published July 1, 2007

SENCER E-Newsletter, July 2007, Volume 6, Issue 10

Southern Connecticut State University Initiates Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science

Justin Burner, SENCER Intern

On March 16, 2007, the Connecticut State University System's Board of Trustees approved a proposal, prepared by DonnaJean Fredeen, for the establishment of a new Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science at Southern Connecticut State University.

Donna Jean Freeden

The new Center at SCSU identifies a need to improve interdisciplinary communication, teacher preparation, and interaction between the university and the K-12 institutions in New Haven. "The mission of the Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science is to foster outstanding teaching and research in the various fields of math and science through the enhancement of existing campus initiatives and through effective collaborations between math and science faculty in K-16, with the goal of increasing the number and quality of students pursuing careers in math and science."

Dr. Fredeen, the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, has served as chairperson and professor of chemistry, and will now act as coordinator for the Center. The goals of the Center relate to various aspects of the university's own mission statement and are fivefold: Improve the administration, facilities, and research infrastructure of the science disciplines; foster discussion for collaboration between teaching and research in math and science; improve New Haven's mathematics and science programs at the elementary and secondary levels; assist faculty in creating and reorganizing courses in line with the General Education Program; and create new programs to increase participation and interest, starting at an early age, among underrepresented groups (specifically women) in STEM education.

Writing grant proposals is a large factor in the initial plans to achieve these goals. In particular, a revised proposal for two state grants provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) will be submitted. The Center also plans to assist various departments with professional development workshops and outreach programs in New Haven's K-12 institutions. Space in the university's newly planned academic building will be utilized for internal, interdisciplinary development and research, a practice already seen in other institutions such as UCONN. In continuation with SCSU's involvement with NCSCE, the Center will assist in sending campus teams to the SENCER Summer Institute as well as organizing visits to the university by members of SENCER. Long term goals include further communication between STEM faculty and the State Department of Education regarding K-12 State Frameworks, and the preparation of a specialized M.S. in Science Education degree with a concentration in Elementary Science Education.

Already, the Center has helped find judges for the New Haven Science Fair and has done regional planning in New Haven for the American Chemical Society National Chemistry Olympiad. They also plan to work with the math department to coordinate SCSU's annual Mathematics Contest for the students of New Haven. The Physics Department at SCSU has been offering inquiry-based outreach initiatives in the elementary schools in New Haven, and the new Center plans to continue this trend by providing similar programs that allow K-12 students and faculty to experience university-level laboratory science environments.

Southern Connecticut State University has been associated with SENCER for some time. For the second year in a row, one of the new SENCER Model courses - Science on the Connecticut Coast: Investigations of an Urbanized Shoreline by Vincent Breslin and James Tait - comes from SCSU. Last year, Computer Ethics was contributed by Terrell Ward Bynum. The new Center will continue the University's association with SENCER, and David Burns, SENCER's PI, will serve on the Center's Advisory Board. We congratulate Dr. Fredeen and SCSU on the new Center and look forward to continued work with SCSU and their Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science.