Field-Specific Visit Days Aimed at Prospective Education and STEM Majors

With two days of tailored, experiential events, the Admissions Office hopes to help student visitors pick Wheaton.

During first-year education major Sadie Chelsen’s visit to Wheaton College last fall, she did many of the typical things that prospective students do: touring campus, attending informational panels and sitting in on a class or two. But the two-day event also included a formal dinner, complete with tablecloths and catered dishes, for faculty, students and their parents. 

The following day, Chelsen had the opportunity to sit in on a specifically-tailored education class for the visiting students, which included marching around campus and reciting the words of Michael Rosen’s well-known children’s book, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” while wearing pots on their heads. 

The education department launched Harvest, a visit day for students considering studies in education in the fall of 2022. The department of natural sciences launched a STEM visit day for students interested in science, technology, engineering and math fields in 2019. This year, both events will be held once again, with the STEM day from Oct. 8-9 and Harvest from Oct. 9-10. 

Harvest provides prospective education majors the opportunity to meet with professors and faculty in the department, hear from a student panel of current education majors, stay overnight with a current education major and attend one or two specialized education department classes for the day. 

Steven Layne, coordinator of Harvest and professor of education, directed the event last year and is continuing to run it, now with more of the education department faculty involved. 

Chelsen, the first-year student, said Layne’s enthusiasm and students’ engagement in his class when she visited encouraged her to come to Wheaton and to study education.

“His love for teaching was so apparent through the class, and the students were so engaged,” Chelsen said. “It was so captivating to be in the class and to be around people who wanted to be teachers.”

She said she did not always want to pursue an education major, but changed her mind after attending the college’s first education-specific visit day last fall.

The Admissions Office is partnering with the education department, as they did last fall, to host Harvest. Rachel Ehorn, director of hospitality for the Admissions Office, said studies have shown that a visit to campus can be a significant deciding factor for a student’s college choice. A general visit day, she said, can fulfill this need for many students, but a program-specific visit day can offer students a more in-depth glimpse into their desired program.

While the Admissions Office said a causal link cannot be found between these admissions events and higher enrollment numbers, Ehorn said there has been an increase in applications since the beginning of these two events. 

The natural sciences division was the first to attempt a field-specific visit day as an admissions strategy. Betsy Leong, former science education coordinator, established a specific visit day for science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM, in 2019. Fran Titcomb, administrative assistant to the dean of natural sciences, said the goal was to offer a more in-depth visit experience for prospective students who already knew they would want to major in math or the natural or engineering sciences. 

At the event, prospective STEM students will be provided with information about available classes to visit and will be able to choose from a curated list. Titcomb said a highlight of the STEM visit day is the opportunity for prospective students to participate in hands-on learning, including looking at samples of rock under a microscope, visiting the greenhouse in Meyer Science Center or working at the stream table in the water lab.  

Meyer Science Center is where many STEM students find their classes. Photo by Gracen Drake.

Prospective students will also see the research work of current students on display as they walk the halls of Meyer Science Center, commonly known as MeySci. Each fall, undergraduate research fellows and students who have conducted research at other institutions come together to present their research at the annual Poster Session. Titcomb said the department keeps the array of research posters on the first floor of MeySci through the duration of the visit day event, so visiting students can peruse the work of current students. 

“The hope is to shape their thinking in terms of the things they might be able to do in the future,” said Titcomb. “We want to supply a picture of what it might be like for them to be students here.” 

Adam Humeniuk is a freshman biochemistry major and a guest contributor to the Record.

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