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Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and “love is in the air”. Target in the village is stocked full of candy and it’s hard not to notice a slightly different vibe on campus. It’s only fitting that I harness this energy and write a love letter to someone special, in fact many special people: my SI leaders, aka the people of your DREAMS!. Supplemental Instruction (SI) is a free resource offered in many lower level USC STEM classes where upperclassmen who have taken the course and done well, attend lecture alongside you each day and then hold review sessions each week going over concepts, practicing problems, and answering your questions. 

Since I have had countless fantastic SI leaders over my last 4 semesters at USC, I simply could not pick just one to write this letter to, so I will instead write it to all of mine collectively.

These are 3 of the things I love most about my SI leaders:

1. They are incredibly knowledgeable

My SI leaders are probably the smartest people I know. In fact, many USC students, myself included, idolize SI leaders as the epitome of intelligence and success. It seems like there is no question they can not answer. My SI leaders have helped me through chemistry, math, and physics courses by providing additional practice problems that challenged me with difficult versions or tricks they had seen professors try on previous exams. They also explain the concepts in a way that is easier for students to understand. Although professors are extremely knowledgeable and are not intentionally trying to confuse their students, SI leaders know how to decode professor’s complicated and technical explanations and reexplain it in a way that is easier to understand. Who better to explain concepts to students than students themselves:)

2. They are our advocates

SI leaders serve as the link between the professor and their students. They have this direct pathway of communication straight to the source themselves and use it wisely to communicate with professors. My SI leaders have all been incredible about meeting with our professors weekly and talking about class material. They relay professor’s hints about what material will be focused on more heavily on the exams and then construct their practice problems accordingly. When exams are unfair, which they always seem to be 🙂 , SI leaders tell professors and in some cases have even convinced professors to throw out unfair questions. SI leaders care about us and want us to do well. They advocate to professors that we are working hard which is often the extra push we need to bridge the gap between professor and student. 

3. They are real students just like us

My SI leaders have been so much more than a second professor to me, they have been mentors, role models, and friends. During our weekly SI sessions, SI leaders have made the effort to know my name and get to know me. My chemistry SI, Jamie, is also a biomedical engineer and has become a mentor to me after spending 2 semesters as my chemistry SI. Jamie has given me advice on classes to take, scheduling tips, and also helped keep me sane in my quest to be both a biomedical engineer and pre-med student. Even though she is sadly not my SI anymore (thank god I am done with chemistry), we have remained friends and it is always so exciting to see her face on campus. In my first semester of freshman year when I was trying to adjust to the different teacher-student dynamic of college, Jamie was someone who reminded me that I was not just a face in the lecture hall, that my concerns and questions were valued. 

It is safe to say that without my SI leaders, I may still be taking Chem 105a and Calculus 3. Not only are they extremely bright but they make an effort to build relationships with their students, an art that is often lost in the structure of college education. I have a deep love and appreciation for them and think this program is one that makes USC special. In our big STEM “weed out” classes, we have people who are rooting for us to succeed and helping us along the way.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my SI leaders and to all of you! I will be treating myself to lots of chocolate this weekend as I study for my physics midterm next week! Can’t think of any better way to celebrate 🙂

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Natalie is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering. Click above to find out more!

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Natalie Kistler

Natalie Kistler

MAJOR: Biomedical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2022 HOMETOWN: Kansas City, Kansas PRONOUNS: she/her/hers