Auburn Family

Getting Core Classes Down to a Science

One of the beauties of college is students' ability to choose which classes they want to take.  For many incoming freshmen, though, they must still deal with the requirement of core classes.  These classes can include English, science, and mathematics, and in many ways these simple courses can be intimidating.


Matt Kearley, the non-majors general biology coordinator and an entry-level biology professor, says that students shouldn't be afraid of classes outside of their major.  He has worked for Auburn's biology department for 9 years now and explained his theory on the best way to succeed in non-major classes.


"Students should be reassured because I think we have good instructors in the programs," Kearley said.  "The key to succeeding in these classes is to manage your time well and make sure you don't get behind.  Also, feel free to take any questions you have to your instructors."


Alison McFerrin, junior in journalism, recalled her experience with Kearley's biology class.  "Science has never been my thing, and I really hated science.  Professor Kearley made it simple - not necessarily interesting because I'm not a science major - but easy to see how it applied to my life."


Kearley works in the non-majors part of the biology department with Dr. Robert Lishak.  He thinks that they have a strong program for non-science majors.  "We give students enough of an introduction so that they understand the subjects completely and work through them fully," Kearley said.  "We also strive to tie all of the subjects together to give students a better understanding of the semester."


McFerrin agreed.  "I felt smarter knowing so many scientific concepts that I had previously been unfamiliar with," she said.


Biology is certainly not the only core science that non-science major students can take.  Also available are basic chemistry and physics courses, or, for those more daring students who want to sample all three subjects, the 'Concepts of Science' class.


For many students entering any of these core sciences, a major concern is the lab attached to the courses.  McFerrin argued that this is where she learned the most though.


"It was interesting to see the practical application of the things in the science labs for which we learned theory in our lecture classes.  Through lab time I was able to get visual instruction of how different systems in the body worked, as well as participate in labs to demonstrate to myself the practical use of different theories," McFerrin said.


Kearley addressed anxieties about lab for students with his faith in the non-majors program.  "Most people aren't familiar with a lab setting when they come into these classes," he conceded, "but just make sure you stay up on the material.  Don't come to class and just do the exercises; think about them as you're doing them.  And use the teaching assistants (TAs) as much as possible.  They're there to help."


Overall, Kearley believes that these simple steps can help any student overcome their anxieties about scientific material.  His emphasis on focus and making sure that students use their resources, teachers included, is a certain way to excel in any class.

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Tags: biology, class requirements, core classes, science


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