Science departments win STEP grant

This past week the Montgomery College science department has received news that they have been awarded a National Science Foundation STEP (NSF) Grant. “The bottom line of this grant is to increase the number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) majors who graduate from this institution with a degree and to transfer to a four-year institution,” biology Professor Thomas Chase said. Two broad ways to achieve this goal are to focus on recruitment and retention.

Believe it or not, recruitment “springs” in high school. “Students [coming] to Montgomery College have programs set up as early as the summer before the fall semester, called a Summer Bridge, in an effort to orient them,” Chase said. Combat2College members are also being targeted for the STEM majors.

According to him, “Retention, is another major focus. If you are a biology major and you flunk out of BI107, Introduction to Biology, you are most likely not going to continue pursuing that field. So we have set up different tutoring strategies — Brain Training being one of them — to increase their chances of passing.”

“Another part of the strategy is looking at different ways of learning in the classroom. For example, there are lots of different kinds of active learning strategies in class that get away from your typical lecture, blackboard, and PowerPoint discussion. We are trying to focus more on the students having discussions on certain topics, which help them retain information on important issues.”

To the department, an additional information retention strategy is to set up an internship program that allow students to work hands-on in a field that may interest them. This gives them a real world view of how skills in the classroom can be applied outside of it. Class SE 297 is also set up for students to gain experience through research on particular subjects. Planning is underway to expand this program through the different fields of STEM on campus.