PKAL Volume IV: What Works, What Matters, What Lasts

Responses to Making the Case: The Imperative of New Spaces for Science

Linking Renewal of Program & Space

  • We believe an argument crafted around the idea of interdisciplinary centers will be most effective. Such a center would focus on big, hairy problems at the regional level that require significant interdisciplinary teams to work on, as a way of bringing together critical masses of faculty from different disciplines. For example, obesity in the region or a study of coastal erosion. Such problems call for the input of the behavioral and natural scientists, statisticians and the like. Our case would be that by having programmatic opportunities for students and faculty to work on relevant interdisciplinary problems, we could attract a higher quality of student and have a significant impact on the quality of life in our region. So, this is a solution that could help make the case to trustees, our external constituency, our colleagues, and our students- present and future.

  • We want to talk to the trustees and senior administrative officers, to present the key message that scientific & quantitative literacy is a key component of any robust 21st century undergraduate education, whether it's a liberal arts education or something a little more focused. Because trustees tend to be a bit more concerned about the outcomes of education for graduates, the issue of scientific literacy strikes at the quality of the degree and the extent to which good jobs are had after graduation. Our case is that whether you're in business, medicine or a journalist and in order to be a good citizen as well, you need to be well rounded in the principles of science. Without good facilities that are keeping up with the times, scientific literacy for the entire campus simply will not evolve.

  • Our discussion was about how to make a convincing argument to the people who are outside of the sciences, perhaps using the argument that your students are my students and we all teach the same students, so the quality of all students affects all faculty.

    Our vision is of a new science facility being like a peacock's tail. If you know anything about evolutionary biology, you know that tail is the big signal that says "I have the best genes, chose me." It's an outward and visible sign of strength and good genes. We think the case could be made that a science facility can be the peacock's tail for a college or university- proclaiming that this institution is strong and that we want great students with great minds, regardless of what they plan to do. So focusing on students from the broad institutional perspective is a good way to help all our colleagues understand the benefit of new facilities for science for our community.

  • " Students and student learning was what we talked about, exploring issues that need to be at the heart of making the case, no matter who our audience. We began with considering what these new generations of students expect when they come to our campus. Most are digital natives; most are used to working in teams. How can we build from where they are to introduce them to how science poses, addresses, and resolves problems?

    Our sense is that STEM majors learn a different way of problem-solving than do their peers, and thus we wondered if that is a barrier between them and other students, as they come to realize they process and observe the world in different ways. Thus we thought it important to figure out how to encourage a broader community of students who are discovering together the process of doing science, to get majors in journalism, history, arts administration, and/or criminal justice involved in seeing how scientific/quantitative literacy is critical for them to succeed in a wide range of careers.

    We saw the process of planning and realizing new spaces as a way to make visible what's exciting about science in our world today- for our majors, for all our undergraduates, for the neighboring K-12 communities, and for the regional businesses and industries that are potential future employers of our graduates.

  • We were looking outside the campus for arguments that would help us make our case. First, we need data that illustrate the impact of spaces on student learning and faculty productivity as scholar/teacher. Then, with regard to either persuading other members of the college community or the board of trustees, we would cite some of the national reports like Rising Above the Gathering Storm from the National Research Council or the LEAP Report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The case we would make is that if our campus is not doing undergraduate science and technology education of the highest quality, with a focus on student learning outcomes, we would not be seen as an institution of distinction in the service of society.