Augusta University Chemistry and Physics Students Take Part in New Leadership and Peer Mentoring Course

During the fall of 2014, five Department of Chemistry and Physics students took part in a new course entitled Leadership Practicum. This course focused on the various aspects of peer mentoring and attaining leadership skills.

Students in the class were all members of the Savannah River Scholarship Program (SRSP), a Augusta University STEM program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The students also currently serve as peer mentors in the SRSP program.

“This course is designed to teach you some of the basics of leadership,” said Dr. Saundra Ribando, Professor of Political Science and course instructor. “Peer mentoring has been demonstrated to be effective in improving academic performance and retention.” She further stated that the overall all goal of the course is to “improve your performance as a peer mentor, and by extension, improve the performance of those you mentor.”

Students who took this course plan to pursue careers in many different avenues such as teaching and research in their respective STEM fields. “ Being able to convey new ideas or explain difficult topics clearly is a skill that is highly sought after in the STEM field,” said senior Chemistry and Math major Kyle Gebhard. “ Assessing my own personality was also important because it provides insight into how others will respond and interact with me.”

Senior Physics major Lindsey Burden was very optimistic about her experiences in the class. “I would highly recommend this to other individuals,” Burden said. “In the sciences there is rarely individual work, most everything is done as a team.”

Leadership Practicum is a Political Science Department course, so many SRSP students found themselves venturing out of their regular science based classes. “While Physics is overall a pretty meticulous task, I think this class helped me to be less extreme in my perfectionism,” said junior Physics major Jaime O’Meara. “' Just doing it ’ is sometimes more important than everything being perfectly prepared.”

There were many aspects of the class the students enjoyed. “I enjoyed the discussion style classroom setting,” said Burden.  “I also enjoyed learning things about myself that I didn't know or recognize before.”

 This course left those involved, students, instructor and SRSP program coordinators, with a feeling of accomplishment. “For me, the best part was sharing what I've learned over the years with some REALLY smart, highly motivated students,” said Dr. Ribando.

“Excellence in STEM requires well developed technical skills and subject area knowledge, but the ability to lead and inspire is fundamental to broadening one's impact,” said Dr. Andy Hauger, director of the SRSP. “The SRSP Peer Mentoring program represents the best of creating solutions to student development which often cuts across departments and colleges.”

Dr. Hauger adds that there are plans to offer this course again during the fall 2015 semester. He also considers this class an example for future collaborations between departments and programs here at Augusta University. “To see faculty and administrators from different colleges and departments buy in to improving student development opportunities without regard to artificial boundaries inspires us to think creatively about what is best for our students and programs.”

peer mentors

2014-2015 SRSP Peer Mentors (left to right): CurtisLee Thornton, Kyle Gebhard, Lindsey Burden, Jamie O’Meara, and Nathan Gaffney.

Article submitted by Jacob Tomberlin, Augusta University Communications Major