ACSAT faculty explore avenues to enrich learning culture
At the REALISE Kick-off and Expo, the Artis College of Science and Technology (ACSAT) launched an ambitious program on Aug. 25 in the SELU Conservancy Barn.
Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill joined more than 50 ACSAT faculty, guests and administrators to begin the five-year inclusive excellence initiative that is the result of a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) - the largest private, nonprofit supporter of science education in the United States.
“This collaborative program will ensure that more students have success. You will help Radford fulfill our vision,” President Hemphill said. “Your efforts show the university community uniting. I commend the bold thinking and innovative teaching that will come.”
Radford University is just one of two higher education institutions in Virginia to be selected to the prestigious HHMI Inclusive Excellence program to increase the capacity of colleges and universities to engage all students in successful science practices. The initiative targets undergraduates who enter four-year institutions via non-traditional pathways.
The HHMI considered pre-proposals from 511 schools from across the United States. Over multiple stages of peer-review by scientists and science educators, HHMI identified Radford as one of 24 schools nationwide for an Inclusive Excellence 2017 award.
Radford’s program is titled "REALising Inclusive Science Excellence" (REALISE.) The ongoing multidimensional effort will enhance Radford’s learning environment to make it more student-ready, welcoming and inclusive.
“REALISE takes a large, holistic approach to inclusive excellence by which we hope to affect our students, faculty, curriculum and the institution,” said Associate Professor of Biology and REALISE Program Manager Tara Phelps-Durr.
Phelps-Durr and the REALISE leadership team of ACSAT Dean Orion Rogers, Assistant Provost for Academic Programs Jeanne Mekolichick and Professor of Biology Jeremy Wojdak, will focus Radford’s efforts on enhancing introductory-level courses that introduce students early on to STEM fields, piquing interest and directing students toward related career options.
Central to the project is further integration of the university's maker program into entry-level biology, chemistry, physics and other science courses. REALISE will support the burgeoning makers movement by providing increased time for faculty to develop discipline-specific making projects.
To round out REALISE’s efforts, current and prospective students will also benefit from the peer role-modeling aspect of the program it will enable.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Graham Glynn outlined part of the challenge which the program is set to address.
“Too often, students get the impression that it has all been discovered,” Glynn said. “We need to share with them the excitement about the lack of boundaries for the future. Project and research-based teaching does that.”
To open the daylong event, Rogers said, “We have an extraordinary opportunity . . . and an extraordinary responsibility to both our students and our faculty.”