According to Dan Ward, Professor of Biology, "Science touches every aspect of our lives. To not appreciate or understand it is a disservice." Thanks to experts like him, Waubonsee’s science departments have a long-held reputation for excellence in promoting such understanding. By building competitive, top-tier programs with access to top-of-the-line labs, media and technology – all led by a devoted and gifted faculty – other colleges find it nearly impossible to compete.
Students in the sciences at Waubonsee get everything one would expect from a four-year school, without the massive price tag. Plus, because the programs feature smaller class sizes, instructors can work closely with their students, building one-on-one relationships that foster success. According to David Voorhees, Associate Professor of Earth Science/Geology, "You’ll get a quality education with challenging classes, but it’s our approach to teaching that really makes the difference. We make the students the focus of our work, whereas professors at four-year colleges are focused on research." Ward agrees. "We spend a lot of time with students, offering help and guidance. We also attend conferences to keep current on topics and concepts, which keeps our programs effective and relevant. We’re always revitalizing the curriculum."
"As a society, we need to discuss what science is and where it fits in – topics like natural resources and sustainability. A learned and literate community needs to be aware of such issues, understanding what’s happening and how to address it."
– David Voorhees, Associate Professor of Earth Science/GeologyScience at Waubonsee covers a lot of ground. The Health and Life Sciences division includes popular programs such as biology, medical assisting and nursing. According to Ward, students should be ready for an exciting challenge. "There’s a lot to learn," he says. "To be successful, you must be willing to put in the time and energy it takes to synthesize all the information." While many Health and Life Sciences students eventually transfer to complete their degree, Waubonsee sets a strong foundation from the beginning.
Voorhees also stresses the importance of patience and hard work in earth science, which encompasses disciplines like astronomy, geography, and geology. "Studying science is a lot like learning a foreign language," Voorhees says. "There’s a lot of complex terminology, but once you get a grasp on it, the concepts fall into place." For instance, he describes his department’s flagship course, Survey of Earth Science (ESC100), as an all-inclusive study that looks at everything from weather to multiple universes. "The course looks at the earth as a whole system. It’s like a ‘one-stop shop’ for topics in current discussion, like climate change and evolution."
Science students at Waubonsee’s Sugar Grove Campus have access the college’s state-of-the-art, 46,590-square-foot Science Building (SCI). Opened in 2006, it houses biology, chemistry and earth science and features six interactive, media-ready classrooms; 12 discipline-specific labs; and 16 offices. It also includes a variety of specialized equipment, such as an overhead camera for improved study of cadavers, a gas chromatograph for chemistry analysis, a seismograph and a fossil preparation lab. "We have equipment that’s unparalleled by programs at 4-year institutions," Voorhees says. "Many visitors who tour the building are surprised to see these kinds of facilities at a community college."
Opportunity in the sciences at Waubonsee continues to grow. Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, the department was recently awarded funding for up to 30 full scholarships to talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students with financial need. As the principal investigator on the grant, Voorhees was thrilled. "There are fewer science majors these days, so this funding addresses that need." To foster success, students chosen are also paired with faculty mentors. "The best part of our job is when a student suddenly ‘gets it’ – when the light bulb goes off," says Voorhees. "That’s what keeps us going."