Serving one another sums up Life Sciences Student Services or LSSS, the new and much improved version of the old advisement center and College Life offices. Under a new name and with an expanded mission, LSSS works with students to improve their academic experience and enhance the eventual outcome. Simply stated, the people at LSSS feel it is their mission to "Care more to reach out. Do more to connect." They encourage students to do the same.
LSSS works hard to make that connection, starting before new students even arrive on campus. Dr. Shauna C. Anderson takes the first step. A fulltime faculty member as well as Assistant Dean of the College of Life Sciences, Dr. Anderson contacts newly accepted students either by phone or e-mail before fall semester begins. "She welcomes them to college and gives them their first semester's courses," reports advisement assistant Gale Larson. "Having a faculty member reach out to them like that helps them use their time here more efficiently."
Once students are on campus, LSSS stays actively engaged in their academic life until they have graduated and either found a job in their field or been accepted into a graduate or professional school. LSSS focuses on five essential elements to a complete and rounded academic experience, each represented by an iconic image: College Life, Assessment, Career Advisement, Academic Advisement, and Mentored Experience (see illustrations 1 and 2). "We've identified these as the responsibilities of Life Sciences Student Services," says Jeanne Gubler, LSSS's supervisor.
Aubrielle Williamsen listens attentively as Rachel Bailey, M.S., PDBio, responds to her questions. Cooperative, rather than competitive, learning is the norm in Life Sciences today.
The responsibilities under each element are myriad, from new student orientation to faculty evaluations to exit interviews to workshops on networking to career counseling. But without one key ingredient, LSSS would be like any advisement center. "The idea of Zion learning is central to what we do," Gubler explains. "During orientation we tell The students, rather than fight tooth and nail for straight A's, let go of the competition and buy into the philosophy of lifting one another."
Make no mistake. A's are still important in the College of Life
Sciences; competition for those A's is not. In fact, the people working
in LSSS go out of their way to make sure students realize that since
virtually no professor in Life Sciences grades on the curve, students
have no need to compete with each other and every reason to help one
another. As one LSSS pamphlet puts it, Zion Learning "is the idea of
learning together: students willingly share their knowledge, lift each
other, and together gain more light and understanding than they could
So how do you get very bright and motivated students to buy into that philosophy? Well, you encourage them to join study groups, then facilitate online sign-up (there are currently 94 different groups to choose among). You set up a Learning Center staffed by tutors 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, and because a student may need more help, you point them to Tutoring Services for free one-on-one tutoring. "We call this the Empowering Others program," Larson says.
It also helps to establish a Life Sciences Student Council whose mission is to help students develop "a genuine concern for their fellow students," among other things (see Sampler). It is working, according to Daniel Tandberg, nutritional sciences major and president of the council. "In my genetics class there is a very strong emphasis on studying together and studying in groups. I've been able to do that, and I've really benefited from it," he continues.
Of course, the most obvious benefit of this cooperative approach can be a
better GPA. But LSSS wants students to know that the potential benefits
do not stop there. For example, faculty mentored research and off
–campus internships await any and all students willing to make the
contacts, something else LSSS facilitates.
Scholarships, study groups, and various clubs make college life more enjoyable for students while they are in school. Course evaluations, exit interviews, and other assessment tools help protect the value of their degree after they graduate.
Worried that better connected and more gregarious students were getting all those internships and mentored opportunities, LSSS created a list of ongoing faculty research in each department of the college. Each list includes the names of the professors, their contact information, current research opportunities, and any prerequisites the student must meet. Around 800 students did mentored lab research last year.
According to Dr. Anderson, mentored research and internships are crucial because graduate and professional schools—dentistry, medicine, optometry, etc.—want to know what research students have done as undergraduates. In the College of Life Sciences, students can respond that they did more than just shadow a mentor. "Whether in an internship or a mentored relationship with a professor, they're actually involved in the research project; they're actually doing research. That adds value to their resumes," she points out.
Likewise, Life Sciences Student Services adds value to the College of Life Sciences. LSSS truly is more.