Quantitative Skills Center Set to Open This Fall

Many students utilize the Pomona College Writing Center for help with papers and writing assignments, but Jake Morris-Knower PO ’14, a math major and Writing Fellow at the Center, said that working with upper division science assignments presents a challenge for Fellows who lack college-level science training. 

“I read an entire sentence and fix the commas and structure but have no idea of what any of the words mean,” Morris-Knower said. 

The new Quantitative Skills Center (QSC), set to begin operating by the start of the fall 2013 semester, aims to provide additional academic support for students taking science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes and will be located in the Smith Campus Center (SCC).

John Replogle PO '14 said that the QSC would definitely be an aid to science students in this respect. 

“Although it would be mostly beneficial to lowerclassmen, many juniors and seniors would definitely benefit from having another resource besides the Writing Center or the faculty,” Replogle said.

Last summer, Pomona College received a $250,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to establish the new center. The project is headed by Travis Brown, the former director of Tufts University’s Center for STEM Diversity, a similar program that he developed four and half years ago.

Brown began his employment at Pomona Jan. 15. Since then, he has been learning more about current mentor sessions and looking into the distinct mentoring service each STEM department has.

“Math has a very robust mentoring program. For other departments it’s more of a faculty member getting a mentor for their course. But for all departments, there isn’t much oversight or training for their mentors,” Brown said.

Brown expressed concern over the lack of adequate tracking of the mentoring opportunities.

“There’s no one on campus right now that you could go up to and ask, ‘When is the mentor session for calculus?’ You could go to the math department and find out, but that person wouldn’t know when the physics one was, so if you wanted to coordinate your schedule, it would become increasingly difficult,” Brown said. “We hope to be that one place where we’ll have the schedules and training for all the mentors.” 

Brown also has been assessing the current mentoring programs that are offered through the Dean of Students office and has found out that many students are unaware of these programs. Brown said that he is interested in working with the Dean’s office in order to make its programming more accessible to students.

Brown also expressed interest in expanding the definition of what it means to be qualified to be a tutor. 

“I don’t need students who got an A+ in the class. Sometimes a student who struggled through a class better understands the troubles students have,” Brown said.

Brown added that he and the rest of the faculty involved with the center are planning to spread the word about the program and would like to recruit tutors before the new school year begins. 

One of the faculty members involved with the implementation of the center is chemistry professor Fred J. Grieman. Grieman was part of the committee that was in charge of figuring out what Pomona would like to see happening at the center and selecting the director of the center. 

“At the beginning, we’re hoping to really help those students in our gateway quantitative courses—general chemistry, general physics, calculus, and the rest,” Grieman said.

Grieman said there is no main problem current students have in STEM classes but that the variety of experience between what the students learned before Pomona and the difficulty level of the class is a factor.

Grieman said that roughly 20 percent of his students could benefit the most from the center. Brown said that nearly 20 percent of the student body used the center at Tufts.