Students Find Success at Susquehanna

BIOS-STEM student

By Megan McDermott '14

When the first group of BIOS-STEM students arrived on campus for a week of orientation in June, they were introduced to the biology faculty, each other and life at Susquehanna. They also received their first taste of the many opportunities available to them through the BIOS program.

Thanks to a nearly $600,000 S-STEM grant from the National Science Foundation, Susquehanna’s Broadening Intensive Opportunities for Scholarship (BIOS) program provides financial support to academically qualified students who have been historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Associate Professor of Biology Tom Peeler, who oversees the BIOS program and taught the group’s Perspectives course, is impressed with the first cohort’s 11 biology majors. “Their motivation level is very high,” Peeler says. “They want to be successful.”

The program is designed to help the students achieve that success. Gabrielle Toussaint ’16, a BIOS-STEM student from the Bronx, N.Y., who is also majoring in psychology, says, “I love the support we get. We have mentors.”

She particularly appreciates that her opportunities aren’t restricted because she’s a first-year student. Toussaint and the other BIOS-STEM students have been able to attend dinners with their professors, university President L. Jay Lemons and this year’s Claritas Distinguished Visitor in the Sciences, among other activities.

Toussaint has also taken advantage of other opportunities at Susquehanna. She has been involved in the Black Student Union, joined the crew team her second semester, and plans to form a Caribbean Student Association. She is also working with fellow BIOS-STEM student Ayanna Besson ’16 to develop a Global Opportunities (GO) program to the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

“At this school, you get to make your own route,” says Toussaint.

Whitney Frederic ’16, another BIOS-STEM student, also praises the level of support she receives through the program. “Being part of the BIOS-STEM program has added to my success at Susquehanna,” she says. One of the best aspects of attending Susquehanna “is the number of individuals who are willing to help, or direct you on the right path to getting the help you need,” says the Coatesville, Pa., native.

Frederic has already become immersed in campus life, as well. She is a member of the Gospel Choir, Colleges Against Cancer and the Fashion Club.

Besson is impressed by how diligent the faculty has been about keeping program members apprised of upcoming opportunities. As a result, she has already taken advantage of a research opportunity with Assistant Professor of Biology David Matlaga. “I never would have picked up an ecology book on my own, but now I’m working with an ecologist,” says Besson, a native of Rockville Center, N.Y.

Although, Besson says, being a member of the first group of BIOS-STEM students can be stressful and “keeps you on your toes,” she considers it a privilege.

“The academic life here is just so amazing, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she says.

Megan McDermott is a creative writing and religion major from Lewisberry, Pa.

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