Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

Electives: beyond the basics

Jade Ramos

As a kid, Dr. David Craig always had a love for science, but it wasn’t until a clear view through a telescope that he knew this interest was special to him. Dr. Craig is now an associate professor of physics at West Texas A&M University. He teaches several different science courses a semester, including astronomy.

There was a time when specific classes were only meant for students with specific majors, but now the options have changed. At one point, classes like astronomy had been studied by only science majors, but Dr. Craig eventually changed the existing astronomy class to be more inclusive for all majors.

“When I came here in 2004, it was already in place, but it was somewhat different,” Dr. Craig said. “It was more oriented toward science majors. I had been a planetarium director at another school where I did a lot of public outreach and so I decided in the first couple of years I was here to change the course to one more for all majors.”

Dr. Craig said he encourages students to do creative projects like paintings.

“It’s mainly to try to keep the students interested in nature but also to get them to think about trying to do different things,” Dr. Craig said. “I have seen students that have told me they have taken up painting as a hobby or others that have taken up astronomy as a hobby.”

Heather Nguyen on a 7-night camping trip to Mueller State Park in Colorado to study birds and wildlife in her field biology class with Dr. Matlacks photography equipment.
Photo via Heather Nguyen.

Junior Heather Nguyen originally intended to pursue a pre-medical degree but a zoology course made her shift her path. She’s now a wildlife biology major.

“My dream is to work at a National Park to be a park naturalist,” Nguyen said. “Taking these classes just further confirmed the fact that I was where I was supposed to be.”

These in-depth classes are full of creativity and a lot of hands-on activities. There are final projects that are intended for students to take what they have learned and show that in a creative way. Some take these project assignments and turn them into hobbies that they enjoy doing in their downtime.

On top of hands-on experiences like dissecting animals in herpetology – the study of reptiles and amphibians – WT also has equipment that students can use on and off campus, like telescopes, to see the moon more closely.

“If somebody is more of a hands-on learner, I would definitely recommend it,” Nguyen said. “Specifically, the wildlife classes!”

These specialty classes are being offered across campus at WT. English classes like studying Shrek and Princess Bride (ENGL 1101), yoga for a dance elective (DANC 3203) and astronomy for a science class (PHYS 1312). The Advising Center has information about what classes are available to take next semester and can be reached at 806.651.5300

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