7th Annual Science Conference

7th Annual Science Conference

7th Annual Science Conference: 17th March, 2012
The 7th Annual Science Conference of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics took place on Saturday the 17th of March, 2012 in the Ivory V. Nelson Center for the Sciences. The conference theme was: Pedagogy for teaching science to minority students.
Dr. John Chikwem, Dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics spoke on the relevance of the conference theme. He used data from the graduating classes at Lincoln University from 1996 to 2011 to show that between 1996 and 2004, the school of Natural Sciences and Mathematics accounted for 24.2% of the students who graduated from Lincoln University. However, from 2005 to 2011, the there was a gradual decline in the pool of science graduates. He spoke of efforts to remedy the situation including the activities of the highly successful Lincoln’s Excellent Academic Program in Science (LEAPS), the LEAPS-Forward and LEAPS-Forward March, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. He stressed that two important best-practices of the LEAPS program, peer tutoring and summer bridge program have been adopted by Lincoln University. The current LEAPS-Forward March is focusing on supplemental instruction, undergraduate research and infusion of technology to improve the performance of students in science and mathematics.

Dr. Robert Jennings, 13th President of Lincoln University spoke of the need to increase the number of minorities majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. He argued that without a committed effort in this area, minorities would still lag behind in the STEM workforce. He pledged that his administration would always support the efforts of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics to promote science and research at Lincoln University.

Dr. Thelma Thompson, Consultant for Academic Affairs at Lincoln University spoke on the appropriateness of the conference theme. She encouraged students to work harder because although there are more rewarding jobs in the science fields; the curriculum is harder to navigate and requires commitment from both students and faculty.

The keynote speaker was Ms. Charisse Carney-Nunes, Esq., class of 1988 and a senior staff associate of the National Science Foundation. She spoke of how she was recruited under the LASER program to Lincoln University and the mentoring that she received as a student. This caring and mentoring by the faculty enabled her to graduate with a degree in Physics and eventually earn a law degree at Harvard University. She reminded students that the job opportunities in the sciences was going to continue to get more lucrative as the United States continues its quest to stay at the pinnacle of science innovation. She said that staying on top of the STEM field will require more commitment from everyone including the government, university administration, faculty and students. She also explored all the newer technologies that are impacting the delivery of science materials to students, and concluded that there must be a balance of technology with the other teaching strategies for teaching to be effective.

There were three panels that spoke on the theme. A panel of former students comprised of:
• Yusuf Al-Rahman, class of 2002, Corporate Technical Analyst at Domino Foods
• Anthony Sherland, class of 2007, Microbiologist at Domino Foods.
• Kaylene Baugh, class of 2011, professional tutor in the Learning Resource Center and Assistant coordinator of supplemental instruction at Lincoln University.
• Odinaka Anyanwu, class of 2011, research associate at Lincoln University and medical student from fall 2012.
The panelists discussed their experiences while at Lincoln and emphasized the role of research internships and the support of dedicated faculty as key to their successes. They encouraged the students to work harder and to realize that the science curriculum was hard, and therefore required more dedication and commitment.

A second panel comprised of supplemental instruction leaders. The students included Ugonma Ejiawoko, Patrick Ihejirika, Theresa Akede, Norrisca Charles and Oluwatobi Fatunmbi. The student panelists spoke of the need for students to work together as a team with their faculty. They also encouraged the students to take advantage of the numerous support systems at Lincoln including the supplemental instruction program. Finally, the panelists requested the faculty to support the supplemental instruction program, encourage their students to attend and also provide incentives that would encourage the students to use the program.

The final panel comprised of faculty and included Dr. Susan Safford and Professor Diane York. Both of them spoke of the strategies that they have been using in their classrooms including group work and retakes of quizzes and tests. Dr. Safford reported on the proceedings of the 67th Annual Meeting of the ORAU Council of Sponsoring Institutions. She stated that the consensus is that a sufficient body of research exists to support changing pedagogy in STEM disciplines from traditional lecture style to experiential style, including bringing research into the classroom and engaging students in group efforts using problem-based learning and case studies, among other approaches. There is expected to be significant job growth in STEM fields, but the types of jobs will vary by region. They may require skill sets that are not traditionally taught in classes. Institutions of higher learning need to forge partnerships with local industries, while at the same time, remembering that universities are not job training schools. More frequent conversations with all stakeholders will improve the focus, content, and pedagogical approaches.
At the close of the presentations and questions, Dr. Chikwem thanked all the participants, the panelists, the keynote speaker, the alumni and other guests who had travelled long distances to attend the conference. He informed them that this conference is just the beginning of the conversation on strategies to improve the pedagogy for teaching science to minority students.

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