published September 5, 2013

Four Newly Elected Leadership Fellows Plan Interdisciplinary Linkages, Increased Dissemination

Danielle Kraus Tarka, NCSCE
danielle.kraus@ncsce.net


The four newly elected SENCER Leadership Fellows bring diverse perspectives, experiences, and goals to the program. Dr. Steven Christenson (Brigham Young University), Dr. George Middendorf (Howard University), Dr. Liana Tsenova (New York City College of Technology), and Dr. Winnie Yu (Southern Connecticut State University) were formally recognized for their achievements during the 2013 SENCER Summer Institute at Santa Clara University.


Of the new Fellows, Dr. David Ferguson, chair of the National Fellowship Board, noted, "Through their prior work, the new Leadership Fellows have already been successful in their use of civic engagement to enhance STEM education. They have developed exciting plans for furthering their work to benefit their institutions, their local regions, and the broader SENCER community. These leadership fellows will be a tremendous resource to NCSCE as it greatly expands both its national reach into all types of academic institutions and its engagement in STEM education and policy."


The new Leadership Fellows' goals include filling the gaps of resources for linking science and public policy; developing interdisciplinary curricula that connect mathematics, marine biology, and chemistry; strengthening professional development; disseminating results to campuses and associations; and creating computer science applications that engage students and are relevant to job market demands.

We invite you to continue reading to learn more about each new Fellow's past involvement in SENCER and their plans for the next eighteen months.

If you are interested in becoming a Leadership Fellow or in nominating a colleague for the honor, please visit the SENCER website for more information. The deadline for fall 2013 application and nomination considerations is October 15.

Steven Christenson
Associate Professor of Biology, Brigham Young University – Idaho

Dr. Steven Christenson, associate professor of biology, has been involved with SENCER for several years. He has organized teams from BYU-Idaho, and is a member of the SCEWestNet Pioneer node. From 2007 to 2010, he served as the development team lead for a SENCER-aligned general education course focusing on DNA and issues in biotechnology. Dr. Christenson coordinated two SENCER site visits to BYU-Idaho, including one in 2012 during which David Burns, Gary Booth, and Garon Smith served as a review panel for BYU-Idaho's nascent science foundations program. The latter is an offering of interdisciplinary, issues-based courses designed to meet general science requirements.


During his fellowship, Dr. Christenson hopes to have the opportunity for closer interaction with outstanding educators and innovators, and a greater opportunity to share SENCER ideals and resources both on and off my own campus. He plans to encourage colleagues to submit courses for consideration as SENCER Models. Steven will promote associations between SENCER and other organizations, including the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT). He will continue to ponder and revise his approach to teaching and curriculum design. These activities will include the development and implementation of SALG activities for his teaching team and the use of the data to inform and modify teaching practices. Findings and results will be shared at the BYU-Idaho annual faculty development workshop, and possibly at national NABT meetings.

George Middendorf
Professor of Biology, Howard University

Dr. Middendorf first became involved with SENCER about a decade ago, and since then has implemented the SENCER approach in the development of four interdisciplinary courses. Science and Public Policy was the first team-taught, interdisciplinary course at Howard. The other three courses are Environmental Studies III; Katrina, an interdisciplinary examination of an unnatural disaster; and Food, an interdisciplinary examination of the relationships of biology, history and sociology. Each course utilized concepts promulgated by SENCER, e.g. inclusion of components connecting course topics to issues of critical local, national, and global importance. Environmental Studies intertwines a traditional ES approach with consideration of environmental justice issues. The Katrina course uses a multi-disciplinary approach to understand the causes and impacts of Hurricane Katrina on the New Orleans region and peoples. The Food course examines the historical role of foods and spices on exploration and colonization, the biology of food preparation and food safety, and the sociology of consumption and self-image. In recognition of his efforts, he received the university Inspirational Interdisciplinary Project Award.

In addition to the interests mentioned above, Dr. Middendorf is also involved in two other activities that lend themselves to and would benefit from SENCER interaction. He is leading the examination and updating of the biology curriculum, a major component of which involves consideration of development of interdisciplinary courses with chemistry, engineering, psychology, etc. Secondly, collaborators in a number of other disciplines are engaged in developing an ethical model to facilitate research university involvement in sustainable development. Both provide interesting opportunities for the development and implementation of new, SENCER-focused courses at Howard, e.g. implementation of an interdisciplinary component to the biology curriculum and development of either new courses or modification of existing courses that include a SENCER component linking courses and course topics to critical local, national, and global issues. He also plans to address the lack of interdisciplinary, undergraduate directed texts on the intersection of science and public policy.

Liana Tsenova
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, New York City College of Technology

Dr. Tsenova has been involved with SENCER since 2009, and since then has implemented the ideals in teaching, mentoring undergraduate student research, and designing several interdisciplinary collaborative projects for students, which have provided the opportunity to conduct research, perform scientific and mathematical analyses, and discuss civic issues. These projects have helped students to better understand the complex interaction between microbiology, epidemiology, and mathematics needed to resolve current public health problems. The Emerging and Honors Scholars Program at City Tech provides an excellent platform for students to get engaged in research. In collaboration with the mathematics department, students investigated the etiology, transmission, symptoms, treatment and prevention of swine flu, focusing on the epidemiology in the US and worldwide. Next, they developed a simulation computational model for the spread of swine flu pandemic. At the end of the semester students summarize and present their work at a poster session, making it available for the whole college community. In fall 2012, one of Dr. Tsenova's students also presented a project at the 2012 ABRCMS entitled "A Simulation Model for the Spread of Swine Flu Pandemic."


During her fellowship, Dr. Tsenova plans to disseminate wider the SENCER ideas not only among students, but also among colleagues. The Hudson River Biodiversity Project aims to increase the participation and performance of students in STEM by promoting the interdisciplinary teaching and learning of mathematics, marine biology, and chemistry among undergraduates. Five faculty members new to SENCER will be involved in the project. Currently, the School of Arts and Sciences at City Tech does not offer any interdisciplinary SENCER courses. Dr. Tsenova will design and develop such courses, following the spine model of the US Military Academy. She also plans to host a regional conference at City Tech, and to submit documentation of course results for publication in Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal.


Winnie Yu
Professor of Computer Science, Southern Connecticut State University

Dr. Winnie Yu has been a full-time faculty member of the computer science department at
Southern Connecticut State University since 1985. Her research interests include college student retention, STEM education, broadening female participation in computing, and in integrating social and psychological approaches to enhance learning. Dr. Yu also served as department chairperson from 1998 to 2010. Among her accomplishments were gaining the initial ABET accreditation of the computer science general undergraduate program and obtaining state approval of the M.S. in computer science graduate program. She was also the driving force in integrating a technological fluency component in the university's new Liberal Education Program. In her work, Dr. Yu seeks opportunities to put learning theories into practice to create the context for significant learning in science and technology. Building relationships, developing esprit de corps among her peers, and fostering her students to learn and thrive are her most important commitments.


Dr. Yu has a strong interest in promoting STEM in higher education, particularly within the field of technology and computer science. Dr. Yu believes that the big gap between job market demands and student interest in STEM can be, to a great extent, explained by the lack of social and civic engagement in the curriculum. In addition to pedagogical improvement in teaching and learning, SENCER principles can provide a solid foundation to build student engagement. During her fellowship, is her hope to make a difference in increasing student engagement, involvement and success in STEM. Dr. Yu is also a newly appointed Co-Director for the SENCER Center for Innovation-New England.