Laney – STEM (Part 4)

Okay, in order to let you fully understand how much Residential Colleges mean to me, we’re going to start out with a bit of background info. Pretty much my biggest fear when going off to college has to do with one thing:

I suck at making friends.

No joke. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember. Perhaps I have an abnormally abrasive personality or I just do things and think about things in a way that most people don’t understand. Or maybe I am just a horrible judge of people. Who knows. The point is that in high school I had what I felt like was the best group of friends. We were inseparable. Those were my longest friendships (and that was only about five years at the most). They were the only people that I really felt like I could trust and count on. And then here comes college and suddenly we are all going in different directions and I’m back where I started before I met them. And now we reach the other problem.

I am incredibly shy when I first meet people.

There is no doubt, I am an introvert. But when you show up at college everyone is telling you that they met their best friends their first week here and that you should talk to as many people as you can and get out there and participate in everything. So…I pretty much resigned myself to defeat. I tagged along with whoever was nearby and tried to feel included and to warm up to people. But let me tell you, when you just settle for hanging out with whoever you happen to be near at the time, it’s not going to end well. And this is where Residential Colleges come in.

Laney3I briefly mentioned in my first blog post that as a Mentor/Advocate I am pretty involved in STEM’s outreach projects. This is true now, but as a freshman I was too shy to be very involved in these activities. However, we had been informed the summer before getting here that as a member of a Residential College we had to participate in at least two outreach activities. So, there I was, already over halfway done
with my first year of college and I still hadn’t participated in even one of them.

And now we finally get to the awesomeness that is Residential Colleges.

Laney 4I ended up going to my first outreach activity, which happened to be a Science Night (where we go to middle schools and show kids cool science activities) with a couple of my lab partners from one of my STEM classes (recall, all members of a Residential College have to be enrolled in classes within the building). So, I finally got involved in the building because I had classes with other members of the Residential College, which, frankly, is one of the best things that has happened to me since I’ve been here. I mean, don’t get me wrong. The academic advantages that Residential Colleges provide are extremely important. But if you aren’t happy because you don’t have a group of friends to support you and to be there to goof off with you when you are about to explode from stress…well then, the academic advantages aren’t going to matter. Because you aren’t going to do well in college if you aren’t happy and you can’t find the right balance between school and relaxing.

Laney 5Getting involved with these outreach activities, that, by the way, are something that you will only find in Residential Colleges, is how I finally made some positive, lasting friendships. I am still friends with the two people that I went to Science Night with that night after lab. I see them at least every once in a while and all three of us still live in the building because we love this place. And I feel like that’s probably mostly due to the fact that we got involved and found other people that are weird just like we are. To me, that’s the beauty of Residential Colleges. You stick a bunch of people with similar tastes together and you are bound to find people with similar personalities that can become really good friends. One of the guys that I went to Science Night with that night is still one of my best friends and he is the reason that I am a part of the group of friends that I hang out with now. I definitely owe that to Residential Colleges, and especially STEM. I believe it is the perfect environment to form a great group of friends.

And the beauty of having a great group of friends is that you can relax and be yourself (which in my case is a pretty weird person) and thus have the best college experience that you can possibly have. Just one more reason why Residential Colleges are fantastic and I would recommend them to everyone.

Laney 6

Brandon – STEM (Part 4)

When I first came to college, I had a pretty negative attitude about being social. I had this idea that I was in college to learn, and that was it. I wasn’t there to make friends, play games, party, or have fun; I was there to learn. I wanted to be the best in all of my classes, and the whole “college life” thing seemed like a big competition. I didn’t talk to many people because I either felt like it was a waste of time or because I saw the other person as a threat against me and my goals.

I spent most of my first semester sitting in my room studying for my calculus, chemistry, and biology classes. My only real social activity was playing Ping-Pong for a few hours every day, and even then I didn’t talk to many people. I was usually studying for some class while I was waiting for my turn at the table too. Thinking back, I can’t imagine that I was a very pleasant person to be around.

But my personality changed completely my second semester. This was right after I moved across the hall from Ben and Blaze with my friend Jeff who I also knew from playing Ping-Pong. I enjoyed hanging out with these guys, and they did a good job of calling me out when I wasn’t acting like a decent person. They brought me out of my shell, and helped me to enjoy my life in college way more than I did my first semester. I started participating in Science Nights with Jeff, and began talking to my other fellow residents. I talked to my classmates more and started participating in study groups. I played games regularly with Ben and Blaze and took time to relax and have fun.

