It’s one thing to know you’re good. It’s another to be validated by others. Students and staff of the AIMS (Academic Investment in Math and Science) Program on Dec. 16 received an affirmation of the program’s quality when Marathon Pipe Line presented AIMS with a $5,000 check.
Visiting BGSU to make the gift were Don Bozell, president of Marathon Pipe Line; Glima Hall, recruitment manager for the company, and Anne Diehl, human resources manager. They discussed the intersecting interests and needs of AIMS and Marathon with AIMS Director Dr. T. Carter Gilmer, Associate Director Dr. Tim Eatman and AIMS students Mario Baker, a senior from Cleveland majoring in health sciences, and Sarah Smith, a junior from Delta majoring in medical technology.
The unsolicited gift resulted from a Hispanic Heritage Month talk given in October to Marathon employees by Dr. Alberto Gonzalez, vice provost for academic services. In his presentation, he noted there could be much more diversity in the audience of employees and in the petroleum industry if more students of color majored in mathematics and science-based disciplines.
Later, he told company officials, including Bozell and Diehl, about AIMS, which seeks to encourage female and minority students not only to study math, computer and natural sciences but to continue on to a terminal degree. The four-year mentoring program also works to strengthen their leadership and professional skills to prepare them for careers in higher education or business, in addition to providing some scholarship assistance.
That message resonated with Marathon, which needs highly skilled employees in its technical, engineering and environmental research areas.
“The bar in math and science keeps being raised,” Bozell said, “so just being ‘good’ is not good enough anymore.”
But with fewer students entering those fields, Bozell said, the company is challenged to maintain its workforce, which in part prompted the donation to AIMS. The other aspect of AIMS that appealed to Marathon was its focus on diversity, Bozell noted. In order to stay current in the marketplace, “we need a leadership team with a diversity of views,” he said.
“Central to the vision of the program is confronting a crisis in our nation,” Eatman said. “We celebrate being able to find qualified students who have the academic qualifications, the experience and the maturity to address that crisis. We are really a ‘pipeline’ program.”
AIMS is fairly selective and demanding of its students, Gilmer—who is a chemist—told the guests. In addition to maintaining a high academic standard, students must participate in many activities designed to expose them to the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. Those activities could include attending related conferences or visiting research or business organizations.
“Scholarship levels are tied to performance,” he said. “Our students reflect that we’re doing something right, looking not just at BGSU but nationally,” Gilmer said.
“That’s a good standard to establish so they understand that’s the way the real world works,” Bozell responded.
The exposure to a spectrum of career choices has been important to expanding students’ awareness of how STEM degrees can be applied, Smith told the Marathon group. “For example,” she said, “when we visited an oil refinery in Lima, I was surprised at how much chemistry and biology was involved in what they do.”
Marathon hires many BGSU graduates in supply chain management, accounting and computer technology, said Hall, adding that through AIMS, there could also be co-ops and summer employment as a bridge to the graduate level of study.
“What’s powerful about AIMS is the mentoring the students receive while they’re in the program so that they are ready to compete when they graduate,” Diehl said.
AIMS also receives funding through the National Science Foundation via the Ohio Science and Engineering Alliance.