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STARS Students

STARS Spotlight

In a 2018 Legislative Report, the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) discusses the success of its opportunity expansion grants and highlights the STARS program, to which it awarded a $2.2M grant in 2016. The report features STARS scholars Jasmine Fuerte-Stone, BioE ’17; Matthew Lee, ECE ‘18; and Ewurama Karikari, ME ’19.

STARS in the Media

Elizabeth, Sophia and Christin Lin
December 7, 2020 | Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering
Allen School senior Elizabeth Lin and her twin sister Christin, an electrical and computer engineering senior, have developed a free online coding program for kids.
A collage of three students
August 17, 2020 | College of Engineering
Three STARS graduates fill us in on what they’ve been up to since receiving their engineering degrees.
Eve Riskin
August 4, 2020
Eve Riskin, Associate Dean of Diversity and Access, has been recognized for her exceptional mentoring efforts.
A group shot of UW students all wearing purple sweatshirts
April 15, 2020 | Prism | ASEE

The success of the STARS program was highlighted in the latest issue of American Society for Engineering Education's newsletter.

Ewurama Karikari
July 9, 2019 | UW Mechanical Engineering
Ewurama Karikari shares how the UW STARS program helped her transform her passions for math and robotics into a mechanical engineering mechatronics degree.
STARS students Tammy Teal and Ivan Cordero
October 17, 2018 | University of Washington

The Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) program supports students from underserved high schools after they start at the UW. And it's helping.

August 17, 2018 | College of Engineering
A human centered design and engineering team is helping campus dining halls donate and deliver excess food to local homeless shelters.
Sonya Cunningham
June 8, 2018 | Faculty & Staff Insider
STARS Program Director Sonya G. Cunningham has been awarded the 2018 David B. Thorud Leadership Award, a UW Award of Excellence. Thanks to Sonya's leadership, the outcomes for STARS students — those studying engineering in the Washington State Academic RedShirts program — have been spectacular.
Kiana Peterson, a STARS student and EE major in 2017
June 14, 2018 | Seattle Times
Five years after it began, the program to help more low-income, women and minority students become engineers at the UW is showing strong results, with 75 percent of its students either continuing in engineering or graduating.
December 29, 2017
STARS is part of the effort to grow the pipeline of Washington students who will graduate and enter high-demand STEM and health care fields, a public-private partnership was initiated in 2011 to support low- and middle-income students as they earn their bachelor’s degrees and enter the workforce.
November 16, 2017
Kiana Peterson, a STARS student and EE major, discusses her student experiences and the impact scholarships have made on her education.
November 30, 2017 | Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Tammy Teal, a CEE major and STARS participant, discusses her UW experiences in the Civil and Environmental Engineering departmental magazine. Teal hopes to put her engineering skills into practice by improving access to clean water in developing countries.
December 1, 2017 | Avvo
STARS student and HCDE major Tuyen Truong gives students advice about how to make the most out of internship experiences.
May 30, 2017 | College of Engineering
We congratulate 3 students from the STARS program's first cohort who completed the program — and their engineering degrees — in four years instead of the expected 5.

STARS cohort

February 22, 2017 | The Daily

Reaching for the STARS: UW program empowers underserved students to pursue engineering degrees

The Daily presented a profile of the STARS program, explaining how the specialized STARS curriculum helps economically disadvantaged students successfully pursue rigorous engineering degrees. STARS will enter its fifth cohort in autumn 2017, and thanks to a grant from Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, the cohort will be double the size of previous years.

STARS cohort

February 10, 2017 | UW Today

College of Engineering’s STARS program wins $2.2M to improve access for low-income students

The Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) program, which offers engineering students from economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds extra academic support, will receive a one-time grant of $2.2 million from the Opportunity Expansion Fund passed by the Washington Legislature and funded by Microsoft.

The 3-year grant is expected to significantly increase the number of students the program can serve during that time period. The expanded STARS initiative will offer supplemental instruction in the math, chemistry and physics courses that are part of the standard engineering curriculum, as well as culturally-aware advising, professional development and career services.

Related articles: Led by Microsoft's Brad Smith, program gives out $6M in STEM grants in Washington (Puget Sound Business Journal) | Tech, science programs at 3 Washington universities win grants (Seattle Times)

STARS student using a laptop

February 8, 2017 | LinkedIn

Unique partnerships can help close the gap between students and jobs

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft Corporation, discusses the challenges facing the state of Washington in the drive to graduate more students with STEM degrees. One solution is the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS), which provides funds for the expansion of STEM programs. STARS received a $2.2M WSOS grant to expand program capacity and boost the success of economically disadvantaged students obtaining computer science and engineering degrees.

