Opinion: The Biology Department is a strong force at IWU

By Farah Bassyouni Feb 10, 2023

Illinois Wesleyan boasts a tremendous 90 percent acceptance rate into medical school, with the last few years putting that number close to 100 percent. This statistic is extremely impressive, especially considering the national average for any institution falls just below 50 percent

Over my time at IWU, the reason for this has become clear. Ever since beginning my education in General Biology my first year, I have been given so much attention and opportunity. The professors will challenge you and help you succeed. The rigor of the Biology and Pre-Med programs give you a sense of competency which is reflected in the success of our graduates.

It may sound cheesy, but Illinois Wesleyan University truly is an “and” university, meaning students are encouraged to be involved in multiple activities. If you are interested in double majoring or get involved in an RSO on campus, it’s as easy as asking. Take me writing in the Argus for example, I reached out to the academic advisor and I was able to start writing as soon as possible. Sometimes the ease with which it takes to get involved makes the real challenge figuring out what to say no to.

Another massive bonus we have here over other institutions is the easy access to research opportunities. If you perform well in a class, put forth an effort and show good character, you can ask a professor to do research with them and procure the opportunity that way. I have friends at bigger schools such as University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or Loyola University, who have explained to me that there is often a highly selective application process to get involved in research at the undergraduate level. In addition, I have heard cases where students conducting research rarely see their professor and are often given busy work. They end up just performing tasks rather than engaging with the research side of things and helping troubleshoot the process. Here, not only do you have access to the opportunity, but professors will take you under their wing and help you through the process, allowing you to input your own thoughts and work collaboratively.

The main aspect that sets our school apart is that the professors in the Biology Department are phenomenal. Dr. Bollivar, who is now the director of the biotechnology master’s program at Indiana University, challenged me immensely during my sophomore year in my Genetics course. Dr. Cozy my first year helped me feel welcome and respected as a student in my first-year Gen. Bio course. She continued to challenge and assist me in her Microbiology course my junior year, where I was able to coauthor a paper with my other classmates. Dr. Schwend has always been a supporter and mentor for me. Dr. Jaeckle will make you laugh as much as he makes you think. Dr. Lehr has been a fantastic advisor and a passionate professor in my Evolution course. Dr. Harper’s Field Ornithology was an experience I’ll never forget, developing a passion in me for avian life I never thought I’d have. Whether or not you are a biology major, you may know or have heard of Dr. Haywood, one of McLean County’s “Women of Distinction” who works tirelessly to make the Gen Bio Lab, and now Genetics lab as well, an accessible, fun, and challenging environment that optimizes the learning experience for her students. She is also one of the most caring people I have ever met. I could go on, as I have heard great stories about other professors I have not had the opportunity to have, as well.

The strong Chemistry Department also has a tough curriculum that prepares students well for medical school admission tests, in addition to providing research opportunities. We are also lucky to have the wonderful Michele Darnell, our Pre-health advisor who is the person to go to for anything you need. Whether it’s dentistry, optometry, occupational therapy, or another field, she’s got you covered. She will assist in everything from resume crafting and job searches, to the application processes themselves. Moreover, she is lovely, and an easy person to talk to.

This program at our university is extremely strong and attracts students to our school for good reason. It would be a great investment for the university not only to sustain but strongly support this program for the future pre-meds and biology majors here at IWU.

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