Academic boot camp gives leg up to college newcomers

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — To help 42 incoming freshmen adjust personally, socially and academically to college, Purdue University is sponsoring its third annual Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Academic Boot Camp.

STEM Academic Boot Camp
Students work in one of the university’s many laboratories during the 2007 STEM Academic Boot Camp.

Students who are registered in the College of Engineering are attending the camp through Aug. 1, while students enrolled in technology or science will attend July 6 – Aug. 1. Founded by the Minority Engineering Program, the camp features intensive seminars that provide tools for succeeding in and outside of the classroom.

Students will come from throughout the nation, including the states of Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Antonia Munguia, College of Technology diversity director, said the camp has a positive impact on student achievement and retention.

“Each year I see so much progress in the students,” Munguia said. “Not only can they handle the coursework, they are more confident and familiar with campus.”

Munguia said the camp is not designed to be remedial.

“These are high-achieving students that meet or exceed Purdue’s challenging entrance criteria,” Munguia said. “We reach out to African-American, Native American and Latino/Latina-American students, but any first-year Purdue student in a STEM-related discipline may participate.”

Virginia Booth-Gleghorn, director of Purdue’s Minority Engineering Program, said a successful first semester is critical for positive college experience and solid grade point average.

“Students face a wide range of issues that may cause their first semester to be especially challenging,” said Gleghorn. “This camp gives them a chance to be exposed to the coursework, lifestyle and the pace of college life here at Purdue. A variety of courses specifically designed for the ABC program will give students a better understanding of where their strengths lie and where and how to get help for weaker areas.”

Gleghorn developed the academic boot camp concept in 2005 after benchmarking successful bridge programs across the country. Allene Manning, assistant director of the Minority Engineering Program, developed the core educational model.

During the camp, students will stay in campus residence halls and work on an academic preview that covers the core concepts of first-semester courses in college algebra, calculus, trigonometry, chemistry, engineering and English, along with discipline-specific courses. The camp will help students in several areas:

  • Adjusting to the social and cultural differences as they move from high school to college.
  • Understanding the differences in the way academic courses are taught at the university level, college learning styles, classroom size and ethnic mix.
  • Experimenting with lab equipment at a university and applying textbook concepts to academic problems.

The students also will participate in several extracurricular activities, including plant tours, team building exercises and projects. The U.S. Navy will conduct two workshops on naval aviation on July 12. Following the workshops, Captain Yolanda Reagans, special assistant to the chief of naval operations for diversity and Michael Harris, associate dean of undergraduate education in the College of Engineering, will speak to the students during a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. in the Purdue Memorial Union East Faculty Lounge.

The students also will fly remote control planes July 12 at 1:30 p.m. at the Recreational Sports Center. Following the show, the students will explore four naval aircraft at 2:30 p.m. at the Purdue Airport.

Engineering students also will conduct cross-disciplinary scientific experiments on a remote-controlled on-road car.

“They will perform experiments on emissions, braking distance and handling to improve overall vehicle performance,” Booth-Gleghorn said. “Student teams will then compete at the Grand Prix race track for best overall performance, handling and speed.”

The competition will take place from 2-5 p.m. July 27 at the race track.

Zenephia Evans, director of the Multicultural Science Programs office and the associate director of the Science Diversity office, said this collaborative camp eliminates individual programs in each college that served the same purpose.

“It also allows for the building of a larger support network prior to the beginning of school,” Evans said.

Sponsors include the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, the U.S. Navy and corporate sponsors of the engineering, science and technology minority programs.

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