Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience: A brief history of our networks and goals

Julio J. Ramirez
R. Stuart Dickson Professor of Psychology, Davidson College
Founder of Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN)

Networking within the undergraduate neuroscience community got its official start in 1991 when the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) was founded. FUN provided the first national infrastructure wherein issues specifically dealing with undergraduate education in neuroscience could be addressed. An immediate goal of FUN was to create working relationships with the two major organizations representing the interests of the neuroscience community: the Society for Neuroscience and the Association of Neuroscience Departments and Programs. By 1992 FUN had forged excellent relationships with these two organizations resulting in major outcomes: (a) the Society for Neuroscience provides accommodations for the FUN socials held at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience; and (b) the Association of Neuroscience Departments and Programs has made FUN a permanent agenda item on its annual Executive Board meeting. FUN established one of its most important relationships when it began collaborating in 1994 with Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) on workshops aimed at education reform. As a consequence of the PKAL connection, FUN held three national workshops (1995 at Davidson College; 1998 at Oberlin College; 2001 at Trinity College) providing neuroscientists with the opportunity to create "Four Blueprints" for undergraduate neuroscience education, to share "Programs That Work," and to explore discovery-based learning in laboratory courses. Our biggest challenges during the last ten years have included: (a) persuading the Society for Neuroscience that issues relevant to undergraduate education were important to the life of our discipline; (b) maintaining the momentum to attain FUN's goals as the leadership structure was being reorganized; and (c) raising the funds to enable FUN's continued support of undergraduate travel awards to the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. These challenges remain with us as we look to the next ten years. In the future, our efforts to network with other organizations will continue as we broaden our contacts with federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Our goals also include the creation of on-line resources for sharing exciting and innovative laboratory exercises (the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education) as well as supporting the creation of regional meetings focused on undergraduate neuroscience research.