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Student engagement program offers funding for STEM faculty

by UofL Today last modified Sep 13, 2010 02:15 PM

Up to 14 STEM faculty at the University of Louisville can receive $500 for implementing best practices in their courses.

Student engagement program offers funding for STEM faculty

ENGAGE is designed to help boost the number of engineers.

Faculty can attend a Sept. 30 talk on "Everyday Examples to Teach Engineering, Math and Science" to find out more. The funding and the workshop are part of the National Science Foundation's ENGAGE program, which is designed to address a potential shortage of engineers.

"The number of engineering jobs is expected to grow by 11 percent in the decade spanning 2008 to 2018. But the nation's colleges won't keep pace with the demand if 43 percent of engineering undergraduates switch to other majors, as occurs now," according to an NSF press release.

UofL's Speed School of Engineering received $12,000 for a grant period that started this month and will continue through February 2012.

"We applied to become an ENGAGE school because the focus is on assisting engineering schools with retention of undergraduate students. It fits with efforts we make in our Department of Engineering Fundamentals to retain first- and second-year students," said professor Brenda Hart.

"Faculty participation (in ENGAGE) is voluntary, but our team is trying to encourage faculty to attend the workshops so they can better interact with their students and use everyday examples as part of their curriculum," Hart said.

ENGAGE advocates the use of three research-based strategies — particularly in the first two years, when engineering students are most likely to change majors:

  • Improve and increase interaction between faculty and students.
  • Illustrate engineering concepts in courses by using everyday examples that are familiar to students.   
  • Improve students' spatial visualization skills.

 "One of the challenges is to get the message out to our faculty that they have tremendous power and influence to make a critical difference in the undergraduate experience of our students — positively and negatively," said Marie Kendall Brown, assistant director of teaching and learning at the Delphi Center and a UofL ENGAGE team member.

"Research suggests that words of encouragement, insight or guidance offered by faculty can boost a student's morale and performance. A complete lack of interaction can send the opposite message, even if unintended. We look forward to working with faculty to improve student-faculty interaction through various methods of communication," she said.

"Everyday Examples to Teach Engineering, Math and Science" is the first ENGAGE workshop for UofL. It will take place Thursday, Sept. 30 at two times: noon-2 p.m. or 2:30-4:30 p.m., and will be in Room 244, Ekstrom Library, Belknap Campus. Registration and more information is at the Delphi Center. Space is limited to 25 participants for each session.

In addition to Hart and Brown, the UofL ENGAGE team includes assistant professor David Wheatley and professor James Leach, both from the Department of Engineering Fundamentals.

UofL is one of 10 colleges participating in the first year of ENGAGE. The others are Kettering University; Ohio State University; Purdue University; Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; Stevens Institute of Technology; University of Maryland; University of South Carolina; University of Texas at Austin; and Virginia Tech.

 

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