As early as next semester, a new resource center at Pomona College will aim to help students with the quantitative aspects of their courses.
The Quantitative Skills Center, which will be headed by a director the school is planning to hire this month, will provide support to students and student-tutors dealing with quantitative fields.
“I think what students and faculty members are looking for is some kind of centralized location similar to the Writing Center where students who have quantitative needs can come to for information,” Associate Dean Jill Grigsby said.
The Quantitative Skills Center will initially focus on “gateway courses,” including introductory chemistry, biology, calculus and statistics, she said.
Eventually, she said she hopes to see it expand to help students with more advanced courses and their senior theses. Chemistry professor Fred Grieman said it will also help students with quantitative aspects of social science courses.
“Everybody can use help with quantitative skills, so I can imagine this being a resource for everybody,” Grigsby said.
The center will also support the tutoring and mentoring programs that already exist at Pomona, including programs run through various departments and the Dean of Students office.
The director of the center will be in charge of training tutors and planning workshops, Grigsby said.
She said the school is looking to hire someone with at least a master’s degree in a quantitative field. The school interviewed approximately 10 candidates via Skype and has invited three to campus in the next few weeks, she said.
Candidates will be interviewed by faculty members, and they will also give presentations to faculty members and students to simulate how they would give a workshop. Depending on when the new director is available to begin working, the center could open next semester, Grigsby said.
The exact location of the center has not been chosen yet, but Grigsby said she envisions that the center will have an office for the director, a room for workshops and a large room where students can study together.
Math professor Gizem Karaali hopes that the center helps curb a trend STEM professors at Pomona have noticed about students in their fields.
“We are very concerned that we’re losing students who come in wanting to major in STEM and getting turned off,” Karaali said.
This is not a matter of academic under-preparation, she said.
“Some students are not prepared to do the social aspects of it, in the sense of doing math together with other people,” she said.
She added that many students may not go to professors to ask questions.
“Some will, and they know that’s why they’re at a liberal arts college,” she said. “But some students are not going to do that very comfortably.”
“We hope that the only reason people change their majors is because they find something else that they’re in love with,” she said. “We hope that it’s not because we didn’t do all we could to help them feel successful.”