During the fall semester of 2013, we set out to see what's happening on the Wagner campus to prepare students for the future. We found a lot of evidence that Wagner students are getting the most out of the college experience, whether they are in class, in labs, in the city, or abroad.

By Laura Barlament


Fiona wants to be a dentist; Olivia a veterinarian; Marisa a physical therapist; Mahmoud a physician. How does it start, their first year in college? By pounding down the basics of chemistry and biology, with an English or history class thrown in on the side?

At Wagner, the answer would be yes, sort of, but not quite. They are indeed starting to pound down the chemistry and other specialized knowledge they need to enter the medical professions; but they are also getting a bigger picture on the field, and some hands-on experiences with the populations they someday hope to serve.

Students miss something important when they are taught chemistry alone, says Nick Richardson, associate professor of chemistry. “It’s like science in an abstract vacuum without realizing there are consequences, there are real issues that this stuff can address,” he says.

Professor Nick Richardson teaches Chemistry 101 (the balloons serve as building blocks for model molecules) in a social context through the First-Year Learning Community "Health and Society."

So, the same group of students who are in Richardson’s Chemistry 101 are also in a course called Health and Society, about the social science of health care, taught by Annemarie Dowling-Castronovo, assistant professor of nursing. And they are also in a Reflective Tutorial class, co-taught by Richardson and Dowling-Castronovo, where they integrate the two topics of chemistry and social science by studying real-life issues like hydraulic fracturing, alcohol abuse, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

In addition, the students work with community organizations and health care facilities throughout the semester, thereby gaining experience with the health care system and the people it serves.

“It promotes them being more critical thinkers,” says Dowling-Castronovo. “We discuss questions like, What are you seeing? What does it say in the literature? Does it synch, or are you discovering something that doesn’t synch, and how do you go about understanding more about the gap that you’ve identified?”