Solid GEMS 30th Anniversary
The impetus for Solid GEMS began with the fundamental idea that some students arrive on campus lacking abstract reasoning skills necessary for higher order thinking required by science coursework. According to Piaget, a student’s ability to process and analyze information affects their learning which can hinder successful completion of coursework. Piaget’s teachings focus on how a student comes to know what he knows and the stages through which cognition is enhanced. Informed by the teachings of Piaget, Dean Foster and Dr. Sauers began to examine the academic preparation of incoming Cook College (now SEBS) students to identify specific characteristics necessary for student success in the first year introductory science course - General Chemistry 161.
This summer marked the 30th year of Solid GEMS at Rutgers University. Since enrolling its first class in 1986, Solid GEMS has enrolled over 4,000 students and continues to serve as a model for innovative science curriculum design at Rutgers. According to Dean Foster, the success of the Solid GEMS concept has led to the adoption of its model in the Introductory General Physics course curriculum – Extended General Physics. As of fall 2013, the biology department has revamped its curriculum to include some of the Solid GEMS pedagogical practices – extended class time. Focused on student achievement through the pursuit of excellence, Solid GEMS Chemistry is designed to offer instructional practices that enhance the delivery of instructional content to support student learning and understanding.
One of Solid GEMS most notable participants is Dr. Paulette McRae, an EOF student who is the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from Yale University. In her current role as XXXXX at CHOPS, Dr. McRae is working with the program staff to cultivate student interest in research. Dahlia A. Blake, MD was a participant of the program and credits her tenacity to her engagement with Solid GEMS. Dr. Blake states,
“I participated in the Gems program as a chemistry student then subsequently summers as a teaching assistant. As a Solid Gems student, I developed a solid foundation in Chemistry and learned effective study skills that enabled me to achieve success in chemistry and future studies. I am a graduate of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Medical School, completed residency and subsequently, pulmonary/critical Care fellowship. I continued to be successful on my medical recertification exams by using the study skills I learned.
As a teaching assistant, I assisted many students in learning and applying the principles of chemistry taught by Dr. Asbed Vassilian who was a master educator, researcher and an extraordinary person. He used real life examples to demonstrate the application of chemistry to everyday living. This style of teaching made learning fun, kept students engaged and ensured academic success. I emulated his teaching style as a teaching assistant in the Gems program, biomedical careers program in medical school, medical students, residents, fellows and colleagues. The GEMS programs also allowed us develop lasting friendships and gained access to mentors.”
Dr. Black resides in Florida where she is a Critical Care Medicine, Pulmonary Disease, and Sleep Medicine Specialist at Memorial Regional Hospital. Many other students express similar views of how Solid GEMS has influenced their experiences, success, and attitudes towards the sciences. Today, the program continues to support student success in the sciences.