AEES/Select Science Students

Advancing Excellence and Equity in Science program for Select Science Students

At the heart of the AEES program is the opportunity for Select Science Students (S3) to develop skills and gain access to resources that will enable a high level of future success in science.  

This program features two S3-dedicated seminars, held in the Fall and Winter Quarters. The Fall seminar (Becoming a Student of Science (2 cr.)), introduces current major issues in science (e.g., climate change, ocean acidification) with an emphasis on quantitative analysis of data and connections between science and society.  Metacognitive skills and developing growth mindsets are emphasized, as both have been linked to success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.   In the Winter seminar (Understanding Scientific Research (2 cr.)), discussion of current issues in science continues by students learning how to read the scientific literature and understand research. Faculty members from the Natural Sciences  discuss their career paths and research.  Mentoring from faculty and peers takes place during the seminars to facilitate connections within STEM and insight into getting the most out of the many resources offered by Western.

This program also includes a new S3-specific Math for the Natural Sciences course (Math 110) which will allow for deeper understanding of the mathematical content that scientists use frequently. In addition, sections of S3-dedicated English 101 will be reserved that will include science content.

The AEES program delivers a comprehensive introduction to scientific fields and a solid foundation for future coursework.  The program also provides opportunities to meet with science faculty to learn more about undergraduate research projects. An S3 cohort is composed of 24 students taking this series of courses together in the first two quarters at WWU.  These connections will continue after the first two quarters for S3 as they will be part of an ongoing mentoring group.  One exciting aspect of the program is the opportunity for students to work with, and learn from, students from all STEM majors because the program is interdisciplinary.

The Advancing Excellence and Equity in Science (AEES) program is supported by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence (HHMI IE) grant that is aimed at increasing the numbers of under-represented minorities, first-generation students, and women in majors in the natural sciences.  Faculty members on the HHMI IE team work with the WWU Admissions Office to identify such students who have been admitted to WWU and have demonstrated academic success.  These students are then invited to join the program. 

The program began in fall quarter, 2017, with 72 students (48 first year, and 24 transfer students).  Each subsequent year the first year group will increase by 24 students.

Select Science Students (S3) will be part of a cohort of peers, so they will have the opportunity to get to know other students well and be able to form study groups (and friends!) more easily than students in larger classes. Students will benefit from an early introduction to reading and discussing scientific issues in a small group setting.  They will learn more about key mathematical concepts that are necessary for success in science.  S3 will engage in a mentoring program that will help support them during their college years.  Finally, first year students are also guaranteed seats in sections of English 101 that include science content. 

There is no scholarship money associated with being an S3.  However, some students may receive scholarships during their application process to WWU.  Students should also apply for continuing student scholarships through the University and the department in which they major.  Students should also check their eligibility for Washington State Opportunity Scholarships which are focused on students in high demand fields, such as the Natural Sciences.

S3 agree to take the two seminars in the AEES program, one in Fall quarter and one in Winter quarter.  The seminars, Becoming a Student of Science and Majors and Understanding Scientific Research, are described above in the introduction to the AEES program.  S3 also take Math for the Natural Sciences (Math 110), a course especially designed for this program.   First year students take a designated section of English 101 unless they are exempt from the English requirement.  These courses are taken together by groups, or cohorts, of S3

A sample schedule for a first year student is shown below.


Seminar 1: Becoming a Student of Science (2 cr)

Math for the Natural Sciences (3 cr) OR English 101 (5 cr)

General University Requirement (3-5 cr); Elective

Course in major requirements (Chem, Geol, Phs/Ast, Biol, Math) (5 cr)


Seminar 2: Understanding Scientific Research (2 cr)

English 101 (5 cr) OR Math for the Natural Sciences (3 cr)

Math (5 cr., course will vary depending on ALEKS Math Placement Assessment score)

Course in major requirements (Chem, Geol, Phs/Astr, Biol) (5 cr)


On the importance of Mentoring

Anne d’Aquino, one of our recent Chemistry graduates, highlights the importance of being part of a mentorship team:

“2009. It was my freshman year in college, and being a scientist was the last thing I was envisioning for myself. I was a first generation college student, and the only goal I had for myself was to be the first in my family to graduate from college. I wasn't concerned with how or in what field, I would just graduate. 8 years later, and I am an NSF Graduate Research Fellow working on my PhD in biological sciences at Northwestern University-- and I now know, I was meant to be a scientist. What happened in the years in between that triggered such a sudden change? Mentorship. Mentorship and role models have brought me to where I am today. From my professors teaching me the basic concepts in the classroom, to my PI having faith and confidence in my lab skills, even to all of the department professors helping me with graduate school applications... These mentors and role models have been there for me no matter the highs, lows, and challenges I experienced. These mentors have continued cheering me on, even after graduation. My dream is to be like my mentors and teach, illuminate scientific opportunities for those who might not otherwise see them, and inspire the next generation of scientists. I have started to do just this by leading an after school science club called "Jugando con la Ciencia" (playing with science) where we teach science in Spanish and carry out experiments for children whose families primarily speak Spanish. I am also the director of the Mentorship Opportunities for Research Engagement program where I match high school students around Evanston and Chicago with graduate students who help them with a science fair project, and I founded the HerStory event-- a famous females in science scavenger hunt around Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. I dream to do for others what my mentors have done for me. And if there is even one student, who like myself, is transformed into a scientist-- I'll know I have succeeded.”

To learn more about the experiences of Anne d’Aquino and her sister, Andrea, at WWU, please watch their commencement address (especially the content from 8:30 on) at:

2014 commencement: Anne and Andrea d’Aquino

The AEES program is designed to prepare S3 for a science major.  However, we understand that once students enter the university, they learn about many options they previously did not know exist.  Hence, they may change their minds about majoring in science.  The S3-dedicated courses unique to this program can be applied to most majors at WWU.

Dr. Emily Borda
Director of SMATE

Student Testimonials

"The AEES program made me feel welcomed to campus during my first year and surrounded me with excellent teachers and mentors, as well as other scientifically focused freshmen. It helped me understand more of what science is and can be at Western. I was able to create research posters and learn about faculty research, which made me feel like I was a part of the scientific community. The program gave me a place to not only discuss science, but also a place where I could learn and grow during my first year at WWU.”

Shae Fairchild

First Year, 2019-2020

“I loved the AEES program so much. It was so great to be surrounded by such motivated students and great instructors that had similar interests and majors, this allowed us to grow together as a cohort. I learned how to grow into a high-achieving student and how to be successful at Western, and especially in the science departments. It really helped me grow as an individual and as a student my first year on campus.”

Torie Wold

First Year, 2019-2020

“I struggled with my classes at the beginning of the quarter because I did not know how to take efficient notes, or how to study to retain information. As my study skills developed, I noticed that I came to class more and more prepared, and because of this I got so much more out of my first college quarter. I began to feel joy from learning new and interesting materials, to revel in my success, and to be proud of my hard work. My grades have been steadily increasing over the quarter as I get a better grip on what it means to be a successful student, and I am excited to employ these skills to my classes in winter quarter.”

Maddie Sippel

1st year S3

“This program has allowed me to have an easy transition into college. I have been able to meet people who I can easily relate to with a similar background and area of interest as me. It has also helped by providing many useful resources, like our mentors that we have available to guide us.”

Nancy Talavera

1st year,S3

"I came to WWU looking to extend and enhance my education as much as possible. The AEES Program has provided me with a chance to discuss science with other students of science, and lighted pathways to other opportunities such as Studying Abroad."

Danielle Taylor

transfer, S3