Advising Deans Blog

Picture of Martha BakerDean Martha Baker is the director of the CNS Advising Center, which provides services and guidance to undergraduates at each stage of their academic development. Dr. Baker received a BS from the University of Vermont, an MS from Purdue University and an EdD from UMass Amherst.

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by Martha Baker

New Student Orientation for the class of 2018 has just ended and CNS
welcomed over 1400 incoming freshmen during June and July.

NSO students on Mount Sugarloaf

While on campus for each two-day session, incoming students were greeted by me and Dean Cave, learned about the University and CNS academic requirements, took placement tests, met with advisors to select courses for the fall, heard more about the common read, Orange is the New Black,and had plenty of time to learn about the opportunities awaiting them on campus.

In addition, they had fun! In the evening they were entertained by
the "Not Ready for Bedtime Players," showed off their talents in an open
mic session, learned the latest dance steps, played some hoops, or just
hung out with new friends. It is an exciting time for these incoming
freshmen. I look forward to seeing them on September 1st for Fall
Orientation.

NSO group photo and CNS Deans on Mount Sugarloaf
I am grateful for all the advisors and student peer advisors who helped
out over the summer. To show our appreciation we had an End of NSO
celebration on the top of Sugarloaf ­ a good time was had by all.

by Martha Baker

UMass Amherst PreHealth Networking Dinner

The Student Union Ballroom was packed with people and conversation on Thursday, April 3, as students and health professionals gathered for the third edition of the Pre-health Sciences Networking Dinner. Organized and run by students in the Pre-Med Club, this year's event brought together over 200 people. CNS, the Commonwealth Honors College, and the School of Public Health and Health Sciences also sponsored the event. Of the 26 health professionals in attendance, 14 were UMass alumni, including keynote speaker Dr. Christopher S. Lathan.

UMass Amherst PreHealth Networking Dinner keynote speaker Dr. Christopher S. Lathan

In his speech entitled "Back to the Start, Again. My Road to Academic Medicine," Dr. Lathan, Faculty Director for Cancer Care Equity and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School (pictured at left), recounted his journey into the field of medicine, a path he never expected to follow.

While growing up, Dr. Lathan "never considered medicine as an option" and didn't figure out what he wanted to do until after earning his master's degree from UMass Amherst. He also talked about the different research opportunities available in health sciences, and explained how, through his own research, he began to notice disparities in the type of care received by minority patients. Following this path, he continued to focus on minority patients through his work as a thoracic oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

UMass Amherst PreHealth Networking Dinner student speakers

Dr. Lathan stressed the importance of mentors in pursuing a career in health sciences, noting that he owes much of his success to the mentors he found at UMass Amherst and elsewhere. He encouraged the students present to seek out mentors who can both support and challenge them.

by Martha Baker

Nessim Watson

Great news for all students! We now have our own CNS Career Services Advisor, available Thursdays in the CNS Advising Office (220 Morrill II).

Nessim Watson is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Assistant Director for Career Planning at UMass Career Services. He works with all students in the College of Natural Sciences and will be available in our office, every Thursday from 9am to 4pm, to help you with a range of topics -- finding paid internships, applying to graduate schools, crafting targeted résumés and cover letters, practicing interview skills, and more.

Nessim Watson and the Career Services team in Goodell can help you to successfully:

  • Identify your strengths and interests and match them to possible career paths
  • Translate your knowledge and abilities into transferable employment skills
  • Describe your professional self to others
  • Learn competitive job search skills to secure a meaningful position in your field
  • Build and sustain professional relationships and networks
  • Locate and use field-specific career resources on the web
  • Develop realistic career and professional goals
  • Find and apply to the graduate school of your choice
  • Explore possible life and career options through a variety of venues

To make an appointment with Nessim Watson, select "Career Advising" from the left side.

