Joielle Walter '97, a graduate student in the School of Information Studies, has won awards for each of her three research presentations at the annual statewide Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) conference. But to her, the competition is only a small part of the activities that spark her enthusiasm for the event, which Syracuse University has hosted for seven years at The Sagamore on Lake George in Bolton Landing, New York.
      "There are many great contacts," she says. "One year I met and talked with the state teacher of the year. I've met educators from across the state. And I've made friends for life at those conferences. It's a network—you feel somebody cares about you. You are not alone."
      The statewide CSTEP, which includes 37 colleges and universities, was formed in 1986 by the state education department's Bureau of Professional Career Opportunity Programs to support historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs in the sciences, health, and technology. "The core of CSTEP is support services—counseling, tutorial work, study skills, time management, enrichment activities, and research and internship experiences," says James K. Duah-Agyeman, director of the Center for Academic Achievement, which administers the program at SU. "It ends up becoming a home away from home for many of these students. CSTEP seems to catch those who otherwise would have slipped through the cracks—the average students everybody thinks can make it on their own."
      Duah-Agyeman says SU proposed the statewide conference as a forum for CSTEP students to share their research and internship experiences. Students make poster presentations in one of four categories: natural sciences, physical sciences, technology, and human services and social sciences. "As our students get involved with all this research, it really enhances their enthusiasm to continue their own learning and earn degrees in their programs of study," Duah-Agyeman says.
      Annette Toms, associate director of the Center for Academic Achievement and conference coordinator, says each conference averages 66 poster presentations. Students present projects they worked on with faculty members from their schools or during internships. Posters are judged on such criteria as clarity, visual appearance, content, and how well they communicate what the students have done.


Syracuse students gather at the statewide CSTEP conference on Lake George. From left: Joielle Walter '97, Tanya Howell G'99, Bruce Torres '99, Nagaeda Jean '00, and Emily Ching '00.

      Emily Ching '00, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, took third place this year in the social sciences and human services category for her project, "A Comparative Look at Race and Median House Values in Staten Island Neighborhoods." Walter won a third-place award in the technology category for her project, "Technological Pathways to Minority Children's Success in Math and Science."
      The conference also includes workshops, cultural activities, and a keynote address centered around a different theme each year. The theme of this year's conference, held in April, was "Charting the Pathways to Success," with workshops on academics, careers, life skills, and citizenship. More than 250 students participated.
      Toms says students leave feeling so satisfied with the experience that many return at least once. "This is the first professional conference for most of them," she says. "It prepares them for other student conferences in their fields. They know what to expect, how to dress, how to act. They understand the etiquette behind attending a conference."
      For Walter, who recently accepted a job with General Electric, the conference augmented support she received from CSTEP. "I've worked in companies where I was the only black person in the entire organization," she says. "I've been in classes at SU where I was the only black and only female in the entire room. At these conferences, seeing 400 people in business attire who have ideas and aspirations similar to yours is very impressive, especially when they are minority students."
                                               —GARY PALLASSINO

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