Chu Featured in Columbia Spectator

Prof. C.K. Chu was featured in the Columbia Daily Spectator article "Columbia helps train PS Students" by Aaron Gleckman.
 



For the past year, Columbia has been taking part in a unique program to help improve a public school's math and science education in tandem with other universities and private industry.

The focus of Columbia's attention in the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, on 116th Street and the East River Drive. Since 1983, Dean of the College, Robert Pollak, Maria Vallejo, director of the College's Higher Education Opportunity Program, Professor Chia-Kun Chu, chair of the Applied Physics and Nuclear Engineering department, and Edna Rivera, assistant dean of student affairs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, have been involved with the school's advisory council.

The 3 year-old school has sponsored several 8 month-long "World of Work" programs, revolving around particular themes and designed to expose students to different careers by using the school's corporate resources. As part of the program, students have visited high-technology workplaces in the city. I.B.M., General Electric, Celanese, International Paper, and New York Telephone are all represented on the council.

Rivera said that half of the students in the school are from East Harlem, and the other half are from elsewhere in the city. She noted that applicants from East Harlem are given "special consideration in the admissions process".

For instance, last year, as part of a "Chemistry Month," students from the school visited the Havemeyer Building.

Prof. Chu last year also invited the students to his fusion labs for a lecture on nuclear fusion and a tour. "We answered students' specific questions on everything from computers to nuclear reactors," he said.

The school will have its first senior class next year and the school's principal, Cole Glenn, said he "hopes to soon have some of my kids at Columbia laboratories". Rivera agreed that in time "some students from Manhattan Center will come to Columbia and other Ivy-League schools with engineering programs".

According to Pollack, while some Center students may come to Columbia, the significance of the program is that "Columbia, by becoming involved with helping the Center, is doing something symbolic". Pollack said that he was concerned that most of the university's entrants from city public schools are from Bronx Science or Stuyvesant. He said he hoped eventually that the Center could become a preparatory school, readying students for college and "setting a pattern".

Pollack said he was concerned that "the politics of running schools may be getting in the way of education" and that "there might be pressure to reduce all of the (public) schools to the average high school".

Vallejo agreed, noting that with the departure of Board of Education Chancellor Anthony Alvarado "the Board of Education probably won't have the same enthusiasm which Alvarado's people did" for the center. Alvarado had been superintendent of the Center's school district and had led the move to open the Center.

Genn said that Columbia's involvement had changed his perception of the school from one which was "apathetic towards the neighborhood" to one which "really did care about East Harlem's community". Pollack noted that as he was an alumnus of the city's public schools, he had a personal involvement in improving their educational standards.

Other universities involved in the program include Hunter College, the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and Farmington College.

According to Rivera, the many colleges and corporations participating give the students "many observational and hands-on experiences". She said that they council's primary goal was to "mobilize resources and expose children to fields of engineering, math and science by showing them high-tech work settings, and providing them with not only guidance on creating a career, but also (with) mentors, presentations, and trips to scientific industries".

Four Columbia students in the HEOP program are involved in the program, meeting one-on-one with the Center's students, according to Vallejo, who said that their discussions revolved around "their academic interests".

Brian Barnett, a SEAS senior, helped organize a workshop in which he talked to Center students about engineering careers. Barnett said that he was "impressed by the school" and feels that "the students are being prepared better than at Bronx Science because of their exposure to positive role models".


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