Sometimes it takes a little adversity to teach you how to win. This is what biochemistry and applied mathematics and statistics major Elle Butler Basner ’19 learned when she received a disappointing grade in an especially important math class.
When the Stony Brook University undergraduate researcher got a C, she resolved to do whatever it took to bring the grade up.
“I was very worried about how it might affect my chances of being accepted into a PhD program straight from an undergraduate degree,” Elle said. “I decided to retake the class; I needed to prove to myself that I could do well in the course.”
With a fresh start, Elle earned an A, solidifying her knowledge and regaining her self-confidence along the way.
“Stony Brook challenged me in a variety of ways,” she said. “My most challenging courses humbled me and taught me different strategies for success.”
One of those strategies was to ask for help. And while many students are reluctant to seek extra help, Elle considers it a positive. “I think it’s a sign of strength because it’s a proactive way to improve.”
Driven by that philosophy, Elle happily attended the extra help sessions during the hours her professors designated to struggling students.
Growing up, Elle had a powerful role model in her veterinarian mother, so she always felt a strong identity as a female interested in STEM. Stony Brook bolstered her self-esteem by selecting her as a University Scholar, which comes with the responsibility of helping other students and the community at large.
And that responsibility helped Elle find her larger purpose. With rock-solid faith in her own mathematics and science abilities, she found rewarding excitement in becoming a volunteer Peer Tutor in these disciplines. This experience led to teaching assistant assignments in chemistry and the more she did this, the more she realized teaching was her true passion.
“I learned how to use guided-inquiry learning to help students develop their own understanding as opposed to delivering information in a pseudo-lecturing style. I also learned how important positive affirmations are. I knew that constructive criticism and asking questions would help students learn the material but I didn’t know just how strongly encouraging words and body language can affect students,” Elle said.
When she became a Lead Tutor, Elle not only learned how to teach but also how to help other students learn how to teach. She became active in the Tutoring Center, where she developed her skills in communication and delivering feedback.
“Obviously, tutoring students one-on-one is different than teaching a classroom of students, which I have yet to experience,” Elle said. “However, I can still use the skills I’ve learned in communicating content and supporting students as a graduate TA, instructor — and eventually — professor.”
Elle was so eager to begin her PhD program in Statistics at Penn State University that she moved to State College, Pennsylvania two days after graduating to begin part-time work as a tutor.
— Glenn Jochum