Engineering's Tucker welcomes fellow Gates Millennium Scholar
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Gates Millennium Scholars program was established in 1999 as a $1.6 billion initiative funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of the program is to promote academic excellence and provide outstanding minority students with significant financial needs with the opportunity to reach their highest potential.
In June 2013, after nine months of deliberation and consultation, the Penn State Millennium Scholars program was born. Cohort one entered the summer bridge as the first students in the program in summer 2013.
Penn State’s program is designed for all high-achieving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students who will become leaders in their chosen field and are committed to increasing the diversity of researchers and leaders in STEM fields. Penn State Millennium Scholars are enrolled in one of the five Penn State academic college’s that best represent the STEM fields — College of Agricultural Sciences, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Information Sciences and Technology, and Eberly College of Science.
Incoming Penn State freshman Teniola Idowu, is one of the 1,000 students to receive the honor of being named as a 2016 Gates Millennium Scholar, the last class of the program, and one of 29 students named to the fourth cohort of Penn State Millennium Scholars.
Idowu recently spoke with Conrad Tucker, assistant professor of engineering design and industrial engineering, a member of the inaugural class of Gates Millennium Scholars in 1999 to discuss the Gates Millennium Scholars program and his involvement with Penn State’s Millennium Scholars program.
“I can honestly say I would not be where I am today without the Gates Millennium Scholars program,” Tucker said. “It provided not only the financial resources but access to a network of like-minded students that had a similar vision of higher education. It’s transformative and the results are evident by the amount of people that have gone through the program and are at different facets of society making contributions.”
In addition to his background as a Gates Millennium Scholar, Tucker hosts a series of workshops for the incoming Penn State Millennium Scholars that focus on the engineering design process. The workshops are held during the program’s intensive six-week summer bridge session. The bridge allows scholars to begin their academic career, by enrolling in rigorous STEM foundational courses and seminars, including math, science, engineering, cultural diversity, and communications.
Due to the nature of interdisciplinary work, Tucker encourages students like Idowu to participate in his engineering workshops, whether they intend to major in engineering or not.
“Though it’s called the engineering design process, it’s actually a problem-solving process. Along the way, you get to build on your team skills, problem-solving skills, learn how to decompose a problem, and most importantly, have fun doing the process,” Tucker said.
Idowu intends to major in biochemistry and molecular biology. With these degrees, she hopes to enter a doctoral program to become a medical researcher and scientist, researching different diseases and their treatments.
“I feel like a lot of doors are open for me now,” Idowu said. “Being a part of both programs, I do want to use my leadership skills, get involved with clubs on campus and try to make an impact in my community.”
Tucker supported Idowu’s plan, advocating the need to move beyond her comfort zone and challenge herself.
“You know the age-old saying ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’ to me, it’s not enough to obtain a degree. It’s more than that. How do you pass the torch and inspire the next generation of youth and scholars?” he said. “This is a leadership opportunity. It’s an opportunity to network and to think about what kinds of contributions you want to give to your community and to your society.”