There’s a saying that I believe is very true: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do!” Every strong program needs to take stock on occasion of where they’ve come from, where they want to go. On Friday, August 14th, BIMS faculty met in a retreat to see where the program stood following its first year of operations. The general agreement was that the program had a very successful start and was poised to become an exceptional contributor to McMurry’s future. Below are some of the goals for the coming year that arose from the conversation.
- Foster better recruiting and connection with students. We believe it is vital for BIMS to draw in good students and foster their success in our program. In our first year, there was little intentional recruiting of students specifically for BIMS. Still, over 20 students made that choice. We feel a strong effort on our part could bring 40-50 students to McMurry each fall to build our program’s numbers. At the same time, we know building community and providing an infrastructure that helps every student succeed is crucial to retaining students in the program. We are planning social events and informal activities to build identity and a sense of belonging and community within our students. Having 100 total majors each year is not out of the question, and doing the things necessary to get there is a main goal.
- Initiate a Women in Science effort headed by Dr. HD. One of McMurry’s most successful groups is women science students, and with a growing number of female science faculty we expect that success to grow. In order to encourage and support women entering the sciences to persist and thrive, a new program will be developed by Dr. DiFrancesca to intentionally address the challenges and opportunities faced by women pursuing science careers.
- Begin development of student portfolios, headed up by Dr. LS and Dr. AW. The BIMS program has a unique three-pronged approach to demonstrating the knowledge and skills of our students. Two of those prongs center on development of portfolios – biological portfolios (actual artifacts – cultures, cells, molecules, other biological products from work in lab courses) and digital portfolios (reports, posters, digital images of gels, photomicrography, etc.). The biological products will go in a -80 or otherwise be preserved for future use. The digital artifacts will be kept in a digital format. Drs. Sharp and Wyatt will begin this year to develop that infrastructure, most likely using Moodle and Mahara as the input interfaces. We hope products from one course will then be available for use in the next, linking lab skills beyond courses and even disciplines. Our goal is for every student to graduate from BIMS with evidence of their knowledge and skills from both lecture and lab, and these artifacts help provide that culture of evidence that enables future employers and admissions committees to see first-hand what McMurry BIMS students can do.
- Begin development of BIMS 4000 proficiency exams, headed up by Dr. GW. The third prong for demonstrating knowledge and skills of our students is the proficiency testing done in BIMS 4000. We are developing exams over the basic knowledge and skills expected for biology and biomedical science graduates, and will test students in this course. Three areas of mastery are expected: knowledge, skills, and analysis/communication. Our goal is online exams that can be taken repeatedly until acceptable scores are achieved, rather than one-time exams that leave students with an all-or-nothing result to live with. We care less about when the students know something than we do that they eventually know it, and so this approach helps students prove their basic knowledge in areas of study before they graduate. Since we will have juniors in the program for the first time this year, it is time to develop the exams to use for this purpose.
- Prepare HHMI-SEA proposal, headed up by Dr. TB, Dr. AW, and Dr. HD. The HHMI-Science Education Alliance program (http://www.hhmi.org/grants/sea/) was founded to grow the involvement of freshman students nation-wide in true research through isolation and characterization of bacteriophage (viruses attacking bacteria). Since we already involve BIMS freshmen in research and we have the course structure to support our involvement in HHMI-SEA, BIMS has decided to pursue inclusion in this program. We will submit an application in October and hope to be part of this national program for the 2010-2011 school year. Participation will raise the profile of BIMS students and help them see how participation in our program immediately involves them in research equal to that found at major research universities nation-wide.
- Re-submit a revised MURI Centers proposal for biotech education and research support, headed by Drs GW and AW. At the end of last spring, Drs. Wilson and Wyatt submitted a proposal to President Russell for the Center for Biomedical Education and Research, an initiative to demonstrate how education can be improved through a research-rich approach. The hope was this program would train our students to become mentors to high school teachers and students for the improvement of high school science in our region. The economy and unavailability of funds sank the proposal. However, we will submit this proposal again this year for possible start in Summer 2010.
- Develop at least two lab renovation proposals for September 2009 competition. In September 2009 there will be a competition among McMurry science faculty for proposals to complete a modest renovation of two labs and support spaces that would enable innovating teaching and greater involvement of students and faculty in research. BIMS faculty have committed to submit at least two proposals.
- Find ways to relieve strain on our capacity and facilities caused by growth in A&P I. The unexpected growth of Human Anatomy & Physiology enrollment has stretched our personnel and facilities resources beyond acceptable limits. We fully believe this is only the beginning of long-term growth in demand for this course. A plan for managing the growing numbers of students seeking this course must be developed before registering students for Fall 2010.
- Cultivate involvement of faculty and community in supporting pre-health professions development, headed by Dr. LS. Pre-health professions advisor Dr. Larry Sharp has taken the first important step in creating a more deliberate and proactive approach to pre-health professionals development through implementation of the PREP 1105 Seminar course for all students pursuing a health professions career. The requirement for incoming students to complete four semesters of these seminar courses in order to obtain the coveted composite letter of evaluation from McMurry science faculty means a method for evaluating students and providing annual feedback has to be finalized. Dr. Sharp will be building that infrastructure from faculty and community professionals during this year.
All these efforts will help BIMS cement is place as one of the premier science programs at McMurry and build more qualified and successful graduates. Stay tuned as we follow the progress made in each area.