Incoming freshmen attend Second Annual Berkshire Bank STEM Academy


Twenty MCLA freshmen began their college careers a little early this week at the Second Annual Berkshire Bank STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy, where they're taking classes in chemistry, physics, biology, math, psychology and environmental science.

The experience not only provides them with a preview of what to expect this fall; they're getting a taste of what it's like to be a science major. The idea, said Christopher Himes, STEM program manager, is to help participants explore the sciences, with the hope that those who aren't sure about a major will decide upon a science career.  

For example, last year one student who was a fine and performing arts major switched to biology after attending the Academy.

Amanda Beckwith, program coordinator, said, "This year, the majority of the students already declared a science major. Some have said, 'I want to do this science or that science,' so they're just not sure which science program they will enter."

"Some may be interested in both chemistry and physics, but are trying to figure out which one they would prefer," Himes added.

At the Academy, the students are working with "STEM Academy Fellows" - current or recently graduated MCLA science students - on skills they'll need to be successful in college; such as time management, organization, and ways to help them study and prepare for classes.

"The students who participated last year were very excited about the program," Himes said. "They're very excited about being able to provide experiences for the incoming group of students."

"They want to pay it forward," Beckwith added. "They're very proud and feel thankful for what they experienced and the difference it made in their freshmen year by being connected to other students, knowing some of the faculty and already being comfortable on campus. It gave them an edge in their freshman year."

Jessica Wojcik '17 is glad she attended last year's inaugural STEM Academy because it helped her to feel comfortable at MCLA, "right from day one."

"I was nervous for the first day of school.  I walked into my biology class with 50 students and I already knew about 12 other students thanks to the STEM program! I was very excited to see other people that I already knew, and it made the day go a little smoother," Wojcik said.

Himes and Beckwith expect this year's STEM Academy to be as successful as last year's program.

"Students became very committed to the school, to their majors, to their academic work, as well as volunteering. I think some of that came from their experience at the STEM Academy," Himes said. In addition, "Students were on the Dean's List either the fall or spring semester, or both."

In fact, 2013 STEM Academy graduates Shelby Gauthier '17 of Clinton, Mass., Breana Gladu '17 of Adams, Mass., and Svetlana Morrell '17 of Stillwater, N.Y., enjoyed their experience so much, they're back this week as STEM Academy fellows.

Mikaelle Olivier '15 of Gardner, Mass., also returned as a fellow, along with Susan Bloom '16 of North Adams, Mass. Gabriella Prata '16 of Danbury, Conn., and Alison Gilbert '16 of South Windsor, Conn., are resident program assistants.

For more information, go to stemacademy.