Hope College is among 28 colleges and universities invited to participate in the first national symposium on "Science Education for New Civic Engagements and responsibilities" (SENCER).
The Symposium, held at the Annual Meeting of the
Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U),
caps Phase I of SENCER, a new initiative supported by the
National Science Foundation (NSF) designed to link science
education and current issues.
"SENCER's aim is to improve undergraduate science
education by supporting approaches that teach 'though'
complex, unsolved public issues 'to' basic science," said
David Burns, senior policy director at AAC&U and the
director of SENCER. "We were delighted with the nomination
we received from Hope College and impressed by their
commitment to high quality, innovative instruction in the
Dr. Janet Andersen is the coordinator for Hope
College's GEMS (General Education Mathematics and Science)
program. GEMS courses are designed to help students learn
science and mathematics, appreciate their power as well as
limitations, and engage students in the real-world problems
that require science.
The GEMS program consists of a collection of one
mathematics course, six laboratory science courses, and
eight investigative topical courses. Each of the courses is
interdisciplinary and designed to meet the needs of non-
science, non-mathematics majors.
Andersen is the principal investigator for an NSF
grant that supported the development of three of the courses
("Mathematics in Public Discourse," "Populations in a
Changing Environment" and "The Atmosphere and Environmental
Change"). Dr. John Krupczak is the principal investigator
for another NSF grant that supported the development of
"Science and Technology in Everyday Life," the college's
first GEMS course.
"Students need to be engaged with the great issues
of our day, and increasingly, more than a modest scientific
literacy is required in understanding the choices we need to
make in a democracy," Burns said. "Courses that enlist
students in the analysis and solution of complex problems
will not only help us teach science better, but we hope that
students who complete them will be able to be more effective
citizens, as well."
"There's a pretty broad range of issues that
require scientific analyses and approaches, or at least a
robust appreciation of scientific claims about matters of
great consequence," said Karen Kashmanian Oates, who is
AAC&U's senior science fellow and a professor at George
Mason University. "We have received nominations of courses
that have taught science though a focus on biomedical
issues, HIV/AIDS, the emergence of new diseases, nuclear
disarmament, migration, the human genome project,
environmental issues, and many others."
At the close of this initial planning year, SENCER
will be developing a comprehensive national dissemination
strategy so that the work of Hope College and others may be
shared with others who are committed to improving science
"We are grateful to Hope College for the
leadership they are showing on this very tough issue of
science education. Our efforts are certainly benefiting
from our association with the important work that Dr.
Andersen and others at Hope College are doing," Burns said.
Founded in 1915, AAC&U is the leading national
association devoted to advancing and strengthening
undergraduate liberal education. AAC&U's membership
represents some 700 institutions who collectively enroll
more than four million students.