Chemistry Undergraduate Office Welcomes New Leadership and Initiatives
LSU Chemistry | August 6, 2021
BATON ROUGE, LA- The LSU Department of Chemistry has a long history of impactful mentorship, research, and academic excellence for its undergraduate and graduate education programs. Following the recent retirement of Dr. Linda Allen, Director of Undergraduate Studies, LSU Chemistry was tasked with filling a critical position that would continue its history of academic excellence and develop new strategies for an ever-growing department and university.
"For 25 years, Dr. Linda Allen made influential contributions to instructional content and course development that shaped the chemistry education at LSU. Finding a replacement of her caliber was no easy task,” said LSU Chemistry Professor and Chair John Pojman. “I feel confident the department was successful in appointing a new leadership team that will continue the success and furthers the chemistry department's growth."
Starting this summer, the undergraduate office appointed a highly talented and dynamic team of faculty and staff. Associate Professor Rendy Kartika will serve as the Director of Undergraduate Studies; Senior Instructor Kandace Hurst will serve as the Director of Undergraduate Laboratories; Mrs. Rachel D’Arensbourg will continue as undergraduate coordinator.
Since joining LSU in 2011, Professor Kartika has gained a favorable reputation among students in CHEM 2262 (Organic Chemistry II) and CHEM 2463/2364 (Organic Chemistry Laboratory Honors and for Chemistry Majors) for his charismatic teaching style. His student engagement strategies earned him the 2015 Tiger Athletic Foundation Undergraduate Teaching Award. As the new Director of Undergraduate Studies, Kartika hopes to focus on student recruitment and retention, curriculum development, and undergraduate research.
"Chemistry is often referred to as ‘the central science’ because it links together physical sciences, life sciences, and applied sciences. Thus, a degree in chemistry will enable students to enter many career opportunities in science and beyond," Kartika said. "Our educational priority is to provide chemistry majors with a modern curriculum that is reinforced by hands-on learning experiences in both teaching and research laboratories using state-of-the-art chemical instrumentations."
One new initiative to enhance the educational development and retention of chemistry majors is implementing mandatory academic advising by a team of chemistry faculty members. Chemistry sophomores will be paired with a member of a faculty advising team. The advisor-student cooperative effort will continue throughout the student’s undergraduate studies providing quality advising and supporting the academic achievement of chemistry majors.
LSU students from numerous other majors also enroll in LSU Chemistry courses. Each semester, 5000+ LSU undergraduate students register for the general and organic chemistry lecture and laboratory courses. As Director of Undergraduate Laboratories, Senior Instructor Kandace Hurst will oversee the chemistry teaching laboratories, work closely with her team of instructors and teaching assistants, provide training sessions, and monitor adherence to safety protocols and mentorship.
Since joining the chemistry department in 2014, Hurst has been a vital member of the faculty. Annually, Hurst teaches close to 1,000 undergraduates. As a formally trained K-12 educator and an experienced high school science teacher, Hurst applies effective instructional design models and strategies in teaching chemistry fundamentals. Her notable student-centered instructional style, in which learning is cooperative and conducted in a positive classroom climate, earned her the Tiger Athletic Teaching Award in 2017 and 2018 and the College of Science Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2020.
"Our goal is to have students work safely in a laboratory setting while connecting their classroom experiences to the experiential learning in the course," said Hurst. "The instructional design uses a phased approach to allow students to comfortably learn new lab skills while collecting data, making inferences, and assessing their own understanding of the principles of chemistry."
At any given time during a semester, it’s no surprise to see a line of students outside the undergraduate office in Choppin Hall. Undergraduate Coordinator Rachel D’Arensbourg is the first contact for the LSU Chemistry's undergraduate instructional program and assists the directors of undergraduate studies and laboratories. In order to alleviate office traffic, allowing for more personal, in-depth assistance, the undergraduate office is currently developing a new webpage with helpful resources and online forms.
"We still want students to feel welcomed to visit the undergraduate office and sit in one of our Tiger Stadium-style seating," said D’Arensbourg. "We want to continue the open-door policy Dr. Allen provided for many years but encourage students to utilize the webpage for common forms and information. That way, we can focus our efforts on supporting the academic achievement and success of all students."
In addition to an improved webpage, the office hopes to enhance the chemistry undergraduate community through organized events, seminars, and improved communication. The CHEM 1212 (General Chemistry Laboratory) was recently approved as a Communication-Intensive (C-I) course. Instructors will work with students to advance their communication skills while simultaneously learning the course content. In addition, a renovated and refurbished student lounge in 215 Williams Hall will provide a comfortable, relaxing space for chemistry majors for studying and other academic-related activities.
"As a student-centered academic department, our team in the undergraduate office looks forward to working with all students to facilitate their learning and success. We also collaborate with our campus partners to help students achieve their academic goals and professional development," said Kartika. "We encourage the active engagement of students with their peers, professors, and staff to build diverse, effective learning communities that further enrich their educational experience."