A recent agreement between Webster University and the St. Louis Community College Schools (STLCC) could prompt an increase in science interest for prospective students. The agreement will make transferring for science students easier for students by providing a similar curriculum for the schools.
Angela Brown currently attends Florissant Valley Community College and is pursuing her Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in biotechnology. She is expecting to graduate in May 2015. She is currently seeking a university at which to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree.
“I want to continue on to a four-year college, either Webster or UMSL,” Brown said. “I’ve just always been interested in plants, and I want to incorporate that with my knowledge and do research.”
The agreement solidifies the relationship between both institutions and is officially formalized by Webster’s Provost Julian Schuster and STLCC Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Donna Dare.
The degree is designed to prepare students to move straight into the field directly after completion. The new program provides students with the chance to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in biological sciences with an emphasis in research and technology.
STLCC is a four-campus system that includes Florissant Valley, Forest Park, Meramec and Wildwood community colleges. The AAS program is only offered at the Florissant Valley location.
According to STLCC, the program started in 1999, and more than 90 percent of the their students have been hired by local biotechnology companies such as Millipore, The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Microbe Inotech Labs, and Monsanto. Salaries vary by location, education and experience, but range from $28,000 to $45,000 annually.
The program is designed for students who want to enter a career in biomedical, forensic, pharmaceutical,engineering, microbiological, environmental or laboratory sciences. Students in the program have the opportunity to develop laboratory and biotechnology research skills. The program is also designed to prepare students who are currently in the technician workforce for biotechnology specialization.
More than 5,700 students have transferred from STLCC to Webster during the past decade. Christina Gilbert, Webster’s transfer and articulation coordinator, said STLCC is the university’s number-one feeder school.
“The idea is to make that transition for them as easy and simple as possible,” Gilbert said. “They are wanting to focus on the academics, so we want to make sure that the administrative part — as far as transferring their credits — is seamless.”
Ian Rappold completed the AAS program in December of 2011 and will graduate from Webster with a BA in biology this May. His dream job is to have a research and development or analytical chemistry position with his current employer Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. He currently plans to expand his company, GROmicro LLC, by marketing an open-source wireless quality monitoring device that he has been developing for his thesis.
Although Rappold was unable to participate in the new agreement, he believes it will make the transfer process more efficient.
“It should allow students to complete their degrees faster and more efficiently with more transparency,” Rappold said. “I had to repeat many classes due to switching schools and majors, and I wish more schools clearly stated the transferability of their credits and degrees.”
STLCC provides biotechnology students with a guide that outlines what courses they are currently taking and identifies which need to be completed at Webster. Gilbert said the curriculum is now built into the registrar’s system.
The biotechnology lab classes are held at the Bio Research and Development Growth (BRDG) Park at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur, Mo. The remaining general education classes can be taken at any of the other campuses.
Jennifer Hill is the program coordinator for the STLCC Biotechnology program and teaches full time. Hill assures that the curriculum is up to date and helps recruit students into the program.
“They want to continue their education, and that is a large reason why they come to the community college first,” Hill said. “I discuss this one-on-one with everybody that I’m trying to recruit into the program.”
The institution also has articulation agreements with the University of Missouri St. Louis, Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla, University of Missouri Colombia, Southeast Missouri State University and Lindenwood University.
According to a 2012 story in The Journal, during convocation on Aug. 16, Webster President Elizabeth Stroble and Provost Julian Schuster highlighted six areas Webster needed to strengthen. Schuster called for the formation of a faculty and staff working group to study how the university can develop in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical (STEMM) fields.
“Areas of study such as Webster’s nursing, behavior and biological sciences, math and computer science would be considered STEMM, but there are probably many others that will be considered STEMM, too,” Webster’s Chief Communications Officer Barbara O’Malley said in an interview in 2012.
Webster’s ultimate goal is to expand the undergraduate student population, increase retention and graduation rates, and improve the university’s rankings, Stroble said at the 2012 convocation.
Gilbert said Webster’s increased focus on STEMM follows a federal initiative to increase enrollment, training and employment in those areas.
“To help serve the St. Louis community there’s been a lot of work within St. Louis and in general for more degreed citizens, especially in STEMM areas,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert thinks the program will help meet the demand for more degrees by increasing access to higher education.
According to Gilbert, there are not any specific numbers on the outcome of the program since it is still fairly small. On March 24 she and other staff members went to visit one of their biotech classes to promote the program.
“Having the addition of Webster as an option for our students is very exciting,” Hill said. “And I think that those who join the program will find it really exciting and beneficial.”