Posted on April 25, 2017
Open Book Project Welcomes Elementary School Students to NDNU Campus to Choose Books and Learn about College
Each semester Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) is delighted to see the smiling faces of scores of elementary school students who come to our campus as part of the Open Book Project. Since 2010, students in the Community Psychology class have raised funds to provide children’s books for kids who lack the resources to buy books for themselves. The project focuses on the importance of reading and how it can “open the world” for children.
This week marked the eighth year of the Open Book Project. NDNU Community Psychology students visit elementary school students multiple times at their campuses and then invite the students to our Belmont campus. This year’s group were 65 first graders from Roosevelt Elementary in Redwood City, California, a school where nearly three-quarters of the students qualify for the National School Lunch Program. The students spent most of the day at NDNU on April 19, 2017, taking part in a scavenger hunt, art activities, and selecting the book of their choice to take home. In addition to reading with the children, Community Psychology students talked with the first graders about going to college and future career plans. Transportation and refreshments were provided.
The Open Book Project was designed with three main goals in mind:
- To thank NDNU’s community partners for mentoring and providing opportunities for our students to participate in community engagement.
- To provide an opportunity for different NDNU departments to work together on a meaningful and engaging project. The School of Education and Psychology, NDNU’s Library, and NDNU’s Art Therapy Program collaborate each year on this Project.
- To choose and work collaboratively with a community partner to design a project that would address its needs.
Since the Open Book Project began in 2010, NDNU students have raised approximately $6,000 for book purchases. The elementary school students who have participated have ranged from first to fourth graders. They have visited from the Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District, the Redwood City Elementary School District, and the San Bruno Park School District. In addition to books for individual reading, the books purchased include classroom resources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference works. Additional funds ($250–$500) are also given to each elementary school to purchase books for its school library.
Gretchen Wehrle is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Sociology at Notre Dame de Namur University. She is also the Director of the Sr. Dorothy Stang Faculty Scholars Program at the Sr. Dorothy Stang Center for Social Justice and Community Engagement.
Updated on April 13, 2017
I have always identified as an artist, but art therapy was not my original career goal. I planned to follow in my uncle’s footsteps and work in the graphic design industry. As an undergraduate art student, I devoted a significant portion of my time to community service and derived immense fulfillment from serving the homeless population. When I found the field of art therapy, it felt like something clicked into place. Art therapy was a way to connect my lifelong passion for art with my interest in community service. I volunteered as an artist in residence with an art therapy youth violence prevention program, went on to get a master’s degree, and entered the field of art therapy.
My internship and early work experiences were varied: I wanted to explore a range of settings and populations to find the right fit. Looking back on my career trajectory, what remains constant is an emphasis on art therapy as a means to connect where other forms of communication are limited or not available.
Sometimes art was actually the only shared language. I worked in a day program for older adults in Queens, New York. The elder population spoke seven different languages, and we often functioned without a translator.
I also worked with hospitalized children. The art therapy sessions allowed children to connect in new ways; their medical and cognitive needs called out for the creativity and adaptive techniques of art therapy. I worked with a teen who painted using an adaptive brush held in his mouth and a motorized canvas he controlled through head movement sensors.
My most controversial job transition was from working with these children (a population likely to inspire “warm fuzzy” feelings) to working in a forensic state hospital with civilly committed men. I had never before encountered so many “Why are you working with them?” questions. Here too, art therapy provided a means for safe expression. So many of the individuals had had their words used against them in court or had used their words to deceive. The art they created in the therapy and leisure groups was a way for them to work on mental health and interpersonal concerns going back to their own childhoods and often over multiple generations.
I took a leap of faith by leaving that high-paying, stable government job to establish a new role for an art therapist in a nonprofit, elder-care organization. The new job represented a connection between the volunteer work I had done as an undergraduate and the formative experiences I had with older adults as an art therapy intern. My belief in the power of art therapy guided me as I expanded the breadth of my role—first working only in one community with one art class a week, to a full work week of art therapy groups for elders in four levels of care. My role expanded over the years, even during my studies in the Art Therapy Program at NDNU. I facilitated experiences for elders in all of the organization’s residential communities, and for the leadership. I also organized a large community art show around the theme of redefining stereotypes of age.
