Heda in classroom

COLUMBUS, Miss.-- Demeia Pulliam considered quitting.

The junior at Aberdeen High School knew it would be a challenge to take the Human Anatomy & Physiology I (HuA&P) course in the dual-enrollment program at Mississippi University for Women. Taking the class and the lab online added to the anxiety Pulliam faced.

“Many times I thought about giving up because I didn’t believe in myself,” Pulliam said.

Dr. Ghanshyam Heda wouldn’t let Pulliam or any of the other 18 students give up. The W’s veteran professor of biology recognized students had trouble with a couple of his first tests and the virtual instruction, so he decided for a new approach. On Sept. 24, Heda visited the students at Aberdeen High to encourage them and to develop strategies for improving their performances.

“We discussed various course-related topics such as how to obtain and extract the key information from my PowerPoint lectures, where and how to obtain the additional help when needed, how to create a schedule and manage their time in preparing for the tests, grading policies, how to obtain additional help from The W’s peer-mentoring program as well as enjoying and appreciating this course and other topics,” said Heda, who acknowledged HuA&P is a relatively tough course and is primarily taken by students who pursue a major in health-related science such as nursing. “I hope my visit will help students to get more engaged with this and other college-level courses. I also hope this will boost their confidence in taking a college-level course.”

Bonnie Oppenheimer, the chair of The W’s Department of Sciences & Mathematics, credited Heda and Dr. Robert Sample, who is teaching the lab portion of the class, for their work with the Aberdeen High students. She said the pre-COVID-19 plan was for those students to come to The W campus so they could receive in-person instruction, but the pandemic forced The W to offer the dual-enrollment program entirely online. When that decision was made, Oppenheimer said a small group of students decided HuA&P would best fit their varied career goals.

Aberdeen High Principal Dr. Dana Bullard said the additional rigor of the dual-credit program overwhelmed some students and that she believed Dr. Heda’s face-to-face interaction with the students was very helpful.
“Dr. Heda has been instrumental in supporting the Aberdeen High School students,” said Bullard, who is in her second year at the school. “None of these students have participated in college courses.”

Bullard said Heda reached out when he realized the students were having difficulty downloading a lockdown browser for quizzes and tests. She said Heda agreed to allow faculty members at Aberdeen High to proctor the exam for him and that he offered to share his teaching material with the faculty members to serve as a liaison between him and students.

Bullard also plans to create an academic support group for the students with one of their science faculty members. She said the Aberdeen School District pays for the college courses and technology for the students. Students have to make the requisite score on the ACT to register to take college classes. Bullard said the Aberdeen School District is paying for the dual-credit enrollment instead of asking the families of the students to do so.

In addition to the HuA&P course, students at Aberdeen High also are taking English composition and psychology. Students from Heritage Academy, Starkville Academy and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Sciences also are taking dual-enrollment classes at The W.

She said the school would like to partner with institutions of higher learning to support its students as they transition out of the school and into the post-graduation world -- whether work or college – and looks forward to continuing the partnership with The W.

“Dr. Heda has gone beyond my expectations for a college professor,” Bullard said. “I am so grateful he is taking the extra time for our students. I know it will make a difference.”
Heda said his goal is to help the Aberdeen High students have a positive experience with their college-level course. He is willing to return to the school to help the students review the material prior to the final exam.

“I hope such interaction and encouragement can boost their confidence and enthusiasm for college preparedness,” said Heda, who is teaching a dual-enrollment class like this one for the first time. His visit to the school was the first time he went to a high school to encourage students with their college learning.

Pulliam is grateful for Heda’s support because she said it has boosted her confidence and convinced her she can complete the work.

“With a little extra effort, I feel any student is capable of taking these courses,” Pulliam said. “It’s all about hard work and determination. I am lucky I’m not in this alone. With the help of my peers, administrators and family I know I will be able to succeed!”

For more information about The W’s dual-enrollment classes, go to https://www.muw.edu/admissions/apply/dualenrollment.

Oct. 16, 2020
Contact: Adam Minichino
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