That semester, I met more people than I would have ever imagined based on my first semester in college. Moreover, I felt much closer to these people than I had with almost everyone from high school. After that, I became an Advocate within STEM and met even more people which is always pretty neat.

Being a part of residential college makes you part of a community. Participating in the community is really up to you, but if you choose to do so, then you will create social connections that you will carry on with you for the rest of your academic career (and maybe even longer).

STEM at Battle of the Halls

STEM at Battle of the Halls

Brandon – STEM (Part 3)


Me at Battle of the Hall 2011

The residential colleges are truly amazing places when it comes to the sheer number of diverse student voices living and learning together in their communities. Just about every student has their own unique thoughts and opinions about nearly every topic that could possible come up in a conversation, and this is a great thing to have in a community. I have a group of friends that demonstrate this very well. This group has lived in STEM with me for what feels like a lifetime, and I think what makes us all such good friends is how different from each other we really are.




Blaze is one of my oldest friends in STEM and probably the most similar member of my group to myself.  I first met Blaze while playing ping-pong in the STEM lobby my freshman year. We had a large group of guys that played ping-pong for hours every day in the lobby my first year. Blaze was one of the better ping-pong players, so I’d usually play about five or six games against him before I would finally decide to head back to my room. He was, and still is, pretty quiet when it comes to most social situations, so nearly every game we played was in silence. It wasn’t until I moved across the hall from him my second semester that we really had any type of real conversation that didn’t have something to do with ping-pong. But after that, we became pretty good friends, and would usually spend hours talking about all sorts of ridiculous things while hitting around on the ping-pong table. Blaze and I are both pretty easy-going, so we never really argued about a lot of things, but we would often bounce different ideas off each other and would talk about those ideas until something else came up in the conversation.


Ben is Blaze’s roommate, so when I moved across the hall from Blaze my second semester, I also moved across the hall from Ben. Ben is a naturally competitive and argumentative guy who comes from a Mexican background. He is also one of my best friends within STEM, and we probably spend the majority of every day during the school year hanging out with each other. Ben is a computer science major and is fairly good with math which means he is one of the few people around here that will actually have a mathematical conversation with me.  We argue a lot and make fun of each other constantly, but that’s just how we pass the time. Ben and I are kind of like brothers. We fight about a lot of different ideas, but at the end of the day, we are always hanging out with each other and having fun.


Tyrus is my current roommate, and he actually went to the same high school as me before we came to UCA. Tyrus and I never really talked much in high school, but we had a lot of classes together in STEM and in our majors, so we naturally became friends over the years. Mine and Tyrus’ relationship is a lot like my relationship with Ben. We argue just about everyday too, but our arguments are usually about something involving the ability of a linebacker to outrun me in a 100m sprint or some issue from the news. Tyrus is a biochemistry major, and we often talk about various things from his classes too.


Laney was the first girl in our group. Laney was in my Bio II lab group, and I can’t really remember how or why she started hanging out with Ben, Blaze, and I, but she did. At first, Laney kind of went with whatever the group was doing, but as she became more comfortable, her voice became one of the loudest in our group. Laney disagreed with a lot of the things we talked about and would join our arguments and poke fun at the rest of the group just like everyone else did.

Taylor and Anna:

Taylor and Anna are the newest members of our group and were both members of STEM last year then became Advocates for this year. Taylor and Anna are both very different additions to my group of friends. Taylor is very outspoken and will argue about most things. Anna is quieter and usually keeps most of her opinions to herself, but every now and again, we can get her to voice her opinion about something.

Just within my closest group of friends, there is an extremely diverse set of opinions, interests, and personalities that makes my community more enjoyable. The rest of the residential colleges are just like this. Everyone has different viewpoints and when all of those people are put together in the same environment, the product is something great.

Laney – STEM (Part 3)

For the most part, Residential Colleges are made to group together like-minded people. And that can be really nice, but it’s not like we’re just a bunch of clones. You will meet all kinds of different people when you live in a Residential College, just like if you were to live in a regular dorm.

During my freshman and sophomore years here there was an RA on the guys’ side that was from Burma. Prior to him telling me that, I didn’t know that Burma existed. And this guy was a really amusing and fun person. Everyone in the building knew and loved him. Because you couldn’t help not to. All three years that I have lived in STEM, there have been foreign exchange students from Rwanda. And these guys are some of the nicest people you’ll meet while here. And they grew up in a completely different environment than I did for sure. So, I’ve learned a lot about Rwanda and about how very different life can be. STEM even started a study abroad program that involves going to Rwanda and teaching cool hands-on science and math lessons. And in May they are going to back to also teach about canning food and making ovens.

