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Engineering Students' Success


Raymond Landis is fluent in the language of mechanical engineering, a field in which terms such as heat transfer, thermodynamics and numerical analysis roll off the tongue like couplets in a sonnet.

But Landis, the dean of engineering and technology at Cal State Los Angeles, prefers the vocabulary of success when he talks to his Minority Engineering Program (MEP) students, to whom he offers terms such as goals, motivation, peer support and pride.

"You must clarify your goal, figure out what you want to achieve," the 59-year-old educator preached recently to a group of engineering students who had gathered for a seminar. "You're not successful until you achieve your goals. Your attitude will make it happen."

Landis, a Burbank resident, has made it his business for the last 26 years to guide as many economically and educationally disadvantaged students into engineering fields as he could possibly reach.

The longtime educator has served as a mentor and advisor to more than 800 disadvantaged students since 1973, when he established MEP at Cal State Northridge. Twenty engineering colleges in California and 60 universities nationwide now utilize his "collaborative learning" model to help students learn the skills necessary to make it in an engineering school.

"The dean's program helps students develop problem-solving and information-retrieving skills," said Jim Woods, a Cal State Los Angeles adjunct professor of engineering. "He literally wrote the book on studying engineering. By personally teaching the students, he tells them that he's approachable, that he cares."

A Florida native, Landis said he was raised in an era in which minority students were discouraged from choosing engineering majors. He determined early in his career to rectify that injustice.

During his 18-year tenure at CSUN, Landis--who began his career at Rocketdyne in 1963--initiated and directed the Mathematics, Engineering, Science and Achievement program, or MESA, which provides mentors to underrepresented middle and high school students interested in engineering and science.

In 1995, he published a text titled "Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career," which is currently used in engineering programs at 200 colleges nationwide.

Landis led his students to a national first-place victory in a 1,250-mile solar-car race in 1997, and they successfully competed against major automotive teams in Australia's World Solar Challenges.

The dean is among 10 educators recently selected to receive the annual Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, and he is the first California State University administrator to receive the CSU Wang Family Excellence Award for administrative leadership.

"I'm proud that I started MEP, so that deserving students can receive something extra," Landis said.

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