SciCommons a bridge between students and faculty

Photo by Emma Gray |  Veterinary technology students Carli Burris (left) and Emma Fortney (right) study in the SciCommons on Feb. 13.

Photo by Emma Gray |
Veterinary technology students Carli Burris (left) and Emma Fortney (right) study in the SciCommons on Feb. 13.

EvyJo Compton

Staff Writer

Parkland’s natural sciences department has created an area for students to study and ask professors questions, stationed in the commons of the natural sciences wing, referred to as the SciCommons.

This area is designed to help students reach out to professors for help with homework or studying for quizzes and tests. And, it is not only for natural sciences students. All students are welcome to study in the area.

“This is an area in which many of our faculty have volunteered to hold their office hours to help students,” says Scott Siechen, head of the natural science department. “It is wide open and comfortable. It’s just outside of many biology labs and right in front of some of the faculty offices.”

The area is set up for students to ask professors specific questions they have, however, students can only ask about their grades or syllabus information if they’re speaking with one of their own instructors.

“Students can ask any of the professors questions about their homework or study help,” says David Wilson, a chemistry and biology instructor. “They cannot ask about grades, as we professors do not have access to each other’s information. We also stray away from answering any syllabus-type questions, as every professor has their own way of doing things. It is best to ask your individual professor.”

Students can ask any of the faculty stationed at the area questions about anything science-related, though each faculty member has different sets of expertise.

“Students can ask any of the professors about their homework, even if it isn’t in the instructors’ subject area,” Mindy Tidrick, a part-time chemistry and geology professor says. “Professors will gladly help anyone as long as they are able.”

There are many amenities that the commons offers to students. Not only can they ask questions, but they can study, do homework or even relax. There is a couch, chairs, and several tables located in the area.

“There are tables here for studying,” Wilson states. “A professor will be sitting here at the desk, whom students can approach and ask questions. There is a chalk board available for use. There is a computer stationed with the professor.”

The area has textbooks available for use as well.

“We have the majority of textbooks from current natural science classes in the common’s cabinet for instructor use,” Tidrick says. “If students have a general question, we can use the texts to help guide them in solving their own question or to find example problems similar to what they are studying. We can also use the textbooks to help find extra study questions for practice.”

The natural science commons is not meant to take away from the D-wing’s Center for Academic Success.
Students are
encouraged to go to C.A.S. as well as the natural science commons for help.

“The Natural Sciences Commons is meant to be a way for students to talk to their professors,” says Siechen. “We do not want to take away from C.A.S. There is peer tutoring over there, but not in the Natural Science Commons.”

“C.A.S. is on the other side of campus, whereas the SciCommons is close to the offices. C.A.S. is mostly peer tutoring about several different subjects; here in the Commons, it is supposed to be Natural Science…all students should go to C.A.S. as well as the commons to get as much help as they need,” Wilson says.

The commons has professors stationed at a desk, waiting to answer questions. These faculty members have volunteered their office hours to help with the commons.

“There is a schedule posted at the desk and on the bulletin board,” Siechen states. “The Parkland faculty are here to help the students.”

Tidrick explains: “There is an updated calendar online…with monthly, weekly and agenda views in which students can click on the faculty’s name to see their expertise and/or Parkland courses taught. At some point in the future, it can be embedded into Cobra. Even when students are off-campus, they can check to see who is available.”

Students do not have to interact with the faculty. Even if they are not in the natural sciences department, they can go to the commons and study.

“You can do your studying in there,” Siechen says. “We also want students to use it to study, not just to ask professors questions and leave. We also encourage study groups to come, especially when they can study together in an area, and then always be able to go and ask questions if needed.”

The commons is a running idea; this is the first semester that it has been set up, and the faculty hope it will continue.

“Someday we may move it,” Tidrick says. “It currently is in an area where study groups have met before. We are hoping that if it does catch on, that the SciCommons can be moved where it is more open and even more accessible for students. We are always welcoming student input and suggestions to further develop the commons.”

The commons is more than just a study area. It is a bridge between students and faculty.

“There was some research done that showed students will go to office hours in another spot other than their professor’s office. There is something about being in an office that is intimidating to students,” Siechen says. “We hope the commons will take away this barrier.”

The moving of professors’ office hours out of an office and out into the open was intentionally done to make them more accessible to students in a more comfortable environment.

“I hope this can break down barriers between students and instructors,” Tidrick says. “When students feel intimidated, they do not seek out help. We want to change that perception and help students know we are here for them and want to help.”

The SciCommons is a place for students to reach out for help. Parkland College faculty is always open to helping students.

“I hope this will get students to seek out help,” Wilson states, “We hope to make this an open, welcoming environment for instructor to student interaction.”

Siechen adds, “I hope…that the lesson that is taken away is that Parkland faculty are here to help.”

The Natural Sciences Commons is located in the L-wing by offices, L132–134. There are posters around the college with more information.