Seven formal and informal educators have been elected SENCER Leadership Fellows for their impressive and creative work in improving education for students and the public. The Fellows program recognizes members of the community interested in taking on more advanced involvement in more formal roles. Gillian Backus of Northern Virginia Community College, Rita Kranidis of Montgomery College, Karobi Moitra of Trinity Washington University, Anna Rozenboym of Kingsborough Community College, Herbert Schanker of the College of Staten Island, Davida Smyth of Mercy College, and Nellie Tsipoura of New Jersey Audubon will begin their 18-month fellowships on April 1st. Projects include the creation of online training modules, collaborations with environmental science classes on coastal data collection and analysis, a model course on antibiotic resistance, strengthening STEM/humanities partnerships, and the application of the SENCER approach to computer science.
Fellow nominations and applications are reviewed twice annually by the National Fellowship Board. To learn more about the program, please visit http://www.sencer.net/About/fellows.cfm.
Please continue reading to learn more about each Fellow’s experience and plans for the next eighteen months.
Northern Virginia Community College
Gillian Backus is a professor of biology at Northern Virginia Community College, Loudoun Campus where she teaches Anatomy and Physiology and Introductory Biology. As a member of a Faculty Learning Community, Gillian and several colleagues have developed a two-credit honors independent study that merges science and art, essentially turning STEM into STEAM. The course has now run twice with great success. She has seen firsthand the deep, meaningful learning that students own as a result of merging humanities with STEM, as well as the vital faculty professional development and collaborations that occur when experts cross disciplinary lines to work together. Gillian earned her Ph.D. in toxicology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She then moved to northern Virginia and participated as a Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academies of Science. Her fellowship placement at the Koshland Science Museum opened her eyes to the world of informal science education and allowed her to develop educational exhibit materials. Gillian then worked for the US EPA in Washington, D.C., evaluating chemical risk assessment. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke College with a biology major and French minor.
As a SENCER Leadership Fellow, Gillian would like to grow the opportunities for humanities and STEM faculty to meet each other, share ideas, and collaborate. A possible outcome is the creation of a forum for humanities and STEM faculty from multiple colleges within the metropolitan DC region to share their strengths and challenges in doing cross-disciplinary work, and to hear from students who have experienced learning in this way. She will expand her network of collaboration through visits to other campuses to observe work in the institutional context, and attendance and presentations at conferences. Gillian also intends to prepare at least one manuscript for publication in an academic journal to disseminate her work, gain feedback, and generate interest.
Professor and Director, Global Humanities
Rita Kranidis is professor of English and director of the Global Humanities Institute. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and women’s studies from Mount Holyoke College, a master’s in English from Long Island University’s C W Post Center and a PhD in English from Stony Brook University. She has extensive experience with faculty development programming and training curricula, as well as with supporting curriculum change such as general education revision, general education course certification, and syllabus revision. She has taught at Montgomery College since 2000 and has held a number of professional roles, including chair of the English Department, credit English program coordinator, and as Women’s Studies Campus Coordinator. She also created and led the Writing in the Disciplines Collegewide program at Montgomery, which won a national “Exemplary Program” award by the National Council for Teachers of English’s Two Year College Association. Her focus is on interdisciplinary studies and globalized curricula.
As a Fellow, Rita will initiate SENCER workshops at Montgomery College, offer information sessions, and share model syllabi with colleagues. She will bring SENCER principles to her College’s new Integrative Studies program and will research collaborations between STEM and the humanities with a global focus.
Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor, Biology
Trinity Washington University
Dr. Karobi Moitra is a Clare Boothe Luce assistant professor of molecular biology at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C. She received her PhD in zoology from the University of Burdwan in India. She trained in biochemistry and molecular biology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD and at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. She has received the Fellows Award for Research Excellence from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for her research that is centered on the role of ABC transporters in human disease and drug resistance. She has presented workshops on her pedagogy of storytelling in the classroom, podcasting and bioinformatics. Students in her classes do a photovoice project on community engagement involving addiction and disease.They have also created flyers and educational media to increase awareness of disease in the community. In a genome annotation project, students can discover new genes. This project can easily be applied to high school students and the general public as a community based project. She has also organized student symposia and poster sessions on pandemics and globalization and on GMO’s and gene patenting, and mentored students on projects based on sustainability, such as ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle,’ through which students designed and implemented recycling projects in the community.
As a Fellow, Karobi would like to develop course modules based on the principles of civic engagement and sustainability for teaching across disciplines and also help in developing material and workshops to educate faculty about SENCER concepts. She believes the approach brings the students closer to the community and engages them in active learning to help benefit society and instills within them a commitment to help society. She will be a contact point for faculty and will host a student poster symposium and event on SENCER at Trinity. Karobi will host group and individual workshops, mentor faculty, and create an online resource page with training modules. She plans to develop course materials in conjunction with other faculty and actively engage in promoting these materials across disciplines, institutions, and disciplinary communities.
