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DTE Energy Foundation Funds Engineering and Science Success Academy

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The DTE Energy Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to support Michigan State University’s Engineering and Science Success Academy (ESSA), a six-week residential program initiated in 2007 by the College of Engineering Diversity Programs Office (DPO). This is the third consecutive year that the DTE Energy Foundation has supported the MSU program.

ESSA is designed to help incoming freshmen make an easier transition from high school to college, positioning them to be academically successful once fall semester classes begin.

“Through the generosity of the DTE Energy Foundation, we are able to provide housing for the ESSA program,” says Theodore Caldwell, DPO director. “Without housing, we would not be able to have an ESSA; this support makes all the difference. We are extremely grateful for our partnership with the DTE Energy Foundation and look forward to continuing this relationship.”

“Programs such as ESSA help to prepare the pool of diverse engineering candidates to meet the demands of the competitive workplace,” says Karla Hall, vice president of the foundation. “We consider the grant an investment in our state’s future energy leaders.”

ESSA, which targets those deemed most at-risk, admits about 20 students each summer. The selection criteria include a challenging interview process and several written assessments.

Caldwell describes ESSA as an “academic boot camp” that “puts freshmen through their paces.” One participant said after completing ESSA, “If I could survive ESSA, I can certainly survive a regular college semester!”

“We believe that ESSA has already made a positive impact on retention in the College of Engineering,” says Caldwell. “We are confident that it will continue to do so.

This summer, 17 ESSA participants attended daily classes in math, writing, and chemistry, and participated in “chalk talks” by engineering faculty, staff, and graduate students; these informal presentations aim to connect students with these various groups and expose them to all engineering disciplines early on. ESSA students also participate in living-learning programs and activities designed to get students acquainted with the environmental and social aspects of college.

Upon completion of this summer’s program, participants retook the math placement exam; 15 of the 17 students improved their scores, while 13 of the 17 moved up one class or more, giving them a jump start on their “time to degree.”

ESSA is the first component in a year-long retention strategy called the Diversity Programs Office Scholars Program (DPO-SP). The DPO-SP requirements include participation in ESSA, enrollment in specified math and engineering courses, bi-weekly meetings with DPO staff, and participation in a mentoring program that matches each incoming student with a third- or fourth-year engineering student.

Students who successfully complete the year-long DPO-SP program receive a $1,000 scholarship, funded by MSU’s Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives and the College of Engineering dean; and placement in a research assistantship the summer after their first year on campus.

DPO services include a guided learning center, advising, peer mentoring, and special seminars for professional development, as well as assistance with scholarships and internships. The DPO remains committed to increasing the recruitment and retention of a diverse student body, encouraging a greater understanding of national and international diversity to meet the needs of a multicultural and global society, and improving the climate for underrepresented students.

The DTE Energy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of DTE Energy, continuing the legacy of community support and involvement of its principal operating subsidiaries, Detroit Edison and MichCon. For more information, visit