Academic Boot Camp helps with college transition

Purple camouflage T-shirts will help more than 50 first-year students remember the five weeks they spent on campus as part of Purdue’s STEM Academic Boot Camp. Not that they need any help remembering. The program, which involves students from the colleges of Technology, Science, Engineering and Agriculture, allows students to immerse themselves in the academic and social life of college before the school year begins. It helps ease the transition to a different academic environment while providing insights about each student’s intended major. The diversity officer in each college coordinates the program. “The college and the University have set goals to increase the recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations,” said Toni Munguia, director of the College of Technology’s diversity program. “STEM ABC was created to help with retention. It helps students get a better understanding of academic and social expectations before the semester begins. They finish the program with more confidence, which helps them succeed during their first year here.” This is the sixth year that the College of Technology has participated in STEM ABC. It is made possible by support from The Boeing Company, Eli Lilly and Company and John Deere. “I wanted to pick up good study habits and get to know campus better,” said Viviana Flores, an electrical engineering technology major from Indianapolis. “When I talked to my friends who were already in college, they said that studying was a big issue.” She wasn’t alone in her goals. Most STEM ABC students find that knowing the campus, including where all of their classes will be, is a big advantage when the first day of class arrives. But the camp involves so much more. Every weekday involves several classes, from general requirements to ones in their majors. Students learn not only how to fit everything in, but also how to make the most of each experience and interaction. “In pre-calculus, we are learning why equations work, not just plugging in numbers, which is what we did in high school,” said Dion Crowder, a mechanical engineering technology major from Lansing, Ill. “I’m also learning how to make good use of my time. I was a big procrastinator in high school; procrastination doesn’t work here.” Allison McIntosh, a computer graphics technology major from Rochester Hills, Mich., finds she is learning about herself as well as computer graphics. “I am asking more questions,” she said. “I usually don’t talk during class – I never had to. I found that I have to be more interactive to learn something.” Previous participants in STEM ABC have achieved higher grade point averages when compared to the entire group of first-year students. In fact, most participants place good grades and academic recognition as primary goals for their first year at the College of Technology. They also hope to be involved outside of class. “I want to be involved, but I don’t want to get overwhelmed with side activities,” said Dezmon Weathers, a computer graphics technology major from Indianapolis. “I want to be a leader in something, either an organization or in academics. And I want to make as many friends as I can.” After spending five weeks together, the students already have a group of classmates they consider friends. And they have a network of students and staff who are willing to help them as they experience everything Purdue University has to offer to first-year students. At the end of the camp, the top performers were awarded scholarships.