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Standing out in the sciences

April 4, 2014
201140402_Carter1.jpg The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) just released a report that reflects well on liberal arts and sciences colleges – especially Doane College. “Strengthening the STEM Pipeline: The Contributions of Small and Mid-Sized Independent Colleges” details the efficiency and proficiency of institutions similar to Doane’s size in producing capable undergraduate students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields of study. The report is a small piece of Securing America’s Future: The Power of Liberal Arts Education, a CIC public information campaign highlighting the benefits of a liberal arts and sciences education. Its conclusion says it matter-of-factly: “Small and mid-sized independent institutions have higher student persistence and degree completion rates in STEM fields and shorter time to the bachelor’s degree.” That is a truth we live at Doane. This latest report only strengthens our stance. I know a Doane education in the STEM fields will change everything. Do you? Our Strategic Plan is aligned to support research. I want Doane students to be prepared to engage and lead in an increasingly global world, and careers in STEM fields (as noted in the report) will help the United States stay competitive in the global economy. And we have the Strategic Plan already in motion with the resources to help students meet these modern demands. This is the College of fearless, bold learning because real-world research and real learning happen in our classrooms, labs and even outdoors (students will spend time at the Aldrich Prairie Site, an Audubon Society-recognized important habitat). You will learn the sciences in a college unlike any other in the state, big or small. Our biology department is among the select few in the nation revolutionizing an age-old curriculum, and because we pride ourselves on small, intimate class sizes, you will be immersed in your study side-by-side with the same faculty responsible for flipping the academic script. Your first day as biology major will find you in the lab trying to solve a real-world problem instead of acting out a canned experiment. Your nose won’t be in a book; it’ll be holding up goggles while you – yes, you – investigate a way to change the world, like last year’s first-year students who tried to fend off an invasive grass species that affects our community. Our chemists-in-the-making are just as involved. Take this EpsCor research, for example, which is happening on our School of Arts and Sciences campus in Crete:

Research to reality: Doane and EpsCor from Doane College on Vimeo.

And you’ll do this without any fear of needing extra years to complete your degree. The CIC report finds that just 33.6 percent of students pursuing majors in STEM field studies at public nondoctoral institutions and 52.2 percent at public doctoral institutions earned their bachelor’s degrees in four years or less in 2007-08. Private schools yielded much better results – 79.7 percent of STEM field studies students at private nonprofit nondoctoral colleges (like Doane) graduated in four years or less in the same time frame. Our graduation rate is the highest of any liberal arts and sciences college in Nebraska and carrying a Doane degree is worth its weight. Of our 2013 graduates, 93 percent were enrolled in a post-graduate program or employed within six months of donning their cap and gown. Think a science degree from a liberal arts school won’t take you as far as one from a public university? Guess again. The CIC says, “Report findings indicate that in many individual academic disciplines, small and mid-sized colleges produce as many or more science majors who obtain PhDs than large research universities.” We even have students doing this in less than four years, and they’re not sacrificing or missing out on any part of our fearless, bold educational experience. Crete native Grant Harms ’14 is on track to graduate this May with a Bachelor’s of Science in biology in just three years, and he already has a summer internship lined up with Dow Chemical, a national company. Because of our willingness to meet students’ needs year in and year out, we established our Three-Year Graduation Guarantee. We can call ourselves the College of a degree in three because the hard work students like Grant are doing doesn’t go unnoticed. Instead, it fuels us to provide our students with second-to-none academic options. The Three-Year Graduation Guarantee does just that, cutting out an extra year of tuition and putting students a year closer to earning power or – as many of our science students do – their graduate and doctoral degrees. (Did I mention we’re the College of costs less than you think? Virtually all students – 98 percent of our first-year students in 2013 – received financial aid.) The proof is in outcomes. See for yourself what biology students and alumni are accomplishing in our #DoaneBio social media spotlight. Yes, even at a school that boasts a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, we aren’t shrinking the education. You’ll have all the opportunities and amenities you need to become an active participant in the STEM field.