When classes begin Aug. 26, a group of 40 new students will have spent more time in Robert N. Noyce ‘49 Science Center than some returning students. These first-year students chose to become part of the Grinnell Science Project (GSP) and come to campus one week prior to New Student Orientation to immerse themselves in the world of science at Grinnell.
GSP participants meet with faculty who teach introductory science courses and engage in a week of activities to become familiar with the science community they have now joined. GSP students also experience Grinnell’s learn-by-doing approach to science by participating in a lab project, writing a short research paper, and being involved in collaborative problem-solving . . . all before classes begin.
“What I find most remarkable is how the program still resembles what we started 20 years ago,” said Professor of Physics Mark Schneider who directed the charter New Science Program, now GSP. “What has changed most is the program is now owned by the entire science division and is seen by faculty as simply a part of how we teach science. Aside from the weeklong pre-orientation, GSP has included curricular reform, enhanced academic support, and early exposure to research."
GSP’s goals are to increase success for those traditionally under-represented students of color, first-generation college students, and women in physics, mathematics, and computer science, but the tools to achieve those goals benefit all students of science at Grinnell.
The program also includes a living-learning feature. GSP students are paired as roommates and live in East Campus residence halls, which not only facilitates friendships and study groups but also reinforces and extends the sense of community at the core of the program.
Christina Khou ’11, who participated in GSP as a first year and is now a student assistant, says “If it were not for GSP, I would have been terrified in my science classes as a freshman—afraid to ask questions in class and the rigorous curriculum. Instead, I entered these classes and others confident that one of my GSP peers would be there and comfortable to approach professors and students with questions or suggestions.”
“From the program’s inception, it’s been a broadly defined group,” Schneider said. “GSP would be good for any Grinnell student, not only those who come in wanting to be doctors or engineers.”
Schneider directs the current program with Clark Lindgren, biology; Joyce Stern, academic advising; and Janet Davis, computer science. The current program has drawn attention from several external sources including Inside Higher Ed.