2006 PKAL Leadership Seminar

Break-Out Session B

Kansas City, Missouri, November 17 - 19, 2006

What questions must be addressed in shaping programs that work? Who needs to be at the table as these programs evolve, are implemented and evaluated? What difference will/do these programs make and for whom? PKAL's strategies for shaping the future recognize that engaging 21st century students in a 21st century natural science community is key to drawing them into the study of STEM fields, to keeping them there and to motivating them to consider careers in related fields. Three PKAL Leadership Institutions present their story, describing how they addressed some of the questions posed above as they reshaped the future of STEM learning on their campus. A fourth break-out session discusses the roles and responsibilities of senior academic leaders.

Break-out Session B1: Interdisciplinary Programs
The St. Olaf College Story
Julie Legler- Associate Professor, Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, St. Olaf College
David Van Wylen- Associate Dean of Natural Sciences & Mathematics, Professor of Biology, St. Olaf College

This interactive session will use the St. Olaf story of becoming more interdisciplinary to facilitate a general conversation about the challenges and opportunities faced as campuses move in this direction.

By way of background, as recently as 10 years ago, a snapshot of the natural sciences and mathematics division at St. Olaf would have revealed a rather traditional educational approach to the teaching of science and mathematics. Departments were essentially autonomous units and there was little attempt to intentionally foster an interdisciplinary environment in the sciences. There were some meaningful collaborations across departments, but they were largely the result of individual initiative rather than part of a division wide vision for science and math education.

While there was not a defining moment when we decided to “go interdisciplinary,” there were several key factors that enabled us to move in this direction:

  • We articulated a desire for greater interdisciplinarity, named it as a priority, and established a vision for success.
  • We were mindful of the importance of rigorous disciplinary grounding and of the value of departmental affiliations as we launched our interdisciplinary ventures.
  • The College changed its administrative structure to a divisional dean approach where faculty members served as administrative leaders for their respective divisions; this created a leadership position for a person to think broadly about the wellbeing of the division as a whole.
  • Transformation was for the most part both “bottom-up” and “top-down.”
  • A commitment to an interdisciplinary perspective became fundamental to all new tenure-track hires.
  • Planning for new science/math facilities provided a synergistic boost: having a clear programmatic vision for interdisciplinarity informed building design, and knowing that we were designing an integrated building helped promote our interdisciplinary initiatives.

While we will highlight several interdisciplinary initiatives, attention will focus on our Center for Interdisciplinary Research, an NSF funded initiative that brings together undergraduate statistics students, statistics faculty, and post-doctoral associates to collaborate on statistical aspects of professional and undergraduate research with faculty, staff, and students from other departments on campus.

Break-out Session B2: Research-Rich Learning Environments
The Clark Atlanta University Story
Ishrat M. Khan- Professor of Chemistry, Clark Atlanta University
Dorcas Bowles- Vice President for Academic Affairs, Clark Atlanta University
Melvin R. Webb- Professor of Biology Clark Atlanta University

Clark Atlanta University has as its mission and has a recognized tract record in significantly impacting the serious under representation of minorities, particularly African Americans, in the sciences. This has been and is being accomplished by continually developing innovative ‘what works’ programmatic approaches to recruit and retain STEM students. One such program is the highly successful PRISM-D [Program for Research Integration and Support for Matriculation to the Doctorate]. At the heart and core of the PRISM-D is mentoring and research participation. Ninety-three (93%) percent of the students who enrolled in the PRISM-D program graduated with a BS degree … a phenomenal accomplishment. The PRISM-D program, which was started in 1990, changed the culture of the sciences at the institution; the different disciplines learned to work together to support the students in an environment which seamlessly integrated formal coursework and research.

As the institution moved into the 21st century, it became clear that the changing nature of science (Ah! the scientific renaissance of the 21st century) presented Clark Atlanta University with new opportunities to further innovate and develop programs to serve all students. In particular, the University is committed to developing scientific talent who understand multiple fields and is able to intelligently integrate them in real world situations of the 21st century. To this end the University has established the Center for Functional Nanoscale Materials as a National Science Foundation Center for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST). The Center’s programs have been designed with “the 21st century student” in mind. The Center’s programs are immersed in formal (and informal) mentoring and the liberal utilization of the most effective pedagogy i.e. research.

The programmatic approaches are specifically designed to meet the Center’s objectives which include:

  • mentoring and nurturing doctoral and predoctoral students in the physical sciences to insure their success and competitiveness.
  • strengthening existing partnerships and establishing new partnerships between the University and the K12 community, industry and other colleges and universities.
  • conducting cutting edge research with the objective of realizing the potential of nanotechnology and in the process improving the technological competitiveness of the Nation

The interconnectedness and interdependence among the Center’s objectives guided the design of the overall program.

