- Increasing the diversity and success of our students via 1st year graduate learning communities
- Mentoring program for beginning graduate students of color
- A funding stream for graduate students with disabilities
- Increasing departments' engagement in diversity recruiting via RECRUIT grants, Research Partnerships, and ISU Ambassadors
- Building pathways to faculty postions for diverse students via AGEP fellowships and postdocs
- Improving TA training via ISU's membership in the CIRTL project
Engaging and Retaining Science Majors
Approximately 50% of science, mathematics and engineering (STEM) majors do not graduate with a STEM degree at ISU. This is a tremendous loss and occurs, in part, because students are not engaged in the excitement that comes from doing science and applying what they know to real-world problems. I am project director of ISU's two HHMI grants (2010-14 and 2014-19) (www.engage,iastate.edu) which aim to have all science students do science in their first two years of college. The main thrusts are to add extended, 5-6 week long, research projects into existing lab courses, to reform intro labs from cookbook to inquiry labs, and to connect calculus courses with science and engineering courses to improve students' transfer of math concepts. The first year retention of STEM majors has increased from 74 to 79% from the beginning to this stage of the project.
Developing strong problem-solving skills in all our students
Many students approach their university education with a check-box mentality, where learning means memorizing a series of isolated facts. This restricted goal does not convey the excitement of learning nor does help students prepare to solve the vital challenges and opportunities facing our society. We urgently need to embed challenges into courses that excite students, engage them in the problems they see as compelling and relevant, while at the same time increasing their ability to use and distill a broad array of information, and hone their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Our solution is to provide an online tool (ThinkSpace) that makes it easy for faculty to add complex, real-world cases to university courses. ThinkSpace is used in physics, vet med (clinical and anatomic pathology, toxicology, pharmacology, parasitology, internal medicine, microbiology, physiology and animal welfare), food safety, biology, advertising, geology, teacher education, mechanical engineering, and industrial engineering. As of Fall 2013 over 3500 students have solved cases using ThinkSpace in over 100 courses. ThinkSpace is now an incubator project of APEREO with the goal of disseminating this to many other universities.