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Warm welcome for MSEED

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Posted: Friday, September 6, 2013 2:08 pm

For the first time, Valparaiso University’s Mathematics and Science Education Enrollment and Development (MSEED) program held its opening orientation before classes began this year, and its new members found it to be a great success.

MSEED is a program that started in the 2011-2012 academic year. The collaborative efforts of the math, science and education departments on campus resulted in a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) which then turned into a $500,000 scholarship sent to the university to fund a program for students who wished to teach secondary math and science.

Robert Clark, assistant professor of chemistry, is one of the faculty and mentors for the students in the program and was excited to receive such a large scholarship to help get MSEED started.

“The goal of the program is to come up with creative strategies to get students interested in pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) or retaining students in STEM careers,” Clark said.

Early in the spring semester of the 2012-2013 academic year, Clark hired two sophomores, Katie Merkling and Nathan Underwood, to help organize an orientation for new MSEED members before classes started.

“We wanted to get the freshmen to school early so everybody could meet each other,” Merkling said. “We wanted a bunch of fun activities so people became more comfortable with each other.”

Freshmen and sophomore MSEED members were able to move in early on Wednesday, Aug. 21 and were given an orientation of fun activities to do with their peers for the next two days. Thursday activities consisted of “Minute-To-Win-It” games, name-learning games and an “amazing race” across campus to learn where all the buildings were before classes began. Their last stop was finding their mentors for their entire MSEED career at Valpo. The students ended their day with a cookout at the Indiana Dunes.

Friday’s activities consisted of taking a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. But the highlight of the orientation was the final activity they had Friday evening: a paint fight. Every student was given a bottle of paint to splatter in a battle against their peers. Many MSEED shirts were christened by the paint fight, and can probably be seen around campus as a symbol of the program.

Before classes even began, the students in the MSEED program were already acting like a family. Nathan Underwood stated that the sophomores who were the first in the program were close already, but the orientation brought them closer to each other as well as to the new freshmen. The orientation allowed the freshmen to feel comfortable knowing exactly where they were going their first day, as well as knowing they had mentors to fall back on in case their workloads become too stressful.

Freshman chemistry and secondary education major Brittany Barkus really enjoyed the MSEED orientation and found it helpful to have been able to move in early to get better acclimated with the campus.

“It was fantastic,” Barkus said. “We had a lot of stuff planned and we were always busy, but it was always fun at the same time. And we really got to know each other as a group.”

As a future science teacher, Barkus hopes to bring a love for science that she has always had to future generations.

Matthew Mundt, a freshman majoring in math and secondary education, has found it easy to acclimate with college life with the help of the MSEED orientation.

“I had a lot of fun at it,” Mundt said. “It was really nice getting acclimated to campus life before everybody else got here and knowing where the buildings were without the stress of having everyone else around you.”

Mundt also stated that it was nice to know that he has a safety net to fall back on in case he needs help as he pursues his educational career.

Also majoring in math and secondary education, freshman Selena Vazquesz Del Mercado found it a bit nerve racking when she first arrived on campus because everyone seemed to know each other already. However, the MSEED orientation really helped make her feel comfortable.

“I really wanted to emphasize how much the first MSEEDers were really helpful,” Del Mercado said. “They didn’t even know my name and they were willing to help me everywhere and it was really refreshing to have people so willing and so understanding of different things. It’s really nice having someone to go to.”

Del Mercado feels like she’s at an advantage having resources to help her and she hopes to learn what it means to be a part of something and to influence it in the right way.

With the MSEED program still in its infancy, students and faculty hope to keep building and reach out to the university campus.

Clark is very excited about enlarging the program.

“The whole MSEED program has just been a blessing and I’m just so very excited about all of the students,” he said. “Whether they be the now-sophomore students or the freshmen, they are all really good human beings that really care about trying to make a difference in the world.”

“I’m just excited that they’re so excited about wanting to teach math and science and help people,” he said.

Contact Alicia Smock at

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