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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Summer program supports first-year STEM students

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Elaine Terry Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics, with students from the CB-STEM program. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

When Lisa Lam ’25 began college this fall, she knew what to expect, in part because of her participation in a summer university program designed to help underrepresented students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors.

Lam, a computer science major, was one of six first-year students who participated in the Crossing the Bridge to Success in STEM (CB-STEM) Program this past summer. 

“Before college, I felt unprepared to take on the workload and what to expect,” Lam said. “[High school] was a year and a half of virtual learning, so I didn’t know what to expect going fully in person for college,” Lam said. “When I saw the email to sign up for CB-STEM, I jumped at it.”

The program, started by Elaine Terry Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics, is funded by a grant from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). Participants do not have to pay a fee in order to take part in the program. 

Students in the program take math from Terry as well as biology and chemistry courses taught by Brian Forster, Ph.D., GEP science lab coordinator and chemical hygiene officer, and Jose Cerda, Ph.D., associate professor and director of chemical biology.

Terry said this program is meant to provide STEM students of color with a solid foundation in college-level STEM curriculum. 

“It’s necessary for students who are underrepresented in STEM—students who are going to be on a campus where they’re the minority, not in the majority—and to let them know that there are people on this campus that can help you [and] want to see you be successful,” Terry said. 

The program ran for the first time on-ground in 2019 with four participants. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 grant was delayed. The program resumed in 2021, but fully on Zoom.

The virtual option allowed Dehlyla Hernandez ’25, an IHS major to participate in the program from her home in Chicago.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it if it was in person,” Hernandez said.

Lam said one benefit of the program is the abundance of resources provided to students. Representatives from student services across campus come to speak to the students during the summer, and for Lam, those presentations, along with Terry’s individual support, have helped her adapt to college. 

“[Dr. Terry] always does small check-ins with me after class,” Lam said. “It makes me feel good, it makes me feel welcome, like I belong here. She makes sure I have all the resources I need.”

Forster said while he enjoys facilitating the CB-STEM program with Terry because it helps students gain a strong foundation in how to succeed as STEM majors, that personal connection with faculty and with fellow students is important. 

“Students get to know someone else,” Forster said. “If you’re in the same field, you will be taking a lot of classes together. It’s good to have a friend.”

Hernandez said she found the social aspect of the program helpful in her adjustment to life on campus. 

“Some of my friends now, I met from [CB-STEM], which is really nice,” Hernandez said. “I already knew two girls from there, so when I came here, I immediately texted them like ‘Hey, I’m here, can we meet up?’ I was able to get my grounds a little bit since I already knew at least two people.”

The positive benefits of the program last beyond the first year, according to student participants from 2019.

Amira Woodlin ’23, a biology major with a minor in IHS, said she appreciates Terry’s support over her college career, and CB-STEM has helped her to succeed in her field.

“I don’t think I would have found different research and internship opportunities that I’ve had without being in that program,” Woodlin said. “Doing it on my own definitely would have been tough, so I think having this program open doors for other opportunities has definitely been beneficial to me over the years.”

Terry said recruitment was one of the challenging aspects to running the program virtually this year, but she still plans to run the program again next summer.

Woodlin said she hopes eligible students take advantage of the opportunity to participate.

“You learn a lot and it doesn’t hurt to participate in a program like this. It only will benefit you in the long run,” Woodlin said. “If you’re offered this opportunity or any similar programs, I would say jump on it and take advantage of that opportunity.”

 

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