My experiences in the PhD program at NDNU reaffirmed my commitment to art therapy and art-based research as a viable and important way to understand and operate within the world around us. When I entered the doctoral program, I knew I would be transforming my professional practice and developing as a researcher. What I did not realize was how much I would grow as a human being.
One moment that stands out from my studies at NDNU out was the individual practicum process. The class structured time to develop a plan. I created a series of workshops in my art studio geared toward supporting the educational and self-care needs of professionals. The professors and the class process also gave me confidence to imagine and propose a new role for myself at work. They continue to mentor me as I transition into work beyond the traditional clinical setting.
When I completed my research and earned my PhD, I moved into a new role at work. My current title is Experiential Researcher-In-Residence. I am continuing my inquiry process with the elders, supporting student researchers, and establishing a community of practice for our staff based on collaboration and creativity. It is so exciting to use my skills in art therapy and research to shape the work we do with older adults. Each day, I wake up excited to go to work, excited to engage in creative practice with my coworkers, the elders, and the community. I am so grateful to have found my perfect match in the field of art therapy.
Updated on March 13, 2017
If you want a career in teaching, now is the time!
The State of California is currently experiencing a teacher shortage in a variety of areas. With many teachers currently retiring or nearing retirement age, the state needs 20,000 new teachers a year. At the same time, the number of new teaching credentials granted annually in California is roughly 11,500, leading to a critical shortage and many opportunities. (Read more)
Teaching jobs are becoming available again
A recent report from the Learning Policy Institute showed that 75% of California school districts surveyed were experiencing teacher shortages. The vast majority of these districts reported that their shortfall was growing.
What subject areas are in highest demand?
In addition to the number of teachers needed, many school districts have a particularly strong demand for qualified teachers in mathematics, science, bilingual education and special education.
How do I get started?
Only a few universities in California now offer blended programs for undergraduates to complete a bachelor’s and a credential in as little as four years. Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) is one of the few colleges in California with this option, with a strong reputation for excellence in teacher education programs.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree and are interested in a credential, you can start a program as early as May 2017 to complete by fall 2018.
If you are just getting started, an accelerated blended Liberal Studies program offered through NDNU is designed for students to finish a BA and credential in as little as four years. Providing early fieldwork experiences in education, the program’s structured advising allows for successful job placement by graduation.
That saves an additional year or two of classes and gives first-year students an opportunity to gain fieldwork experience right away.
New single-subject credential program in biological sciences
NDNU is about to roll out a new four-year program that leads to a bachelor’s degree and a single-subject teaching credential for biology. The program, offered in conjunction with the San Mateo County Community College District, prepares students for classroom teaching in middle schools or high schools with four years of study. Students can complete the first two years of the curriculum either at NDNU or at a community college, allowing for significant time and cost savings over many other teaching credential programs. NDNU will begin accepting applications for the program in fall 2017, for fall 2018 admission.
Financial aid opportunities
There are special grants and financial aid available for students going into teaching. NDNU admissions and financial aid counselors can help you identify and apply for these funding opportunities.
Teaching as a second career
Many professionals are finding that after a career in business, the military or other sectors, they are looking for a work path that allows them to pass on knowledge and opportunities to the next generation. NDNU’s teaching credential programs are ideal for second-career teachers. Class start times are designed for working adults. The campus is centrally located for San Francisco-Silicon Valley workplaces and/or residences. Classes are small in size, and there is a strong collaborative spirit that supports returning students.
Extensive Alumni Network
Notre Dame de Namur has a long history in the field of teacher education. NDNU alumni work as administrators, principals and teachers throughout the Bay Area and California. This network provides a valuable resource for those seeking teaching jobs and student teacher placements.
Request Information on Notre Dame de Namur University Teaching Credential Programs
There are special grants and financial aid available for students going into teaching, so make sure to explore these opportunities for assistance in paying for college.
