PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century

Charles E. Umbanhower, Jr.

F21 Class of 1994 Statements Revisited

Charles E. Umbanhower, Jr.

Charles Umbanhower is Chair of Environmental Studies and Professor of Biology at St. Olaf College.

Question: What are the current challenges you are facing in your professional life?

Answer: My current challenges are the same challenges I faced in 1994, namely time management and balancing of different responsibilities and interests. My research program has expanded to include more students and many more collaborations with faculty at other institutions and this has included more research that needs to be done during the academic year. Teaching continues to be a first love and I continue to work on creating the time needed to innovate and change in my teaching. Finally, my responsibilities have grown to include a variety of administrative roles including department chair, search committees, new building planning and director of summer research.

Question: What do you view as your most promising options and opportunities for the future?

Answer: Many of the items that I list as challenges also represent opportunities. These include new and exciting research projects for my students that will arise from the different collaborations I am involved in, a continued push toward a more investigative approach to learning science, and the design of much more integrative (and "green") science building on our campus which will greatly facilitate student interdisciplinary learning and engagement in research. .

Question: What will undergraduate STEM be like in 2016, given the urgency of new challenges and opportunities facing our nation?

Answer: It is hard to predict what STEM education will be like in 2016, but the real challenge will be to encourage/ensure that a larger and increasingly diverse population of students engage in careers that involve science, math and engineering. Our "success" on a national level depends very much on funding that emphasizes (a) undergraduate education and undergraduate research, (b) STEM education at the K-12 level that connects to and encourages education at the undergraduate BA/BS level and beyond, and (c) connections beyond our national borders. How we do this will very much depend upon our ability to avoid the growing gap between haves and have nots. While this may involve how funds are distributed but it will also involve a willingness of "haves" institutions (through admissions policies, community outreach and incentives to Departments and faculty) to reach out to individuals and institutions that fall in the "have nots" categories.