Occasional Paper I: What Works: A Research-Rich Environment

A Focus on the Context

Issues Raised:

Building strong undergraduate programs in science and mathematics is likely to be no more costly per degree produced than traditional approaches that result in high attrition.

Providing modest funding, on a matching basis, of some added costs of building and sustaining a strong undergraduate sector would be a cost-effective way for government and foundations to join in a new partnership with colleges and universities.

The undergraduate experience in the critical time to inspire the commitment of students to careers in science and mathematics, those who will become K-12 teachers, as well as those who will become corporate and civic leaders and professionals.

Discussions about the national context for undergraduate science and mathematics should always include the K-16 continuum.

Finding better indicators to predict success in graduate school would reduce dependence on the GRE√Ęs as a criterion for admission.

Moving from successful pilot projects to nation-wide reform could be facilitated by regional resource centers.

Publishers of educational materials should support the development of innovative course work.


Recognizing that an informed and supportive public is essential if we are to have an undergraduate science and mathematics community that serves the national purpose, we recommend:

  • Institutions and funding agencies work together to:
    • determine precisely what it will cost to build and sustain a strong undergraduate sector in science and mathematics
    • develop strategic priorities for allocation of financial resources
    • collect data on the impact of current reform efforts on individual students and campuses and use such data to determine a continuing national agenda for reform.
  • Professional societies endorse efforts of their members engaged in reforming undergraduate science and mathematics, and take the lead in supporting a renewed concept of the role of the teacher/scholar.
  • State policy makers and funders become active supporters of undergraduate science and mathematics reform.
  • Academic leaders, individually and collectively, take every appropriate opportunity to speak publicly about what works in strong undergraduate science and mathematics programs.