Formation of the whole student has long been the hallmark of a Mount St. Mary’s education but four professors are taking it to the next level. With the help of a $601,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Professors Kathryn Dye, Rosina Bolen, Jennifer Staiger, and Christopher Bradley have implemented an innovative program that supports the whole student including the social, academic, and career-seeking sides by carefully integrating programs from several campus offices including Learning Services, Residence Life, Office of Social Justice, and Career Center. Many students today, especially minority students and first generation students, face obstacles that can prevent them from being successful in college. The new Mount Opportunities for Student Success or MOSS program provides a scholarship for promising science students and teaches them skills they can use to overcome those obstacles.
The MOSS program begins by building a community of learners through community service projects and support from peer mentors right from the beginning. Dr. Bolen explains why it is important for incoming students to make connections, “Students may fail to persist in college for a variety of reasons, including lack of a feeling of belonging, whether it is in the institutional, social, economic, experiential, or capability sense.” Community-building occurs through a peer mentor program; expanded orientation activities; monthly meetings for goal-setting, activity planning, and educational programming; common sections of first-year courses, and a shared service-learning experience.
Second, the project leaders cultivate academic achievement through intensive advising and by imparting skills that are essential for academic success. Finally, students can take advantage of career development opportunities such as internships and field trips to potential employers. “Ultimately, we want our students to successfully compete for STEM jobs and for positions in graduate schools. To achieve this, students need to have a clear picture of STEM career options and the pre-requisites for those careers,” says Dr. Dye.