SENCER E-Newsletter, August 2003, Volume 2, Issue 2
SENCER and General Education at Meredith - By: John Mecham
On the Meredith College campus and among other small liberal arts colleges and universities there is a lack of educational tools and methodologies that provide students with international, integrated, interactive and experiential learning opportunities in the sciences. Effective Fall 2003, Meredith College, the largest women's college in the southeast, will have a new General Education curriculum. Three required courses within the new curriculum have the potential to utilize the SENCER model. These requirements are: "Cultural Connections", "Global Perspectives", and "Science in Society."
As a result of attending SENCER Institute 2002, Janice Swab and I, of the Department of Biology and Health Sciences, and Carol Hayes of the Department of Art, have been working in several areas of collaboration and course development. This past year, two new courses were offered that incorporated the SENCER concept, Environments of Africa, taught by Janice and Art and Science: Photography, that Carol and I taught. In addition to the science content of the theory of chemical and digital photography, the Art and Science course had a major service learning component that required students to identify an individual or agency that could be linked with a scientifically or technologically defined societal need or problem. These would provide a photographic service that entailed provision for a meaningful opportunity for civic engagement, promoted cultural sensitivity and understanding, contextualized scientific knowledge through experiential, inquiry-based methods, and developed experiences
that propagate extended service and learning.
Twenty three students worked for 22 different organizations. We can group these agencies as focusing on 1) Health delivery or therapy, such as Helping Horses - Therapeutic Riding Program and Duke Children's Hospital; 2) Feeding the hungry, such as the North Carolina Food Bank and Meals on Wheels; 3) Environmental conservation/preservation, such as Umstead State Park and the Carnivore Preservation Trust; and, 4) Reproductive/STD education, such as Centro Para Familias Hispanas and the University of North Carolina Family Practice Center. In the student evaluation of the course, virtually every student had high praise for the significance and value of their service learning experience and over half of the students continued to do volunteer work for their agency after the course was over.
I have also been working this past year to form a consortium of colleges in the United States that will be a learning community with two or more institutions in Africa and the island nations of the Caribbean. The main focus of this learning community will be HIV/AIDS education. To date, individuals at seven U.S. institutions have agreed to be part of the consortium: Meredith College, Peace College, College of New Rochelle, and Bennett College, all of which are women's colleges (Bennett is also an HBCU); Morris College (another HBCU), North Carolina Wesleyan College, and a two -year institution, University of South Carolina at Sumter. Meredith College, the College of New Rochelle, North Carolina Wesleyan College, and USC-Sumter will have representatives attending the SENCER Institute 2003. The U.S. colleges will be developing courses such as Sub-Saharan Perspectives in Science that will involve the U.S. International University - Nairobi and other African universities; Islands: Symbiology, Sex, and Service with the University of West Indies (Jamaica) HIV/AIDS Response Program; and, Host Biology: Tropical Ecosystems and AIDS that will focus on "the great neglected" parasitic diseases as well as HIV/AIDS.
John A. Mecham is chairman of the Department of Biology and Health Sciences at Meredith College.