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11th Summer Science Institute attracts largest group to date

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s Summer Science Institute (SSI) celebrated its 11th birthday with its highest enrollment ever.

The 2010 group numbered 34, double the highest previous enrollment, said Dwight Krehbiel, Bethel College professor of psychology and institute co-director.

Krehbiel cited a number of reasons for the jump in enrollment. “This was the second year of a fee of only $50 [per student] because of subsidies from STEM [science, technology, pre-engineering, mathematics] alumni,” he said. “There’s word of mouth getting out about what a good value this is. Our office of admissions has been more systematic in promoting Summer Science Institute. It’s hard to say for sure what’s tipping the balance.”

One thing that contributed to the good numbers was the participation of 13 Upward Bound Math Science (UBMS) students from the program at Wichita State University.

“Our UBMS program [made] a campus visit at Bethel College in 2008 with a few of our local students,” said Julie Scott, curriculum coordinator for the UBMS Regional Center at WSU. “We were so impressed by the experience that we brought all 50 of them back that summer for a second visit. At these early visits, we met both [Professor of Biology and SSI Co-Director] Jon Piper and Dwight Krehbiel, who we felt went above and beyond what we had experienced at campus visits to other universities. [They] designed a visit specific to our students’ interests in science and even conducted science experiments with them to demonstrate what types of labs they would get to do at the collegiate level.”

Krehbiel also told Scott about the S-STEM grant from the National Science Foundation (at that time under review, and subsequently awarded to Bethel), which provides limited-income and minority students with scholarships to help remove some of the financial barriers they face when pursuing higher education.

“Since UBMS students often fall under at least one of these categories, it seemed like a natural partnership,” Scott continued. “Dwight and Jon continued to maintain contact with us and, along with other faculty members and students, served as volunteer speakers at one of our summer program’s career nights regarding STEM research. In October 2009, they pitched the idea of sending UBMS students to SSI as a [way to give] students an additional science experience and as a recruitment tool for our students to consider applying to Bethel and for the S-STEM Scholarship.”

UBMS students represent a diverse population – ethnic, cultural, rural/urban – in the Midwest and come from locations such as Lincoln, Neb., Allen, Texas, Iola, Kansas City and Wichita. They attend public high schools and are chosen to participate based on interest in STEM majors, their educational aspirations and past commitment to the UBMS summer program at WSU.

“When Dwight informed us that Bethel alumni had agreed to offset much of the camp’s cost this year – $400 per student – it was simply an offer we believed we needed to make available to our students,” Scott said. “[So] at the annual UBMS summer planning meeting in January, we decided to move the dates of our program to accommodate sending our rising juniors to SSI.”

SSI is held on the Bethel campus for a week every summer in early June, offering high school students entering grades 10-12 and graduating high school seniors the opportunity to participate in research investigations in a number of areas of science, usually on topics that high school courses typically do not cover.

Students focus on two areas of their choice, with this year’s options being child psychology, molecular genetics, nutritional chemistry, physiology and psychology of sleep and dreaming, and “programming unplugged” (without a computer).

“We chose [SSI] because we felt the Bethel science faculty sincerely cared about recruiting our students to their institution,” Scott said, “and because the opportunity for our students to spend six days performing science experiments alongside faculty members in a small-group setting could make a profound impact. [Our aim is] to educate them for STEM study in post-secondary, stimulate and sustain their interest in STEM careers and motivate them to consider the realistic possibility of earning a post-secondary degree in STEM.”

On the last full day of SSI, students present their research in a symposium setting, and Scott brought 30 additional UBMS students to campus for the presentations. “Our experience was nothing less than amazing,” she said. “We were delighted to see not only our students present their research, but also to see SSI participants demonstrate their newfound knowledge and get excited about STEM.

“From the time we arrived to pick our students up, we heard nothing but positive comments about their Bethel experiences and how ‘cool’ it was that they were able to interact with the college’s faculty every day to learn about and research science. Should the dates work out and the funds remain available, we will again consider sending our students to [SSI]. Based on watching the presentations and the feedback from their friends, our rising sophomores are already asking if they will get to go to SSI next year.”

Upward Bound is part of a series of programs that Congress established to help low-income Americans enter college, graduate and move on to participate more fully in American economic and social life, funded under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”

Upward Bound programs work directly with students who come from limited-income families and/or have the potential to become the first in their families to earn a baccalaureate degree. In addition to providing academic support and leadership training during the academic year, Upward Bound programs offer a summer component in which students experience a college-like environment through residing for 6-8 weeks on a college campus, participating in college-style classes, and attending workshops and seminars designed to help students break down the barriers to post-secondary education.

In 1991, as it was becoming apparent the United States needed more STEM majors to remain competitive in the global marketplace, Congress added Upward Bound Math Science. The Upward Bound Math Science Regional Center at WSU provides an academic-year program and a summer program for low-income, first-generation high school freshmen through seniors who are interested in math, science, engineering, or health professions (see www.webs.wichita.edu/ubms).

Summer Science Institute 2010 faculty were, in addition to Krehbiel and Piper, Karl Friesen, assistant professor of computer science, Gary Histand, professor of chemistry, Paul Lewis, professor of psychology, and Francisca Méndez-Harclerode, assistant professor of biology, along with seven Bethel science students as assistants.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges profiled in Colleges of Distinction 2009-10. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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