Pharmacy Strengthens Ties
With Students Early On
By Sherry Fisher
They've dined with deans and fraternized with fellow pharmacy majors. Some have even joined professional organizations. And they are still just freshmen.
Last fall, first-year students intending to major in pharmacy were eased into the field with special living arrangements and a new First Year Experience (FYE) course.
Introducing students to the world of pharmacy early in their careers is particularly important because, now that the Pharm.D. is the basic pharmacy degree, UConn's future pharmacists must complete two years of pre-pharmacy requirements before being admitted to the School for four years.
Pre-pharmacy majors who opted to be part of the "living-and-learning" community in Towers residence hall were also enrolled in a one-credit FYE course designed specifically for the program.
The School of Pharmacy's new living-and-learning community is part of a broader initiative by the Department of Residential Life to allow students with similar academic interests to live and learn together.
The FYE course, while it focused on pharmacy, also covered the basic university learning skills offered as part of the First Year Experience.
"It was a great opportunity for the School of Pharmacy to work with freshmen," says Pat Toce, director of experiential education for the School of Pharmacy, who designed and taught the FYE course along with a mentor. "The students took classes and dined with our deans and faculty and participated in many pharmacy activities, such as our job fair."
The resident assistant in Towers was a first-year professional student, as was Elizabeth Palillo, the mentor in Toce's class. Toce says the involvement of older students was invaluable: "They understood the needs of freshmen coming into the program and were there to answer questions."
Palillo says the course gave students "a real inside look at pharmacy.
"In the past, a pharmacy student wouldn't have a link to pharmacy until the fifth semester. You would take your prerequisites, but had no involvement with the School."
The FYE course included some classes with the dean and associate dean of pharmacy, as well as with pharmacy students at all levels who came and talked to the class. "We even discussed the application process and future classes they'll need," Palillo says.
Freshman Tyson Thornton says he enjoyed the program. "It wasn't just another FYE class. We got to talk to the dean and students already in the program. It took some of the fear away of what was coming."
Robert McCarthy, interim dean of pharmacy, says the program helps students feel a bond with the pharmacy school - and with each other - early on.
"This is a way for us to connect with brand new students right out of high school," he says. "They feel they're part of pharmacy, even though they're not in the program yet."
The students appear to have forged some enduring bonds. "One of the most exciting things about it," McCarthy adds, "is that the students now want to live together as sophomores."