NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) this week welcomed 20 incoming freshman to campus as they participate in the Fourth Annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy, which began on Sunday, July 31, and runs through Thursday, Aug. 4.

Designed for first-year students who are declared STEM majors or who have an interest in becoming a STEM major, the five-day program is providing them with a preview into what the next four years might hold at MCLA.

According to STEM Academy co-coordinator Dr. Carolyn Dehner, the students are attending classes in athletic training, biology, chemistry, environmental science, physics, psychology and math to discover what it’s like to major in a STEM field. In addition to participating in academic sessions with MCLA STEM faculty, they are becoming familiar with the college campus and the region.

“This program exposes students to various STEM fields,” Dehner said. “Within MCLA, they get to know STEM faculty and experience labs and classes; but the connection also is made outside MCLA to local professionals who have careers in STEM areas.

“Students also will learn about college life in general, meet other students with similar interests, and be mentored by upperclassmen STEM Fellows,” she continued. “Graduates of this program have expressed how the STEM Academy eased their transition into college, gave them confidence, and helped them refine their academic and career goals.”

Dehner, an assistant professor of chemistry at MCLA, is co-coordinating the Academy with Amanda Beckwith ’03 BS, ’13 M.Ed., coordinator at MCLA’s Center for Service and Citizenship and its Women’s Center.

At the Academy, students also work with “STEM Academy Fellows” – current or recently graduated MCLA students who are majoring in STEM fields – on skills they’ll need to be successful; such as time management and organization, as well as ways to help them study and be prepared for classes.

This year's STEM Fellows are interdisciplinary studies major Breana Gladu ’17 of Adams, Mass.;  Svetlana Morrell ’17, a double major in biology and psychology from Stillwater, N.Y.; Sara Peck ’17, a psychology major from Hollywood, Fla.; Phoebe Pelzer ’18, a chemistry major from Hyde Park, Mass. ; and Alexander Switzer ’18, a computer science major from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Gladu and Morrell are previous STEM Academy participants.

“This program has been such a huge benefit and amazing experience for me,” Gladu said. “You gain a lot as a participant. You get to really plant your feet and experience what college will be like as a STEM major, as well as campus life and all the resources provided from counseling services to the Student Government Association (SGA).”

In addition to helping to boost students’ academic skills, STEM Academy helps them to form connections with faculty and staff, as well as friendships with like-minded students, who can provide peer support in the years to come.

According to Morrell, “This past semester I was able to obtain an internship because I had learned to seek guidance from my peer mentors, as well as approach my professors to talk to them about the possible internship I had found. The ability to connect with both mentors and professors is an aspect that STEM focuses on throughout the week and strives to instill in the incoming freshmen.”

MCLA’s STEM Academy is funded by a generous gift of the Berkshire Bank Foundation. The free, application-based program is open to all students, with a focus on those traditionally under-represented in science and math. Students are selected based upon their essays and alignment with program goals.

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Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth’s public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

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