Nessim is also available for appointments in the Career Services Office, Goodell 512
Mon-Wed and Fri
9 am - 5 pm
545-2224 for appointments

by Martha Baker

CNS Student Leadership Committee in Becket, Ma.
The College of Natural Sciences’ Student Leadership Committee is made up of students who are nominated by their department. The students serve as ambassadors of the college and help out a variety of events. So far this year members have shared their experiences with the Dean’s Advisory Board; served as escorts for Board members at CNS Day; met with prospective students who are interested in studying science; and were a great help at Fall Open House where they talked to high school students and their parents.

We kicked off the year in September with an leadership training outing. It was a way of the group getting to know one another and just to have fun. We spent the day doing some team building, low ropes and then a high ropes course. A good time was had by all! It was a great day and the students were very pleased that Dean Goodwin joined us.

CNS student prepare for ropes course training in Becket, Ma.

CNS student waves from above

CNS students at leadership training in Becket, Ma.

by Martha Baker

Celebrate the beginning of the academic year with food and fun! Our College Day Cookout is always a fall favorite for all CNS students, faculty, and staff! We provide delicious local food and live music--all you have to bring is a smile and a willingness to help make this a zero waste event.

Here’s some of what we are doing to make it Green:
• Locally-sourced food minimizes transportation costs & bolsters local economy
• CNS-raised cranberries (UMass Cranberry Station) & apples (Cold Springs Orchard)
• Free-range, low-chemical meats—humane and healthy
• The menu is all finger food—no need for eating utensils
• Plates, cups, napkins and food waste—all compostable
• Food packaging—minimized
• Green decorations—to be given away afterward or returned to the farm
• Student EcoReps on site to provide eco-education
• Plastic bun bags, last year's main trash source, will be reused by a local ceramics artist
• The all-acoustic band will provide 100 percent people-powered music

Looking forward to seeing you Friday, September 27, 11:30 am -1 pm at a new location: the Life Sciences Laboratory Lawn (behind the ISB)--rain or shine!

Photo of College Day Cookout

by Martha Baker

Photo of invasive plant Purple Loosestrife

Last night I attended a lecture sponsored by the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) Program at UMASS. The “Science Café” is organized by a group of graduate students and faculty. The purpose is to engage the broader community in science. Events are held throughout the academic year and enjoyed by all age groups. Science Café is held at Esselon Café on Route 9 in Hadley and is free to the public.

Last night, Prof. Bethany Bradley from the Department of Environmental Conservation, spoke on “Some Like It Hot” a discussion of climate change, plants and invasion risk. She provided samples of some of invasion plants in Massachusetts and there was a lively discussion.

Invasive plants are non-native plants that are capable of aggressively invading natural areas and displacing native vegetation.They generally lack predators and parasites, giving them a competitive edge over native species. Some of the better know invasive plants are Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Knotweed, and Purple Loosestrife. Many of the invasive plants were brought to the state for their ornamental value and then ‘spread like weeds”.

It seems like most folks in the audience were well aware of invasive plants and there were many questions about how to get rid of them – Bethany suggested cutting back and putting the cuttings into a black garbage bag – never cut and throw into the woods!!

There are other “Science Café” presentations planned for the fall semester:
Oct 7 – “How to Scare a Spider” – with Skye Long
Nov 4 – “Live Wires: Bacterial Batteries”, with Dr. Derek Lovley
Dec 9 – “To the Sea (and back again)”, with Dr. Steve McCormick

by Martha Baker

This month I have been working on awarding scholarships to CNS students. I am struck by the generosity of alumni who have set up Scholarship Funds that directly benefit deserving students. Just recently I attended the Martha's Vineyard Graduation Ceremony to award the George and Edith Codding Scholarship. This award was established by the Coddings in 1965 to offer assistance to students who graduate from high schools in Martha's Vineyard or Taunton and attend UMASS and declare a major in the College of Natural Sciences with the desire to study some aspect of Agriculture or the Environment. This year, the fund generated over $50,000 to be awarded to seven students. The scholarship is renewable over four years.
Dean Martha Baker and CNS Scholarship Recipient
The student standing with me in the photo received Codding funding and will be entering the Stockbridge School of Agriculture in the fall.
There are other funds established by alums and their generosity continues to support students. Here are a few scholarships that will be awarded to students for the upcoming year:
The Albert Wadsworth Meserve Fund, est. 1980
The Charles Plumb Fund, est. 1952
The Porter Newton Fund, est. 1938
The Fred Farwell Fund, est. 1998

