PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century

Christopher E. Rohlman

F21 Class of 1994 Statements Revisited

Chris Rohlman is Associate Professor of Chemistry at Albion College.

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

Answer: Beginning my sixteenth year I face the challenge of building and sharing a vision of an active collaborative student-faculty research group as well as an integrated science and mathematics community at Albion College. I still possess a good measure of the optimism I had eleven years ago, tempered by the experience of difficult challenges we have all faced. So when I come to discussions with colleagues at Albion or with a broader STEM community, I find I work hardest at encouraging us to strive for the potential I know is possible, given the long list of STEM communities that have embraced "What works" over the past decade and a half. At the same time I know that the current reality presents a number of challenges for institutions and individual faculty who are striving to develop as teacher-scholars. How do I and my colleagues remain engaged and enthusiastic partners in this effort? Can I be as effective a mentor as those village elders that guided me over a decade ago?

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

Answer: Albion College has completed a new science complex that brings together the science and mathematics faculty as a single community. The guiding principle for the design and implementation of the plan is "Science for All" Albion College students and the community beyond the college. The teaching and research environments are all that I could have hoped for. There is a core of faculty that want to realize the potential of this facility and embrace the interdisciplinary nature of science. I am part of a regional group of researchers in my field and have formed a collaboration with a colleague at a neighboring university which will progress over the next several years. Molecular life sciences are one of the most rapidly developing areas, and the opportunity to share those advances with my students in the laboratory and classroom is very exciting. .

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

Answer: Undergraduate STEM has the dual mission of helping produce the future inventors and investigators, as well as informing and educating those that will utilize those discoveries. The core of STEM curricula have been focused on the production of professional scientists and engineers. While this is essential to the vitality of our nation, it still sets the sciences apart from the majority of Americans. This continues even though science and technology are integral to their daily lives. Many of the most challenging ethical and policy decisions hinge upon an understanding of fundamental scientific advances. Over the next decade, undergraduate STEM must develop a curriculum that integrates learning of both the scientist and non-scientist, and asks them to work together, developing the critical thinking and communication skills needed to understand and address these new challenges.