Updated on April 13, 2016
Perry Elerts is the 2015-16 Associated Students of NDNU President. He is graduating this May with his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies in Issues of Social Change.
Now that I am about to graduate from NDNU in less than a month, I have started reflecting on all the wonderful experiences and opportunities I have had in college. I chose NDNU in the first place because of the small school atmosphere it offered, which allowed me to create very close bonds and connections between staff, faculty, and other students. These bonds became invaluable when it came to asking for letters of recommendation, looking for future job opportunities, and for just having fun. The Cross Country program also was a good fit for me due to their competitiveness and coaching philosophy. I can still remember the nerves I felt the first few weeks of school. It was a crazy transition period and the first time I would be living on my own. However, those nerves quickly faded as I quickly made friends with the cross-country team and was helped out by the RAs and orientation leaders. In those first few weeks I made and met my friends for life. Even though I am more on the shy side the university held a number of fun events like Broom Ball, which allowed me to get to know my fellow freshman. Thanks to the helpfulness of the upperclassmen I was well prepared for the first day of classes. Classes went well and all the professors were extremely nice, understanding, and really willing to work with me. Luckily for me the professors stayed that way as school went on and the work became more demanding.
I have numerous memorable experiences being here, but some of the best times came from just relaxing after class and joking around with the roommates. I will never forget the Bonner hangouts when we would go to the beach at night for games and self-reflection. So many great memories have been made. Yet, NDNU was able to prepare me for my future so I could go out and continue to pursue my dreams and create new memorable experiences. The academic classes and extracurricular opportunities have prepared me and allowed me to be accepted into law school. I plan on attending Santa Clara School of Law in the fall and study specifically environmental law. In a way I will be continuing the work and legacy of Sister Dorothy Stang who I learned about the very first day of classes here at NDNU. I feel confident in going forward and am excited to see what the future holds. NDNU has been a great experience and has opened many doors for me. It has also allowed me to discover my passion, dreams, and true self.
So thank you NDNU,
Updated on April 7, 2016
- Make a list of the schools you’re planning to apply to. Include deadlines, any additional application requirements, any information you can find regarding average SAT/ACT scores and average GPA of admitted students, and some of the features that you like best about each school. You’ll refer to this list later, and not just to make sure you’re not missing any deadlines!
- Draft your personal statement. Most schools you’re applying to will require a personal statement. Some schools have specific prompts and the Common Application has several prompts to choose from (read the Common App essay prompts). A good strategy is to select a broad prompt from the Common Application and then use that draft to build from in crafting more specific essays. Share a draft of your personal statement with your College Counselor, teacher, or a relative who has gone through the college application process. Your parents might be able to help, but most likely your parents are going to love anything you write. You need an unbiased opinion!
- Assemble your “resume.” Make a list of your accomplishments, your activities, volunteer work, and any leadership positions you held. Don’t participate in activities just to build your resume. Most college applicants participate in some to a lot of activities. You’ll stand out if you have deeper and/or sustained involvement. If your involvement is limited by personal circumstances (health, family, work obligations), you should explain this to the committee.
- Start working on the application. Take your time, answer the questions, and check your spelling. You don’t want to be the applicant who spells her mother’s name wrong!
- Finish your essay. When it comes time to add your essay to the application, re-read the essay prompt to make sure your essay answers the question. At this point, you’ll want to add some statements to your essay for each school you are applying to. Give an example (from your list of features that you created first) of why that particular school is a good fit. Make it clear that you’ve thought about this question. It could be that the school has a perfect location for internships in your field of interest, or that the size of the student body or average class size is a good fit for your learning style. If you’ve visited campus, you might mention that your visit confirmed your interest. Whatever you do, take a few moments to let the admissions committee know that you have given this issue some thought. And, whatever you do, make sure you do not write in your application to University X that you really, really can see yourself as a student at University Y.
- Submit. And breathe!
- If you are really serious about a school, you should try to visit. Take a campus tour and meet with an admissions counselor. Eat in the cafeteria. If your finances make this impossible, keep in touch with your admissions counselor with questions or updates on the progress of your application or with updates on your academic progress. Demonstrating a genuine interest in the school may help sway the admissions committee decision your way!
