History of MESA

MESA’s 50 years of STEM success

Scroll the timeline below to view significant events in MESA’s history.


RI MESA was founded in 2021 during the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and will be housed in the College of Education and Professional studies at URI on the Providence campus.


MESA celebrates its 50th anniversary.


MESA is selected to be part of President Obama’s Computer Science for All Initiative.


MESA named the Silicon Valley Education Foundation STEM Innovator in math.


In an updated compendium, Bayer reaffirms MESA as a top national program that supports minorities and girls to achieve in STEM studies.

MESA celebrates its 40th anniversary.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


Proposition 209 passes in November, banning affirmative action in Ca


MESA alters its targeting language to focus the program on serving disadvantaged and underrepresented students in math-based fields.


The state legislature augments MESA’s budget by $1.75 million to increase the number of secondary students in MESA.


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.


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.


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.


Oregon MESA was started at Portland State University (PSU) in 1985 under the name Portland MESA. It was founded on the belief that access to a STEM education and exposure to successful role models can irrevocably change the course of an underrepresented student’s life. Born out of the civil rights movement and founded by leaders of color in Portland, Oregon MESA has been an enduring and positive presence in the lives of young people for over three decades. PSU continues to host the MESA program and provides our students with exposure to postsecondary academic programs and other opportunities hosted by the university. Our administrative office is located at the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at PSU.


A Carnegie Foundation grant allows MESA to expand to junior high schools.  The number of pre-college students served by MESA doubles over the next four years.


After Granite District learned in 1984 that only 4 ethnic minority students were enrolled in AP Calculus, Utah’s MESA program started in 1985 with a pilot program at Kearns High School and its feeder junior high, John F. Kennedy Jr. High with a MESA Math Class and MESA Club.


In the fall of 1983, Glendale Community College and the University of Arizona independently partnered with local school districts to bring MESA from California to Arizona. MESA was officially established in the Spring of 1984 when programming began to provide ethnic minority students academic and career counseling, tutoring, field trips, summer program opportunities, and scholarships. Each program served only a handful of schools in the beginning and grew to serve almost 40 schools and 1300 students by the 1990’s when MESA in Phoenix moved under Arizona State University and both programs agreed to work together to form a collaborative effort called Arizona MESA with the University of Arizona serving as the central office.


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.


New Mexico MESA was formed in the 1982-83 school year after a group of STEM industry leaders visited MESA in California. Excited and inspired, they wanted to bring that vision to New Mexico. The program began with a handful of middle school and high school teachers and STEM industry leaders who met at each other’s homes to plan out the program working in partnership with UNM College of Engineering. The next six years allowed the program to spread statewide and created partnerships with University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Tech and Highlands University partnering with New Mexico Higher Education Department and New Mexico Public Education Department to serve students in grades 6-12 throughout the state.


Rocky Mountain MESA (CO) started in 1980, in Colorado Springs, by Mike Garcia, a career Air Force officer and first director. Colorado hosted nationals in 2009 and 2010 – closing date for CO MESA, December 2015.


The state legislature allocates $250,000 to MESA, conditional upon dollar-for-dollar matching donations from industry.  The match is accomplished.


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.


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.


The Maryland MESA Program started as a local pre-college program begun in 1976 by Theodore J. Habarth, then Assistant to the Director for Special Programs at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The program is a consortium of technical employers and universities working with individual students to ensure that the students are prepared for the rigor of college study in science, engineering, and the other mathematics-based fields. The typical Maryland MESA student is of African-American, Hispanic, or Native American background. 


Concerned about issues of retention, CSU-Northridge engineering faculty member Ray Landis establishes the Minority Engineering Program.


A grassroots effort that began with 25 students at Oakland Technical High School in 1970 has flourished into an award-winning program that serves almost 25,000 middle school, high school, community college and university level students throughout California each year. MESA’s long history with industry and its vast network of alumni are key components to success.


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.

Late ’60s

A group of concerned Berkeley educators launched a study to determine why so few African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians are enrolled in the UC Berkeley College of Engineering. They developed a solution based on pre-college intervention.