NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Student Success Update

Succeeding in STEM Course Promotes Student Success in Online Learning

The Office of First Year Programs (OFYP) is retooling its Succeeding in STEM course to offer resources and support to students for learning in the online environment. The course has been offered for the past two years to serve students who were on Academic Warning after their first semester at UH.

Due to the implementation of the Interim Grading Policy in Fall 2020, there will most likely be no students with Academic Warning status going into the Spring 2021 semester since passing grades of a C- to D- will automatically be converted to S and failing grades are converted to NCR.

In Spring 2021, the Succeeding in STEM course will be offered to Fall 2020 FTIC students identified as at risk due to:

  • Two or more S or NCR grades for Fall 2020,
  • A <2.7 GPA from their first term, and
  • An NCR in any math or science course.

These students will be contacted by the OFYP regarding their current standing (and where they would be if the Interim Grading Policy were not in place), will receive an invitation to enroll in the Succeeding in STEM course, and will be encouraged to meet with their academic advisor. An NSM Alert tag will be placed on their account in Navigate to signal advisors of this unofficial academic status.

The one-credit-hour Succeeding in STEM course will be taught in a synchronous online mode using a discussion-based format. Students will have discussions and complete weekly journal reflections on topics related to student success including academic success tools, career and major exploration, and exploring why college is important to them as individuals.

Students enrolled in the class will be assigned an NSM Student Leader Peer Mentor who will also lead academic assistance workshops. These workshops will be open to all students we identify as at risk, and those enrolled in the class will be incentivized to attend. This course aims to help students stay on track to achieving their degree in a timely manner.

NASA-UH Envoy Program

NASA has introduced a new “University Envoys” initiative to strengthen its relationships with institutions of higher learning, enabling NASA to meet the nation’s exploration goals and advance human spaceflight. Dr. Heather Cowardin, an NSM alumnus, who received her Ph.D. in physics and is currently a planetary studies and space scientist within the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), will serve as the envoy to UH.

Drs. Donna Stokes and Donna Pattison have met with Dr. Cowardin and have helped her to establish connections with units within NSM, UH Career Services, and the UH STEM Center. They will meet with Dr. Cowardin monthly to ensure effective communication regarding opportunities for UH students.

Dr. Cowardin stated “I am very excited about the opportunity to serve as an active liaison – or Envoy - between University of Houston and NASA JSC to help inspire a new generation of explorers to reach to greater heights with our next giant leap.”

This initiative aims to enhance communication between UH and NASA JSC by establishing regular communications to UH units about upcoming opportunities for grants, cooperative agreements, internships, fellowships, STEM challenges and competitions, and potential research opportunities and partnerships.

NSM STEM Outreach Squad

NSM, in collaboration with the UH STEM Center, established a STEM Outreach Squad to expand the University’s presence in outreach to the local community. Undergraduates, graduate students, and post-bacs were invited to apply to participate. Forty applications were received of which 25 applicants were interviewed and 20 were selected.

STEM Outreach Squad members represent NSM, Cullen College of Engineering, and the College of Technology allowing for a diverse array of STEM backgrounds to meet the varied demands of requests received for hosting K-12 on- and off-campus outreach events. The Outreach Squad has weekly meetings where they receive professional development training including lessons in leadership, cultural awareness, classroom management, and event planning to guide them in their work with K-12 students from diverse backgrounds. The team is led by Drs. Heather Domjan and Laura Jacobs in the STEM Center with support from Dr. Donna Pattison and Ashley Askew in NSM.

The Outreach Squad participated in their first event, STEM Zone Saturday, for the Kids Lives Matters organization on October 17. They will also assist with the UH STEM Center’s two large signature events – Mars Rover Celebration and the Science and Engineering Fair of Houston.

Additionally, the Outreach Squad will assist with NSM Day of Discovery events. The group will allow NSM and the UH STEM Center to better meet the demand for outreach to the community.

NSM Student Leadership Program: Keeping Students Engaged in the Virtual Environment

The NSM Student Leadership Team has been hosting various activities to provide resources and support to students as they navigate the online learning environment. In November, the virtual events and activities included:

  • NSMTalks – A Conversation with First-Generation Scientists: Held November 12, the event allowed students to gain an understanding of the obstacles faced by first-generation college students and to learn about pursuing different career paths and about different resources offered on campus. Faculty shared their own journeys as first-gen students and offered their advice and support.
  • “Mental Wellness:” NSM Student Leaders held a workshop on November 9 to encourage students to understand and manage their mental health for promotion of student success.
  • Weekly Thursday “Ask Me Anything” Events: NSM Student Leaders post student success information on Instagram throughout the day and then host a question/answer hour which is open to all students. These events have been engaging and have informed the Student Leaders about topics of interest for future programming.
  • NSM Game Night: Hosted by the Student Leaders on November 6, the event offered NSM majors some fun social and networking opportunities during this time of the semester when students are taking midterms, gearing up for completing their courses, and need a mechanism for stress relief. The event featured the game, Kahoot!, and fun activities to help students get reinvigorated.

NSM Student Leaders continued their “Get Involved in Campus Organizations” campaign via the @nsmfirstyear and @uhnsm Instagram accounts. The campaign promotes student engagement in NSM organizations. The Student Leaders will continue their efforts to make the virtual experience as enriching as possible for all NSM majors.