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Waubonsee Honors Biology as Student Success: Featured Program
Biology, or the study of life, may date back centuries, but that doesn’t keep the Biology Department at Waubonsee Community College from being a model of innovation. For their commitment to working together, implementing technology in the classroom and collaborating with community partners, Waubonsee is pleased to recognize the faculty and staff of the Biology Department as this month’s Student Success: Featured Program.
The department’s full-time faculty and adjunct faculty work together as a team, a commitment that benefits students greatly. To that end, the department created a manual for adjunct faculty that outlines exams, labs and procedures. Adjunct instructors are given professional development on the use of cadavers once per semester, and a shadowing program allows instructors to observe a full-time faculty member in the classroom. Faculty and instructors work together to create common assessments such as embedded exam questions.
This collaborative spirit for the good of students has not gone unnoticed across campus and among colleagues in the field.
“This department has a cohesiveness that others admire and emulate,” said Mary Edith Butler, Waubonsee Dean for Mathematics and Sciences. “The full-time faculty work constantly with the adjuncts to ensure a high level of consistent, quality instruction. This biology faculty makes student success the priority in everything they do.”
The department dates back to the very beginning of Waubonsee Community College: Biology classes were among the first offered when Waubonsee opened in 1967. That year, General Botany and Introduction to Biology were offered, and by the following year, an associate degree in biology was offered with classes in topics like botany, plant taxonomy, zoology, biology and human physiology. Today, the department offers about 135 course sections each semester.
When it comes to implementing technology meaningfully in the classroom, the Biology Department is often at the forefront: They were one of the first disciplines at Waubonsee to implement a “flipped classroom” format, which is where instruction is given before the class meets via online lectures and material, and actual class time is devoted to experiments and hands-on learning. Students use tablets, laptops and apps for research and virtual interactive lessons.
The Biology Department has a strong presence in the community, thanks to a variety of efforts to engage partners and colleagues and to foster a spirit of curiosity about science. To that end, the department offers tours and demonstrations of cadaver labs to area high school students, gives public presentations about topics of interest via the Asset Earth series, presents in high school classrooms and participates in college readiness initiatives.
Above all, the department is celebrated for their commitment to student success. Biology faculty members mentor and coach Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) students through activities including the Skyway STEM poster contest, Women in STEM workshops, and in weekly meetings. The department was the first to offer students a chance for supplemental instruction, and is known for offering field trips and other hands-on experiences.