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Back to School: A new math and science workshop prepares non-traditional students for success

9/19/2018

By: Anna Kathryn Groom, CSE communications intern

The College of Science & Engineering recently hosted a workshop aimed toward veterans and transfer students ages 25 and older. Beginning on July 30 and running through August 17, the Inaugural Foundations of Math and Science workshop featured multiple workshop classes taught by TCU professors from the College of Science & Engineering. The workshops were free of charge and gave the attendees the opportunity to refresh their knowledge of science and math prior to beginning the fall semester.

The concept of the workshop was presented to the College leadership last fall by the president of the V.E.T.S. (Veterans in Engineering Technology and Science) student organization and was supported enthusiastically. Steve Weis, an engineering professor at TCU and a veteran himself, proceeded to collaborate with V.E.T.S. and Dean Hartman to initiate plans for the workshop. After exploring what exactly the veterans envisioned learning in the workshop, Weis and a team of professors developed courses suitable for the readjustment to college life.

Students and instructors on the last day of the workshop

Classes were held every day from 8 a.m. – noon, with math courses during the first half of the morning and science courses during the second half. There were two different math courses: one which prepared the students for calculus and the other prepared them for applied calculus and statistics. The science course was the same for everyone and offered a mix of chemistry and biology.

Drew Tomlin, an instructor in the mathematics department, organized and taught the math courses. When asked about her experience with the workshop, Tomlin said was moved by the eagerness of the attendees. She said, “Every single student has a great attitude and they all worked really hard. I was so proud of their dedication.” After the first week, the once apprehensive students were raising hands, actively participating in class, and were much more at ease. The intention of the workshop was to re-acclimate the veterans to academic life and Tomlin was encouraged by their progress over the duration of the program.

While the material is incredibly important for the students to review, the skills they learned during the three weeks proved to be much more beneficial. The workshop provided a safe space for students to fail and pick themselves back up while also learning to take tests, familiarizing themselves with the material, and developing the confidence to speak up in class. Professor Tomlin said, “Part of the hope is that some of those initial panic moments happened in the workshop, and not in the semester. The material isn’t necessarily as important as the skills they learned. Seeing the material beforehand too makes it less scary.” The students also covered study habits with Dean Phil Hartman, which will be a more predominant part in the workshop in years to come.

While he did not teach any of the courses, Steve Weis was an integral part of making the workshop a reality. When reflecting on the students’ experience, he emphasized the importance of taking tests. He said, “Taking tests was the most beneficial part of the workshop as a whole. They were learning small amounts of material which was then condensed to make up these tests. They were taking tests in conditions that some of them hadn’t seen in 8, maybe 12 years.” Weis also went onto discuss the workshop’s overall success and the intentions to continue the program into upcoming years. That being said, he also noted how this year showed the workshop committee the changes that needed to be implemented in years to come. They are reevaluating the curriculum and timing of the workshop as well as incorporating additional time for honing in study skills.

As a whole, the workshop was a success. Not only were the students able to refresh their knowledge in math and science courses, but they were also able to gain vital skills for the upcoming semester. Additionally, the workshop gave the students the opportunity to develop relationships with the professors in the College of Science & Engineering.

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