As UMASS is celebrating its 150th Anniversary and beginning the UMASS Rising Campaign, it is certainly fitting to be grateful to alumni who have so valued their education at UMASS that they decided to 'give back' and their legacy lives on……..

by Martha Baker

Girls + STEM + professors + CNS = Eureka!

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An amazing partnership has been formed between Girls Inc of Holyoke and the College of Natural Sciences. In April, Dean Goodwin was contacted by Suzanne Parker, executive director of Girls Inc. about the possibility of CNS hosting a summer program for girls entering the 8th grade in order to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Within a month the program was approved and arrangements confirmed. Over 60 faculty and graduate students volunteered to teach the girls about science, (including a lab experience), classroom space was secured, and the Recreation Center and Dining Services offered their services.

The girls will spend about 50% of their time on campus learning about STEM ( the girls will also go on some field trips including to the Quabbin and Cold Spring Orchards ); 25% of the time will be spent on recreation; and 25% on personal growth. The students will really get to be part of the CNS and UMASS community. They will eat in the dining commons, walk to various activities across campus, attend university events and just enjoy the opportunity to explore and grow.

The program will run from July 8 to Aug. 2. It is a day program and girls will arrive on campus each day by bus.

A kick-off of the event was held on June 17 at the Girls Inc of Holyoke Teen Center. Dean Goodwin spoke about the importance of CNS reaching out to communities.

by Martha Baker

UMass new building

Recently I received this email from a former student. PJ graduated in 2011 as a Pre-Vet student. I remember PJ well – he was an excellent student and very determined that he would go to veterinary school – he is currently studying at Tufts. It was great to hear from him and to know that his undergraduate education prepared him well for the challenges of Vet School. It is so rewarding to hear from an grateful alum!!!!!

"Dear Dean Baker, I am writing to let you know how veterinary school has been going for a recent UMass grad!

Transitioning to life as a combined DVM-MPH student at Tufts was a quick process by necessity; our pre-clinical curriculum at Tufts moves quickly from physiology to pathophysiology to medicine (and then finally to
clinical rotations). While I am happy to be very close to beginning the medicine curriculum, my first two years at vet school have been full of reminders of my pre-veterianry studies at UMass. As a pre-vet student I remember sometimes feeling that my course work and extracurricular research were primarily to get me through the rigorous vet school application process. It is clear to me now that I will rely on the foundation of basic science knowledge I got from UMass during the rest of my education and future career. In addition to the basic science knowledge base we developed in our pre-vet courses, many of the animal handling and husbandry skills we practiced at the Hadley Farm help me to feel confident in the clinical skills we learn and practice here.

As I progress through my studies of animal healthcare and the role animal health plays in human disease I can see more and more clearly how each part of my education fits together. At each step closer to realizing my dream of becoming a veterinarian and scientist, I feel a greater appreciation for everyone and everything that has helped to guide me to the path I am on today!

Sincerely,
PJ Stanley Hamel '11 (BS in Veterinary and Animal Science)"

by Martha Baker

UMass new building

It is pretty exciting to walk across campus and see all the new construction. The $91M Academic Classroom Building will be ready in spring 2014 and will provide long anticipated additional classroom space for the campus. I took this picture from my office the CNS Advising Center in Morrill. You can't miss the new complex for the Commonwealth Honors College. It will open this fall at a cost of $188M. And what about the Life Sciences Laboratory building, right behind the ISB; the $160M state of the art building is expected to open this spring and will house interdisciplinary research laboratories.

