BC, BRCC, EMU and JMU Bridge-the-Valley

DebSF -- July 22nd, 2009

BRCC Math Prof Lynne Ryan and TA Chris Stevens with Stem Students

BRCC Math Prof Lynne Ryan and TA Chris Stevens with STEM Students

Months of intensive collaboration and dozens of meetings, phone calls and e-mails have finally paid off – the students are here!  Last year,  BC, BRCC, EMU and JMU were awarded a 3 year, $1.5 million dollar National Science Foundation grant (with a possible extension to 5 years and $2.5 million) in an effort to improve retention rates for students  pursuing degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM majors).  The two primary goals of this Bridging the Valley project are straightforward: add 100 STEM baccalaureate degree recipients annually by year 5 of the project, and provide professional development to STEM faculty on our campuses to evolve pedagogy in STEM courses to help attract and retain students.

According to BRCC STEM profs Ken Phillips (physics) and Lynne Ryan (math), the students targeted by the program are those who have good  preparation, but maybe not  quite good  enough to be successful in their immersion in the deeper water of college-level math and science courses.  These students often get discouraged and transfer  out of STEM careers entirely after just one hard course, sometimes finding out they were not as well prepared as they thought.  The program hopes to provide these students with the solid skills needed to do well in the  science and math components of their STEM majors.

BRCC Math prof Lynne Ryan

BRCC Math prof Lynne Ryan

In this intensively collaborative effort, sixteen faculty from  four local institutions are teaching the sessions. Sponsored by the four participating schools, as well as SRI Inc. and the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, the month-long residential workshop continues through July 31. “We’re hoping that the workshop is going to offer preparation on many different fronts,” said Dr. Bob Kolvoord, a professor of integrated science and technology and educational technologies and co-director of the Center for STEM Education and Outreach at JMU.

Students are bunking at JMU, getting an early taste of dorm life and campus dining halls before their first official day as  freshmen in August.  After completing a math pretest during the first week, students attend math classes every morning at BRCC. A math post test (and final exam) is on tap the end of the session.  Students who successfully finish the course will earn 2 credits of math, transferable to their home college.  Each afternoon,  they rotate through 4 weekly  science labs, visiting  Bridgewater (July 6-9), EMU (July 13-14/16-17) and JMU (July 20-23).  Students attend their home campus for the final week of science labs (July 27-31), completing 16 separate labs over the session.  Math classes and science labs are closely  knit together, with some of BRCC’s morning math problem sessions and computer lab time devoted to analyzing and interpreting the data collected in the weekly science projects.  Personalized interaction is the key; during  science labs, there are three instructors plus three teaching assistants on hand to help the students with the mechanics of the lab and to answer questions.

Field trips are also on the agenda, including helping with clean-up efforts along Black’s Run, touring local businesses and industries (including Merck and Coors), and a trip to Shenandoah National Park (reported sightings: two bears, one skunk, four peregrine falcons,  too many deer to count, and other assorted furry woodland creatures).  And purely fun stuff is on the callendar, too- Friday’s on the Square, downtown and mall shopping trips, movies, and more.  “We really feel like we’re giving them a great taste of the Valley and these students are now making friends with colleagues at the other institutions. We’re hoping to build some bridges there, too,” Kolvoord said.

17 Responses to “BC, BRCC, EMU and JMU Bridge-the-Valley”

  1. DebSF says:

    Full disclosure: the guy in the black shirt standing in the front page photo is my son Chris, serving as math TA in the mornings and science TA in the afternoon. And, yes indeed, Lynne really does use that beach ball in class.

  2. Nice pic of the smart Chris. And, were you the one to put Lynne up to using beach balls in class, Deb?

  3. BTW, I am not one of the co-bloggers here, and I am for some reason not in the dnronline system to write comments on letters (and they do not say how you get into it), but will anybody here comment on the letter writer who called Patrick Lincoln a “communist” (and thus Kai Degner a “socialist democrat” by association), not all that long after the DNR praised McCarthyism? This is the most outrageous garbage pulled there since the editorial on “Primate Obama.”

  4. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    I always had my suspicions about Kai and Patrick…are any people really that nice without having an ulterior motive? ;-)

    That letter was crazy even by DNR standards. Did anyone notice that “Jacob Klonsky, Elkton Virginia” can be rearranged to spell “KGB: a nonactive killjoy; no risk”?

  5. Lowell Fulk says:

    That Degner boy is mighty suspicious actin’… Always wantin’ folks to wear one of them thar tore up hunks of orange rag to get people a talkin’ about windmills and clotheslines and such. Keep a watch on him boys. Never can tell, he might might be one of them thar Budda fellers too.

  6. Brooke says:

    Yeah I thought that was one of the dumbest most knee-jerk-hysteria letters I’ve read in a while. The best part is the guy who wrote it is from Elkton, and so Kai would not be his mayor, unless, of course, he has Kai confused with Bompiani. Any news on whether Bompiani is one of them thar Democratic Socialists?

