CAHSEE Receives Presidential
Award for Excellence in Science, Math and Engineering Mentoring
For immediate release
May 6, 2004
CONTACT: Margarita Studemeister (301) 918-1014
(Washington, D.C.)—The White House announced today the selection
of The Center for the Advancement of Hispanics in Science and Engineering
Educations as recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science,
Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). The award is reserved
for successful programs devoting sustained efforts in the public good,
mentoring the nation’s future technical and scientific leadership.
The award was presented to Charles E. Vela, President and founder of CAHSEE,
at a private White House ceremony. The Presidential Award, the highest
recognition in the nation, is conferred upon the recommendation of the
National Science Foundation, after a selection process by the country’s
scientific, engineering and academic communities, and former awardees.
The Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering
Mentoring (PAESMEM) comes at the heels of another recognition by BEST
(Building Engineering and Science Talent), in a report presented at Congress
on April 29, 2004, acknowledged and uniquely identified CAHSEE’s
pre-college program, the Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
(STEM) Institute, for its promising practices in increasing the admission
of students into undergraduate math, science, and engineering studies,
and for the superior college completion rates of participants.
This award is a recognition of Charles Vela’s dedication to cultivating
and promoting science and engineering education among Latino youth and
other underrepresented minorities, primarily African Americans.
In 1992, Vela founded CAHSEE to develop a cohesive core of Latino technical
and scientific leaders, and to prepare them to address the complex problems
in science and technology facing the nation and the world community. CAHSEE
has pioneered a comprehensive system of model programs that supports the
academic advancement of students from elementary school through doctoral
studies. Twenty-nine of CAHSEE; Alumni have received, are currently enrolled,
or have been accepted in doctoral programs at some of the nation’s
leading research institutions*.
Vela’s system of model programs has been expanded to the University
of El Salvador, and plans are underway to expand to the rest of Central
Dr. Joe Barba, Deputy Provost of the City University of New York, notes:
“A student that comes in Charles’ sphere of influence will
always have the benefit of his caring and advice. It is this dedication
and support that has enabled many of his students to enter graduate programs
and a large number of them to pursue PhDs. I have had the pleasure of
meeting and working with many of these very capable and successful students,
both males and females, and find it remarkable how they identified with
… Charles’ mission of academic excellence, civic responsibility,
and determination to end Latino, African American and Native American
under-representation in science and engineering… The nation and
the Latino community are highly indebted to Charles for his work and accomplishments
in developing diversity in the technical and scientific community.”
Dr. Noe Lozano, Associate Dean for Student Affairs at Stanford University,
observes: “Students, who have great talent but need extra guidance,
relentless motivation, and a focused strategy to remain in science, math,
and engineering, and to advance to graduate school, appreciate Charles’
mentoring style. I have personally admired from afar Charles’ ability
to take students at Stanford or other universities across the country…
and move them from “C” average students to B+ or A students.”
Dr. Carla Trujillo of UC Berkeley remarks: “…the students
I’ve met, who grew up in the CAHSEE system, and many of whom were
and are Berkeley students, are all talented and hard working. But they
also possess a remarkable sense of self-awareness, confidence, and a zest
for knowledge…. He has high expectations of his students and has
been fortunate to see the majority of them having gone farther than even
they had anticipated.”
“Mentorship is extremely important for reaching the top in any
endeavor,” says Vela, “especially in science and engineering
which require an apprenticeship period to guide the individual to explore,
discover and create by him/herself, with little or no specific direction.
I have had the fortune and privilege of having had mentors throughout
my career: Professor Michael O’Flynn, who was my undergraduate and
graduate advisor, and a professor of Electrical Engineering at the California
State University at San Jose; Dr. Sergio Fuentes-Maya, who was my doctoral
advisor and professor of Operations Research at the National Autonomous
University of Mexico (UNAM); and especially, Dr. Maria Isabel Rodriguez,
currently Rector of the University of El Salvador, who has been my professional
and ethical mentor since my early days as a graduate student and engineer.
More recently, I have had the privilege of the opportune advice and support
of Raul Yzaguirre, President of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).
Not only have these individuals taught me subject matter, they have also
inspired me to strive for excellence by their example and affection, and
have challenged my limitations and capabilities.”
Vela is an accomplished research and development engineering scientist
with service in some of the nation’s premier think tanks including
the National Academy of Sciences, where he worked in the development of
a long-term strategy for the mapping of the brain for scientific research
and clinical applications; and in Federally Funded Research and Development
Centers (FFRDCs): The MITRE Corporation, Mitretek Systems, and the Illinois
Institute of Technology Research Institute (IITRI), where, as Senior Science
Advisor, he achieved one of highest scientific positions in the country.