STARS student doing math

September 9, 2016 | The Seattle Times

Promising ‘academic redshirt’ program for future engineers to expand

The Seattle Times explains how STARS has been so successful that the National Science Foundation is expanding the program. The University of Washington is part of a $5 million grant, which will make more scholarships available to the underrepresented students that STARS supports. The grant also provides funds to research ways to make the program more effective and evaluate student outcomes.

Students Donavan Erickson and Jorge Gomez

May 16, 2016 | The Trend

Engineering student success through STARS

The UW College of Engineering's The Trend alumni newsletter spotlights the successes of the STARS program's success in fostering a community designed to increase the retention rate of students with economically- and educationally-disadvantaged backgrounds. 83% of STARS students have been retained in engineering to their sophomore year, compared to just 53% eligible but non-participating students.

Sonya Cunningham, STARS director

February 26, 2016 | UW Trends in Higher Ed


The UW Provost's office features the STARS program that helps students adjust to the rigorous engineering curriculum by fostering a supportive community, focusing on core academics, and showcasing options and opportunities to help them choose the engineering path that is right for them.

Jerry Large, columnist, The Seattle Times

April 22, 2015 | Seattle Times

UW’s STARS helps low-income students shine

Columnist Jerry Large talks to Eve Riskin, professor of electrical engineering, and Sonya Cunningham, who leads the STARS program, about the successes and fine-tuning in the second year of STARS. Cunningham makes sure students know how to negotiate college and fit in with the culture. And she does proactive advising to head off potential problems, partly by molding them into a supportive community. Riskin, who is also associate dean of diversity and access for UW engineering, said 11 of the 30 STARS students made the dean’s list winter quarter.

video still and link to video

November 30, 2014 | Seattle Times

Rewind: Chat on diversity in STEM education

Video from a video chat about diversity in STEM and what UW and other universities are doing to help more people of color and first-generation students earn degrees in engineering. Features an adviser and a student from UW Engineering.

Devin Pegues, left, and Casiano Atienza work on a math problem at a whiteboard during a recent class at the UW

November 30, 2014 | The Seattle Times

UW gives future engineers a 'redshirt season'

In an idea borrowed from college athletics, the University of Washington boosts promising engineering students — many of them women and minorities — with an extra year of academic work.

NSF pic of students in labs

May 8, 2013 | The National Science Foundation

NSF Joins Forces with Intel and GE to Move the Needle in Producing U.S. Engineers...

"Engineering education needs to adapt to the tortoises, not just the hares," said Eve Riskin, principal investigator of STARS. "We're talking about investing an extra year in what will hopefully be a 30-year engineering career."

UW and WSU logos

May 8, 2013 | GeekWire

Wash. colleges debut 5-year engineering program for low-income students

"The first year of the program... will be used as a bridge of sorts to help the students get accustomed to the college environment before diving into the rigorous university workload. Then, they will receive extra advising and start in a regular four-year engineering program the following year."

Seattle PI logo

May 8, 2013 | Seattle P-I

UW, WSU launch 'academic redshirt' program for engineering

"Washington needs young engineers to maintain the skilled workforce essential for high-tech employers such as Boeing. The National Science Foundation awarded $970,000 to UW and $700,000 to WSU for the program. The grants are part of $10 million that the foundation, partnered with Intel and General Electric, provided to nine schools."

Chronicle's home page

May 8, 2013 | The Chronicle of Higher Education

Companies Finance University Efforts to Improve Science Education

"It's the latest in a series of efforts by the federal government, universities, and businesses to tackle shortfalls in science education, which have led President Obama to set a goal of producing one million university graduates in the sciences over the next decade."


May 13, 2013 |

Wash. universities look to 'redshirt' freshman engineers for one year

"UW Engineering Professor and Associate Dean Eve Riskin says a lot of disadvantaged students come in with no exposure to college-level academics. Many are in for a shock, which may explain why 72 percent of low-income students on Pell Grants seeking engineering degrees at UW and WSU don't get one." (1:13 audio)

Boulder's Tanya Ennis works with students.

May 20, 2013 | Inside Higher Education

'Redshirting' in Engineering

With an eye on UC Boulder's GoldShirts success, the University of Washington and Washington State University have announced that they will be collaborating on their own respective redshirting programs.

IEEE photo of students studying experiment

May 21, 2013 | IEEE Spectrum

'Redshirt' Programs Could Help Generate More Engineers

"The University of Colorado at Boulder's engineering school spearheaded the academic redshirting concept with its GoldShirt program in 2009. The five-year curriculum allows high school students to spend the first year catching up on math, science, and humanities courses before tackling undergraduate engineering courses."