In my experience, you don’t even necessarily have to leave your room to see the diversity that Residential Colleges have to offer. I’ve had more than my share of roommates over the years. Once I had a roommate who was from Kenya. She had the most beautiful accent. Another of my roommates’ mothers was from…I think Korea. And she grew up near a big city. So, having grown up in a pretty small city myself, that was pretty different all on its own.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, what you’re interested in, or what personality type you are. Like I said in my first post, STEM is a family. And from what I’ve heard, that’s the same type of experience you’ll find in any of the Residential Colleges. And what does that mean? That means that you’ll fit in just fine. And you’re also sure to meet all kinds of interesting people while you’re here.

Brandon – STEM (Part 2)

Brandon3This is a brick wall.

A good brick wall has integrity; it has a strong foundation, it won’t collapse, and it does its job (i.e.- it holds up the roof). For the brick wall, we call this structural integrity, but it is still integrity nonetheless.

Much like the brick wall, UCA’s residential colleges also have a type of integrity called academic integrity.

When most people talk about academic integrity, they usually are talking about how cheating, plagiarizing, or infringing on anyone’s thoughts or work in any way is bad.  This kind of academic integrity still holds within the residential colleges, but there is another aspect of this integrity which I believe better captures what the residential colleges are all about: maintaining academic standards.

Since my freshman year, I’ve seen just about everyone I have ever encountered struggle, at some point, in at least one of their classes. It’s kind of like a fact of life; if you spend four years at college, you are going to slip up eventually. Maybe you stayed up playing games the night before a big test, or you went to a party when you should have been doing a lab report, or you encountered our friendly brick wall in the middle of  your mid-term essay. These things happen. But what’s important is what you take away from the situation. I’ve seen too many of my friends and classmates just pretend their slip-ups never happened, and then the next big assignment, they do the same thing they did last time and fail again. That is the opposite of what they should have done.

Within the residential colleges, we try to maintain an academic standard where, if and when these slip-ups occur, something is done to prevent them from happening again. Programs are often held about time management and how to build good study habits for each of the residential colleges, and in STEM, we have five Nerd Nodes (study rooms), Advocates, and Duty Nights three nights a week within the STEM Classroom. During the Duty Nights, three Advocates spend three to five hours in the classroom helping students with their homework and in understanding various concepts from their classes. This is all done in the effort to help students hone their academic skills and become more successful in both their current and future classes.

We want our residents to do well, and we work hard to make sure they have as many opportunities at success as possible.

Laney – STEM (Part 2)

If you’ve already my first post, then you know that I have nothing but good things to say about the Residential Colleges at UCA, especially STEM. But if I’m the only one that thinks that, then they definitely wouldn’t be worth looking into. Fortunately, this is not the case. Residential Colleges have a good reputation around UCA. If you take the time to fill out the application and write the essay to get in, then you obviously care or are at least interested in the program, and people know that. So, as soon as you step foot in the building, you are immediately set apart from the people on campus who simply choose to stay in a traditional dorm.

Laney3Every year STEM sells a new t-shirt to incoming freshmen and current UCA faculty. Generally there is some sort of quirky design on the back, so plenty of students buy it and then they’re good for wearing to STEM sponsored outreach activities or just for fun. However, you wouldn’t imagine how many faculty members buy these shirts. I was filling t-shirt orders last fall and there are faculty members that buy t-shirts for their whole family. I mean, there was a toddler sized STEM t-shirt. Toddler. Sized. If that doesn’t say something about what the faculty here thinks about STEM, then I don’t know what does.

But in case that doesn’t convince you, I can go on. There are plenty of examples of how Residential Colleges have a positive reputation. And this only leads to more and more benefits that are only associated with living in a Residential College.

It is not uncommon to walk into class and see that your professor is wearing the very STEM t-shirt that you saw in your closet this morning. And then, if you decide to wear your STEM t-shirt to one of these science or math classes, your professors notice. You’ll be sitting there before class starts or during a lab and they’ll ask you about the program and maybe talk to you about the class or about cool opportunities that are coming up in the department. It’s surprising at first, but then it keeps happening and you start to get used to it.

Getting to know your professors and feeling more comfortable around them has plenty of perks. They know about pretty much everything that goes on in their department. So, you can learn about clubs that you might be interested in and the cool projects and field trips that they are doing. You can talk to your professors about their educational background and get their advice because they’ve been in the same place that you are now. And one of the more important perks, at least as a pure science or math major, is that you can learn about the research going on in your department and if you’re lucky (like me), then your professor might outright ask you to join their research team.