CAU story tellers will engage the participants of the seminar in our latest transformation to serve all students. We think that our integration of undergraduate and graduate programs, and articulated connections with K12 and 2-year institutions makes ours a wonderful story.

Break-out Session B3: Ensuring the Success of All Students in STEM Fields
The CUNY-Brooklyn College Story
Louise Hainline- Dean for Research & Graduate Studies, CUNY-Brooklyn College

This case study will cover how Brooklyn College, a large, urban, public college and part of the larger CUNY system which has had a turbulent and politicized history over the last few decades, was able to get consensus from faculty and administration to move forward on two major projects. Both of the projects will have a significant impact on our institution arguably for decades, and both of which seemed on the surface to pose tremendous challenges and institutional resistance to improving our institution as a site for “Science for All”.

First was a significant revision of our celebrated but 25-year-old core curriculum. Our Core Curriculum contains a significant number of courses in science, mathematics and computing, including laboratory experience, and is the primary means by which non-scientists learn about the methods and content of science. As such, our Core is the linchpin for our efforts for “science for all”. The process to revise the core involved a great majority of academic departments on campus in an honest and deep analysis of the goals of general education at an institution such as ours, what was working with the old core and what needed serious change, and what different stakeholders would gain and lose from revision. The College had made sporadic, half-hearted attempts to get a Core Revision effort underway at several points in the past, but could never muster the energies to get over the initial barriers to change. What finally did it was a combined effort began in 2002 by sending a team lead by a dean to an Asheville conference on General Education to bring back what was happening in the larger world, and then having an administration that could step away from the process while a large grassroots contingent of faculty worked for several years inside and outside our governance process to craft a new curriculum which is being offered for the first time this fall.

The second project, still in its initial stages, is a multi-stage process for a renovation or reconstruction of a new science complex, several buildings in which all science teaching and research is done, so it is truly “science for all” in function. As our current buildings are a mix of the old and the dismal, this was clearly a very important project for the College to get right. An institution doesn’t get many chances to redo science buildings as they are most expensive building projects in higher education, particularly in urban areas like New York City. In 2002, a team of architectural consultants was hired to begin to help the faculty and administration think about the new building and to begin the process of getting CUNY and NYS commitment for the project. A team that represented the various science departments was assembled with a fast-track agenda that fall. The consultants began to ask a team assembled for the early stages of the project certain questions about our plans for the next 20 years that we really couldn’t answer, such as, “what would our general science education look like?” (see paragraph above); “how do you want to be teaching science to majors?”; “What kinds of research will your faculty and students be doing?”; “What’s your plan for hiring new faculty?” These were all good questions, but we quickly realized that we were not in a position to answer them. We dismissed the architects and looked at one another in panic. Our salvation was finding PKAL about that time, and sitting at the feet of facilities gurus and “those who had been there and returned to tell about it”, people who had done their own science facilities projects. Using a mixture of small faculty groups, mixed planning groups, large town hall meetings, departmental discussions, attendance at national meetings on science education and science facilities, and hallway conversations, all involving large numbers of faculty and key administrators, we worked for several years to write a consensus document representing our vision for science at the College. This document became the basis of the contract for a planning and science master plan process which begins this fall with the architect selected by the University. Where this will end we do not know, but we will tell you how we got this far.

Break-out Session B4: Leaders Developing Leaders
A facilitated discussion for Senior Academic Officers on what works in developing new leaders and a culture that supports leadership
Mark Hofmann- Associate Dean of the Faculty & Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, Skidmore College
Marlene Moore- Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences & Professor of Biology, University of Portland

Can leadership be taught? How do we build a culture that produces the next generation of leaders, or more specifically how do we cultivate the next generation of leaders? Using a case study approach, participants will explore the artistry of good coaching by coaching a change agent through a conflict situation. The case study is designed to address the following questions:

  • As an academic officer what can we do to encourage people to take on leadership roles? What is the difference between authority and leadership?
  • How can we encourage faculty to develop an institutional perspective?
  • What can we do to encourage people to be come involved in the college governance system? How do we enable them to take on the work of the group?
  • How should we reward good leadership in the college? Why lead?
  • How can we model good leadership for the rest of the community? How do we foster collective strength?

- A Conversation with Ronald Heifetz: Leadership without Easy Answers. By Joe Flower. The Healthcare Forum Journal, vol. 38, #44, July-August 1995. Online at: http://www.well.com/~bbear/heifetz.html
- Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World. By Sharon Daloz Parks, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 2005, 287 pp.
- The Tasks of Leadership. By John W. Gardner, Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts. Project Kaleidoscope.