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The Melville and Jane Hodge EXCEL Scholars Program

Thank you for your interest in learning more about the Melville and Jane Hodge EXCEL Scholars program. Here, you can find all of the information about the mission of the Hodge EXCEL Scholars program, how to apply, and what to do after you are accepted.

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What Is the Hodge EXCEL Scholars Program?

The Melville and Jane Hodge EXCEL Scholars program is an academic summer program for incoming freshmen to the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University. It was established in 1978 as a five-week summer “bridge” program to increase enrollment and improve retention of minority students that were accepted to McCormick. Historically, the Hodge EXCEL Scholars program was open to all incoming McCormick freshmen who self-identified as members of under-represented minority groups. However, in 2004 the admission criteria was changed. We now include Hodge EXCEL scholars of all cultural backgrounds. Hodge EXCEL scholars are selected to participate in our program after a further review of their accomplishments during high school. We identify Hodge EXCEL scholars who have demonstrated leadership skills and a commitment to diversity.

The Melville and Jane Hodge EXCEL Scholars program is also a cultural leadership development program that allows students earn two academic credits that count toward their engineering degree. Hodge EXCEL scholars have the opportunity to meet upperclassmen who are active members of student chapters of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).

The relationships that develop during the Melville and Jane Hodge EXCEL Scholars program provide a support network and a formula for success for our engineering students. The program has been in existence for over two decades. Each summer, academically-elite and highly-motivated students from all over the country invest a portion of their summer to develop a community of support that often lasts throughout their collegiate years. Our goal is to have 20 Hodge EXCEL scholars enrolled in the program this summer. Recently, we hired five upper-class counselors who will serve as mentors and tutors for the participants. All of our counselors completed the Hodge Scholars EXCEL program when they were incoming students.

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Mission and Goals

The mission of the Melville and Jane Hodge EXCEL Scholars program is to provide an environment for the development of a cultural community of support while reinforcing excellence in academics through exposure. Its major goals include the following:

  • To provide participants with the skills and knowledge to succeed in the school of engineering and beyond.
  • To provide participants with opportunities to become accustomed to both academic and non-academic facets of Northwestern.
  • To provide participants with opportunities to form bonds with their peers that will benefit them throughout their degree programs at Northwestern.
  • To expose participants to the various fields of engineering, thereby helping to eliminate uncertainties regarding choice of major or career path.
  • To challenge participants to succeed at high academic levels.

Retention and graduation rates of minority engineering students at McCormick are some of the highest in the country – well above the national average. We attribute that to the students who choose to enroll as well as to the resources we offer, particularly the Hodge EXCEL Scholars summer program. Many Hodge EXCEL scholars have said they believe their first year in engineering at Northwestern would have been much more difficult if they had not spent five weeks of their summer participating in our program.

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This year’s Hodge EXCEL Scholars summer program is taking place from Saturday, June 22, 2024 through Saturday, July 27, 2024. All participants must be present for the entire duration of the program.

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How Does It Work?

During the summer before their first year at McCormick, Hodge EXCEL scholars will participate in academically-rigorous coursework, including a leadership class that helps prepare them for their first year of engineering study. Hodge EXCEL scholars earn two academic credits that can be applied toward their graduation requirement. Hodge EXCEL scholars who participate in the program form a close social support network and assume many of the leadership roles among the engineering student organizations (i.e. National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, etc.)

During more than 30 years, the Hodge EXCEL Scholars program has proven very effective in further developing the talents and leadership skills of our engineering students. The McCormick School of Engineering is committed to continuing to improve the Hodge EXCEL Scholars program.

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What Will I Do This Summer?

During the five weeks, you will attend classes in chemistry, calculus, and engineering analysis (which combines linear algebra and Matlab computer programming) plus a course in leadership, where you will work as part of a team to solve a real-world engineering problem. Upon successful completion of those courses, you will earn two units of academic credit that can be used towards the 48 units required to earn your Bachelor of Science degree! In addition to work in the classroom, there will be a variety of social activities to get you acclimated to Northwestern and the resources that it has to offer.

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How Much Does the Program Cost?

Thanks to generous corporate and alumni sponsors and to the McCormick School of Engineering, all of the expenses for the program are covered. This includes the cost of tuition, room and board and transportation for any student who lives more than a 3-hour drive (about 150 miles) from our Evanston campus. (We cannot make arrangements for international travel.)  

The program has been endowed due to the generous support of Melville and Jane Hodge.

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How Do I Apply?

Please begin the application process online. We cap the number of program participants at 20 students. We will be reviewing applications on a first-come, first-served basis, so it is in your best interests to apply earlier rather than later. Typically, application deadline is the end of May for the summer of the same year. This program is only open to students who have been accepted to the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and will be attending Northwestern in the fall.

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Outstanding Alumni

Chanda Davis – EXCEL ’99, MechE ’03 – Chanda grew up outside of Nashville, TN. During her time at Northwestern, she was very active in our student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. She was elected as the Vice Chair and helped the chapter receive national recognition in 2001. She also was a head counselor for EXCEL and even as an alum who lives out of state, finds the time to come back and speak with the current Hodge EXCEL scholars. She works as a Senior Engineer at Procter & Gamble and lives in Cincinnati, OH.

Lourdes Solis – EXCEL ’02, Civil ’06 – When she was 9 years old, Lourdes immigrated to the U.S. with her family from Nicaragua. She majored in Civil Engineering. During her study at Northwestern, she was elected President of our student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. She worked for GM during her summer internships. She is currently one of the highest-ranking Latinas at Deutsche Bank in NYC. She has volunteered to serve as an alumni mentor for current Hodge EXCEL scholars.

Evan Dickerson-Rusan – EXCEL ’07, MechE ’12- Evan grew up in St. Louis, MO. During his time at Northwestern, he served as President of our student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and was a lead member/producer of Northwestern’s Improv group, Out Da’ Box. While working as a summer intern for Baxter, he was a Hodge EXCEL Scholar counselor/mentor for 2 summers. As an alum, he returns to campus to meet the current Hodge EXCEL scholars. Currently, he works at Boeing and lives in Seattle, WA.

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