By Linda Nguyen
No more biology majors, for freshman at least.
Instead, they must begin as pre-biology majors.
The biology department implemented the new pre-biology designation for most current and future freshmen beginning with the class of 2016. The pre-biology designation is not a major, but an indication that a student is interested in preparing for a major in that area. It functions like the pre-business and pre-nursing designations.
According to the 2012-2013 Undergraduate Catalog, which the class of 2016 will graduate under, students can declare a pre-biology designation upon enrollment at Baylor and will be allowed to declare a biology major after successfully completing the class Modern Concepts of Bioscience I and II or their course equivalents, Investigations of Modern Biology Concepts I and II. This designations will not affect students who entered in fall 2011 or earlier.
Ann Rushing, professor and undergraduate director of the biology program, said many incoming freshmen declare a major in biology.
“Historically, we have had a lot of students declare biology as a major and then realize the kind of effort that it requires to be a major in biology, and so we have had lots of students who have dropped out of the major,” Rushing said. “Having a pre-biology designation, our hope is that students will understand what it takes to be a biology major as they are completing their introductory courses, and then they can make a commitment to us as a biology major.”
Rushing said the department has been thinking about adding the pre-biology designation a couple of years ago, The department’s primary motivation for the pre-biology designation is to allow students to have a period of time to determine if they want to commit to studying biology.
“Sometimes students, when they declare a major, they feel like they are stuck in it and they can’t change it,” Rushing said. “We want students to understand that this is the time for them to explore their interests.”
Robert Doyle, professor and chair of the biology department, said he hopes with the new designation, students will put more thought into their chosen field of study.
“We think if we force people to actually choose something at the end of that freshman sequence, that people won’t just remain biology majors just because it’s simple or convenient,” Doyle said. “Our hope is to encourage a little more thought about this earlier on.”
Rushing said the new designation does not affect transfer students or some incoming freshmen.
“Students who come in with credit, either a transfer student or someone who made a 5 on the AP test, they will be able to declare biology immediately as a major,” Rushing said.
Rushing said there is no difference between biology and pre-biology majors apart from the name: pre-biology students will still get announcements about upcoming biology department events and be able to participate.
“Pre-biology students are on our radar screen and they get contacts from us,” Doyle said.
Doyle said after the first year, biology majors have about the same retention rate as other majors at Baylor, and
Rushing added they haven’t seen a drop in interest in biology since implementing the designation.
“We had over 500 on our pre-biology designation list,” Rushing said.