LETTER: Build a science culture by improving introductory courses

For all of its thorough discussion of admissions policies, rankings, facilities and competition among peer universities, Tuesday’s article (“Playing catch-up: Building a science culture,” Sept. 13) failed to consider the actual quality of teaching in Yale’s science departments. With some exceptions — Mark Johnson’s Chemistry 118 lecture and Stephen Stearns’ Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 122 course come to mind — introductory courses at Yale tend to be seen more as dreaded rites of passage than strong entries into science. Students’ first exposure to the sciences at Yale occurs not in the lab but in the classroom, and without engaging experiences for underclassmen Yale will continue to struggle in its efforts to develop a strong science culture. MIT in particular has put quite a bit of effort into improving their introductory courses, including the use of experimental instructional formats. Obviously, MIT will always have more of a scientific orientation than Yale. But a concerted effort to improve the academic experience of freshman and sophomore science students might do a lot more for Yale’s STEM programs in the long run than admissions gimmicks.

Aspen Reese

Sept. 13

The writer is a senior in Timothy Dwight College.

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