student joined MESA in Fall. She was a Math major, and she was enrolled in Intermediate Algebra - it was her second attempt. She had taken Intermediate Algebra with the same professor the previous Fall, but she was unsuccessful. This time it was guaranteed to be a different experience. She joined MESA, and she was trained in the MESA Culture and MESA learning strategies, including BPR and Big Picture Approach to Problem Solving. She immediately distinguished herself as a MESA Creator by applying the MESA culture and working hard to succeed in math. Her work paid off: she became an "A" student! She scored 100% on the last midterm exam - it was the only perfect score in the class! Her next goal was to score 100% on the final and earn a free dinner from her professor, as a reward for all students earning a perfect score on the final! She was clearly on her way to achieveing her goal. She demonstrated that she in fact owned the MESA Culture and was set to create her on success at City College and beyond!
I am a Star!
A student was taking Intermediate Algebra at City College. He was a Mechanical Engineering major, but he was not in the MESA Program. He was failing the daily math quizzes, and he failed his first two math exams. Fortunately, he was referred to the MESA Program by a Counselor. Because he cared about his success, he took the Counselor's advice and joined MESA. He was trained in the MESA culture and MESA learning strategies, including BPR and Big Picture Approach to Problem Solving. He immediately distinguished himself as a MESA Creator by applying the MESA culture and working hard to improve his math scores. For starters, he began to do BPR to prepare for class and he chose to sit in the front row for lecture (the learning T!). He started earning perfect scores on the daily quizzes, and he earned an "A" grade on the third exam! He was very excited to receive his graded test. The professor awarded a "star sticker" to every student who received an "A". He could see that his test had a star, even before he received it back! It was his first star on an exam, and, with the MESA culture, he was prepared to earn many more stars. Also, the professor began to know him by name. He no longer was just another student in the class, he was a star!
MESA Creators, we may come from diverse backgrounds and seek different goals, but we share one thing in common, the MESA Culture! We are the engine of prosperity, the future leaders of our respective fields, and above all else we have what it takes. The time will come when you get to inspire others, until then I challenge you to: Walk like you're paving the way, chase after your goals like you want to breathe, go hard and become unstoppable!
Life After MESA
This video series captures the experiences of MESA Creators beyond the San Diego City College MESA Program. Enjoy!
"Cal Poly San Luis Obispo" features MESA Creator Alex Frem.
- M.S. Electrical Engineering - Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (2016)
- B.S. Electrical Engineering - Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (2014)
- MESA's 2010-2011 Male Student of the Year
- Fall 2011 transfer to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
- 2012 & 2014 Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award Conference (HENAAC) Scholar
"University of California, San Diego" features MESA Creator Ashley Pourazary.
- B.S. Nano Engineering (focus on Chemical Engineering) - UCSD
- MESA's 2010-2011 Female Student of the Year
- Fall 2011 transfer to the University of California, San Diego
- 2011 Association for Women in Science (AWIS) - San Diego Scholar