GEMS Seen as Another Way to Help Students Shine

Plans to Boost Math and Science Success Rates Detailed at Town Hall Meeting

Feb. 26, 2008

“If you’re good enough to get in, you’re good enough to stay in.”

Michael Coleman, dean of undergraduate education, tells that to students at each UT Dallas orientation.  He told them again Monday in explaining the University’s plans for Gateways to Excellence in Math and Science (GEMS).

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• GEMS Town Hall Meeting Video

The program is designed to increase success rates in foundational courses so the University can boost its freshman retention rate.

At a town hall meeting to discuss GEMS with students, staff, and faculty members, Coleman illustrated the problem by pointing to statistics.  The percentage of students getting grades of D or F or withdrawing were 2 ½ times higher in a first-year calculus course than they were in other classes, he said.

 “Success in these classes is really a prerequisite,” he said.

The GEMS initiatives will give students the help they need to succeed in the math and science classes they need to advance in UT Dallas degree programs, he said.

His remarks echoed those of UT Dallas President David Daniel at the town hall meeting’s outset. “We’re not talking about watering down courses or lowering our standards,” Daniel said.

Abby Kratz, assistant provost for academic affairs, detailed how GEMS would help.

“If this were reality TV, these would be makeovers,” she said, describing the University’s plans to reassess its science and math curricula and give students more ways to succeed.

New resources will include Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL), which will put students in small groups – “a community of scholars,” she said, where learning and success would be a shared endeavor.

The PLTL plan would complement an expansion of the University’s existing Supplemental Instruction plan, which gives students new ways to learn difficult material in extracurricular group sessions.

Jessie Harpham, a calculus Supplemental Instructor who also attended the town meeting, said she attends multiple calculus classes every week to help her students succeed.  “Already, statistics show it has been a success,” she said.


Media contact: Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155

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