History of MESA

Delivering California's Future STEM Workforce

History of MESA

Year Milestone
Late '60s A group of concerned Berkeley educators launch a study to determine why so few African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians are enrolled in the UC Berkeley College of Engineering. They develop a solution based on pre-college intervention.
1970 The MESA program is founded at Oakland Technical High School with 25 students. MESA's goal is to develop academic and leadership skills, raise educational expectations, and instill confidence in California's students historically underrepresented in engineering, physical science, or other math-based fields, in order to increase the number of African American, Latino American and American Indian graduates from a four-year university.
1973 Concerned about issues of retention, CSU-Northridge engineering faculty member Ray Landis establishes the Minority Engineering Program (MEP) at his campus.
1977 Impressed with MESA's success, the Hewlett and Sloane foundations provide $1 million to expand the Berkeley model and develop pre-college programs throughout the state.
1978 With major support from Roger Heyns, president of the Hewlett Foundation, and Stephen Bechtel, Jr., president of Bechtel Corporation, the Industry Advisor Board (IAB) is established to mobilize corporate support for MESA. Richard Collins, a Bechtel vice president, is the first IAB chair. Other participants include the president of ARCO and the chairpersons of Chevron, Fluor Corporation, Hewlett-Packard, Lockheed, Northrop, PG&E, Pacific Telephone, Rockwell, Southern California Edison and TRW.
1979 The state legislature allocates $250,000 to MESA, provided that industry donations can provide one-for-one matching funds. The match is accomplished.
1982 The state legislature approves a proposal to expand the MEP from three sites to nine and authorize funds for MESA to lead the project. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation provides seed money for programs based on MESA to be established in Colorado, New Mexico and Washington. Since then, programs based on California MESA have been set up in several other states.
1984 A Carnegie Foundation grant allows MESA to expand to junior high schools.
1988 PG&E sponsors a statewide conference for all MESA teachers, which later becomes the MESA Advisors Training Institute (MATI). PG&E sponsors MATI from 1988 through 1992. Currently known as the MESA Academy for Science and Mathematics Educators (MASME), the training conference continues to provide professional development for hundreds of math and science teachers.

Through a partnership with the state Department of Education, the MESA Success Through Collaboration (MSTC) is established to reach underserved American Indian pre-college students.

MESA programs are established at American River, Cosumnes and Sacramento City community colleges to help their students succeed in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses and transfer to four-year institutions as STEM majors.

1993 The state legislature allocates $489,000 in Proposition 98 monies to expand MESA into community colleges. A formal MESA Community College Program (MCCP) is established.
1994 The state legislature augments MESA's budget by $1.75 million to increase the number of secondary students in MESA.
1995 MESA alters its targeting language to focus the program on serving disadvantaged and underrepresented students in math-based fields.
1996 Proposition 209 passes in November, banning affirmative action in California.

MESA adopts a new targeting statement: "MESA serves educationally disadvantaged students and, to the extent possible by law, emphasizes participation by students from groups with low rates of eligibility for four-year colleges."

MESA USA is founded, representing programs in eight states: California, Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

1998 MESA receives a $4.65 million state augmentation to expand three programs.

The fourth program, MEP, receives a $1 million boost in state funding.

MESA is honored as one of the nation's top mentoring programs by the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), an award created by the White House and administered by the National Science Foundation.

2001 MESA is named among the five most innovative public programs in the nation by Innovations in American Government, a project of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the Ford Foundation, and the Council for Excellence in Government.
2003 After its state funding through UC is cut by 50 percent, MESA is forced to dismantle the MSTC program, terminate statewide MEP funds, eliminate five MSP and five MCCP centers, and lay off MESA statewide office staff.
2005 MESA is selected by Hewlett-Packard to serve as the model for the corporation's national engineering diversity pilot program for low-income, underrepresented community college students in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey and New York.

California MESA is featured in a national PBS documentary, The Innovators, as a solution to developing the next generation of innovative engineers and scientists.


Bayer Corporation names California MESA among 21 top national programs proven to help K-12 students, especially minorities and girls, to achieve in STEM fields.


California MESA is named a national semifinalist by Excelencia in Education (a national organization that identifies and assesses higher education practices that impact Latinos) for its outstanding community college work.

MESA's state funding through the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office is cut by 38%, affecting all MCCP centers.

2010 In an updated compendium, Bayer reaffirms MESA as a top national program that supports minorities and girls to achieve in STEM studies.
2013 MESA named the Silicon Valley Education Foundation STEM Innovator in math.
2016 MESA selected to be part of President Obama’s Computer Science for All Initiative.
2020 MESA celebrates its 50th anniversary.


MESA Statewide Office