On January 23, 43 attendees from seven institutions gathered in the Ann Stuart Science Complex at Texas Woman’s University (TWU) for the SENCER Center for Innovation – Southwest spring regional meeting on civic engagement, undergraduate research, and sustainability.
Cynthia Maguire, M.S. (Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry Senior Lecturer, TWU) and Dr. Nasrin Mirsaleh-Kohan (Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry Assistant Professor of Physics, TWU) presided over the morning session on civic engagement and undergraduate research. The morning’s talks largely focused on how the SENCER method could be applied to a wide variety of chemistry courses, including courses with large enrollment (700+ students), general education courses for non-science majors, and advanced courses on instrumentation. The morning also included a poster session highlighting faculty and student work related to SENCER and undergraduate research, and a discussion of how research within the Lower Mississippi and Pearl River systems promotes science education, volunteerism, and civic engagement.
Drs. Richard Sheardy (Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry Professor and Chair, TWU; SCI-Southwest co-director) and Reid Bishop (Associate Professor of Chemistry, Belhaven University) presided over the afternoon program, which broadened beyond chemistry to address ways of incorporating sustainability across the curriculum. Topics covered by afternoon presenters included a departmental approach to adopting sustainability on Santa Clara University’s campus, the use of multimedia to engage students in civic issues, examples of sustainability in preK-12 and undergraduate non-science majors curricula, the creation of a sustainability certificate program at TWU, and an exploration of how civic engagement leads to learning that lasts.
SENCER leaders from across the U.S. presented at the meeting. Their presentations are summarized below. Links to slideshows of the presentations are provided where applicable:
- Dr. Joseph L. Kirsch (Department of Chemistry Professor, Butler University; SCI-Central Plains co-director) introduced SENCER philosophies and methods to meeting attendees.
- Dr. Garon C. Smith (Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry Professor, University of Montana) explained his “Trojan Horse model”, useful for incorporating SENCER Ideals into a pre-existing course, with no drastic redesign or approval logistics involved. Garon uses this model to incorporate civic issues such as cyanide heap leaching; pulp, paper, and vehicle emissions; and western wildfires and other particulate sources intoIntroduction to College Chemistry, a high-enrollment course. Click for slides.
- Dr. Douglas E. Latch (Department of Chemistry Associate Professor, Seattle University) discussed teaching Instrumental Analysis, an upper-level chemistry course with a typical enrollment of 10-20 junior and senior science majors, by focusing on ecological measurements of lead in soils, pesticides in water, terpenes in tree resins, and bisphenols in the environment.
- Dr. G. Reid Bishop (Department of Chemistry Associate Professor and Chair, Belhaven University) explained the values and challenges of research experiences in the undergraduate curriculum, and emphasized the importance of partnerships to the success of research and citizen science. Reid works with wildlife refuges, museums, higher education institutions, and private donors, among others, to study the Lower Mississippi and Pearl River systems with his students. Click for slides.
- Dr. Amy Shachter (Senior Associate Provost for Research and Faculty Affairs, Santa Clara University; SCI-West co-director) shared Santa Clara’s strategy for integrating sustainability themes across the curriculum. Santa Clara uses its Penstemon Project to help faculty outside the traditional, environmentally-focused disciplines to find ways to incorporate sustainability into their curricula, either as class content or in the way their class functions.
- Dr. Thomas C. Wood (Conservation Studies Associate Professor, George Mason University) and Dr. Julia Nord (Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences Term Associate Professor, George Mason University) discussed their experience team teaching Mysteries of Migration, a course that uses multimedia resources provided by KQED to engage students in the curriculum. Their slideshow and other materials will be released at the 2015 SENCER Summer Institute.
- Alana Presley Taylor (Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Student, University of North Texas) helped attendees think about incorporating sustainability into preK-12 education through her work with Denton Sustainable Schools, and into undergraduate education for non-science majors through experiential learning student engagement projects. Click for slides.
- Cynthia Maguire, M.S. (Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry Senior Lecturer, TWU), Dr. Jeffrey B. Robb (Department of History & Government Professor, TWU), and Dr. David Rylander (School of Management Professor, TWU) described how a certificate in sustainability was formed at TWU. A multidisciplinary, team-teaching approach is used in the certificate’s foundation course, and a civic project capstone follows after building block courses in various disciplines. Building block courses that count toward the certificate include such topics as environmental chemistry; human perspectives of climate change; natural disasters; the history, culture, and law of our national park system; water in a changing world; and entrepreneurial service learning. Click for slides.
- Dr. Stephen Carroll (Department of English Senior Lecturer, Santa Clara University) explored what learning is, asking attendees to write down their own definitions of learning, followed by a discussion about how durable learning results from civic engagement.