EDITOR’S NOTE: College Relations is publishing a monthly series of news articles, features and Q&A interviews highlighting various departments on campus in an effort to assist the faculty and staff in gaining an increased awareness about and understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.
The October Q&A is with Dr. Wendy Jamison, chair of the Physical and Life Sciences department.
Q: What are your duties as a department chair?
As department chair I am responsible for making sure the faculty in my department are aware of critical happenings and policies at the college, leading department meetings twice a month, functioning as a liaison between my department and administration for department needs and concerns. I also coordinate and submit information necessary for the department’s curriculum, including catalog changes, course rotations, and times and days of course offering. Additionally, I am a point of contact for student and personnel concerns.
Q: What characteristics seem to be the most beneficial for a student pursuing a career in science?
I read an article once about how the best scientists were the ones who never stopped asking why. I agree completely. A natural curiosity to understand the world around them is so important for a prospective scientist. Scientists are constantly solving puzzles and learning new things, so a student who has a natural curiosity and a desire for exploration is well-suited for a career in science.
In my opinion, students pursuing a career in science also need to be dedicated, have a passion for their career pursuit, be personally responsible, and have resilience. If students are not passionate and dedicated to their career pursuits, they will find it difficult to engage in the rigorous path required to attain their goals. Students in science will spend a lot of time outside of the classroom reading, studying, and reviewing course material. Students need to be personally responsible for this time as it often is not associated directly with assignments that will be turned in for points. Students need resilience when entering a career in science for many reasons. There are going to be times in their academic careers that these students will struggle or not achieve the grade they desire on an exam. Students need to be able to process their struggles and continue moving forward. Students also need resilience in scientific careers since often the process of science is not textbook. They need to be able to react with confidence in the knowledge they have to handle the discrepancy.
Q: How do the science faculty members keep in touch with CSC graduates regarding their careers and accomplishments?
We encourage students during their time at CSC to have open communication with the faculty. Due to the numerous interactions between the students and the faculty, the students often develop close relationships with some of the faculty. The students often reach out to the faculty or respond to faculty requests to discuss where they are in their careers. We love hearing back from our students. Social media has also been a wonderful tool for tracking students. It is so amazing to watch them as they experience the successes in their life and achieve their dreams. I am very proud of the many wonderful things our alumni are accomplishing.
Q: What do you like best about teaching at a small college?
Engagement. My favorite part about teaching at a small college is the opportunity for engagement. I get to engage with students, including both science majors and non-science majors. Our classes are small enough that we have the opportunity to interact directly with our students on a frequent basis. I also get to engage with the students in a variety of activities outside of the classroom, including various clubs. I love getting to know the students on a personal level and getting to help them achieve their goals. I also get to engage with colleagues from a variety of disciplines, as well as our administrators. Faculty have the opportunity to be involved in the activities and processes of the college. Through these opportunities I have been able to interact with faculty, staff, and administrators from all areas of campus.
Q: What strengths or advantages does your department offer potential CSC students?
Our department is dedicated to helping students succeed in their career pursuits. For us, that does not just mean they successfully graduate. We develop and continue to improve upon our programs so students gain the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in their careers. We maintain rigorous programs in both physical and life sciences so students will be well prepared for the steps they take after college. Some students will go straight into careers, while many others will continue on to professional school. We want students to attain their goals, so we solicit continuous feedback from alumni and professional program faculty and administrators on how we can improve our programs. We want the transition to the next stage to be a relatively smooth one for our students.
Another advantage we have is the dedication from our faculty and staff. We are available to the students outside of the classroom. I have students come by my office to discuss the material from a course I teach, material from another course, career options and changes in major, and even sometimes to discuss life events they are experiencing. The faculty in our department are approachable. I think that is a huge advantage for the students.
Q: What advice would you share with high school students interested in a career in the sciences?
My first piece of advice would be for someone interested in science to find people in science careers and talk to them or shadow them. The best career exploration a student can do is to engage with someone in their potential career. Everyone has been to a doctor, but you only see a part of his or her job when you have an appointment. It is the same with other scientific careers. Talk to people and make arrangements to shadow them to find out what a day in the life of that career would look like. With this advice, also comes the advice to explore career options. Science is broad. Explore what possibilities you may have and find something that you will be passionate about. Students graduating from programs in physical and life sciences successfully pursue a variety of careers including agricultural production, environmental agencies, health professions, energy, research, teaching, law school, forensics, science technology, and veterinary science to name a few.
I would also tell students interested in science to be prepared for a bumpy road. They will face challenges along their paths. Their study skills may have to change. They may get an exam back with the lowest grade they’ve ever had (which may just be less than an “A”), they may question what they are doing when the going gets tough. Set goals and write them down. Set goals for the long and short term, including goals for a class or a semester of college. When those bumps hit, reflect on why you started down this path and what it will mean to you when the goals are achieved. Then, reflect on what you personally will need to do in response to make those goals a reality.
I also would advise students to become well-rounded. Follow pursuits outside of the scientific realm. Many of our successful students have personal hobbies outside of the classroom: some are avid readers, others are amazing artists and some pursue athletics. These pursuits help students to step away from academics and engage the mind and body in different ways.
—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator