published November 1, 2006

SENCER E-Newsletter, November 2006, Volume 6, Issue 3

Findings from SSI 2006 Evaluation: Participants Predict SENCER Reforms Will Reach 50,000 Undergraduates

Participants predict that they will reach a large number of students with work initiated at SSI 2006 - over 50,000 undergraduate students during this academic year alone. Approximately 37,000 of those students are expected to be non-STEM majors. The number of undergraduates reached is not, however, the only population who will be touched by work emerging from SSI 2006. An estimated 1,300 graduate students will also be exposed to the SENCER ideals through teaching assistantships, instruction and upper-level courses. Courses developed or revised at the Institute will also be used to teach approximately 5,000 students enrolled in pre-service teacher education curricula, who will then be prepared to encourage civic engagement and interest in the STEM subjects in their students. The results, which respond to specific questions that the National Science Foundation requires, represent the responses of participants working on SENCER projects at 80 institutions. When tabulating results for institutions (as opposed to categories concerning individual faculty members), responses were checked so that only one set of numbers represented each institution.

In addition to team time and interactions with colleagues, which are traditionally areas that inspire new ideas and collaborations, much of the base for innovations emerged from attending plenary sessions and concurrent sessions. One participant commented that his team gained "a sense of purpose" during the time spent together at SSI 2006. Concurrent sessions offered a range of topics, strategies, and presenters - as core faculty, alumni, and a strong group of new participants presented on topics ranging across disciplines and pedagogies. Participants noted as a special benefit of attendance the community that encouraged. A participant new to SENCER left with "an understanding of the opportunities and boundaries for making progress on changing the culture of undergraduate science," and another gained "a fresh perspective and ideas about instructional problems, insight on active learning, a sense of shared challenges, and increased confidence." This year's SENCER community comprised:

  • Participants from 80 institutions

  • Four representatives from historically black colleges and universities, 7 from Hispanic serving institutions, and 26 from minority serving institutions

  • Faculty, administrators, students, and representatives from foundations and learned societies covering all disciplines - the STEM subjects as well as the humanities, social sciences, education, and visual arts

  • Participants from two-year colleges (33), four-year colleges (55), associate's colleges (6), baccalaureate colleges (20), master's college/universities (56), research universities (53), high schools (3), and other institutions (11) (n.b. - some participants chose more than one category)

  • Newcomers: 64% of Institute attendees had never been to a SSI before (and 86% of those new attendees cited increased interest in SENCER - 11.5% had the same level of interest)

Participants responded positively in general to the settings and general SENCER features of the Institute, such as the newsletter, the materials provided before, during, and after SSI, the website, and the resources available online connected to the Institute. Strong support of the SENCER project and a commitment to involvement in future activities was also expressed.

  • 81% of participants overall reported increased interest in SENCER after participating in SSI 2006, and 18% noted that they were as interested in SENCER as they were prior to the Institute

  • 86% of you responded favorably to the idea of a SENCER membership

  • A majority plans to be active in regional organizations over the next year by attending a regional meeting (68%). Many expressed willingness to host meetings, present sessions or posters, and publicize SENCER regional activities to colleagues on campus who have not previously attended a SENCER function (58%).

We also collected valuable information on the future direction of the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement and SENCER. This feedback will be helpful to us as we prepare an application for continued funding from the National Science Foundation in early January and plan our activities for the year. The greatest interest was expressed for developing new models, introducing a searchable database, strengthening regional organizations, and offering mid-year SENCER events. These are part of our plans for the coming year. Faculty are encouraged to develop or recommend a model course, apply to attend the Capitol Hill Symposium and Poster Session, organize a regional meeting, and check the SENCER website regularly.

SSI Response Pie Chart

As announced in the October issue of the e-Newsletter, we had a 100% return on the SSI 2006 evaluations from eligible participants and faculty/staff! We are grateful to SSI participants for helping us reach this response rate. If you have any comments about our programs and/or the Institute that you haven't yet conveyed to us, please email them to or contact our National Office at (202) 483-4600.