Assistant Professor, Biology
Kingsborough Community College
Anna Rozenboym is an assistant professor in the department of biological sciences at Kingsborough Community College where she teaches Human Anatomy and Physiology courses geared towards students aspiring to enter allied health fields. Her educational background is in psychology and neuroscience with experience in both basic science and applied translational research. At this time in her career, she is focused on researching innovative pedagogy practices, student learning, engagement and motivation. Through incorporating civic engagement into science curricula, she hopes to make material learned in class relevant and useful to students with a goal to equip and empower them to become educated consumers of the healthcare industry as well as compassionate and expert health care providers.
As a Fellow, Anna will collaborate on regional events and other conferences, including the initiation of efforts to organize a campus-wide SENCER event centered on theory and practical examples of the approach. She will familiarize faculty in her department and across campus with her findings and experience conducting research, guide colleagues in applying the SENCER approach, and continue curricular redesign for additional courses. Several faculty members have requested use of Anna’s customized SENCER-SALG, which will enable the creation of a database to compare outcomes across institutions. Anna will continue and escalate research efforts and other scholarly activities such as publications and presentations.
Associate Professor, Computer Science
CUNY at the College of Staten Island
Herbert Schanker is an associate professor of computer science at College of Staten Island of the City University of New York (CUNY). He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from City College and was licensed in New York as a professional engineer. Herb’s areas of expertise are computer science, data communications and digital systems. He has been affiliated with ITT, European American Bank, Stony Brook University, New York Medical College, and Sequential Information Systems. At the College of Staten Island, he has taught all levels of computer science, engineering and technology subjects where he developed original courses in computers and data communications. Through his involvement with SENCER, he and his colleagues have improved learning and assessment and increased interest in computer science study. This has increased interest for the computer science survey course’s student body. He has previously served as the computer science’s department representative to the college-wide General Education Committee, where he has strongly promoted the importance of technology study for all majors.
During his fellowship, Herb will continue to work on upgrading the computer science general education technology multi-section course to continue to bring more real world relevance to enhance student learning. He will increase and improve class assessment. Student learning achievements will include data driven comparisons over semesters and gender. Herb will continue to enhance quantitative and mathematical reasoning and societal content in the general education technology course.
Associate Professor, Natural Sciences
Davida Smyth is an associate professor of natural sciences at Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, where she teaches Environmental Science, Microbiology, Genetics and Introductory Biology. She has been the program coordinator for the Biomedical Informatics Program at New York City College of Technology (NYCCT) and is currently an instructor of Bioinformatics at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. She is also the co-coordinator of READ—Reading Effectively Across the Disciplines—an initiative aimed at improving biology students’ reading skills through instruction in reading, faculty development, and peer led team learning. Davida has published extensively in the field of microbial epidemiology and has more than 20 original articles in peer-reviewed journals, and a book chapter. She is a member of the editorial board of BMC Infectious Diseases journal. She received her bachelor’s and PhD, both in microbiology, at the University of Dublin Trinity College in Ireland and her postdoctoral training at New York Medical College, the University of Mississippi Medical Centre, and New York University, where she maintains assistant research scientist status in the Skirball Institute of NYU Langone Medical Center. Her research focuses on the role of mobile DNA, biofilm production and antibiotic resistance in clinical and environmental strains of Staphylococci.
During her fellowship, Davida will integrate the SENCER ideals into introductory biology lecture courses by linking the course material to the global problem of sustainability in terms of food, water, climate and energy. She is devoted to undergraduate research. Since 2012, she has established new research projects in microbial ecology with her undergraduate student researchers. She studies the microbiome of the college campus and organism diversity of water sites in Brooklyn. She also plans to develop a SENCER model course focused on antibiotic resistance in Staphylococci and the role of human activities in driving it.
New Jersey Audubon
Nellie Tsipoura is a Senior Scientist at New Jersey Audubon and for the past twelve years has also been Director of Citizen Science, a position which has afforded her the opportunity to be involved in all three parts of the organization’s mission – conservation, research, and education. She guides people through science into making a deeper connection with wildlife and with the issues that relate to conservation as a civic concern. More recently, she, with Jay Kelly of Raritan Valley Community College, leads a SENCER-ISE Partnership Award to the two institutions to involve students and citizen scientists in forest conservation. Through her post in a conservation organization, Nellie is able to provide a wide spectrum of opportunities for more hands-on involvement of students and academic faculty alike.
During her fellowship, Nellie intends to apply the SENCER approach to curricula of environmental science classes through a collaboration at two institutions by involving faculty and students in activities related to obtaining the information that managers in coastal areas are currently missing. This data will help achieve increased resilience both for these natural systems and the neighboring communities in view of expected sea level rise. Collaborating with a non-profit conservation organization opens up many new ways for students to look at real-life situations and learn what scientific questions to ask and how to work through to find answers. Furthermore, as a scientist and educator outside of an academic setting, Nellie provides mentorship and learning situations that can lead to both deepening of scientific understanding and positive career and employment outcomes.
Photographs of Leadership Fellows courtesy of each Fellow, unless otherwise noted. Photograph of Anna Rozenboym by George Itzhak (2015), photograph of Herbert Schanker by Judith Schanker.