PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century

Mary Kirchhoff

F21 Class of 1994 Statements Revisited

Mary Kirchhoff

Mary Kirchhoff is Acting Director of the American Chemical Society Education Division.

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

Answer: Setting priorities is a real challenge because there is so much to do in terms of chemical education. The American Chemical Society’s Education Division offers products and services for students and teachers from kindergarten through graduate school. Covering the educational spectrum is both exhilarating and exhausting! Given the emphasis on teacher training highlighted in such recent reports as Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, do we allocate more resources to teacher training programs? Do we expand our repertoire of curricular materials? There are no simple answers, but I often ask myself two questions regarding current and future programs: what is the impact and does it play to the strengths of the Education Division?

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

Answer: I believe that collaborations will be essential in advancing science education, and creating partnerships with other professional organizations, government agencies, foundations, and academic institutions is a tremendous opportunity for growth. Different organizations have different strengths, be it faculty development, K-12 education, or science policy. I believe that, collectively, organizations can be more effective by combining their strengths and learning from each other’s successes (and failures). Specific to ACS Education, programs focused on faculty development, graduate students, and two-year colleges are just a few areas where new opportunities would benefit the chemistry community.

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

Answer: I believe undergraduate STEM education will be more international in scope and that the role of technology in education will continue to expand. In part, the current sense of urgency arises from the growing influence of China and India. The investment that these countries are making in education is expected to cause a decline in the number of their students studying in the U.S., along with a decrease in the number of these students remaining in the U.S. upon completion of their studies. Consequently, a greater number of domestic students will need to pursue careers in science and engineering in order for the U.S. to remain competitive in the global market place. Fundamental changes in the teaching of science, particularly at the K-12 level, are needed if more students are to be attracted to these fields.