Osure Brown wants to hep students with STEM
By Andrew Jokela - Staff Reporter
By his own words, Osurè Brown is an accidental role model.
Brown was recently promoted to interim director of MESA at Highline College.
MESA, which stands for Math Engineering Science Achievement, is a program designed to promote academic success in minority and underrepresented populations in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.
The previous director, Dr. Sharon Rivera, transferred to Tacoma Community College to head their MESA program in March.
A graduate of Renton High School, Brown is, by-and-large, a product of Washington's education system.
"You can always tell the people who went to Renton High School because they don't pronounce it with the 't'," he joked.
Brown was born in Tacoma, and raised in Skyway, near Renton.
After high school, he decided to pursue a degree in sports medicine from Washington State University.
Unfortunately, the program was cut as soon as he arrived at WSU. So, he set his sights on a biology degree.
"With biology, you have so many options," said Brown, "I could be a physical therapist, or a do a bunch of other things, but I didn't know what I wanted to do with it."
One option he didn't have, however, was strong academic advising.
"My dad was in the military when he went to school—they told him what to do, what to learn, where to be, and when to be there. When I went to school that wasn't the case," Brown said. When he asked questions of his advisers, they asked him more back.
"I didn't have the answers," said Brown.
So, he took gross anatomy. Part of the course involves stints at WSU's cadaver lab.
"I threw up on the first day of lab," Brown said, chuckling. "It was bad."
Midway through his junior year at WSU, things got so bad that he considered dropping the program altogether. Then, Brown was called to a meeting where a handful of school administrators were present.
"I had a couple administrators tell me to just finish the biology program," he said. WSU hadn't had a black male graduate with a biology degree in more than ten years. At the time, there were several other students who were also considering dropping the program.
"It wasn't until a couple years later that I realized what it meant for me to finish it, and what it meant for the other black students," Brown explained. "Oh, I'm actually a role model – I didn't really realize it at the time."
One of the most frustrating moments of his education, he said happened during graduation. As students were walking on stage to accept their diplomas, the announcer notified the audience that a student was receiving a degree in microbiology. Brown was astounded.
"We had a microbiology degree? I didn't even know that," he said. "Why didn't my adviser tell me about all of these options?"
It was then that Osurè Brown vowed to use his experience for good, and to never let another student relive his experiences.
Before he was finished at WSU, Brown also completed a few more degrees.
"I wanted to go into education, so I went and got Women's Studies and Ethnic Studies degrees, and I got a minor in psychology because I really want to know more about the student population which I was going to go serve," said Brown.
Then, Brown was accepted into the University of Washington, where he earned a master's degree in education with an emphasis in higher learning.
Afterwards, he set his sights on MESA at Highline.
"The reason I wanted to be in MESA was because I knew all the pitfalls from when I was going for my biology major," Brown explained.
He was hired to be the new advising and retention specialist for Highline's MESA program in 2014.
Since being hired, Brown has worked tirelessly to ensure that every student who approaches him gets the help they need. Right now, he is performing his duties as MESA's advising and retention specialist while working as the interim director. These efforts have not gone unnoticed by the student population.
"Osurè has a very welcoming aura about him, and he is always willing to help in any way he can. What makes him a better adviser is that he's gone through the experiences, and he really understands what we are all going through in the STEM field," said Nawal Hersi, a Highline student.
"Osurè is literally the greatest thing since sliced bread," said fellow Highline student Jimmy Padua.
"Osurè has the experience, knows his way around, and really likes the students he works with. He's a really down-to-earth guy, very relatable, and very easy to talk to," said Liban Hussein, another Highline student.
Most students taking classes at Highline may qualify for the MESA program. The program serves more than 150 students, but Brown projects that they will reach 200 students by the end of this school year.
All of these students are currently managed by one person: Osurè Brown.
"It's a lot of work," Brown said, motioning toward a column of folders stacked neatly against the wall. "But, we try to make it as easy as possible for each student."
Included in this work are plans to revamp MESA's presence at Highline for the next school year. One of the bigger changes is reshaping how MESA will reach students.
MESA will be embarking on a revamped social media campaign, where they hope to notify students about upcoming scholarships, internship opportunities, and other important deadlines.
Additionally, Brown hopes to increase attendance to MESA's Academic Excellence Workshops. The workshops allow students from a specific class, such as Math 141 or Chemistry 161, to meet outside of class and work on course material, under the guidance of a MESA facilitator.
In these workshops, students are able to ask questions and work on whatever material they feel needs to be reinforced.
"The research has consistently shown that those students who attend AEW's [Academic Excellence Workshops] do better," Brown said.
Some of the upcoming changes impact the MESA Dinner, an annual networking event.
"We want students to be able to come in and get internships," said Brown. "My goal is to have 50 percent of students get an internship before leaving Highline."
"Eventually, I want students to come to Highline because of the MESA program," Brown said. "College should be challenging – it's supposed to challenge the way you think. But, it's not supposed to be difficult, because when it's difficult, nobody wants to do it."