Center for Science in the Liberal Arts to examine science education
Grinnell plans to establish a Center for Science in the Liberal Arts to explore the strengths of liberal arts-based science education through a program of scholarly research, knowledge sharing, and academic residencies.
Directed by Jim Swartz, Dack Professor of Chemistry, and located in the Noyce Science Center, the new institute will examine a range of issues directly related to science education within a liberal arts environment, including:
- Attracting and educating scientists in groups traditionally under-represented in the sciences
- Studying the ways liberal arts-educated science students develop critical thinking skills, learn the process of discovery, develop information literacy, and become effective communicators
- Determining the importance of an active learning approach, in which students pursue knowledge and engage in pedagogy as working scientists
- Assessing the value of faculty-student research, ongoing mentorship, and community interaction
- Understanding how liberal arts-educated scientists cope with ethical issues related to their research
"There's a great need to produce brilliant scientists capable of competing globally and tackling the complex technological, medical and environmental problems that face society," said President Russell K. Osgood. "The Center for Science in the Liberal Arts will focus on and share with other institutions the important ways that liberal arts-based science education can produce science professionals capable of meeting tomorrow's daunting challenges.
"Jim is the ideal person to lead the development of the Center," Osgood said. "He is an expert on undergraduate science education, who has served as a consultant to dozens of colleges and universities as they planned new science facilities and curricula."
Swartz said that the work of the Center will include on-campus meetings of national leaders in undergraduate science education, as well as workshops for high school science teachers, to share and collect information. "We will bring new focus and understanding to the unique role that liberal arts institutions play in developing scientific talent and preparing citizens to be effective in a society where technology plays a critical role," Swartz said. "It is imperative that we marshal our resources to improve the learning environments for students in science and mathematics."
The Center reflects Grinnell's innovation and success in educating future scientists--the college ranks number eight among all U.S. higher education institutions in producing graduates who go on to pursue doctorate degrees in scientific and medical fields, according to the National Science Foundation.