Of course, CNS is very excited that the $85M Physical Sciences Building with chemistry and physics laboratory space will start construction soon. Lots of other projects are on the horizon – an expansion of the Isenberg School of Management; renovations to to Lederle Graduate Research Center; MUCH needed work in Morrill; expansion of McGuirk Alumni Stadium and the construction of practice arena for men's and women's basketball teams.

In addition to all the new construction, there is a lot of work going into renovation of existing facilities. Renovation and modernization projects will correct deferred maintenance in Marks Meadow, Paige, Hampshire Dining, Lincoln Campus Center, Goodell and various residence halls. All this bodes well for the campus and will help to continue to attract top notch students and faculty. It is indeed exciting!!!!!

by Martha Baker

It is never too early to start thinking about finding an internship. Whether you plan on starting a career after graduation or applying to graduate school the value of an internship cannot be overstated:

Students can gain "real life experience" by applying what is learned in the classroom to the workplace.

Students can develop skills necessary to gain experience required to be successful in their chosen career.

Students can start building a network that can pay great dividends after graduation.

Students can "get a foot in the door" with a company/organization.

Students have the opportunity to see if the particular career is the right one based on getting personal experience in the field.

So how do you find out about internships – START NETWORKING!!!! Talk to faculty and advisors, talk to other students who have already done internships, check out internship opportunities on the web, talk to neighbors who may have connections!!!

You can also use Campus Career Services – Attend an Internship Information Session – they are held every Monday at 12:30 pm and Wednesday at 4:00 pm in 508 Goodell while classes are in session

Check out the Campus Career Services website

CNS students have done great internships in the past and gained valuable experiences – now it is your turn!

by Martha Baker

The CNS Student Leadership Committee is made up of students nominated by their department. Almost all majors in the college are represented. Students serve as ambassadors to the college and help out at a variety of events including CNS Day, Fall Open House, Spring Open Houses as well as other activities during the school year.

In September, we planned a white water rafting trip to start off the semester and to welcome new members. Dean Wileden, Dean Fisette and I accompanied 14 students to raft on the Deerfield River. Everyone had a blast and greatly enjoyed the challenge of category 4 rapids!

by Martha Baker

The Class of 2016 started arriving for New Student Orientation (NSO) the first week of June, and NSO sessions will run through the middle of July. While on campus for each two-day session, incoming students are greeted by me and Dean Wileden, learn about the University and CNS academic requirements, take placement tests, meet with an advisor to select courses for fall, and have plenty of time to learn about the opportunities awaiting them at UMass. In addition, they HAVE FUN! In the evening they are entertained by the “Not Ready for Bedtime Players,’ show off their talents in an ‘open mic’ session, learn the latest dance steps, play some ‘hoops,’ or just hang out with new friends. It is an exciting time for these incoming freshmen. They will return to campus in late August for Fall Orientation and will definitely be ready to ‘hit the books.

by Jack Wileden

A pedometer seemed like a nice thing to give to the class of 2015 when they first arrived on campus. It was small, easy to use and light-hearted, with a touch of seriousness. But once I began using it, I found that I learned quite a bit about myself.

First of all, walking the recommended 10,000 steps is a pretty steep expectation. (The goal of taking 10,000 steps in a day is a rough equivalent to the Surgeon General's recommendation to accumulate 30 minutes of activity most days of the week.) I certainly was able to reach—and exceed—that goal on a number of occasions, but more often than not I’d end up in the 6,000-7,500 range. During Fall Orientation, I racked up a whopping 11,458 steps, but I never got above 8,369 for the rest of September. During a departmental retreat in November, I only logged 2029 steps, the least amount of walking I experienced for all of Fall semester—but hopefully my participation in planning for the future of the Department of Computer Science can be calculated by other measures.

