SENCER E-Newsletter, June 2004, Volume 3, Issue 1
SENCER Symposium VIII Held on Staten Island - By: Trace Jordan, Ph.D., Assistant Director
Foundations on Scientific Inquiry Program in the Morse Academic Plan, New York University
On June 3, 2004, Wagner College hosted the most recent SENCER Symposium. SENCER Symposia are designed to provide regional venues for bringing SENCER alumni together with those who are new to the SENCER project.
SENCER Symposium VIII was co-organized by Don Stearns from Wagner and Trace Jordan from New York University. We were delighted to have 14 enthusiastic participants in attendance from schools in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
The Symposium opened with welcoming remarks from Devorah Leiberman, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Wagner College. She addressed two reasons why some students tend to leave college early: not feeling connected to their interests and not feeling connected to faculty. These concerned have been creatively addressed at Wagner by establishing first year learning communities, where students examine an important issue by working closely with faculty members. This approach was seconded by David Burns, who remarked that a primary goal of SENCER is "to connect students to their interests."
Past participants at SENCER Summer Institutes provided updates about their campus projects:
- Kraig Steffen shared the success of the science faculty at Fairfield University, who recently passed a project plan to reform the core science courses for non-majors. This will involve identifying key educational goals that can infuse courses throughout the curriculum, with SENCER featured prominently as one of the organizing frameworks.
- Terry McGuire of Rutgers University discussed the reforms that he has implemented within an upper-level genetics course for biology majors. He has transformed his students' experience by introducing current events in every class and performing ongoing assessment throughout the course using 1-minute questions. As Terry remarked, "even biology majors often don't see how genetics relates to real life."
After lunch, we heard about project plans from attendees who are new to SENCER. As one example, Nancy Jacobson from Ithaca College is developing a new course on the theme of whales, which will include historical, literary, and ecological perspectives. Her colleague Edward Wallace plans to develop projects that focus on health and risks.
Joe Most of Bloomfield College described how his six-member team intends to "SENCERize" a series of Bloomfield courses relating them to local issues and civic challenges.
Representatives of Raritan Valley Community College considered strategies for improving transferability of science courses to New Jersey's four-year colleges. They also reported being interested in developing SENCER courses for students who do not anticipate going beyond an associate's degree.
The group also discussed how the current debate on grade inflation and the strategies colleges are adopting to reduce the number of students receiving high grades may be producing unintended consequences and thwarting goals to increase collaboration and teamwork.
In summary, we would like to thank everyone at Wagner College for their wonderful hospitality and we look forward to seeing the Symposium participants in San Jose in August.