The most important thing to keep in mind is that there is a school out there for everyone. If you do your research you’ll have a list of appropriate schools where you will be happy and successful. If a school doesn’t accept you, it likely means that you weren’t really a fit for that school. Don’t get discouraged. Every year hundreds of thousands of college freshmen apply to, get accepted to, and enroll at thousands of schools around the country. With some good planning and careful submission of your applications, you will soon be joining them!
At Notre Dame de Namur University, we want you to have an application that shines. We want to be able to admit you to our community. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about the application process or the application itself. And we want to hear from you as you go through the process. Don’t be shy! One of the benefits of going to a smaller school is that the faculty and staff will get to know you and want to support you!
Posted on February 5, 2015
At NDNU we want to make sure that you achieve your academic and career goals by attaining your desired degree. To get you to the finish line, it is vitally important that you organize your financial future in a positive way. For most NDNU students this financial planning begins with the financial aid process, which in turn begins with the FAFSA. It is easy as a busy student to forget about this process. Don’t! See the helpful tips below to better understand why the completion of the FAFSA is so important.
- File early! You may qualify for more financial aid if you submit your FAFSA early. Funds for some federal programs like Federal Work Study and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant — not to mention some institutional scholarships — may already be awarded if you wait too long!
- Haven’t filed your taxes yet? No problem! You (or your parents) do not have to file your taxes before submitting your FAFSA. You can complete your FAFSA based on last year’s taxes and then update later. As long as nothing has dramatically changed, it shouldn’t impact your award too much.
- Look out for state deadlines. If you don’t submit by state-specific deadlines, you could miss out on certain awards. Those eligible for Cal Grant should submit by March 2; you might qualify for close to $9,000 in grant money from the state.
- FAFSA wants to know about your parents, too. If you are considered a dependent student for purposes of the FAFSA, you must provide your parents’ income information, even if your parents are not helping you pay for college. If your parents are divorced, you must provide the information of the parent (and step-parent, if applicable) with whom you primarily reside.
- It doesn’t hurt to submit your FAFSA. 97% of NDNU undergraduates receive some sort of financial aid.
- Ask for help! Don’t be embarrassed to give us a call and ask for help. Filing your FAFSA correctly on the first attempt saves you work, frustration, and avoids errors, so we are happy to help. If you are confused, make an appointment to come in to meet with a Financial Aid Counselor. We would be happy to sit down and help you and your parents make sense of the FAFSA.
Updated on April 7, 2016
There is a growing need for people in a variety of helping professions.
Individuals who recognize the importance of working with people, serving them and meeting their needs are often drawn to human services to enhance their abilities to help others, take management roles in organizations or even start their own nonprofit. Although many jobs are in the nonprofit sector, often in well-paid positions, employee and human services positions in private and government organizations are also in demand.
Did you know that social and human services are among the most rapidly growing occupations?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for social and human service employees are expected to grow much faster than average for all occupations, particularly for applicants with appropriate postsecondary education. The number of social and human service assistants is projected to grow by nearly 23% for all occupations between 2008 and 2018. Approximately 80,000 new jobs are expected to be created during the next decade. Many additional job opportunities will arise from the need to replace workers who advance into new positions, retire, or leave the workforce for other reasons. Employment in private agencies will grow as state and local governments continue to contract out services to the private sector in an effort to cut costs. Demand for social services will expand with the growing elderly population, who are more likely to need these services.
What can I do with a Human Services Degree?
The leadership skills developed makes Human Services graduates valuable contributors in non-profit organizations, government agencies, and corporations.
Examples include careers in:
- counseling and social work
- human resources or employee relations (profit and nonprofit)
- health care
- community advocacy
- law enforcement and other public safety fields
- employee relations
These jobs include working with:
- children and families
- the elderly
- people with disabilities
- people with addictions
- people with mental illnesses
- homeless and displaced people
What does a Human Services degree offer?
