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students working at desks in Austin Hall

Changing the way learning happens

By Debbie Farris
Creating a transformative student experience in and out of the classroom

Strategic initiatives

Creating a transformative student experience in and out of the classroom

To create meaningful change, we need to change the way we do things. If we continue to approach student success the same way that we have in the past, we won’t get different, better results. The College has always been deeply committed to building leaders in science. Recently we have noticed new trends and developments in higher education and in the marketplace that demand a shift in our thinking and in our approach as we prepare the next generation of scientists.

We want to instill more engagement, confidence and competence in our science students as part of their experience at the College of Science. With increased market demands, a growing student population and research funding constraints, we also have a responsibility to be more vigilant and accountable for our students than ever before.

The following new initiatives will better prepare our students for success in their careers and throughout their lives.

Transforming student experiences

As Jeff Selingo, author of College (Un)bound, expressed when on campus recently faculty engagement and encouragement leads to student success. The College is committed to increasing connectivity and community between students and between students and faculty. Coaching students to connect to our scientific community can lead to increased learning and classroom success while also enhancing interpersonal communications. Connectivity is important for students, particularly in large classes with hundreds of students.

A new group that formed organically recently is the Student Advisory Committee. Comprised of student leaders in science organizations, this group collaborates with the College to provide input on the student experience to the Dean.

To further develop a sense of community and belongingness, the College will host educational and social events for science students. Interaction between faculty and students can foster deeper connections and create a dynamic, transformative experience for students.

Excellence through diversity

Through a generous alumni gift, the College has launched the Vernier Program for Mentoring and Diversity in Science (PROMISE) that focuses on building leadership in science among women, underrepresented minorities and first-generation college students that demonstrate remarkable potential.

Physics alumnus David Vernier and his wife Christine’s generosity has enabled the College to increase its support of The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) in STEM. LSAMP has clearly demonstrated that organizing students from underrepresented groups into a cohort early in the academic year results in higher student retention and success at OSU.

This year, the College funded 20 students to participate in the two‐week bridge program and 50 students to participate in the two‐day academy. These powerful events help increase retention, develop future campus leaders and instill a powerful sense of community. With funding from NSF and the College, we launched another cohort‐based program that helps provide undergraduate research opportunities for STEM students.

The PROMISE program also enabled us to send students to the annual SACNAS conference (Advancing Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in Science) to foster connections among these groups. 

The College is deeply committed to nurturing the success of these cohort‐based approaches for improving student equity and success. We launched another cohort‐based program with funding from NSF. This program focuses on providing undergraduate research opportunities for STEM students from underrepresented groups. We are discussing similar methods for assisting first‐generation and other underrepresented groups.

Reaching higher: Improving student success

Student success and equalization are important metrics for excellence in the College of Science and for the University as a whole. Improving high impact student experiences, such as experiential learning, mentoring, service learning, internships and study abroad programs will lead to academic success for all students (equalization), increased retention rates and higher graduation rates.

We have seen the outstanding impact that dedicated individuals and small groups of faculty have had on students. Our student leaders are working closely with the Dean’s office to develop department‐based peer mentoring programs that pair new students with experienced ones in their major; create cross‐department communication to promote seminars, events and learning resources to more science students; and identify volunteer and service learning opportunities for science students.

Our student leaders are working closely with the Dean’s office to develop department‐based peer mentoring programs, to pair new students with experienced ones in their major, and 2) cross‐department communication to promote seminars, events, and learning resources to a wider range of science students, and 3) identify volunteer and service learning opportunities for science students.

The College is committed to developing a community where the faculty and staff appreciate and value the privilege and responsibility we have to guide and assist every student on their path to success.