Advancing Excellence and Equity in Science program for Select Science Students


What is the Advancing Excellence and Equity in Science (AEES) program?

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, cancer treatment, ocean acidification) with an emphasis on quantitative analysis of data and discussion of associated social justice issues.  Metacognitive skills and developing growth mindsets will be emphasized, as both have been linked to success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.   In the Winter seminar (Majors and Careers in Science (2 cr.)), discussion of current issues in science will continue, while S3 also learn about the career paths available to different STEM majors.  Faculty members from the Natural Sciences at WWU (Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics and Astronomy) and practicing scientists from local businesses and government agencies will be invited to discuss their career paths and research.  Access to faculty and peer mentoring will be provided through the seminars to facilitate both 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 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 feature popular science texts.

The AEES program will deliver a comprehensive introduction to scientific fields and a solid foundation for future coursework.  The program will also provide opportunities to meet with faculty to learn more about undergraduate research projects in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, and Physics and Astronomy. An S3 cohort will be 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 faculty and peer mentoring group. 

Who are the Select Science Students (S3) invited to enroll in the AEES program?

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 women, under-represented minorities, and first-generation students 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. 

How many S3 are in the AEES program?

The program will begin 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.

What are the benefits of the program?

Select Science Students (S3) will benefit from an early introduction to reading and discussing scientific issues in a small group setting.  S3 will learn more about key mathematical concepts that are necessary for success in science.  Students in the program will engage in a mentoring program that will help support them during their college years.  First year students are also guaranteed seats in sections of English 101 that include reading and writing about popular science texts.  Finally, 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!) far more easily than students in larger classes.

Do Select Science Students (S3) receive scholarship money? 

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.

What do Select Science Students (S3) need to do to participate in the AEES program? 

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 Careers in Science, are described above in the introduction to the AEES program.  S3 also take Math for the Natural Sciences (Math 197), 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: Majors and Careers in Science (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)

Beyond the First Year

As S3 proceed in their majors, they will continue to receive mentoring and we anticipate that many of them will become mentors themselves.

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

Do Select Science Students (S3) have to declare a science major?

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.

Who can I contact for more information about the program?

Dr. Joann Otto
Professor Emerita
Biology Department
Program Director, HHMI IE grant