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Wednesday, December 6, 2023


School unites to help its students

Founder of the Program for Mastery in Engineering Studies and retired UH engineering emeritus professor Gerhard Paskusz was recognized in June for his 30-year effort to help minority students.

His achievement is not surprising to PROMES Director Katherine Zerda, who nominated him for the Dupont Minorities in Engineering Award that he received.

"In those days people weren’t very open to diversity," Zerda said. "He helped students who were feeling lonely and much like outsiders."

The award from the American Society for Engineering Education given to Paskusz was specifically for his work with PROMES.

The program was originally directed at minorities, but has changed during the years.

"We include everybody," Zerda said.

After taking the role of director in 2005 when Paskusz retired, Zerda made some changes, such as making more companies aware of PROMES so students will have more job opportunities, she said, adding that she wants students to benefit as best they can.

"I can have a lot of goals, but if it doesn’t percolate down to (students), then it’s pretty pointless," Zerda said.

UH alumnus Forest Busby Jr. graduated in 1985, and was the first student in the PROMES program to obtain a Ph.D.

"It guided my path," Busby said. "Engineers live a different type of lifestyle. We get up and study, go to class and go home and study."

Mechanical engineering freshman Brandon Kizzee visited UH for the Mentoring and Enrichment Seminar in Engineering Training in summer 2006 where he was able to live in on campus for two weeks and experience life as an engineering student.

The MESET program, a subgroup of PROMES, accepts 50 high school students every summer to take part in the engineering school. The participants are mentored by engineering students and take part in various hands on and group learning methods.

"We were able to meet and talk to other engineers actually working on their jobs," Kizzee said.

Kizzee said he discovered a scholarship for the program while he was searching on the Internet.

Zerda said that more than 550 applications were sent by students to fill the 50 spots for the 2007 program.

Zerda feels it is the responsibility of UH to reach out to younger students. She said that Paskusz was ahead of his time when he started the program.

Zerda said she hopes to help continue PROMES success.

"I am very lucky to inherit a program with that much passion in it," Zerda said. "It makes me very humbled by everything Dr. Paskusz accomplished. That man has changed the world."

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