What changes have you seen in your students once they work in labs? It provides hands-on professional experience, but what else does it provide?
Dean Domingo: If you're in a classroom learning about science, you're not actually doing science. When students enter a research group they can put into practice some of the things that they learned in class. They get a new understanding of what those concepts mean and also start to see themselves as part of the scientific community. By participating in a research lab, students can feel the excitement of conducting a novel experiment and being the first to make a discovery – that is a very satisfying experience.
If there is funding, students can also have the opportunity to travel and present their work at a scientific conference and learn how to put their novel data together in a poster presentation or a publication. Oftentimes they are one of the only students of color at these scientific conferences. So, not only are they preparing themselves to enter a space that isn't always that welcoming, but they are building their confidence and learning how to articulate their scientific discovery to other scientists. This is a powerful experience.
What do you hope for in terms of COSE’s effect on the Bay Area's workforce?
Dean Domingo: For California to stay at the forefront of science and technology, we need a workforce that has the specialized skills necessary for our industries. The only way to achieve this is to partner with the California State University (CSU) system. San Francisco State is near the most important metropolis of technology in the world, and we want to make sure that we're partnering with industry leaders to provide the necessary preparation to allow our students to excel at these jobs.
Through these collaborative efforts, we hope that local companies will be inspired to hire our students. By doing so, they not only build a talented and diverse workforce, but they also invest in the diverse communities that these students come from. There are many communities of color in the Bay Area that have been left behind by the tech boom, and students from those communities are seeking ways to economically advance themselves and their families by training in sciences. The best way that Bay Area industries can grow while positively impacting the region is by investing in our local colleges to ensure that our diverse students receive the training necessary to support the workforce needs of the future.
There are so many studies that show that when you bring diversity to the table, the solutions are much more creative. However, the tech industry continues to lack diversity. This is leading to serious troubles. For example, artificial intelligence strategies have left out women and underrepresented minorities, resulting in flawed products. For instance – facial recognition software that can't distinguish one African American face from another, or programming based on biased data. There's real blindness when you have an industry that only represents a certain segment of society. That blindness will catch up because the products they produce will only be tailored to a sub-population.
I see this particularly in the context of being Latina in the state of California, where the new majority is Latinx. And yet I feel quite alone in the field of science and technology. There are so few Latinx people involved in the profession that the products and strategies are consequently not inclusive, and at worst can negatively impact the vast majority of people in California.
What other areas of the college you would like to see supported through partnerships and investment?
Dean Domingo: I would like to increase the support for our engineering programs. The School of Engineering has grown phenomenally over the last decade and currently serves over 1,500 students. The School currently resides in the oldest science building and is in great need of a new modern building and facilities. Fortunately, the Chancellor’s Office has approved the construction of a new science and engineering building. The project is scheduled to break ground in the summer of 2021 and will transform our teaching and research spaces in the School of Engineering.
In addition to a new academic building, we are working on creating additional opportunities for the students to participate in internships or apprenticeships. This helps companies get to know our students and see their potential, while also providing a very valuable training experience for them. I would love to see the vast majority of our senior projects sponsored by companies or nonprofits. There's a lot of campuses where industry will sponsor student projects, and that's exciting because the students get mentored by established leaders. The industry provides the supplies, the mentorship, and then this can help students transition to employment at that company or a similar company. We would also like to invite private companies to partner with us through donating resources and equipment, providing guest lecturers, and mentoring students, all of which can have a huge impact on our students.
How do you think that funding can make the college's strength stronger?
Dean Domingo: Funding can support students by giving them access to the tools needed to succeed in their education. We have students that don't have laptops. In the sciences, not having a personal laptop is a huge barrier, and it makes participating in online classes impossible. Funding can also provide graduate student assistance or student assistance to help with homework assignments and tutoring.
With funding, we are also able to replace and modernize outdated lab equipment. If we want students to be prepared for the current workforce, we need our classrooms to have the same technology as their future work environments, so that when they interview and are asked, “Have you used X, Y and Z equipment?” they can say, “Yes, that was part of my lab activity,” or “ That was in the research lab that I worked in.”