  7. Lowell Fulk says:

    Think about this, if you put “Kai” and Bompiani” together, you get “Kai Bompiani”… Hmmmm… Coincidence? I think not

  8. Lowell Fulk says:

    If you combine Elkton and Harrisonburg, you get Elktoburg….

    Ahhh Haaa! The nefarious plot is becoming clearer! Tell me this, are the Elkton town meetings on the same night at the Harrisonburg Council meetings?….

  9. Kai says:

    First about the original post:
    This STEM program is fantastic, and I’m pleased to be one of the learning partners for the group. I’ll be meeting with them periodically over the year, helping to orient the students to the area and build relationships. What a great initiative!

    And about the letter to the editor:
    Let it be a reminder to all of us that this hatred and bigotry is here, amongst our community and neighbors. Our proactive/preventative work to build relationships across racial and cultural boundaries is a responsibilty I challenge us all to personally take on with individual actions.

    A first step might be to say hello to someone on the sidewalk, acknowledge others as a human-being, even if you have differences of opinion or look differently.

  10. Kai,

    Well, now you had better be careful about what you have those kids wear. After all, orange is the color of the Orange Order, which in Ulster has been associated with Sotch-Irish terrorism(!). And well, now pink will really be out, being either gay or maybe socialist or communist-traveling.

    As for red, well, it might mean they are Republicans(!) or communists(!!), or both (!!!). After all, the only letter that Karl Marx ever wrote that is the property of the US government (this is a true fact) was to the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, relative of that clearly commie Patrick (whose physical similarity to his relative was noted in the DNR letter), congratulating Old Abe on his reelection to the presidency in 1864. Marx wrote as Chairman of the unequivocally communist First International, thus proving once and for all what many of us have long suspected: that the Republican Party is a Communist conspiracy of the highest order (!!!!!!). No wonder they are both Reds.

  11. Lowell Fulk says:

    Now THAT is what I’m talking about! Thank you Barkley for pulling the shroud off of this charade!

  12. I apologize to Deb for having hijacked her post/thread. Let me say that her son Chris is not just “smart,” but “very smart.” Also, this does look like a good program, no matter what color clothing or accoutrements Kai Degner wears when he shows up at it (or whether or not Anne Ryan got the beach ball idea from Deb or not).

    On the other matter, there is one other aspect of this that I think is worth mentioning as it relates to DNR editorial policy. I support the right of the DNR to publish letters that are wildly off the wall as this one was. It was probably better to knock it through ridiculing the apparent inability of the author to known who was mayor of which city than to more directly confront his McCarthyite attack on Patrick Lincoln or too vigorously point out the implications of his ranting about ‘genocidal wars against the white race.”

    However, what I do find disturbing beyond all that, and has not been commented on so far, is that the DNR chose to put a photo of Kai Degner next to this seriously deranged letter. That suggests some sort of agreement with it by the DNR editor in charge, or at least a suggestion that it should be taken seriously. It was almost as if this photo of Kai was a mug shot for those who wanted to identify this wicked person, although perhaps it was more to clarify who was being referred to for those who could not keep their mayors or cities straight…

  13. Lowell Fulk says:

    I’m sorry too Deb, for my part in the hijack.

  14. Deb SF says:

    Shorter Barkley @ 4:53 : Nice plane you got there, Deb. **So** sorry, really, just sorry that I’m makin’ y’all fly to Cuba. Now, let me tell you about Havana! Havana in Cuba!

    Pfffttttt. It’s Lynne Ryan, Barkley. And I’ve never used a beach ball in class. Smurf dart guns, yes. Beach balls, no.

  15. seth says:

    i also thought it was weird that they ran kai’s picture. i think it might have made more sense to photoshop pat w/ a beard and stovepipe hat (although in fairness patrick is much more handsome than the other lincoln (and not a damn yankee)).

  16. JGFitzgerald says:

    Most people would be amazed, if not frightened, by the weird mix of ethics, standards, and chaos that goes into making up a newspaper page. A front-page editor once called across the room to me asking if I had a mug shot of a particular county supervisor. He wanted to use it one column wide at the top of a page, not because the supervisor, although quoted in the story, was a major player in the story, but because the editor did not feel the story was worthy of a six-column headline. I did not even try to explain all that to the supervisor when he stormed into the newsroom cursing and demanding to know why his picture had been used to adorn a story about a tax increase. The layout worked, but his photo had little to do with the tax increase.

    Maybe about how much a DNR letter has to do with this thread. But then, I suppose I should be happy about where the thread hasn’t gone, such as how smart the people currently in my household are, and how I will rise from third to second when school resumes in the fall.

  17. Deb SF says:

    The STEM students are going to Polyface farms today in Swope. I’m so jealous.

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