If you’re a high school student reading this, then I’m sure this whole research bit isn’t what’s on your mind at all. But UCA puts a pretty big focus on research, and a lot of the degrees in the science and math fields require you to have done research while here. So, if you’re going to have to do it anyway, being in STEM and getting to know your professors gives you opportunities for learning about research and makes starting research much easier. And you’ll be extremely grateful for that opportunity later. Trust me.

So, living in a Residential College and then purchasing the program’s t-shirt automatically makes it easier for you to get to know your professors. Then, you feel less intimidated and you’re more likely to ask for help and that in turn makes you more likely to succeed in your classes. And again, Residential Colleges successfully set you up to succeed in your academic endeavors.

But why is this possible? Because Residential Colleges have a pretty good reputation around this campus. And if all of your future professors believe in it, then why shouldn’t you too?

Brandon – STEM


Me at Battle of the Halls 2011

Hello everyone. I’m Brandon, a senior here at UCA studying applied and pure mathematics with an emphasis in physics as a minor. I also do research in applied mathematics, so most of my day is spent doing math in some way or fashion.  However, when I’m not exploring the wonders of the mathematical world, I am usually doing something for the STEM Residential College.

A short digression:

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and a residential college is a community in which students live and go to classes with other students who all have similar majors. For example, just about everyone in STEM has a major that is, in some way, connected to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (this includes medical and other health fields too), and almost all of the students will have at least one class in STEM with their fellow STEM residents each semester.

All of that being said, I should probably say now that most of my posts are going to be heavily laden with information and examples about my experience specifically within STEM Residential College because STEM is what I know (though, not to say that I don’t know about the other residential colleges too).

I’ve been living in the STEM for three years now, my first as a freshman and the remaining two as an Advocate, so all of my college experience has been touched in one way or another by STEM. Throughout my years in STEM, I have learned more than most people would care to know about many subjects in chemistry, biology, and physics, and my knowledge in mathematics has caused me to completely lose friends and family within a few minutes of talking about what I do on a daily basis.

But that’s not really what this post is about, so instead I’m going to talk a bit about how being in a residential college has helped me be successful in my academic endeavors.

When I first came to college, I registered as a biochemistry major, my heart set on one day becoming a successful (and more importantly, filthy rich) doctor. I mention this to highlight the fact that I had set myself up for a very difficult next four years.

Within the first week of Biology I, Chemistry I, Calculus I, and an introductory writing class, I realized college was hard. Way harder than high school at least. Homework had to be done, studying was essential, and there was no one there to make sure I did everything I was supposed to do.

Luckily, I buckled down, adjusted to the changes college brought, and did pretty well on my own throughout my first semester (I had not really bought into being a part of the “Residential College community” and spent most of my time as a loner), but during my second semester, classes became even more challenging. I soon found myself struggling to maintain the same level of success that I had throughout my first semester, and this was disconcerting as well as a little disheartening as I had a bit of an ego my first year.

Things were looking bad, but around this time, I went to my first Science Night, a service learning project within STEM where students teach elementary and middle school students about science through various demonstrations and activities (I will talk more about these service learning projects in later posts).

At the Science Night, I recognized some of my classmates and began talking to them about our mutual disappointments in our academic performance that semester. Determined to reestablish a hold on our studies, we decided to combine our efforts and form a study group that would meet a few times a week to go over homework, lectures, and things of that sort, and this had an extremely positive effect on all of our grades.

This was the kind of experience that residential colleges like STEM, Hughes, EPIC and the rest are designed to promote; they take a bunch of like-minded freshman, put them in the same building, the same classes, the same service learning projects, with hopes that the students will work together to succeed academically.

Unfortunately, this process doesn’t always work out so smoothly. Sometimes a student will be struggling either in a class or in just adjusting to college but won’t know how to resolve their problems, so the problems just continue compounding over time. This is bad and usually ends with a very stressed and upset student who will probably not be very successful in their current or future academic endeavors.

But there is hope…for we are the advocates!

STEM Advocates 2012 - 2013 From left to right, top to bottom: Brandon Ashley (me), Jean Paul Ngabonziza, Tyrus Nelson, Anna Junkans, Blaze Calderon, Kayla Mazzanti, Taylor Reams, Laney Mason, and Benjamin Castro (he thinks he's fancy).