Our infrastructure needs are significant. To effectively teach science, you need modern facilities. This is extremely challenging to achieve in buildings that were constructed in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. For students to come here and see the facilities, they can feel that people haven't invested in them. Despite this situation, our faculty have done a tremendous job training our students. I can only imagine that with our new science building, the college’s accomplishments will multiply at least tenfold.
Private funding is a great complement to federal funding, which tends to be inflexible and typically supports only a small number of students. Moreover, private funding can be focused on more diverse outcomes and not restricted to basic research.
"The best way that Bay Area industries can grow while positively impacting the region is by investing in our local colleges to ensure that our diverse students receive the training necessary to support the workforce needs of the future."
Looking towards the College of Science & Engineering of the future, what are your funding priorities?
Dean Domingo: I would like to see all of the three science buildings modernized and brought up to current standards, not standards from the 70s. I would love to make sure that our students have access to financial assistance that doesn't put them in debt, and I feel that securing external and internal funding to support faculty research and innovation in the classroom is of prime importance. Maintaining that balance between research and teaching is important for our institution.
Finally, I would like to develop stronger ties with our alumni. We have terrific alumni pursuing exciting careers, and we would like to create more opportunities for them to give back and help support the students in our college through strategies such as mentorship opportunities, scholarships, and/or sponsoring student events.
Why do you believe private donors and organizations should invest in the college?
Dean Domingo: Donations to the College of Science of Engineering have a huge impact, dollar for dollar. We have a strong track record of successfully preparing students to enter careers in the sciences and engineering. Our educational practices came from decades of work developing strong programs that are based on an understanding of what it takes to prepare our students for the challenges of entering the workforce. The caliber of instruction by our faculty is stellar. We have several leading pioneers in science education. We also offer unique, innovative curricula that is not available at other institutions, for instance, we were the first to offer a certificate in Ethical Artificial Intelligence.
"Donating to our college transforms the lives of our students and the communities they come from. We serve the underserved, thus by giving to our college, we are helping to bring to fruition the academic goals of students who are often the first in their families to attend college – and they are pursuing a challenging career path in science and technology. Our students can help change the face of the scientific workforce and they will help lead these industries so that they are more responsive, impactful and inclusive to the needs of Californians."
Are plans to build the new science building still in effect? If so, can you talk a bit about what you know will be happening with the design and construction of the building?
Dean Domingo: The plans for the new science and engineering building remain on schedule with construction beginning in the fall of 2021. The 150,000 sq. ft. building will be all-electric and house the School of Engineering and the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department serving over 2000 majors and 1000s of students across the college and campus who will taking courses in this new building. The new building aims to create laboratories and learning workspaces that are inspired by new technology that supports the most effective and inclusive instructional environment. The building will also include a large lecture hall, the College Student Success Center, and the Student Enrichment Office, which oversees many of our student scholarship and research opportunities. Another important and innovative element of the building is the new Student Project Maker Space, which will include a machine and welding shop and equipment for students to build and test their prototypes, as well as several student meeting spaces. Using the same tools and techniques that they will encounter in the workplace, students will be able to create and display their projects. Lastly, the office of the CoSE Dean will be located in the new building and it will provide integral support services and a welcoming atmosphere for all students and visitors.
In terms of funding, what do you feel is the best way for donors to help the college thrive in the face of the changes wrought by the coronavirus?
Dean Domingo: One of the best ways that donors can help is to donate to our dean’s fund, which gives us the flexibility to direct funds where we need it in a responsive way. There are also a lot of sponsorship opportunities for donors for our new building, and of course, scholarships are a wonderful way to impact student success directly. The pandemic has hit communities of color particularly hard. Our students, many of whom come from marginalized communities, are really impacted and need financial assistance.
In addition to the building, we need to make investments in new technology, so that all students have everything they need to learn remotely, including computers, software programs, and internet access. We want to make sure that our instructors have all the necessary tools to teach as well, such as drawing tablets, software packages, and home workstations.
Returning to campus under all of the necessary safety conditions will require additional costs that are not budgeted. Finally, we also welcome industry mentors, sponsorship of senior projects, and internship opportunities.