Students who major in biology at Barry University do not have to go it alone. A biology boot camp at the beginning of each semester aims to prepare them for unexpected challenges, teach them critical skills and boost their confidence.
“Biology is a very demanding major. The goal is to make the experience less intimidating,” says Stephanie Bingham, PhD., associate professor of biology. “We want to address this early on, versus waiting until they start struggling.”
Effective studying skills, critical thinking, problem solving, goal setting and time management – freshman and transfer biology students learn these strategies and more. Tactics they gain from the intensive 3-day Academic Survival Skills Bootcamp also help them in their overall academic career, Dr. Bingham adds.
Students learn how to adjust study habits for university-level coursework. They also gain critical-thinking skills to achieve higher-order thinking and develop an analytical mindset. “They need to know the tools and how to use them. How do they problem solve, raise questions and find the answers?”
By taking a proactive stance, Department of Biology faculty hope to help students succeed academically from the outset and remain engaged and enthusiastic about pursuing their biology degree. “Giving them this toolkit early on allows … the students to be better prepared and know what to expect,” Dr. Bingham says.
Beyond department faculty, a STEM coach provides advice on time management and goal setting. In addition, biology alumni participate in one-on-one sessions to encourage students and serve as real-life examples of success.
Each alumnus is “really someone who has been in their shoes and achieved academic success. We feel their stories will be motivating.” Dr. Bingham says. For example, during the 2015-16 year, Fred Bertino, MD (BIO ’11) and Nicole Schtupak-Zernitsky, PA (BIO ’12) challenged students to pursue their dreams, develop a love of learning, and to put in the hard work and dedication needed to achieve their goals.
Participants were pleased with the bootcamp experience. “I am glad I attended these sessions because it is so important to manage my time and change my study skills in order to be successful in this field.” Another noted: “The most valuable things that I have learned are the amount of effort that I need to put in, studying habits and critical thinking value.” Another student said: “It was really good. There was good info given and [this] shows that there are people and resources available to help.”
This was the first year that the Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, offered the bootcamp. They may offer additional modules throughout the year, but the core sessions will remain an essential component of the first week of each semester.
“We plan to continue the bootcamp,” Dr. Bingham says, “so students … know what they need to do, they feel more prepared for the challenge and they feel empowered to succeed.”
The Academic Survival Skills Boot Camp is led by seasoned faculty on the Department of Biology’s Recruitment and Retention Committee: Dr. Stephanie Bingham, Mr. Michael Bill, Dr. Peter Lin, Dr. Teresa Petrino-Lin, and Dr. Flona Redway.