Georgia Southern University

Cawthorn represents University at institute for science and civic engagement

An assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Georgia Southern University participated in a residential summer institute sponsored by the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement.

Michelle Cawthorn and representatives from 92 other institutions spent four days at the University of Southern Maine in Portland as part of a national initiative called Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER).

Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, SENCER is a national dissemination project designed to promote reform through faculty development, a focus on local systematic change, and improved assessment strategies.

The project has three pressing goals:

  • To improve science education, especially for students who may never major in a scientific field
  • To connect science education reform to more robust and relevant general education programs
  • To stimulate informed civic engagement with scientific questions on the part of today’s students

Summer institute participants envisioned and developed courses that teach rigorous science content through problems that require scientific knowledge and expertise.

Cawthorn is involved in a yearlong planning process to improve science
education at Georgia Southern. She is working on a course that focuses on biodiversity as a means of teaching environmental biology.

Throughout the year, Cawthorn and her colleagues at the University will continue to network with faculty at other institutions and engage in innovative pedagogies, assessment and undergraduate research.

SENCER officials David Burns and Karen Oates praised Georgia Southern for contributing to a national reform effort that connects the improvement of undergraduate science education to some of the most vexing civic challenges that the U.S. and future college graduates will face.

‘So many of our most significant civic challenges require knowledge of science and mathematics,” Burns said. ‘We are pleased to be partnered with Georgia Southern in focusing the intelligence and capacity of students, faculty and academic leaders on some of the hardest problems of our time.”

Since its inception, SENCER has worked with nearly 1,100 faculty members from more than 300 colleges and universities in 43 states and 10 foreign countries.

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