First Class of Stony Brook Simons STEM Scholars Announced

Students accepted into the first class of Simons STEM Scholars pose for a photo following a signing ceremony hosted at the Simons Foundation. Emily Tan/Simons Foundation

This fall, nearly 30 students will attend Stony Brook University as the first ever Simons STEM Scholars. With support from the Simons Foundation, these accomplished students — all among the top in their year — will receive full scholarships, programmatic support, academic advising, and assistance finding internships and research opportunities. On May 5, 2023, 25 of the incoming Scholars celebrated their acceptance into the program at a signing ceremony hosted at the Simons Foundation’s New York City headquarters.

“It really is our opportunity as a university to be able to be a part of your rise,” Erwin Cabrera, executive director of the Simons STEM Scholars Program, told the Scholars. “You all are stars, and we cannot wait to see what you’re going to do for the next four years.”

“We’re so privileged to be part of your journey,” said Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis. “We have the real privilege of working with you over the next few years as you continue your educations to find your journeys, your careers, your ambitions for life because we know that all of you are going to help change this world.”

Incoming Simons STEM Scholars get to know one another at a signing ceremony held at the Simons Foundation. Emily Tan/Simons Foundation

The Simons STEM Scholars Program aims to support underrepresented science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM) students in their academic and professional pursuits. The long-term goal is to help reduce the racial disparity in the U.S. STEM workforce: For example, while Black and Latine individuals make up 28 percent of the country’s workforce, they only account for 17 percent of STEM workers.

The incoming Scholars will “bring diverse perspectives to science and innovation, and set the stage for future generations of students to follow in [their] footsteps,” said Seran Lee-Johnson, chief of staff of the Simons Foundation, at the event.

Future classes of Simons STEM Scholars will comprise 50 students. This year’s group will be smaller because it is the program’s initial class.

“I’m excited to pave the way,” said incoming Scholar Kaylen James, a senior at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School. “I’m especially interested in the amount of research that we’ll be able to do, and being surrounded by people who are like-minded in terms of loving STEM.”

More than 750 students applied for a spot in the inaugural cohort, with most candidates hailing from the New York area, but others as far-flung as Hawaii. “They’re all such amazing individuals, and all of them are going to succeed in life,” said Brady Brick, the program’s recruitment, special events and family outreach coordinator. “It’s just great to see them at this point before they launch into the stratosphere.”

Around 50 percent of the incoming Scholars are from New York City, 40 percent from elsewhere in New York State and 10 percent from out of state. They bring impressive résumés: Together, their GPAs rank highest among their graduating class, and their average SAT scores are in the 99th percentile nationwide. This year’s class includes student leaders, social activists, accomplished athletes, tutors, researchers, inventors and the 13th top point guard in New York State — who chose the program over pursuing athletics.

Erwin Cabrera, executive director of the Simons STEM Scholars Program, speaks to the incoming Scholars. Emily Tan/Simons Foundation

“They’re going to be rock stars; they’re already rock stars,” Cabrera said. “To be one of the people ushering and helping them — that’s invaluable.”

Before their first fall semester, the incoming Scholars will attend a six-week Summer Bridge Program designed to build camaraderie, as well as to prepare them for their collegiate and professional careers.

“I’m extremely excited; it’s a big opportunity,” said incoming Scholar Mandy Joseph, a senior at Scholars’ Academy in Queens. As a member of the first cohort, Joseph said, “I’m also excited to come back and talk to future Fellows, and maybe come back to my old school and try to see if I can recruit some of my old peers.”

Over time, the program will mature as Scholars advance in their studies and careers and come back as mentors and role models. Cabrera was a Scholar in a similar program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, called the Meyerhoff Scholars Program. That program, launched in 1989, served as an inspiration and model for the Simons STEM Scholars Program, Cabrera said.

“I’m the only alum in the nation that’s leading one of these replication efforts — I was one of these kids,” he said. “If it weren’t for that program, I would have never thought to do a Ph.D. So I want to give to these students what was given to me.”

Recent Articles