I Survived Biology Boot Camp

Written by Mariam Waqar

Transition State

To say that the transition from high school to college is overwhelming would be an understatement at best. Among the difficulties that incoming freshman face is breaking away from the nurturing environment of high school and learning to motivate themselves in their studies. However, during their journey to individually accomplish their academic goals, students unintentionally distance themselves from their peers which leads to them feeling disconnected from their major or program.

To help alleviate these issues and others, the Biology Undergraduate Program, in collaboration with the STEM Accelerator Program, organized a 6-day academic intensive Biology Boot Camp (modeled after Louisiana State University’s BIOS), July 28-August 2, 2013, for incoming freshmen who declared biology as their major. The Biology Boot Camp’s goal and vision was to give students a realistic look into college life.

It will be easier to transition and form study groups.
Ashika Chaluvadi, boot camp participant.

An Introduction to College Rigor

On a daily basis, students attended three to four hours of content lecture, and had an examination roughly every other day. These exams exposed them to the rigor of University studies, and gave them insight into what they would be facing in the upcoming fall semester.

All students were placed in an on-campus hall, where they lived and studied together. One of the participants, Ashika Chaluvadi, said, “I feel more comfortable about the fall semester because of all the Biology majors I’ve met, as now it will be easier to transition and form study groups.”

Another participant, Nina Kappel, stated, “Even though it’s been four years since I’ve taken a biology class, I feel as if I’m hitting the ground running after boot camp because of the studying tips and small groups.”

Along with meeting incoming freshman, the boot campers worked closely with three STEM Accelerator Learning Assistants, all at different points in their Undergraduate and Graduate careers. Kevin Chavers, a Master’s Student in the College of Education and Robert Noyce Fellow, said, “Interacting personally with professors is a great opportunity, as students aren’t able to have that connection sitting in a 100-person lecture hall.”

Students regularly spoke with biology professors during lunches, and attended lectures by three professors within the biology faculty.

Interacting personally with professors is a great opportunity, as students aren’t able to have that connection sitting in a 100-person lecture hall.
Kevin Chavers, Robert Noyce Fellow

Building Connections

In addition to course lectures, students were also exposed to an array of speakers ranging from those talking about the Biology Concentration in Education, to our Pre-Health Advisor, Mrs. Jane Rockwood.

Many students hadn’t experienced upper level science courses prior to entering Mason, therefore, representatives from Learning Services presented and taught the students about how to identify different learning types, time management, and tips on how to study and prepare for an exam.

I feel as if I’m hitting the ground running after boot camp.
Nina Kappel, boot camp participant

The End Game

Time will tell how our campers will fare, the confidence they have gained and the connections their have made from this one week experience will undoubtedly help them in their upcoming collegiate journey.

The goal is not only to have everyone say “I survived biology boot camp” but also to eventually say “I thrived” in subsequent coursework.

 

Published with permission from Mariam Waqar, currently a Biology major and Learning Assistant with the STEM Accelerator.