Keck/PKAL Reports: Background and Recommendations from Selected Visits

A Chemistry Department's Desire to Increase Visibility: Ways to Increase Chemistry Majors on Today's Campuses
The chemistry department at this liberal arts college in the southwest has been recognized for its continual pursuit of excellence. However, the department wants to increase the visibility of and enrollment in the department. Several steps were identified that will contribute to and add to the success of the department.

A Chemistry Department Confronting New Opportunities and Challenges
The renowned chemistry department at this liberal arts college requested the advice of consultants in the context of confronting a major opportunity: the institutional move from the trimester to the semester system. Their concerns for curricular development in this time of change focused primarily on maintaining and enhancing the research-rich culture of the department for both majors and non-majors as they considered the allocation and reallocation of faculty time. The consultant recommendations and institutional responses follow.

A New Biology Major - Curricular Improvements in the Heartland
The biology department at this small liberal arts college in the heartland had done considerable planning with respect to their relatively new biology major. However, further curricular improvements will make the major more fulfilling for students. Consultants identified the following key areas where improvements are needed.

Advice and Counsel at an Early Stage of Facilities Planning
On this campus, the Keck/PKAL consultants recognized that the community had moved too quickly to consider new facilities. They recommended a significant ‘step-back’ from thinking about spaces and suggested that a first step in the process of successful facilities planning was to have a broad consensus on goals.

Collaboration Across Departments to Enhance Curriculum
This small, faith-based, liberal arts college in the midwest wants to improve the curriculum in their science departments. They realized that success begins with collaboration between the departments. Collaboration begins at the student level and proceeds to the curricular level.

Constructing New Facilities - One Step at a Time
The president of this small, private, mid-Atlantic college requested the consulting team come to campus to help a standing committee determine whether the current science building could be renovated or a new facility is needed. The team determined a phased project–one in which additions to the existing structure are completed as funding is made available–suited the needs of the college. They also made design recommendations for the future facility.

Creating a New Science Program: Ensuring Adoption and Success
This small, faith-based college in the midwest is interested in raising awareness of and support for the creation of a new science program. Specifically the team was charged with evaluating and developing plans for the implementation of the program as well as curriculum and faculty development.

Dealing with Differences
This southern college was at a point of transition. Enrollments in the science division were growing rapidly, and the strengths in science were seen as a driver for admissions. Faculty understood the changing career prospects for their graduates and the need to prepare students for those careers. They were also becoming aware that science literacy– serving non-science majors– needed to be incorporated more fully into the program. Yet conversations about the future of the science program, in the context of considering the future of the campus, were not happening because of a lacuna in leadership.

Developing Curricular Requirements for the Future
This small, eastern, liberal arts college wanted the team to evaluate the curricular requirements of their natural science programs. Many recommendations were given to advise the college on how to improve their science course offerings.

Don't Drown Students with Details: A Psychology Department's Transformation
This public institution in the northwest requested an evaluation of their psychology department. It was determined that the department should focus on breadth rather than depth (a shift from what they have done in the past). The consultants felt undergraduate psychology students would benefit from increased exposure to many aspects of psychology. It is believed graduates of the program will be more well-rounded following this revision.

Empower Program Leaders and Faculty.
This public university in the south has been offering an interdisciplinary environmental science major for over twenty five years. However, course offerings depend on the voluntary contributions of faculty from different departments because there are no faculty lines dedicated to environmental science. The anticipated retirement of many of these contributing faculty has led to discussions about staffing for the future. These discussions have been college-wide, recognizing the opportunity to reconfigure the environmental science program in ways that create a more sustainable program that adds to the distinctiveness of the institution. The primary request to the consultants was for advice on staffing, governance, and resource decisions to be made toward that end.

How to Embrace Technology
At this private, four-year institution in the midwest, it was determined that investing in technology was needed for success. Investment in technology is required to sustain science departments in today's ever-changing world. This institution needed to embrace the technological revolution in order to remain relevant and exciting to students. Implementation of the following recommendations will enable them to join the ranks of institutions with outstanding natural science departments.

Implementing Institution-Wide Interdisciplinary Programs
A few faculty from this urban state-funded university developed an integrated science and math curriculum, but the university wishes to scale-up this program beyond the original core of innovators. The consulting team was asked to identify strategies to help these faculty implement a university-wide program.

