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L.E.A.R.N.'s Focus is on Academic Achievement Through Mentoring & Community Building!


L.E.A.R.N.™ students have the opportunity to take part in a truly unique academic experience. In both the F-L.E.A.R.N. and T-L.E.A.R.N. cohorts, students participate in research apprenticeships, which engage students in hands-on, inquiry-based learning. The research opportunities are usually reserved for upper-level and graduate level students, and will try to match students in the scientific areas of study that interest them. L.E.A.R.N.™ students have the luxury to gain skills, knowledge, and expertise early on in their academic careers. These opportunities offer students the chance to build a pathway for future careers and post-graduate work. During their year in L.E.A.R.N. students will take at least two classes together-Introduction to Research (Part I) and Undergraduate Research in the Discipline (Part II). Part I in the fall semester will engage students in developing knowledge and skills in participating in professional research. L.E.A.R.N.™ students will use their time in their research apprenticeship to work on creating research proposals, and a corresponding research poster presentation. The two-part course in L.E.A.R.N. is designed to support and promote academic achievement and success in students, as well as emphasize the role that participatory research plays in their education and future careers.

2017 LEARN Students

2017-2018 LEARN

2016 Poster Winner

2016-2017 Poster Winner Cayley Johnson (left) with Student Research Mentor, Elizabeth Bollman


The L.E.A.R.N.™ community is designed to be an inclusive and supported community for the diverse learners participating in the program. A pillar of that design is to establish an integrated framework of mentors for the L.E.A.R.N.™ students. Our F-L.E.A.R.N. students will have a Residence Hall Advisor who is a STEM major, two dedicated STEM Peer Mentors, and a mentor apprentice team made up of an upper-level research student and a faculty researcher. Our T-L.E.A.R.N. students will have two dedicated Peer Mentors, knowledgeable about transfer transitions, and a mentor apprentice team made up of an upper-level research student and faculty researcher. In addition to the mentor staff, the L.E.A.R.N.™ program faculty and staff will be highly involved to support, monitor, and offer resources for success. The goal is for L.E.A.R.N.™ students to have several mentors and program specialists to assist with decisions and provide guidance throughout the first year, and beyond.

Are you a student-researcher looking to mentor in STEM?

Consider the L.E.A.R.N. Program! Get experience and research supply funding by mentoring first-year in college and transfer students through an undergraduate research experience.  Add to your resume and share your expertise to a fellow Catamount! 

Meet Our Mentors!

Aliyah Hastings, L.E.A.R.N. Resident Advisor



Charlotte, North Carolina
Research Interests, Projects, and/or Presentations
My research examines the relationship between varying amounts of nitric oxide exposed to cells and cellular survival due to that exposure.
Faculty Mentor
Dr. Heather Coan
Dr. Jamie Wallen
Career Interests
Enroll in a dual degree program getting a MD and Masters of Public Health.

Bailey Stillman, Transfer Peer Mentor


Kankakee, Illinois
Waxhaw, North Carolina

Research Interests, Projects, and/or Presentations
Ivestigating Cellular Automata
Faculty Mentor
Dr. Andrew Penland
Career Interests
Pursue a PHd in Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering

Savannah Mosteller, Transfer Peer Mentor


East Bend, North Carolina
Forensic Science, with a concentration in Chemistry
Research Interests, Projects, and/or Presentations
Forensic Chemistry
Presenter at 2018 Molecules in the Mountains
Western's Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP)
Faculty Mentor
Dr. Monjardez

Career Interests
Working for a forensic lab, in the lab as well as in the field.

JOnathan Mashburn, Freshmen Peer Mentor


Cullowhee, North Carolina
Electrical Engineering with Mathematics Minor
Research Interests, Projects, and/or Presentations
Electrical power usage and creating growth models to predict power usage
Machine Learning
Faculty Mentor
Dr. Andrew Penland
Career Interests
To work for an engineering firm and to be able to obtain my engineering license.

Dakota Little, freshmen peer mentor


Jefferson, North Carolina

Environmental Science/Biology

Research Interests, Projects, and/or Presentations
Water Hydrology in Relation to Headwater Catchments and Runoff Generation
Faculty Mentor
Dr. JP Gannon

Career Interests
Attend law school for environmental law, and run for public office. 



L.E.A.R.N.™ students work to build a strong community where everybody knows and can support each other. Our program encourages collaboration and connection. To promote this sense of community the program staff will design programs to offer students opportunity to get to know one another. Programs are facilitated by our peer mentors and resident advisor, and include activities like hiking, attending camus events, workshops, and potlucks (there's nothing quite like a meal to bring everyone together). In addition to what the L.E.A.R.N.™ program leaders will host, we encourage our L.E.A.R.N.™ students to get involved through other campus activities. For participating students, they receive a weekly newsletter and program calendar so they can get the most out of the university experience.

2017-2018 LEARN Students

LEARN Students at a WCU football game.

2017 Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

LEARN Studens making liquid nitrogen ice cream.

LEARN at Highlands

LEARN Students visiting Highlands Biological Station

L.E.A.R.N.™ Program Leaders:

Dr. William R. Kwochka
Associate Professor
Director of L.E.A.R.N.™
Department of Chemistry and Physics

Mrs. Kloo C. Hansen, M.A.
L.E.A.R.N.™ Coordinator
University Program Specialist
Office of the Provost

Mr. Ken Pfaff, MA.Ed.
L.E.A.R.N.™ Advisor
Academic Advisor
Western Carolina University


L.E.A.R.N. is sponsored by the National Science Foundation

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