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The STEM-Gems program uses data-based retention strategies to help historically at-risk undergraduates on their way towards a degree from the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Students in the STEM-Gems program get help from both academic counselors and Hajim School graduate students who reach out to undergraduates even before they get to campus through the Early Connections Opportunity (ECO) program and through a targeted communications plan over the course of students’ undergraduate tenure.

In addition to helping with personalized academic interventions for STEM-Gem students, the STEM-Gem coordinator also studies performance in introductory chemistry, math, engineering, and physics courses. Through this analysis, the Hajim School has been able to forge relationships with these academic departments to address both positive progress of individuals and coordinate appropriate course placement when applicable.

We help STEM-Gem students achieve success by assisting them with:

  • Deciding on a major
  • Ensuring proper math placement
  • Course selection
  • Academic performance
  • Clusters
  • Enrolling in summer programs
  • Participating in professional organizations (NSBE, SHPE)
  • Personal issues affecting academics

Students who are interested in joining the STEM-Gem program should fill out this online form to get in touch with a STEM-Gem advisor.


To be eligible for the STEM-Gem program students should fall into at least one of the following categories:

  • Underrepresented minority students:
    • African-American
    • Hispanic
    • Multiracial
    • Native-American
  • DACA and undocumented students
  • United States veteran or active service member

Referring a Student

Faculty or staff members can refer students who they think would benefit from academic or personal assistance. If you are unsure if a student qualifies as a STEM-Gem, please still refer him/her anyway—we will still reach out.

Prospective Students

We are not the ones who get to decide whether or not you are admitted to the University of Rochester, so you can have a no-stakes conversation about your future in engineering where there is no penalty for getting something wrong. You are allowed to ask our advisors any question, no matter how small or how big.

We know this is a tough decision, particularly if you are the first in your family to go to college. You may have questions about what kind of student community there is for underrepresented students. We can answer this, but more importantly we can connect you with current students to get their opinion. We ask these students to be completely honest about their experience so you can get their perspective before you make a decision.

Interested in meeting with us? Fill out this online form.

Coordinating Resources

The STEM-Gems program collaborates with a network of University offices including:

In addition to academic support and the coordination of resources, the transformation from peer to colleague is reinforced by encouraging STEM‐Gems to engage with engineering societies such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). The STEM-Gems programs offers significant logistical and financial support to the University of Rochester chapters of these groups.

History of the Program

In 2010, the STEM-Gems program was created with the underlining concept of developing and implementing data-based retention strategies for historically at-risk Hajim School undergraduates.

At the time the program was created, the definition of “at risk” was reserved for underrepresented minorities, low-income, and first-generation college students.

STEM-Gems Staff

Lisa NorwoodAssistant Dean Lisa Norwood '86, creator of the STEM-Gems program and an alumna of the Hajim School, oversees the direction of the STEM-Gems program.

Nick ValentinoNick Valentino, academic counselor in the Hajim Dean’s Office, manages operations for the program and is the primary contact.

2018-2019 Graduate Assistants

NimakoKwasi Nimako '18
Biomedical Engineering, CMTI Program

CervantesAriana Cervantes '18
Mechanical Engineering, CMTI Program

The Hajim School's STEM-Gems program received a University Meliora Award in recognition of its dramatic success in retaining 'at risk' students.

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"The engineering discipline is a social entity requiring various perspectives. STEM Gems provides the basic needs to complete a STEM degree for students from the various backgrounds, thus contributing to the overall diversity in ethnicity, socioeconomic background and, most importantly, in perspective." Asia Ingram '14

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"As a minority and first generation college student, I knew very well at the start of my undergraduate career that I had a big challenge ahead of me. But now that I am almost finished, I can honestly say that the STEM GEM program significantly helped me reach and surpass my goals. They gave me all the resources needed to overcome my challenges. The program also introduced me to a world filled with opportunities, and they have been a great contributor to where I stand today in my professional path. Today, I am close to graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering and a minor in Chemical Engineering while I perform extensive lab research in tissue engineering. I aspire to pursue a higher education at graduate school with the vision to become a leading contributor to the nations health care and biomedical innovation." Jenny Quintero '16