From the unmistakable perspective of an engineer, Dan Dimitriu's philosophy that guides his mentoring springs from the heart of a designer. His relationships with mentees grow continuously, based on assessing needs, choosing activities, and evaluating the outcomes. He says "I built my mentoring role to be part coach preparing students for their big game after graduation, part advisor to help them choose the right courses for their career path, part trainer to improve their skills, part counselor to help them in hard times, part cheerleader to celebrate their successes and, above everything else, to be a role model."
Each year, Dan selects a group of 10 to 15 students who show determination and an intense desire to pursue an engineering career. He forms groups of these students to lead other students in a multitude of projects that help them understand what it is like to be an engineer.
Along with his collaborators, he has built an amazing mentorship and support system for the College and the results are impressive. When Dimitriu began at San Antonio College in 2001, there were only 164 students with a declared major in engineering. By 2012, there were 687 declared engineering majors. During the same period, engineering graduates have gone from one or two each year to 50 in 2013-2014. San Antonio College is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and, during the last 13 years, over 65 percent of its engineering students have been underrepresented minority students. He has intensively mentored 64 students: Eighteen have graduated from San Antonio College, and 42 have transferred to four-year institutions. Twenty of his mentees have been accepted into research internships at institutions in the University of Texas System, and five of his mentees have received internships with local San Antonio companies.
In addition to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), his activities have been supported with awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Education. The NSF support enabled him to create the Early Development of General Engineering, a summer program designed to attract and retain high school students in the engineering field. NSF resources also support scholarships for his low-income mentees. NASA support enabled a partnership with the University of Texas at San Antonio for student internships at the Johnson Space Center, as well as undergraduate research projects on the campus of San Antonio College. The success of the NASA program led to Dr. Dimitriu's creation of a summer undergraduate research program at San Antonio College where-since 2010--55 students have participated.
Dr. Dimitriu received the 2006 National Award for Excellence in Teaching from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (a membership organization representing educators from U.S. community and technical colleges.)