Kennesaw State's Advanced Majors Program provides support for STEM education

KENNESAW, Ga. | May 7, 2021

Basirat Olorunlambe
Basirat Olorunlambe

When it came to selecting a university, Basirat Olorunlambe said her main criterion was to find a school with a strong science program, where she also had a supportive community. Now a senior biochemistry major who is set to graduate this month, Olorunlambe said that Kennesaw State’s Advanced Majors Program (AMP) was exactly what she had in mind.

Olorunlambe is part of the inaugural cohort of graduates in AMP, housed within the College of Science and Mathematics. Established four years ago by associate professor of biology Jennifer Louten, AMP is designed for high-performing, motivated science and math students.

“In developing the program, we recognized the need that some students have for more advanced educational opportunities, and we wanted to create something that challenges, motivates and supports them on their academic journey,” Louten said. “AMP also gives students access to all the benefits of a large research-focused university, while providing a more personalized experience, where they are able to cultivate meaningful relationships with faculty and fellow students in their discipline.”

According to Louten, AMP is based on an extended learning community model, where students form a community based on similar interests. Studies have shown that learning communities increase student success in college, and Louten says that the AMP program is proving to have some very positive results.

“The grade-point average among our AMP students is 3.43 on a 4.0 scale, which compares with an average of 3.18 for comparable students who did not take part in AMP. They are also retained in their major at a higher rate, and AMP students are involved in all facets of the College and University as undergraduate research students, learning assistants, student organization leaders and more,” said Louten.

Tia Gordon
Tia Gordon
As a cohort, AMP students all have similar experiences with access to personalized advising, hands-on courses, weekly guest speakers, and special research and scholarship opportunities.

In addition, students in AMP meet and receive advice from upper-level students already in the program. This begins with the Backstage Pass to Success event, a reception where students network with other AMP students, faculty and academic advisers.

Olorunlambe said that it was the relationships she built with faculty members and fellow students that led her to become a Birla Carbon Scholar. Each year, a select group of students receives a stipend from Birla Carbon to conduct research alongside a faculty member and present their work at an annual Symposium. This year, Olorunlambe won top honors for her research on the use of bacteria to reduce infections from MRSA, an infection caused by the methicillin-resistant strain of staphylococcus aureus.

“It was an honor to be a Birla Carbon Scholar and an even greater honor to win. I know it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been a part of AMP. This program has opened so many doors and has also given me the tools to begin preparing for my life after college,” said Olorunlambe, who is currently in the process of applying to medical school.

Biology major Tia Gordon said the community aspect of the program extended to faculty as well. With the frequent meet-and-greets, Gordon said she developed friendships with mentors that will last beyond graduation.

Vanessa Rodriguez
Vanessa Rodriguez
“I got to build a sense of community not only with peers, but with the faculty as well,” she said. “As a senior, I can say that I’ve met lifelong friends, and the people I met in the program have positively shaped my college experience. I also built great connections with professors who have helped me tremendously reach goals that I never thought possible.”

Following graduation, biology major Vanessa Rodriguez will head to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in science education so that she can inspire future generations of scientists.

“For me, one of the greatest aspects of the AMP program was the diversity of the faculty and the students,” she said. “As a Hispanic student, it was wonderful to experience different cultures and backgrounds and, as a teacher, I hope that I inspire other students like me to pursue a career in the STEM fields.”

– Dave Shelles

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit