The WES program was started in 1993 to provide motivated students with an opportunity to study calculus in a challenging, friendly, multicultural environment. The math department offers several WES sections each semester, including sections in Math 171, 217, 221, 222, and 234. (Not all sections are offered every semester.)
WES sections are discussion sections attached to a large calculus lecture, but the WES section meets for more hours per week than do the regular discussion sections. A WES discussion section is generally more diverse than a regular section, and students work in small groups on challenging problems designed to foster high levels of understanding and interest. The class is led by a Teaching Assistant (TA) who has exhibited a passion for teaching; often the WES TAs receive awards recognizing their outstanding teaching abilities. The WES students also receive help and encouragement from undergraduate Student mentors; typically a Student Mentor is a former WES student.
WES students form bonds with each other, and with the TA and Student Mentor, and this provides many different sources of techniques for solving difficult problems. It also keeps enthusiasm high, which is necessary since the class requires time and effort. WES students do earn two extra credits in addition to the graded credits of calculus. Students co-enroll in calculus and math 228 (WES calculus supplement).
The WES section takes the same exams as everyone else in the lecture; thus, the WES section is covering standard calculus material at a standard pace. The difference is that the WES students spend more time on more difficult aspects of the topics covered. Consequently, the grades of the WES section are often the highest for the lecture, and often much higher than the lecture average. In the Spring of 2001, for example, WES sections reported GPAs of: 3.09, 3.29, 3.33, and 3.72.