Math/Science/Engineering offers more than just studying

Student Nathan Archuleta (left), 22, medium management, helps Nolan Borden (right), 23, construction engineering, work together to test and obtain the horsepower of the test car. (Oliver Yu – The Lariat)

MaryAnne C. Shults

Students pursuing an associate’s degree or preparing to transfer to a four-year institution will be pleased with the multitude and diversity of courses, clubs, and extracurricular programs offered within the Math, Science and Engineering Division at Saddleback College.

These resources are suited to complete the general education or major requirements, or for someone with only a casual curiosity of the world around us.

With a full-time faculty of 43, more than 70 part-time faculty as well as classified staff, this is the largest division at Saddleback College. This includes eight departments: astronomy, biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, geology, marine science, mathematics, and physics.

Two of the division’s instructors were selected by students, peers, and administrators as Saddleback’s Professors of the Year.  Adjunct instructor Tracey Magrann’s flexible schedule allows working students to study human anatomy on Friday evening and Saturday afternoons.  Full-time algebra instructor Larry Perez was also honored by being named Orange County’s Professor of the Year.

“I am honored to have been chosen as Professor of the Year here at Saddleback College,” Perez said. “Representing Saddleback College gives me the opportunity to show the project [which uses online videos to teach math] that was designed based on the feedback of the students who likely nominated me for this recognition. In this sense, all the students will be honored as well.”

The division offers several hands-on opportunities for students, as well as department-specific clubs. For example, the astronomy and physics club meet once a month. Weather permitting, members go to the rooftop observatory on the Math-Science building to view the celestial sky through several different telescopes including a permanently mounted 16″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, which also feeds to the lounge and astronomy area.

For students who combine interests in both life and physical sciences, there are also weekend field studies offered several times per semester. Fall 2009 semester planned studies include geology of the Eastern Sierra, the San Andreas Fault, marine science study of the Morro Bay/coastal range area, and a biology study in Yosemite.

One of the best-kept secrets on campus is housed in an outbuilding located at the campus entrance off Marguerite Parkway and College Drive. Working in a professional-level paleontology laboratory setting, students clean and prepare fossils collected from the local area.

The division is the fastest growing on campus. Between the fall 2008 semester and the summer 2009 semester, there was an increase of nearly 15 percent in the number of students enrolled in its courses and five percent in weekly student contact hours.  WSCH include time spent in both the classroom for lecture and laboratory. The division welcomes four new full-time instructors this fall.

“We have continued to grow,” said Jim Wright, dean of the Math, Science and Engineering Division. “This division continues to support and offer quality instruction in the high-demand classes in math and in the sciences.”

Due to the state’s budget cuts, some of the funding will have to be curtailed. Wright said that many of the other local colleges will have to cut back, and transfer students who cannot get into a requisite course may choose to alternately complete their requirements at Saddleback.

“We will try to maintain growth, but we won’t be offering more sections,” Wright said. “Part of the problem is we can’t maintain [the growth]. Our supply budget doesn’t increase that much. Plus, prices for chemicals and lab supplies, particularly in chemistry and biology, continue to rise, sometimes as much as 10 to 15 percent.”

Saddleback’s MSE division includes some of the most current laboratory equipment to keep up with rapidly changing scientific techniques and methods. Wright said that the division was able to secure $200,000 in new equipment monies.

One of the division’s accomplishments is their strong scholarship program for mathematics and science students. Accolades include a $10,000 chemistry scholarship as well as separate awards for deserving students in the fields of physics, biology, computer science and mathematics.

Many scholarships come through fund-raising conducted by the Saddleback College Foundation. The MSE division was recognized as having 17 people contribute nearly $14,000 to the “Apple A-Peel for Education” campaign in March. According to Michelle Anstadt, the foundation’s director, this is an employee matching gift campaign.

“Our division raised the most funds of any division on campus,” Wright said. “Because of this, we will receive an “Apple Pi” reception during fall in-service.

Through the haze of financial woes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Plans for a new Sciences Building continue to gain momentum in the district’s list of pending projects. The $48 million structure will be built on the plot that is now parking lot No. 7. The final project proposal has been submitted to the State Chancellor’s Office and fingers are crossed that funding will come through. Anticipated completion date is sometime during the 2012-2013 school year. The new building will house all the sciences, as well as the greenhouse and aquarium.  Immediate renovation plans are in the works for a new ventilation system and repair of water leaks coming from the third-floor planters in the existing Math-Science building.

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(Oliver Yu – The Lariat)

Jim Wright, dean of MSE, is proud that the division continues to support and offer quality education in these high-demand academic areas. (Courtesy of J. Wright)

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