As one of the more versatile degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Human Services prepares you for work in a variety of fields and settings depending on your interests. Prerequisites for this degree generally require introductory knowledge of psychology and sociology.
Students often learn to develop skills in communication, advanced professional writing and how to apply and demonstrate problem-solving techniques to areas in Financial Management, Social Responsibility and Ethics. At Notre Dame de Namur University, students often enhance their career goals by focusing on one of three specialized areas:
A Bachelor’s of Science in Human Services can be a stepping-stone to a post graduate degree for professionals to advance their careers in management; many students continue their studies with a master’s in public administration, business administration, social services or psychology.
“Being in this program has truly changed my life as an individual, as a student, and as an employee. It has helped me gain better understanding of others in a realistic way and has inspired me even more to help and make a difference. The support of the advisers and teachers within the program makes an extreme difference. It is not easy to come back to school, but they are very supportive. They aren’t just there assisting in class, but are available to help at your convenience and sometimes where it is convenient for you. I can’t think of anywhere else in my education where I have had that much support and encouragement.” Read more student feedback.
Learn more about our accelerated evening Bachelor’s of Science in Human Services.
Updated on April 7, 2016
“If we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, we’ve got to open doors for everyone. We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”
- STEM grads have a lower unemployment rate than non-STEM grads (see She Geeks infographic)
- The growth in STEM jobs in the past 10 years was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs (see Edutopia infographic)
- And that growth isn’t stopping: STEM jobs are projected to grow 17 percent from 2008-2018; non-STEM jobs are only projected to grow 9.8 percent
- The payoff for STEM jobs is greater: STEM majors who go on to work in STEM jobs earn 20 percent more than non-STEM majors in non-STEM jobs (read report)
But another hot topic is gender inequality in the workplace, and the story is no different in STEM fields. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, while women make up almost half of the workforce in the United States, they have less than 25 percent of STEM jobs, despite the fact that more college-educated women have joined the workforce. However, women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than women in non-STEM jobs, and gap between compensation for men and women in STEM fields is less than in other areas.
With all the potential that is available to women in STEM, why aren’t there as many women pursuing STEM careers? In “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap To Innovation,” gender stereotyping and a lack of female role models are cited as a couple of the reasons for the discrepancy.
At Notre Dame de Namur University, there’s no shortage of female role models within our Department of Natural Sciences. We caught up with Natural Sciences faculty Melissa McAlexander, Ph.D., and Rachel Shellabarger, MS, to get their perspective on women in science.
Why did you pursue science?
MM: I was the kid who always loved science – it seemed like fun. My high school biology teacher had a particularly strong influence on me. She really encouraged me, and probably helped me understand for the first time that I could pursue science as a career.
RS: I think the case for myself and a lot of my colleagues was that we found topics we liked and stuck with them because we were passionate about them. As a more general trend, however, I think the scientific process is a way of thinking that works in all realms of life, and perhaps those of us that end up in scientific fields really appreciate that process.
Why is it important for women to work in science?
RS: It’s important for people to go into fields they are interested in and passionate about, regardless of their background/demographic. Science thrives on a range of diverse opinions, and we want the scientific field to be representative of our population as a whole. As with many other fields, there has been a history of excluding women (and other groups) from various parts of science, so we of course want to move toward a future where no group is excluded from a field because of demographics.
MM: In any field, having women as part of the team increases the diversity of ideas and experiences at the table. The process of science benefits when different perspectives are represented in the approaches we take. No gender or ethnicity (or any other way of classifying people) does science “better” than another. But the more we engage the whole of the population in science, the better science gets.
What advice would you give to a student who wants to pursue science?
RS: A career in science requires lots of hard work to understand course material, research protocols/findings, and the broader impact of science on society. Every individual’s background prepares them for scientific inquiry in different ways, and it’s important to understand the skills you bring with you, as well as the skills you need to work to improve.
MM: Go for it, if it is a fit with your interests, skills, and passion. You need to love the process of doing science, of gaining new understandings about the world, and/or of making something beneficial to society. There’s loads of fascinating questions being asked in laboratories in all fields these days – find an area you’re passionate for learning about, and dive in deep. Be ready to be challenged – to try something no one has ever done before, to learn new techniques, and to repeat something challenging until you perfect it.
