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Biomedical engineering learning community debuts

Chemical+%26+Biological+Engineering+logo+located+on+the+second+floor+of+Sweeney+Hall.
Joseph Dicklin
Chemical & Biological Engineering logo located on the second floor of Sweeney Hall.

The College of Engineering added biomedical engineering as a major this fall, and with it came an opportunity for the new major’s students to find community and an opportunity to study as a group.

This is the first year of the biomedical engineering learning community, a coordinated effort by the university to foster out-of-classroom connections among students sharing a major.

“ISU learning communities are a collaborative partnership between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs,” said Jennifer Leptien, the director of learning communities. “Our learning communities program has proven to be an essential component to the academic success and retention of our ISU students. The key to this highly successful endeavor is the tireless effort of our LC [learning community] coordinators, both faculty and staff, who develop enriched, intentional learning opportunities for our students year after year.” 

According to Iowa State University, over 105,500 students have belonged to a learning community since 1995. Iowa State offers over 85 learning communities, and over 93% of first-year students participate. 

At Iowa State, learning communities are small groups of students typically in one, two or even three of the same classes and generally live in the same residence hall. Learning communities offer study groups, career exploration, community service projects and more. 

“600-plus peer mentors who are upper-division students provide outstanding service to the learning communities by helping teach classes, running study groups, organizing activities and assisting students with the transition to college. 110 faculty and staff are learning community coordinators, too,” Leptien said.

The biomedical engineering learning community is a non-residential learning community for first-year students in the pre-biomedical engineering program.

“It is primarily focused on supporting students in the program in their first semester of study,” said Jessie Vosseller, the biomedical engineering learning community coordinator and academic adviser in chemical and biomedical engineering. “Students in our learning community have a shared schedule, meaning they will be in the same section of their math, chemistry, etc. courses to allow for more natural study groups to form. The students are also in a seminar course together that meets one day a week.”

According to Vosseller, the topics covered in the seminar may include the “soft skills” needed to be a successful student at Iowa State and a future engineer and to gather career information in the biomedical engineering field. Vosseller’s five outcomes of the biomedical engineering learning communities course include:

  1.  Students will be able to build connections with peers in the biomedical engineering major.
  2. Students will be able to develop connections with staff and faculty within the biomedical engineering program.
  3. Students will be able to identify academic and career goals and interests.
  4. Students will gain tools and resources to support their academic and personal success at Iowa State.
  5. Students will be able to evaluate their personal skills and how to develop them to support their academic and personal success at Iowa State.

Two peer mentors help lead class sessions and meet with students one-on-one to discuss goals and interests. The peer mentors also plan out-of-class activities to allow for further networking and opportunities to decompress from academics. 

“With this being the first year of the biomedical engineering program on campus, it is also the first year of our biomedical engineering learning community,” Vosseller said. “We look forward to feedback from our students at the end of the semester on how we can continue to improve the learning community experience for future students.”

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