STEM Advocates 2012 – 2013
From left to right, top to bottom: Brandon Ashley (me), Jean Paul Ngabonziza, Tyrus Nelson, Anna Junkans, Blaze Calderon, Kayla Mazzanti, Taylor Reams, Laney Mason, and Benjamin Castro (he thinks he’s fancy).


The STEM Advocates. There are more in the other residential colleges. Many more…

As Advocates, our main objective is to ensure that the above situation never happens. We are kind of like the residential colleges’ academic ninjas. We are a group of upperclassmen who have already gone through the residential college program, but decided to come back to help the next group of freshmen students succeed in those intimidating first semesters. Between the lot of us, we have taken just about every possible freshman level course within the STEM majors that UCA has to offer, and we are very well prepared to help incoming students.

I kind of went off on a tangent, but my main point is that being involved in a residential college really gives students greater opportunities to be successful their freshmen year of college. The program is specifically designed to help the students build lasting relationships and work together so they can excel within their classes, and even if a student is struggling within the program, the Advocates are always there to help push the student over whatever hurdles they might encounter. Residential colleges helped me get to where I am today, and I am very confident that they will help future students be successful too.


Laney – STEM


My first day as a mentor! Move-In Day 2011.

So, first things first: My name is Laney and I am a Senior Chemistry major at UCA. I have been living in a Residential College for nearly three years and I have been a Mentor/Advocate for the past two years. As a Mentor/Advocate I have been very involved in outreach activities as well as a focus within the college to help incoming freshmen grow and learn and have the best possible experience that they can have.

So, I’ve been living in STEM for nearly three years now. STEM has been an actual entity on the UCA campus for…nearly three years now. I’d say we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well and that I probably know just as much or more about STEM than anyone else you might ask. Hopefully I can find a way to sufficiently express to you how AWESOME STEM and other Residential Colleges are as well as convince you that they could be a fantastic fit for you as well. I mean, VERY FEW juniors and seniors actually live on campus. Sure, I am a little different from most, but also STEM is a pretty awesome place that I’m sure you could grow to love as well.

Alright, I know what you’re thinking: ‘Laney, what the heck is STEM?!?!?!’ I will now address this question. Our official name is STEM Residential College. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. So, STEM is a place to live that hosts various math and science related outreach programs and that focuses on people having these majors. However, you could simply be interested in one of these things while being any other random major and we’d still welcome you in. STEM is a family. And, if you ask me, we’re the best family around. But, if you are interested I would be happy to tell you about all of the other Residential College options that UCA has to offer.

Okay. I’m not going to sugar coat this. College isn’t easy. I’m sure you’ve heard this. But I made all A’s in high school without really trying and it just doesn’t work that way here. HOWEVER, you can make choices that make things easier and less stressful for you here. Like…

Live in a Residential College. Period.

Residential Colleges were set up so that success and happiness are closer to your reach.

1) You have classes IN THE BUILDING. Some days you wake up and you don’t want to go to class. Or maybe you hit snooze a few too many times. It makes it very hard to convince yourself that it’s too hard/not worth going to class when it’s downstairs and it’s with people you see every day.

2) Your study groups will practically make themselves. When your classmates live next door and you see them all the time and you walk back from class with them…study groups are magically and simplistically made, which brings me to…



3) NERD NODES! Once your magical study group has been made, you can mosey on over to one of the two nerd nodes that are on your floor. Nerd nodes are rooms equipped with white boards, markers, comfy couches/chairs as well as tables and normal chairs. I’ve spent a lot of late nights studying with friends in those nerd nodes. And, they’re nice and quiet and secluded [unlike the library, but don’t tell anyone I told you that]. But what happens when your study group gets stuck and it’s nine o’clock and you’d really like some help before tomorrow morning, when your professor might eventually email you back?

4) Advocates to the rescue! We’re in the classroom most nights, just sitting here waiting for you to come down and ask for help (which is actually what I’m doing right now). And there is a pretty good chance that one of us has had the same class and survived. And we’d love to help you. [The classroom is also a good quiet place to study.]

But why should you care about these things?

  1. You only get these perks if you live in a Residential College.
  2. They are crazy beneficial to your academic success. (Trust me. I know. I’ve been there.)
  3. Because joining a Residential College was the best choice I’ve made since deciding to come to UCA. And I want you, whoever you are, to enjoy all of the amazing things that come with joining a Residential College as well.

So, if this intrigues you and/or you’re thinking Residential Colleges sound like a good idea…then you should definitely keep your eyes peeled for my next post, where you can learn more about STEM and other Residential Colleges! Thanks for reading!!!