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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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James Allison poses outside of the Geology, Math and Computer Science Building (GMCS) where the SDSU STEM Pathways program is located. (Photo: Sarah White/SDSU) James Allison poses outside of the Geology, Math and Computer Science Building (GMCS) where the SDSU STEM Pathways program is located. (Photo: Sarah White/SDSU)

STEM Pathways Program Leads High-Performing Community College Student to SDSU

Incoming transfer student and SDSU STEM Pathways program participant James Allison concludes a decade-long journey at community college to start a new chapter and begin his research at SDSU.
By Melinda Sevilla and Jenna Dorr

Incoming engineering transfer student James Allison toured the halls of the Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences building with his firstborn baby, a 4-month-old son, who relaxed in the stroller as his parents walked around Explore SDSU to tour what will be his dad’s academic home for the next few years. 


With a dream of working for an electric vehicle company and a passion for cars, Allison will be in great company at SDSU’s College of Engineering, where multiple clubs and student organizations design, build, and race cars.


They visited events, departmental sessions and open labs, and looked forward to baby Nipsey’s dad’s future at SDSU. Allison will join the College of Engineering in the fall 2023 after a decade-long journey through community college and a program he called “life-changing.”


STEM Pathways Program


Built upon SDSU’s commitment to inclusive excellence, STEM Pathways is a supportive mentored program committed to helping students navigate how to transition from community college to a four-year university, explore STEM careers, and pursue a career that best fits their interests. The program identifies and removes roadblocks to transfer and post-transfer success.


With a target audience of Latinx students, partnering community colleges Southwestern College and San Diego City College recruit students interested in pursuing STEM career paths and prepare them for their future academics at SDSU and on to graduate school and/or STEM career path.


Allison found STEM Pathways while attending Southwestern College ten years ago.


“I originally started straight out of high school and went there for a year and a half, but wasn’t quite ready,” said the San Diego native. He chose to take a break from his studies while he decided on a major.


In the meantime, Allison worked in the moving industry and obtained certifications to become a truck driver. One day out of curiosity, researched engineering: an area of study he always had interest and natural skill in but hadn’t yet pursued. 


“I saw a job listing for an electrical engineering position and noticed that one of the job descriptions’ maximum amount of weight I would have to lift was 14 pounds,” he joked. “Coming from a background as a mover lifting heavy packages, I said, ‘OK, that is definitely what I want to do.’”


SDSU Bound


Allison returned to Southwestern in 2019 as a re-entry student with a 1.28 GPA. He promptly took an engineering language (C++) and circuits course as well as calculus as prerequisites and quickly raised his GPA to a 3.4, all during the turbulence of the COVID-19 closures and while working part-time. “It was hard to juggle it all, but choosing to go back has been the best choice I’ve made,” said Allison.


Through determination and hard work, Allison quickly excelled and got involved in the STEM Pathways program, where he was given the opportunity to work on projects at the University of California San Diego, at an engineering networks internship building maps, and the Naval and Warfare center.


After a 10-year academic journey, Allison was ready to take the next step. He applied and was to SDSU as a transfer.


"Here at SDSU, transfer students can make the most of their time thanks to the strong support systems we build around them,” said transfer admission counselor Julie Chihwaro. “From our Commuter Resource Center with its dedicated study space and kitchen to our Transfer Student Outreach Alliance with its vast network and robust community building opportunities, SDSU is the place to be."


Allison looks forward to an upcoming summer of research, where he will work under NanoFabrication Lab Director and mechanical engineering professor Sam Kassegne


Allison is excited to get his experience working with MIMOs, (multiple-input, multiple-output) a wireless technology that uses multiple transmitters and receivers to transfer more data at the same time. He’s excited to assist with any of Kassegne’s work. “Anything in his lab seems pretty cool.”


“Through hard work, dedication, and determination, amazing mentors and professors and programs such as STEM and Mentored Pathways, he has been able to thrive,” said Melani Soto, SDSU’s STEM Pathways Coordinator and one of Allison’s many mentors.


As Allison prepares for the fall, he’s ready to dive into electrical engineering-specific courses that weren’t previously available to him. “I'm really excited to get more into what my studies specifically are now that I’ve learned the general mathematics and physics of it,” he said.


Allison’s baby boy, who was born a week before Allison’s finals, is also ready for school. He is currently on the SDSU Children’s Center waitlist, ready to be an Aztec just like his dad.