STEP: 50 Years of Leading the Way to Increased Diversity and Impact at Stevens
When STEP (the Stevens Technical Enrichment Program) was launched in 1968, The Stevens Indicator described the two main purposes of the new program:
“First, to stimulate interest in various areas of study with the hope of creating a desire for higher education, especially in the field of science and engineering. Second, to improve the students’ skills in English and Mathematics to enable them to take advantage of the higher education opportunities available to them.”
One of the first programs of its kind in the nation, STEP was Stevens’ response to a national challenge – the lack of diversity in engineering education and career fields – and reflected the university’s reputation for innovation. It began as a Saturday enrichment and tutoring program for talented high school students from underserved communities from New York City and three New Jersey cities (Newark, Hoboken and Jersey City).
And for a half-century since, students have continued to enter STEP, fondly recalling both the important financial, emotional and academic support it provided as well as the many close-knit friendships developed among STEP cohorts as they advanced through their Stevens years together.
And Stevens students continue to benefit today from STEP. It begins with a Bridge Summer Program that helps incoming students adjust to the curriculum, and continues throughout the undergraduate experience in the form of academic support and peer tutoring, counseling and advising, career workshops, mentoring, networking and social events.
The university has also built upon the remarkable success of STEP to broaden its investment and commitment toward diversity in STEM with the addition of programs and initiatives such as the A. James Clark Scholars Program and Stevens ACES (Accessing Careers in Engineering and Science).
Some 1,000 alumni — three generations of engineers, scientists, physicians, lawyers, educators and CEOs – gathered in 2018 to celebrate STEP’s 50th anniversary. One after another, they shared moving stories of how STEP provided a community and a sense of belonging and family.
Deborah Berkley M.S. ’84, the program’s longtime director and dean of student development and enrichment programs, paid tribute at that event to the many individuals who had made STEP possible and sustainable.
“Fifty years ago, a small group of Stevens students and faculty members were bold and innovative,” she said. “They saw a problem — a lack of diversity within engineering and within Stevens and schools like Stevens — and decided to do something about it.”
Today, Stevens still is.