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Science Hub Student Hours designed to strengthen new students’ connections to math and sciences

July 30, 2019

New this fall semester at Cabell Library are regular, drop-in hours for STEM students in introductory courses. Faculty members from math, chemistry, biology and physics will offer joint “open hours” in Cabell Room 250 on Wednesdays 2 to 4 p.m. and Fridays 9 to 11 a.m. Students from introductory courses are invited to drop in for answers to questions, problem solving, tutoring and mentoring and, more simply, getting to know their teachers.  

“The purpose of the Science Hub Student Hours is to provide a central space for students in intro math, chemistry, biology, and physics courses to come together and engage with their faculty,” says Research and Education Librarian for the School of Medicine, Basic Sciences Stacey Wahl. “These hours differ from traditional office hours in that multiple professors will be in one room, and students are encouraged to interact with as many faculty as they wish. It is our hope that, by engaging with multiple disciplines at the same time, students will begin to form connections between the material in their courses. These sessions further foster connection between students and faculty and provide opportunities for students to connect the content of their courses.” 

Underlying the Science Hub concept is the idea of creating a learning community.We hope that students will become more comfortable approaching faculty with their questions, and learn more about how the sciences interact and build off of one another.”

The Science Hub is part of a significant grant-funded program designed to support STEM students, particularly those just beginning their academic work at VCU. This year, the program will stage a number of  events for students and faculty at VCU and at community college partners, John Tyler and J. Sargeant Reynolds campuses. These events will be a mix of professional development for faculty, success strategies for students and networking opportunities for both groups. These events and the Student Hours are part of the programming and outreach tied to the grant. 

“It is our hope that, through these events, the barriers between students and faculty will lessen, and the STEM community will strengthen and grow at VCU,” says Wahl.  

Wahl, who joined the VCU Libraries faculty in 2018, began her career at VCU as an Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) postdoctoral scholar. That program is committed to increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM by partnering with colleges with students from under-represented backgrounds and providing innovative educational experiences and exposure to rigorous scientific research.

In 2017, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) awarded VCU a $1 million grant through its Inclusive Excellence Initiative. The mission of this initiative is to increase student success in STEM, regardless of the student’s background or circumstance. This mission strongly aligns with Quest 2025 and the VCU Libraries’ strategic plans. This year Wahl was selected as an HHMI Inclusive Excellence Faculty Fellow. She pursued the fellowship opportunity because it allowed her to focus her skills in designing programs and identifying resources with a clear goal toward supporting student success.  

“As a librarian, my job is to connect students with resources and to bring different groups in the university together,” says Wahl. “This mission, and awareness of the interrelatedness of the subject matter, allows me to act as a conduit between the faculty and the students and build the environment for successful interactions and community building.”   

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