PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century

Daniel Wright

F21 Class of 1994 Statements Revisited

Daniel Wright is Associate Professor of Chemistry at Elon University.

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

Answer: Balance is always an issue - balance between family committments and work, balance between teaching and research, balance between teaching and administrative tasks. A secondary challenge is now entering my life is the desire to switch research interests. I am much more interested in how I teach and how students learn and plan to develop more projects in the Scholarship of Teaching area. Though these ideas are well supported at Elon, I am finding the learning curve to be high.

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

Answer: My passion has always been classroom teaching. I am glad to be back in the classroom after a seven year stint as Honors Program Director. I saw my interests in chemistry expand to areas not necessarily mainstream in our curriculum. For instance, I am excited about the connection between art and chemistry. I would like to develop these interests into topics in both classroom and laboratory settings. These new interests may also prove to be areas that I can pursue in the Scholarship of Teaching.

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

Answer: Without a doubt I see undergraduate education pursuing two tracks - one for the general audience and one for training new scientists. The "general audience" needs to be convinced that science plays a role in their lives and is worth learning. This can be accomplished by teaching through connections to other disciplines that students are more familiar with/less afraid of/excited about - connections to art, crime, business, or the environment. In addition, these connections cannot simply be a dressing to teach a technical science course. They must provide a system to utilize a student's talents and interests while learning the necessary science. The track for training new scientists will rely less on the historical development of material. Students need to be exposed to problems that require creativity and logic earlier in their curriculum and then be challenged to continue to more complex problems.