Science: Where Can You Go and How Do You Get There?
When it comes to science-related job opportunities, the sky’s the limit. There are a number of jobs in clinical or research laboratories that do not necessarily require graduate degrees. Scientists in these positions are trying to answer many different questions that can have a direct impact on our lives. But not all scientists work in the lab — many companies are looking for knowledgeable employees to help with product development or provide technical customer service. These opportunities are available in a variety of fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, health care and environmental science.
You may find working in science education may be more your speed. From university professor to grade school teacher to after-school science programs and museum education programs, there are many ways you can help pass on knowledge to the next generation of inquiring minds. Melissa McAlexander worked at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose before coming to Notre Dame de Namur University. “It was a fabulous way of thinking about how to engage the public with science,” says McAlexander. “And man, was it fun!”
There are a number of scholarships available for women interested in studying science in college; here are a couple of web resources to get you started on your search:
Notre Dame de Namur University offers undergraduate degrees within the natural sciences — biochemistry, biology and kinesiology — as well as minors in biology, biochemistry, chemistry and environmental justice. A Bachelor of Science from NDNU will prepare you for the many exciting opportunities in science.
Updated on April 7, 2016
There has been a lot of discussion and research lately about the demand for organizational workers and leaders in the nonprofit sector. But, did you know that the nonproﬁt sector also grew faster — in terms of employees and wages — than both business and government combined?
Approximately 2.3 million nonprofit organizations currently operate in the United States, representing the third largest workforce of U.S. industry. In 2012 alone, public charities reported over $1.65 trillion in total revenues and $1.57 trillion in total expenses, accounting for 5.5% of the nation’s total GDP.
Figure 5: Anticipated Job Growth in Specific Areas by Year
Approximately one-third of nonprofits surveyed anticipate growth in the area of direct services (36%), program management/support (31%), and fundraising/development (31%) in 2013. As seen in figure 5, the percentage of organizations anticipating job growth increased from a year ago – and dramatically from two years ago – in all areas, with one exception, marketing/ communications/ public relations. Source: http://www.nonprofithr.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2013-Employment-Trends-Survey-Report.pdf
Figure 2: Plans to Create New Positions and Eliminate Positions and/or Gradually Reduce Staff in 2013 by Organization Type
This graph illustrates which fields anticipate the greatest increase in positions. Over half of health (62%), environment and animals (56%), education (53%), and faith-based (53%) organizations surveyed indicated that they plan to create new positions this year. In their projections to 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics findings support the increase in health care positions; they predict that employment in the health care and social assistance sectors will generate the largest number of jobs at an annual rate of 3%, which is the largest rate of all major employment sectors. Source: http://www.nonprofithr.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2013-Employment-Trends-Survey-Report.pdf
Exceptional leaders are in demand in the nonprofit sector.
According to Nonprofit HR Solutions, clients respond to the significant economic changes of the recent three to four years by maximizing efficiencies in infrastructure and operations and putting an even greater focus on the direct services work that influences resource development strategies. In this regard, all areas of nonprofit business that resonate with funders have greater opportunity to be highlighted and funded for further growth. That said, continued organizational growth and mission advancement requires a proportionate response in terms of infrastructure and operational support.
Job outlook by role.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the roles Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) graduates pursue will see double-digit growth in employment between 2010 and 2020.
- Human Resources Manager – 14%
- Social Scientists and Related Workers – 18%
- Urban and Regional Planners – 16%
- Social and Community Service Managers – 27%
- Medical and Health Services Manager – 22%
- Public Relations Managers and Specialists – 21%
- Management Analysts – 22%
- Business and Financial Operations – 17%
- Training and Development Managers – 15%
- Operations Research Analysts – 15%
Learn how a Masters in Public Administration gets you the job.
According to the nonprofits that participated in the survey conducted by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, highly-trained organizational leaders are needed, now more than ever, in order to meet the growing demand for services and implement a wide range of goals: most importantly long-term financial sustainability.