Improving Biology Curriculum
The president of this mid-western university wanted a review of the curriculum of the biology department. Although the department has been on the leading end of innovations on campus, the president wanted to find ways that the program could continue to flourish by focusing on curricular issues.

Interdisciplinary Programs Across Multiple Campuses
At this community college in the southeast classes are distributed between distinct campuses. Success with a model project that integrated freshman level science and mathematics courses prompted the president to ask a team to help his faculty find ways to expand interdisciplinary opportunities to every campus.

Invest in Faculty
The science and mathematics faculty at this mid-western liberal arts campus had made significant progress in revising and strengthening introductory courses, given general agreement about the value of an inquiry-based learning environment for students. With several new additions to the faculty and with growing interest in building research connections to local industries, divisional faculty were looking for validation of current efforts. They recognized that this was an opportune time to take stock before developing plans for the future, in part because there was not a faculty culture of risk-taking and thinking boldly about new opportunities and possibilities.

New Facilities for Community Colleges
The consulting team was invited by the chair of natural sciences to review the need for new science facilities at this community college in the southwest. The college has a history of providing training in technical areas. However, the transfer of students to baccalaureate campuses will become a prominent part of their mission as more students attend community colleges for their first two years of study.

Not Ready for Construction? Take These Steps First
There are many ways to improve an undergraduate science program. Upgrading scientific equipment, changing pedagogy, engaging in faculty development, providing summer research opportunities and renovating or enlarging facilities all play an important role in program development. The consultants that visited this midwestern college agreed that the college will need to renovate and add to its existing science facility to establish a top-notch program. But they emphasized that a full-fledged building program is not the immediate next step for this department; the institution must take several preliminary steps before moving to facility construction.

Planning an Addition to an Existing Facility
This private university in the south is ready to begin the planning process for renovating and constructing an addition to the existing bioscience facility. Several planning stages must be passed through before construction can begin, but the consultant team agreed the university is ready to begin the process.

Preliminary Steps for Facility Renovation
This small, midwestern liberal arts college wishes to renovate their current science facility, but they need assistance in planning for new spaces. The college wishes to renovate the science hall that houses the biology, chemistry, math, computer science and physics departments.

Re-creating a Successful Biology Program
Consultants were asked to evaluate the biology program at this private institution in the northeast. They evaluated core course requirements, upper-level courses, assessment tools for student learning, and the over-arching goals for biology majors in the program. The following recommendations will enable the institution to produce successful graduates that have many career options following graduation.

Ready for Facility Construction? Develop an Institutional Vision
This private, liberal arts college located in the northeast revised their science curriculum with success. Now, they wish to construct state-of-the-art facilities to complement their curricular revisions. They realized the construction process begins with coordinated planning efforts and faculty collaboration.

Scaling-up a Successful Pilot Program for Non-Majors
A consultant team was invited to this public university in the southeast to help identify the institutional changes needed to scale-up the implementation of a pilot science course for non-majors. The issue was not how to design an effective course, as a grant-funded course development effort was quite successful. The campus community, however, was concerned about how to take the next steps regarding staffing and logistics for building a strong interdisciplinary program that serves all students.

Successful Programs Require Exceptional Faculty
The science division chair at a private liberal arts college in the southeast sought advice on plans to expand and strengthen program offerings in the sciences, as well as those relating to proposed interdisciplinary programs. They discovered strengthening the program requires successful faculty recruitment and development.

Support Scholarly Activity More Directly
This midwestern institution has a relatively young faculty, given retirements and an expanding program. It has an unusually clear and well-articulated sense of mission and a sound strategy. They asked the consultants how faculty could do more– engage in more interdisciplinary interactions, involve students in undergraduate research, serve the needs of the growing minority student population– given current constraints and expectations.

The Basics of Facility Construction
This small college on the west coast wishes to construct a new science facility. The consultants concluded that the college should develop comprehensive plans, establish working relationships within the campus and between the campus and the surrounding community, design the facility to accommodate trends in science education and adequately prepare to finance this large-scale project.

Start with a focus on student learning
On this campus, the Keck/PKAL consultans recognized that the community had moved too quickly to consider new facilities. They recommended a significant ‘step-back’ from thinking about spaces and suggested that a first step in the process of successful facilities planning was to have a broad consensus on goals.