Today, Vela is an entrepreneur, who recently established Expertech Solutions,
a high-tech company focusing on strategic consulting and technical innovations.
He serves as President and Chief Scientist of Expertech Solutions.
In the last fifteen years, Vela has been a leading advisor to the Federal
government on the transformation and modernization of government processes,
and the design and acquisition of strategic technologies. He has advised
some of the most complex, large-scale and protracted government multi-billion
programs, including the modernization of the Internal Revenue Service
(IRS), and the modernization of the Federal Telecommunications System.
Currently Vela’s areas of research include: enterprise architecture
and best engineering practices in the acquisition, development and deployment
of high technologies; strategic enterprise-wide cyber security; knowledge-based
management and decision support systems; performance engineering of multi-tier,
multi-technology, geographically distributed complex information and computational
systems; staffing requirements for the development, enhancement and maintenance
of complex information and computational systems; computer tools for the
analysis and synthesis of huge data sets, mathematical models for telecommunications
traffic and cost forecasting, and mathematical models call center optimization.
He holds advanced degrees in Electrical Engineering and Operations Research
from the California State University, San Jose and the National Autonomous
University of Mexico (UNAM), respectively.
Vela has served on numerous committees, commissions, boards, and studies,
including the Presidential and Congressional Commission on Women and Minorities
in Science and Engineering, where he represented the Speaker of the House,
Congressman Dennis J. Hastert; The National Academy of Sciences’
Committee to Evaluate the National Institutes of Heath (NIH) Minority
Programs; The National Research Council’s Knowledge Assessment Committee;
the National Science Foundation's Model Institutions of Excellence; The
National Commission of Technology Education; The Board of Governors of
the Latino Science and Engineering Consortium; the committee charged with
the development of the research policy of the University of El Salvador;
The National Council of La Raza; and The Hispanic Council of International
Relations, among others. Charles Vela has written, published and presented
numerous papers and reports on technical and education related subjects.
He has received many awards for his technical contributions, and his contributions
in science and engineering education, including the Vice Presidential
National Performance Review Hammer Award in 1996, given for the first
time to non-government employees, for his contributions to the modernization
of the Federal Telecommunications System; The Junipero Serra Award, 1997,
the highest recognition given by the Society of Hispanic Professional
Engineers (SHPE) to one of its peers for sustained efforts and success
in channeling Latinos into science and engineering careers; and most recently,
a Meritorious Award from the Ministry of Education in El Salvador, for
his contribution towards the development of the Center for Academic Excellence
in Science, Engineering and Mathematics at the University of El Salvador.
Charles E. Vela was born in El Salvador to Manuel Vela Kegel, a Mexican
immigrant to El Salvador, and Sofia Larios de Vela, a former public school
teacher and principal in El Salvador. Vela grew up in San Francisco, where
he migrated with his family in 1960. He currently lives with his wife,
Margarita Studemeister, in Potomac, Maryland. He is the father of Patricio,
a recent engineering PhD graduate from the California Institute of Technology;
Veronica, a graduate of Georgia Tech, who is currently pursuing a doctorate
in engineering at UC Berkeley; and Adam, a recent UC Berkeley graduate
who next fall will become a doctoral engineering student at Stanford University.
*Caltech, MIT, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, Georgetown
University, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Arizona State, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara,
University of Southern California, University of Arizona, University of
Illinois, Notre Dame, the Mayo Clinic, Northwestern University, City College
of New York, Columbia, Iowa State, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University
of Texas at Austin, among others
About CAHSEE: CAHSEE’s mission is to prepare talented
Hispanic American and other underrepresented minority college and pre-college
students, primarily African Americans, to achieve academic excellence,
and professional success and leadership in science and engineering. CAHSEE’s
programs include the STEM Institute, the Young Educators Program (YEP)
Fellowship, The Young Engineer and Scientist Program (YESP), and SAT/SOAR.
CAHSEE is funded primarily through the generosity of the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA). Other funders have included Verizon Communications,
the Inter-American Development Bank, Fannie Mae Foundation, The Meyer
Foundation, and Sun Microsystems Foundation. More information about CAHSEE
can be found at www.cahsee.org.
Charles Vela is available for interviews, presentations, and seminars
on science and engineering education. For information, please call 301 918 1014 or contact:
Those wishing to form partnerships with CAHSEE may also contact Ms. Studemeister.