This broad, yet flexible degree, allows you to instantly pursue many promising and well-paying job opportunities in a number of high demand and growth fields.
Fortunately there are programs to choose from to obtain an MPA, either with and online or an onground program through Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU). A Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from (NDNU) can help advance your career by preparing you for a wide variety of job opportunities across multiple industries, including government and private sectors.
Founded in 1851 by the Sisters of Notre Dame (originally from Namur, Belgium), Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) is an accredited Catholic, not-for-profit university in the San Francisco Bay Area in Silicon Valley. The University offers a welcoming, accessible learning environment anchored by dedicated professors who are committed to guide students both in their academic pursuits and career development.
Updated on March 5, 2014
One innovative way a university department has approached the challenge.
I knew there was a problem when the textbook I had assigned for one of my chemistry classes was listed at $325 in the bookstore. It was the book that our department had been using for more than a decade, but the latest edition had just come out and the list price was $270. I encouraged my students to use the previous edition and to find used copies, and I thought everything was fine. The following year, I was no longer teaching the course, but the same textbook was being used. I wondered how students were affording the book, but I didn’t give it too much thought until several of them came to my office. When they asked for help solving problems, I pulled out my copy of the textbook, opened it to the relevant section, and showed them how to use the information provided to answer the question. The students seemed surprised that the information they needed was readily available in the textbook. At first I was worried that the students weren’t bothering to open the book. I found that hard to believe so I finally started asking them if they had a copy of the textbook. They were embarrassed, but finally admitted that they hadn’t been able to purchase the book and were trying to make do with the copy on reserve at the library, or trying to share with friends. At that point, I became determined to find a way to help our students.
Thanks to funds that became available from an HSI-STEM grant received from the Department of Education, we were able to use part of those funds to establish a textbook lending program. I knew that this would go a long way toward helping our students with the basic supplies they needed for success, and also align with the main goal of the project, which is to support student learning.
First, the department had to determine which courses we would buy textbooks for. We wanted books that could be reused for several years so we chose to target the basic courses, the ones in which the students build their foundations for their upper division classes. Next we had to determine the number of copies that needed to be purchased and where to get them. We found that the easiest and most cost-effective thing for us to do was to buy the books directly from the publishers.
Purchasing the books was an adventure. Most publishers are used to receiving orders from bookstores, not a faculty member. It took more time than I ever imagined to determine the correct ordering protocol for each publisher. I then had to get multiple signatures at NDNU before placing each order. Finally, all of the orders were placed and only one title was on back-order.
The textbooks started coming in and then the real fun began! We had mountains of books (602 books to be exact) that had to be labeled and sorted. We had originally hoped to run the lending program through the library, but since that was not possible, we decided to house it in the Chemistry Lab. We made labels with a unique ID number for each book. We then had to place the labels on the books, create a check-out form, and have all of the books ready to go by the beginning of the semester. And as though we needed more pressure, we had to make sure the books were checked out within the first few days of the semester so that the Chemistry Lab would then be usable for its real purpose: as a lab!
Miraculously, it all worked out. The first few days of checking out textbooks were very hectic and sometimes we had lines of students out the door and down the hallway, but we were able to provide the books to students in 16 different math and science classes (10 different titles). The students were very patient and thankful as they checked out the books. They were all very polite and thanked us over and over. It was a great feeling to know that we were able to provide this basic resource for them.
In their first semester at Notre Dame de Namur University in Fall 2013, freshmen majoring in science saved about $370 through the Textbook Lending Program. By their second semester, most science majors will have saved about $577. That is a considerable savings!
There are still some basic costs for students since some courses require using an online homework system and NDNU is not able to provide online access codes for all of the courses, but these costs are definitely more manageable ranging from $30- $85 for online access depending on the course.
If you are an NDNU undergraduate student who cannot afford the cost of your math or science books, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help provide access to the education you deserve.
Isabelle Haithcox, Ph.D. is a Professor of Chemistry in the Natural Sciences Department and Project Director of Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program – STEM Grant at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA.