Making it Count

Students in the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Community pose at a park in front of the woods.
Students in the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Community.

Kelsey Christensen (’18 mathematics) felt a little lost at the beginning of her college career. But that quickly changed, thanks to the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Community (MSLC), started in 2015.

She found a group of peers who had similar struggles, shared experiences and a love for mathematics.

“The learning community not only provided me with a family, but also gave me the courage to talk to professors more and to branch out more with the different subjects of mathematics,” Christensen said.

Since 1995, Iowa State University’s learning communities have served more than 68,000 students, and nearly 100 students participate in MSLC each year.

According to Dawn Walker-Chalmers, an academic adviser for mathematics and statistics undergraduates, one of the primary goals of the learning community is to create an opportunity for math and statistics majors to find each other early on in their college career.

The learning community allows first-year students to take their first mathematics and statistics courses together in smaller groups of 20 to 30. Study sessions are scheduled to help prepare for exams and opportunities are provided for students to meet other math and statistics students that may not be in their classes.

Although it is a learning community initially based on academics, MSLC also organizes social events, including welcome events for new students, and faculty events, to create a strong student support system. Most of the mentors get together with their mentees at least once a week for coffee to stay in touch and cultivate lasting friendships.

Christopher Su (’19 mathematics) enrolled in MSLC his first semester at Iowa State, and became a peer mentor his second semester. He has now accepted a position as one of the four peer advising coordinators for MSLC.

“My favorite part of being in a learning community is meeting other individuals that have similar interests and being able to see everyone enjoy the socials,” Su said.

Walker-Chalmers said the learning community will add a careers course for students, featuring alumni speakers, resume writing and interview basics. She hopes the class will increase the number of students with full-time job offers upon graduation.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have departmental, college and faculty support. Everyone really wants what’s best for our students and to create a more caring and enriched environment,” Walker-Chalmers concluded.

By Lauren Vespa