Public Release: 

Smoothing the path from community colleges to four-year colleges

American Chemical Society

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 10 -- When it comes to education, chemistry Nobel laureate Bruce Merrifield and genetics pioneer and entrepreneur J. Craig Venter have something in common with hundreds of other students. Both got their start in community colleges -- that huge but often-underappreciated component of the United States' higher education system.

Merrifield enrolled at Pasadena Junior College (now Pasadena City College) and earned an associate degree before transferring to the University of California, Los Angeles, where he earned his Ph.D. Venter started at the College of San Mateo before transferring to the University of California at San Diego, where he received a Ph.D.

How can more students be encouraged to follow similar paths?

Eight science educators will unveil successful programs aimed toward assisting and promoting the transition from two-year colleges to four-year colleges and universities during a one-day symposium on Sept. 10. The symposium, "Community College Programs Designed to Help Students Transition to Four-Year Colleges and Universities," is part of the American Chemical Society 232nd National Meeting being held here Sept. 10-14. All presentations in the symposium are at the San Francisco Marriott, Salon 8, starting at 8:30 a.m.

"Students transferring from a community college and planning to pursue majors in the sciences, engineering or pre-professional programs have in the past found themselves short of many of the entry-level science and math courses required for admission to upper-level courses in these programs," says symposium organizer Stephen P. Summers, Ph.D., of Seminole Community College in Sanford, Fla.

Seminole's Honors Science Program encourages students to take entry-level science and math courses while at the community college, according to Summers.

"Doing so allows students to enjoy smaller classes and more personal attention from instructors," he explained. "Our program provides guidance for students pursuing these academic and career paths, provides scholarship assistance and awards a Science Diploma distinction for students who successfully complete these entry-level science and math courses with acceptable grades."

Among the presenters at the symposium are:

Douglas Sawyer, Scottsdale Community College, Scottsdale, Ariz. -- Since 1985, a coalition of every post-secondary institution in Arizona, known as the Arizona Chemistry Articulation Task Force (ATF), has been working to set uniform course nomenclature and standards by which to compare similar courses at difference institutions. ATF's primary role is to facilitate the transfer for all chemistry students in the state. The ATF also made it a priority to set universal general education requirements for transfers to four-year universities. (CHED 015, Sunday, Sept. 10, 8:35 a.m.)

William J. F. Hunter, Illinois State University, Normal, Ill. -- More than 40 percent of students at Illinois State University are transfer students. Many institutional problems had to be identified and overcome during a three-year period in order to assist the transition process for students, Hunter says. As a greater proportion of minority students are enrolled in community colleges, this task is seen as important to introducing a greater representation of minority populations into the scientific and technical fields "We are short on scientists and chemists, and there is an underrepresented group that is not being tapped," Hunter notes. (CHED 017, Sunday, Sept. 10, 9:15 a.m.)

Edward L. Case, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, N.C. -- A major difficulty experienced by transfer students to Western Carolina University (WCU) is the inability of some community college courses to meet prerequisite requirements at the university. In response to this, WCU introduced online selection of courses for a wide range of subjects, including Principles of Biology and Introductory Chemistry. One of the biggest problems is transitioning teaching style to the online format, according to Case. "The keyword is engagement," says Case, who notes that this can be difficult when the students and instructors are not face-to-face. (CHED 019, Sunday, Sept. 10, 10:05 a.m.)


-- Nishant Magar

The American Chemical Society -- the world's largest scientific society -- is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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