The mission of the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement (NCSCE) is to inspire, support, and disseminate campus-based science education reform strategies that strengthen learning and build civic accountability among students in colleges and universities. The Center will serve as a national resource for the improvement of undergraduate science education and will provide a platform enabling faculty and administrators to broaden the impact of their innovations and reforms beyond their campuses.
We – as a society, a nation, and a global community – need science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to understand and address the most important problems and questions of our time. But as individuals, communities, and countries, we are under-equipped with scientific knowledge and literacy; we have insufficient capacity to evaluate competing claims about serious public issues (such as the teaching of evolution and/or “intelligent design” in the schools, or the best ways to prevent further human suffering from the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS, or optimal strategies to manage regional transportation needs). While we have extraordinary resources with which students can study science, fewer and fewer are choosing to take full advantage of these opportunities. There are far too few Americans completing major study in the scientific fields. Equally, few non-majors elect to study any more science and mathematics than is minimally required despite the fact that we will depend on today’s students to use scientific methods, knowledge, and practices in their role as conscientious, effective citizens.
Given the “flattening” of the world’s economies, and the increasing ability of corporations and organizations to outsource intellectual labor, how can we, as an educated people, maintain our advantage? What improvements in teaching and learning can inspire, motivate, and sustain intellectual excellence among our students? How can we more effectively integrate K-12 and college education in ways that advance the interests of, and opportunities for, traditionally under-served and under-educated minorities?
These civic questions and goals shape the work and priorities of the Center. We need to retain, prepare, and graduate students who will be effective citizens – and to reduce the disparities that have limited the ability of women and minorities to achieve their educational and occupational goals. We need to maintain our nation’s educational advantage and to preserve and nurture its intellectual assets. To meet those goals, the Center emphasizes attention to students not only as future citizens but as contributors to the essential work of creating, applying, and disseminating knowledge.