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Natural Sciences Faculty

Notes from Meeting with Natural Sciences Division

20 September 2012

Attendees: Thirty-two faculty members from the division.

Extending Our Reach

  • Better and more accessible study-abroad programs answer the need for a foreign campus presence and would be less limiting for students.  There were no voices of support for a new campus either domestic or international.
  • Need to make the campus more accessible to middle income students.  Access is far too difficult for students without means.  We extend our reach when all of our students can access all of our programs.  Recommend returning to “need-blind” admissions.  We are missing the middle-class students who need some financial aid but don’t qualify for “deep-need” aid.
  • Should we continue to be seasonally limited?  Could we consider being year-round? 

Engaged Teaching and Learning

  • 10-20% of our students require some form of accommodation [ADA].  What is reasonable?  How is the college supporting the faculty (and academic departments) in conjunction with the support that is provided to students?
  • Need to provide good research/field trip/study abroad options. 
  • We (CC) have narrowed our academic focus to Sept thru May and leave out three months of the year to leverage our distinctive place. Certain disciplines are able to do more with their student in the summer months.  That makes sense for agriculture, botany, and some of the biology classes.  Interesting thought.
  • Student research supervised by faculty does not count towards faculty teaching requirements.  It also does not count towards the faculty scholarly requirements for tenure. Is there money (an incentive) to faculty to engage in student research?
  • Prospective students when they visit the natural science departments see the lack of resources the college allocates towards the natural science division: the inadequate labs, minimal summer work opportunities, old/outdated equipment, etc.
  • How is the block plan the best way to teach the liberal arts?  Our unique place allows for incredible fieldwork.  The block plan promotes rigor.
  • We (colleges teaching the liberal arts) are the institutions that are turning out the future scientists of the world.  Our students seek out our faculty for their graduate research.
  • Would like to see students talk about academic topics when not in class [i.e. at night, weekends and during block break].  Need to nurture the intellectual community for “living-learning communities”.  Some students by choice of major are “living-learning” their communities.  Example is Physics.
  • Goal is to have student synthesize their learning across blocks.  To have students who are not passive recipients of their education.  To have students carry their learning outside of the classroom and beyond the college.  Example: build your own block, which allows students to experiment with two classes a block by attending a different class every other day. 
  • Would like more opportunities to team-teach.  Does this require more faculty?  Co-teaching [team-teaching] enhances the classroom for the students and the two faculty.  This form of teaching was more accessible until the clamp down on the number of visiting faculty.
  • Thematic semesters, such as “semester in the arts” or “semester in the southwest,” would promote and be built on team-teaching.   Perhaps rethink the current FYE structure and evaluate whether the outcomes are what the college wants from FYE or what would be in the entering students’ best interest.   Current structure constrains the idea of thematic semesters with all of the general education requirements and the major requirements.
  • What does FYE achieve programmatically besides socialization?  Perhaps reduce FYE to one block.  FYE is a depository of things we (the college) want.
  • If we want students to be globally informed / educated citizens of the world then choosing intentionally the visiting faculty who are brought to campus can enhance the global perspective for our students.
  • Maximize human, physical, financial and technological resources for enhanced (and increased) faculty and student interaction (classroom and research).

Place

  • We use Pikes Peak to make up for the physical issues of Armstrong Hall and Olin Hall.  We rely on the natural beauty to make up for the short fall of our physical space. Perhaps the intellectual experience for both faculty and students suffer because of the physical space (buildings) on campus.
  • We are known for being the only liberal arts college between Grinnell and Pomona.
  • In the past we had one event where we all came together.  We are now all over scheduled.  First Mondays is trying to rekindle that, but it may not be occurring often enough and/or people don’t expect much from it.
  • We don’t necessarily need another Baca campus or Cabin.  Perhaps we just need to rethink how we use the physical resources we do have more strategically and intentionally around the intellectual experience we value so much.

General

  • The college does not have a record of following through on plans.  Financial resources have not followed through from past plans.  The constrained resource of time and the limited human resources across the campus are examples of the college not following through with what it values (prioritizes).  The college does not walk its talk.
  • Real goals never get heard because faculty voices are too spread out.
  • Why can’t each division have its own goals?  Perhaps the divisions have less in common than we think and that it will be impossible to articulate strategic goals that can blanket all of the academic divisions evenly.