Thursday, August 11, 2011
About a half hour into a lesson on vectors, UWG’s Dr. Mohammad A. Yazdani asked a class of incoming freshman “is math beautiful or what?”
“When you get it, it’s beautiful,” responded one girl.
The students were deep into solving a series of math problems; science classes and final exams awaited them.
Just before the start of the fall semester, 100 students interested in majoring math or science took part in a summer bridge program dubbed UWise, for University of West Georgia Institutional STEM Excellence.
The program was designed to give them a taste of what is to come, introduce the idea of teaching as a career option and to build bonds among the students that will take them through freshman year to a successful graduation.
“We focus on teaching math and science so that they know what it takes to succeed,” said Dr. S. Swamy Mruthinti, the coordinator of the program. It was funded with a one-year $344,000 grant from the Board of Regents.
The students’ days were full, except for a meal breaks and a couple of free time hours, much of their days on campus were spent in the classroom, studying or doing homework. In class, the only electronics the students were allowed to use were graphic calculators.
“We are trying to limit the distractions,” said Mruthinti, who is an associate dean and professor of biology.
Students also heard lectures on time management, problem solving and developing good homework and study habits, Mruthinti said.
“It teaches you the responsibility you need for college,” said Dusty Gonzalez, 18, a graduate of Sandy Creek High School in Fayette County. He plans to major in environmental science.
Alyssa Jones, 18, liked being on campus before the start of the fall semester.
“It gave me a head start on college, finding out where everything is,” said Jones, who graduated from Brookwood High School in Snellville. She plans to become a neonatal surgeon.
“And it helped us with math and science – an introduction to that – so that’s good,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than I thought it was. But with the program, it should be easier after learning the basics.”
About 18 of UWG’s science and math professors taught classes during the two-week program. The plan is to monitor the student’s progress to ensure that they don’t fail.
UWG President Beheruz N. Sethna emphasized the urgency of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education during brief lunchtime remarks to the students.
He noted they will compete for jobs on an international level. “It’s extremely important for America…. The world is changing, the world has changed and will continue to change,” he said.
“There will be times when the course load is really tough,” he said. “I want you to resolve yourselves that when you get to the tough part, that you keep on going.”