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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Academics & Research

Summer scholar program assists incoming freshmen interested in the STEM field


The TC Energy Summer Scholars Academy helps incoming freshmen interested in entering the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics or the Cullen College of Engineering gain credit for calculus 1. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The TC Energy Summer Scholars Academy helps incoming freshmen interested in entering the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics or the Cullen College of Engineering gain credit for Calculus 1. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The TC Energy Summer Scholars Academy is assisting a group of incoming freshmen in their transition to college with challenging classes, career panels, mentoring and the promise of consideration for their first choice STEM majors.

This nine-week program runs from the beginning of June to the beginning of August. The 50  selected students take a compressed version of Calculus 1, gain exposure to part of Chemistry 1 and enroll in an additional course called College Success (CORE 1100).

These students have excellent records in high school but may need a little additional support for the math-intensive majors that they hope to enter, according to a College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics news release.

By completing Calculus 1 during the summer, these students build a strong foundation for future success. UH students who don’t complete Calculus 1 as freshmen have only a one percent chance of graduating as STEM majors, said NSM assistant dean for Student Success Donna Pattison.

The 2019 Summer Scholars Academy students finished the course with the guidance of the Scholar Enrichment Program facilitators and mentors before the school year started and went on to earn an average GPA of 3.76 in Calculus 2.

In addition to the coursework, students benefit from preparing for college in the College Success course. Examples of topics covered include time management, campus resources, recognition versus recall, the illusion of knowing and growth mindset.

Freshman Jean Paul Fuentes, who is currently in the exploratory studies program but hopes to pursue a physics major, finds College Success helpful.

“The program has woken me up to become more productive and efficient in my work,” Fuentes said. “With the short CORE class that we took, it showed me and my classmates the basics of how to become more efficient and productive to get the best experience.”

The TC Energy Foundation donated $50,000 to support this year’s virtual program. The Wacom One tablets and webcams UH was able to purchase with this gift made it easier for students to write equations and communicate with mentors and other students.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 program is completely online, which eliminates opportunities for field trips like in the past but also opens doors to new opportunities.

“We wanted to make sure our 2020 cohort had an opportunity to build a sense of community with their classmates and had to get a little creative,” said NSM director of Planning and Assessment Ashley Askew.

“We were still able to include the career panels of 2019 and were able to expand our reach since our panelists did not have to be in the Houston area,” Askew added.

Fuentes, along with freshman Angelle Glover, who plans to major in biology, finds the career panels to be the most enjoyable part of the Summer Scholars Academy.

“It is nice to hear people’s stories because it exposes us to different job options,” Glover said. “We also have an opportunity to ask them questions and receive advice to encourage us to pursue our career goals.”

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