PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century

Susan B. Chaplin

F21 Class of 1994 Statements Revisited

Susan Chaplin

Sue Chaplin is Professor of Biology at University of St. Thomas.

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

Answer: Having achieved most of the goals that I set for myself 5 and 10 years ago, I find that I am restless and desire to move beyond my current position to one that has more challenges. However, having no desire to enter the administrative hierarchy (been there, done that) and move up that ladder, I am looking for a way that I can put my 33 years of experience in higher education and more specifically my 12 years of teaching introductory biology to freshman to good use. I suppose the major challenge for most senior level faculty (in both age and experience) is to stay vigorous and productive, to avoid cruising to retirement, and to keep up with the technology and the student culture. However, for me, personally, that isn't enough.

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

Answer: My dream position at this point in time would be one of two directions: Director of Undergraduate Studies administering special programs (e.g., Honors College), overseeing undergraduate research activities, fostering special events that feature collaborations of departments or faculty and students, etc.; OR Director of Faculty Development in charge of administering summer workshops, grants for faculty partnerships and small research projects, liaison for new faculty orientation, etc. These opportunities exist everywhere in the country, although I would prefer to stay near my grandchildren. I think it's important to leave a department in better shape than when you joined it, and our department is not quite there yet. .

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

Answer: I have said many times in many different forums that disciplinary walls (turf) needs to dissolve, so that faculty and their students from varied disciplines can collaborate on a project, and so that teaching science, technology, engineering, and technology can be integrated in the true way that we use to solve problems. This is happening on several fronts, as described in the most recent CUR Quarterly (June 2006), but the interdisciplinary approach is slow to catch on except at rather elite institutions. By 2016, I hope this approach has been adopted by more educators as a general approach to undergraduate science-math education, so that typical non-science/math majors leave college with better science knowledge and reasoning skills.