Magazine - Summer 2021


REVERSE ENGINEERING WINNING STRATEGIES FOR STUDIES IN STEM DR. HEATHER J. ROSS To overcome any obstacle or win any fight, it is smart to check out your opponent, know what you’re up against. We are going to start from the end and work our way backwards.

Poor grades (or perceived low grades). Lost interest in or disappointed by STEM major. Lacks sense of belonging, negative culture of STEM. Problems with classroom learning experiences (too fast paced, course pitched too high; poor alignment between course elements). “Weed-out” effects from gateway STEM courses you overcome the obstacles and challenges along the way? It is well-known that about 40% of freshmen who intend to major in a STEM field actually complete a STEM degree. A major study found the top five factors contributing to students’ decisions to switch from these college majors: It is not realistic to believe none of these issues will impact you. Instead, when it does happen, know that you are not alone, even if others do not share the reality of their situations. STEM scholar, apply your scientific and mathematical skills to life. We know the desired outcome, now what is needed to get you from where you are to where you want to be. The potential obstacles are already known. Think through what tools and strategies will be most advantageous for your success.

Here are a few winning strategies to help you give your dream your best effort: GROW YOUR PERSPECTIVE. All STEM majors are challenging. They are also more a part of everyday life than you think. It helps to be able to see the importance and relevance of the subject in real life. Learn relevant history and growth of the field to help you maintain a firm grasp on the bigger picture. Your position within the greater field of study and society matter. This information can be a source of encouragement and help you in navigating career choices. LEARN YOURSELF. Answer important questions, such as what keeps you going and what refreshes you. Invest in learning your strengths and what helps you to shift into peak performance. A DISC personality profile is a great source of objective information. Cultivate your support system, learn which relationships build you up, both academically and as a person. More importantly, give yourself room to grow as a person, a student, and a professional. When your grades are not what you hoped, understand that is normal and can be changed. Most important is what you do about it. Learn from Nelson Mandela, the South African social rights activist, who said, “I never lose. I either win or learn.” STUDY EFFECTIVELY. Majoring in STEM at a collegiate or higher level requires a different type of academic investment. Studying is a skill that is typically confused with doing homework. It is a skill you can learn and master. Academic support is your friend, not your enemy, nor a

In an interview, Michael Jordan, the world famous basketball player, talked about the power of visualization. He said most of what he experienced in a game was not new to him, because he had already experienced it in his mind. Prior to each game, Mr. Jordan used knowledge of the game and knowledge of the opposing team to inform his imagination. Then he allowed his imagination to play out scenarios and solutions. Like Michael Jordan, allow the information you encounter as you research your area of interest to serve as insight to inform your preparation for STEM studies. Know what you are up against, both good and bad. Visualize the reality of where you want to go--graduating with your STEM degree in hand. Imagine your cap and gown, loved ones beaming in their seats with pride, and job or graduate school prospects to choose from. Looking back, when you started this journey to complete a STEM degree, how did

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