On vacation, however, my steps betray my eagerness to explore the treasures of Greece and Turkey. On the day that my wife and I visited the Acropolis, I walked 15,142 steps, and I walked 13,852 on the fascinating island of Rhodes.

Interestingly, the pedometer couldn’t account for other kinds of exercise, like playing tennis. It couldn’t register my heart rate, or my lunges, the quickness of my footwork, or my ace serves (I wish!). It did, however, tell me that I took about as many “steps” in 90 minutes of mixed doubles tennis as I did on an average day on campus. This in turn suggests that, on an ordinary day as I go about my business, my level of activity may well exceed the recommended 30 minutes even if I’m not routinely reaching the 10,000-step level. And perhaps more important, wearing the pedometer and charting my steps gave me insight into the potential health benefits that can accrue from walking, and why I shouldn’t side step this important form of exercise.

by Martha Baker

Frozen Fenway was a blast! An outdoor ice rink is created in Fenway Park, and this year the UMass Amherst Ice Hockey team played rival University of Vermont. It was a thrilling game--the UMass Minutemen beat the UVM Catamounts in overtime, 3-2 on January 7, 2012.

It was so much fun to be rooting for UMass Amherst at an outdoor rink, especially when it was so mild outside that we barely needed coats. But for me personally, the high point of the day came from the stands, not the rink. At one point someone turned to me and asked if I was a student. “No, I’m Martha Baker,” I said. “You mean, the Martha Baker who sends all the email?” she asked—it turned out that she was a recent graduate of UMass Amherst, and from the College of Natural Sciences, no less. “I got SO MUCH email from you! I can’t believe that I’m meeting you in person!”

We went back to watching the game. After awhile, I felt another tap on my shoulder. I knew it was the student whom I’d spoken with earlier, and worried that she might have an unresolved academic issue to discuss. I started thinking that maybe it wasn’t so much fun to be at Frozen Fenway, but I steeled myself and turned to speak with her.

“Martha Baker, I just wanted you to know that I got the best education at UMass Amherst. The classes were great, and the professors were amazing. If I could go back and do it again, I would!” she said. The smile from that conversation didn’t leave my face until we were back in the car on our way back to Amherst. What a great day!

Frozen Fenway pictures by Josh Gibney

by Martha Baker

The CNS Student Leadership Committee is a group of students representing all majors in the College. Students can apply to be part of the group or are recommended by faculty. The students serve as ambassadors for the college and help out at a variety of events, including CNS Day (October 13), Fall Open House, Spring Open House, etc.
The committee got together recently for a leadership training day at a YMCA facility in Becket, MA. It was a day enjoyed by all - we did a low ropes course and some team building events. Best of all though was the high ropes course. Wearing helmets and harnesses students tested their skills on a variety of challenges. Check out these pictures.

by Martha Baker

What a day! Saturday, May 14 - the CNS Senior Recognition Ceremony in the Mullins Center. Over 1000 CNS graduates joined in the celebration. A UMass Jazz Octet provided the music - the group was just fantastic. After brief welcoming remarks from Dean Goodwin, students in each department were called to the platform. Departments were introduced by a student speaker and then individual student names were announced as their smiling faces were projected on jumbo screens. Each student received a UMass medallion. The event ended with students throwing off their mortar boards and putting on CNS baseball caps that were given out as gifts. As graduates left the arena the jazz band played "I Feel Good". It was a great day!! To see photos, visit Pictures of 2011 Senior Celebration.

by Martha Baker

Have you seen some students wearing the new College of Natural Sciences t-shirts? On the back of the shirt is the new slogan for the College - "SCIENCE Comes Naturally at UMass Amherst". If you would like a shirt, just stop by the CNS Advising Office in 220 Morrill II. Price is $12.00. Cash or check only.

by Martha Baker

Plans are well underway for Commencement Weekend 2011.
The University Commencement will take place on Friday, May 13 at 5:00PM in McGuirk Stadium.

