Tag: research-rich teaching
Several years ago, Dr. Russell laid out his vision for McMurry’s future in a speech entitled Vision 2023 . Central to that vision was an emphasis on growth of the sciences and their importance in preparing our graduates for jobs of the future. Biology responded to the challenge of building new and relevant programs for life sciences by developing three new, more focused programs. One of these is the BIMS program.
At the same time, the McMurry Capital Campaign, Shaping the Future, has a focus on supporting spaces for the sciences. These two developments led to a competition on campus this fall where programs were challenged with proposing new spaces to fit their new programs and help make their delivery more effective and efficient. Thought was that an invitation to develop a variety of science building proposals would provide a excellent collection of projects that could be shopped to potential donors to help improve all science programs. Biology submitted two lab renovation proposals, one of which was heavily geared toward improving spaces for BIMS courses.
The BIMS proposal calls for several improvements, including renovating and expanding spaces now used for teaching molecular biology and microbiology courses. The current spaces, S115 and S102, are home to labs (and sometimes lectures) for Genetics, Molecular Biology, Advanced Bioscience Techniques, Unicellular Organisms, Intro to Scientific Research, Microbiology, Immunology, and Senior Capstone Research. Obviously, such heavily used spaces are unusual on any campus and thus pose challenges to effective and efficient delivery, especially in a research-oriented approach to teaching. Renovating these spaces to better meet the needs of all students in these various courses is a challenge worthy of lab renovation.
In the competition, a Physics proposal and the BIMS proposal were chosen for funding. The Trustees meet this weekend and hopes are they will approve expenditure of $2.5M from the Capital Campaign to fund the renovation projects. If so, planningand design will begin immediately and the renovation will start in May to be completed before the Fall 2010 semester.
Here is what the BIMS proposal consists of: more flexible spaces that will support both lecture and lab, anterooms for equipment and incubation and project setup so students can work on their projects outside of their normal hours without interefering with other classes using the teaching spaces, a common equipment area for major pieces of equipment that might be used by students in either lab, special spaces for working with RNA and tissue culture, and possibly additional offices and student space for study, group work, and “hanging out”. Our hope is our students will become citizens of the building and not simply tourists, that thinking and acting like scientists will give all our BIMS graduates a leg up on those who have gone through conventional and impersonal science programs.
This Friday, the faculty of the Biomedical Science Program will meet for a retreat to discuss our first year of operation and plan for the year ahead. Attending will be Tom Benoit, Heidi DiFrancesca, and Gary Wilson from Biology, Paul Pyenta from Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Alicia Wyatt from Computer Science. Larry Sharp is on vacation and will miss the meeting.
In reviewing the first year of operation, many milestones suggest a rich and profitable future for the program. The first year saw over 20 students declare a BIMS major, mostly incoming freshmen interested in health professions or biotech. The new courses were very well populated. Growing publicity from the city fathers, The Development Corporation of Abilene, the TTU School of Pharmacy, and local biotech firm Receptor Logic helped to strengthen our position as the premiere life science/biotech training program in Abilene. Heidi DiFrancesca and Hyunshun Shin from Chemistry & Biochemistry have begun collaborating on a project to develop and test new treatments for breast cancer. And McMurry has seen the value in promoting these endeavors through funding for equipment and supplies to support the research-in-teaching approach used in BIMS.
I’m sure some time will be spent discussing the parallel development of the biotech infrastructure in Abilene, with a variety of support facilities (including the Abilene Life Sciences Foundation Research Accelerator facility) coming on line. Add to this the decision by Abilene Independent School District to start a new engineering/computer science high school this fall and you have converging efforts that point to a bright future. One of the tracks possible at the new high school is biotech engineering, which Dr. Jon Weidanz from TTUHSC-School of Pharmacy and I are promoting.
So what does the future hold? That is the reason for our retreat! I expect that we’ll see growing commitments to link our courses together and use our BIMS lab courses to conduct research. We’ll see BIMS-focused proposals for the lab renovation competition being held on campus later this month. We’ll see plans for research grants and programs to help high school science teachers learn and implement new methods, techniques, and equipment into their courses. We’ll see more articulation agreements with professional schools for pharmacy, physical therapy, and who knows what else! Clearly, BIMS is on the move and possesses the creative firepower to transform the sciences at McMurry. Thoughtful planning and staged implementation are keys to making that happen.
Check back in a few weeks as I give an update on the event!
In January 2007, McMurry’s President, Dr. John Russell, charted out a bold plan for McMurry’s future. The plan is called Vision 2023 and calls for McMurry to become a regional leader in science education and science teacher preparation. A central component of this vision was the call for curricular and pedagogical innovation, and the provision of spaces and resources in support of these changes. The text of President Russell’s presentation can be found at: http://www.mcm.edu/newsite/web/univ_relations/univ_update.htm
The first major step in transforming spaces for innovation in teaching and research is not far away. McMurry science faculty have been invited to participate in a competition this August to propose renovated spaces to enable curricular and pedagogical innovation. Teams of faculty from a variety of departments are readying their concepts of what McMurry lab spaces might look like for supporting exciting new ways of teaching and learning. Judging the competition will be board members, cabinet members and others who will match the vision for science spaces with Dr. Russell’s vision for the future. The winning proposal will be funded with renovation anticipated to start next summer. The other proposals will provide ideas for Advancement to use in soliciting funds for support of the sciences. A recap of the competition and overview of each proposal will be the topic of a future entry on this page.
So what will a successful proposal look like? It will call for new ways of teaching that are research-rich and skills-laden, and ask for formation of spaces that enable these changes. It will focus on what a McMurry graduate should know and have the ability to do to be successful in the workforce and professions of 2023. It will broaden research opportunities for faculty and their students so that students are citizens of science rather than tourists. It takes a first bold step on the journey from the past perspectives of science and spaces where they are taught into science for tomorrow’s student and professional in an ever-changing world.