The CNS Graduation will take place at 4:00PM on Saturday, May 14 in the Mullins Center. Graduates' names will be announced as they cross the stage to shake hands with college leaders and receive a Commemorative UMass Medal. Two jumbo screens will broadcast each graduate's time on stage. A UMass jazz band will provide music. Each graduate will receive a special gift from the college.

by Martha Baker

There was quite a sight when I arrived in my office this morning. On the lawn by the Campus Pond was a helicopter. As part of the Du Bois Library Elevator Replacement Project, heavy equipment was lifted by helicopter to the top of the Library.

A large area around the Library, including lawn areas east and west of the Campus Pond, was roped off. The helicopter, with a long cable attached, slowly lifted off and positioned itself above a truck where heavy equipment was located. The equipment was attached to the cable and then the helicopter made its way to hover over the roof of the Library. It carefully lowered the equipment and the cables were released. The procedure was repeated five times. It was really interesting to watch!

Now that exams are over and students are home or heading home, I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.

by Martha Baker

Have you checked out the construction site behind the ISB? The new Laboratory Science Building (NLSB) is really taking shape. At a cost of $156 million, the 310,000 state of the art research facility is slated to open by Fall 2012. The building will house faculty from different disciplines and allow collaborative research projects. Check out the construction from the second floor of the ISB!

by Martha Baker

Did anyone see a group of students dressed in HazMat suits, goggles and gloves sorting trash by the Student Union last week?? Well, they were there to prove a point. Josh Stoffel, a CNS graduate and Coordinator of the Sustainability Initiative, led 24 student interns in demonstrating just how many recyclables end up in landfills.

With 2,000 pounds of trash collected from several residence halls, Josh and his team separated out mysterious liquids, unused notebooks, unopened food and wearable clothing. The point was to show what was thrown away and what could have been recycled. Of the 2000 pounds of trash collected, 64% was actually trash but the rest could have been recycled. Since the University pays for trash by weight, anything that can be recycled is a cost savings.

The Sustainability Initiative focuses on making the campus more environmentally conscious. The initiative works on water and energy reduction, resource management, green building, transportation and education. The Initiative also sponsors an Eco-Rep in each dormitory - a student educator who leads peers in environmentally sustainable practices.
Check out this site to see what you can do to make UMass 'green' - http://www.umass.edu/epac/students.htm

by Martha Baker

For the last couple of weeks and until the middle of November I am fortunate to be a 'shareholder' in the UMass Student Farming Enterprise. Every Friday on my way home from work, I stop by Bowditch Hall to fill bags with fresh produce. The Enterprise is a collaboration of students and faculty of the UMass community who are passionate in learning about agriculture and food through the production and distribution of high quality organic produce. It started in 2007 with two students growing kale and broccoli through an independent study project. In spring 2008, it was established as a 2-semester Plant, Soil and Insect Science class. It has been developed and taught by extension educators. Students come from a variety of backgrounds and departments, as well as the other area colleges.

Here are some of the vegetables that are grown: beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, celeriac, chard, garlic, lettuce, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, onions, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabaga, spinach, turnips and winter squash. It has been fun to find new recipes to use all the vegetables and herbs. Pretty nice that UMass provides this opportunity to students (and to all the shareholders who reap the benefits of their hard work!).

by Jack Wileden

You may not find the Wizard of Oz, but if you follow the Yellow Balloon Road from Stockbridge Hall next Thursday (Oct. 14) between noon and 1:30 you'll find something equally wonderful:

CNS College Day!

There will be food and fun for everyone in the College of Natural Sciences -- staff, students, faculty -- and it will all be happening, rain or shine, just outside of the Computer Science Building.

Don't know how to find the Computer Science Building? Well, just find Stockbridge Hall (it's near the Campus Center and the parking garage), where the CNS college offices are located, and follow the Yellow Balloon Road from there to College Day!

See you there!