Author Archives: Paul Boyer

A better approach to math remediation?

Remedial education is the great conundrum of higher education. Lot of students need it—but the time and effort required is both daunting and discouraging. Eager to earn a degree, students placed in remedial math and reading courses instead find themselves on the proverbial slow boat to China.

According David Kirp, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, a number of colleges and university systems, including the City University of New York, are experimenting with a new approach to remediation that accelerates learning without sacrificing rigor.

Writing in the New York Times, Kirp said the CUNY program places full-time students in need of remediation in a semester-long program that focuses exclusively on skill building. Significantly, students in the CUNY Start program are provided 25 hours of instruction each week, which, he noted, is “substantially more than the usual course load.”

“The strategy is working,” Kirp argued. “More than half the students who complete the program are ready for college in just one semester, something that’s almost impossible with regular remedial courses.” Indeed, nationwide, only one-third of students placed in remedial math courses complete their studies with a passing grade.

For more about the CUNY Start program, see:

http://www2.cuny.edu/academics/academic-programs/model-programs/cuny-college-transition-programs/cuny-start

An evaluation of similar “ASAP” remediation programs by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation can be found here:

http://www.mdrc.org/project/evaluation-accelerated-study-associate-programs-asap-developmental-education-students#overview

Tribal College STEM Programs Brace for Change Under Trump Administration

by Katie Scarlett Brandt

Dr. Nader Vadiee, Engineering faculty, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

Engineering Professor Nader Vadiee spends his days trying to fix a leaky pipeline. However, this pipeline isn’t leaking water or oil. It’s losing students.

“Imagine a very leaky pipeline from the community to academia, then to industry and back to the community,” said Vadiee, who heads the Engineering Department at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in New Mexico. “My students are single moms or dads, the average age 28 or 29. My mission is to get these professionals back to the community to create jobs.”

Building this pipeline requires funding, a significant portion of which comes from federal sources. For this reason, the election of Donald Trump has many in the tribal college community on edge. That’s because, so far, President Trump’s top priorities include:

What’s less clear: where research and STEM education fit into these goals.

“With the Trump administration and all the scary things we’re looking at with the budget, it’s hard to predict how things are going to pan out,” said Al Kuslikis, senior associate for Strategic Initiatives at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) in Washington DC. “We’re optimistic because of the history of support from both parties, but we understand that there have to be accommodations made in the priorities of this new administration.”

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Webinar for linguists applying for NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The Linguistic Society of America is hosting a webinar for linguistics scholars focused on applying for the National Science Foundation’s  Graduate Research Fellowships.

The webinar will take place on Wednesday, May 10 from 2:30 to 4:30 PM US EDT.

Register for the webinar here.  Participation is limited to 100 attendees, but the webinar will be archived for later viewing.

According to the LSA’s announcement, “students early in their research training – undergraduates, post bacs, first or second year graduate students, those whose graduate training was interrupted, and faculty advisors – are encouraged to attend, especially those from tribal colleges  (TCUs),  historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and other minority serving institutions.”

Digging Deep

Former Salish Kootenai College student Matthew Weingart receives prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for work in paleoecology

By Ryan Winn

Matt Weingart in the lab.

The Flathead Indian Reservation of western Montana has been occupied by Native peoples for millennia. Over the years, its wooden mountains and fertile valleys have both shaped and been shaped by this human presence.

For Matthew Weingart, a member of the Klamath Tribe, this relationship between people and the land represents a research opportunity. Fascinated by the impact of climate, fire, and humans on landscapes over time, Weingart is digging into the soil of the reservation’s Camas Prairie where, he said, “there’s a rich cultural history and human presence” dating back at least 13,000 years.

“It is in a type of forest that is typically not well understood,” he said. “Learning more about these systems can provide useful knowledge to forest and land managers, especially in times of changing environmental conditions.”

Now pursing a master’s degree in environmental science from Montana State University, Weingart’s work in the field of paleoecology has earned him a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award. The prestigious award is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind and, according to the NSF, “has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.” Previous recipients include “numerous Nobel Prize winners, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin, and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.”

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NSF inviting input on cyberinfrastructure strategy

The National Science Foundation is soliciting input on Future Needs for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure to Support Science and Engineering.

Responses to this Request for Information will, according to the NSF announcement, “directly inform the shaping of NSF’s investment plans for research cyberinfrastructure – advanced computing; data, software, and networking infrastructure; cybersecurity, and associated workforce development – to revolutionize the frontiers of all science and engineering domains over the next decade and beyond.”

The response deadline is April 5, 2017, 5:00 PM ET.  The Dear Colleague Letter provides full background and the a link to the required submission website: https://www.nsfci2030.org.

White House’s proposed budget targets science

Since the November presidential election, the science community has anxiously worried about the fate of programs and agencies that support and conduct research in the sciences. President Trump’s proposed budget, released this week, offers little reassurance and is already generating a flurry of news stories and commentary.

According to a March 16 New York Times story, the proposed budget “took direct aim at basic scientific and medical research.” While this was anticipated, the story noted that “the extent of the cuts in the proposed budget unveiled early Thursday shocked scientists, researchers and program administrators.” It stated:

“The reductions include $5.8 billion, or 18 percent, from the National Institutes of Health, which fund thousands of researchers working on cancer and other diseases, and $900 million, or a little less than 20 percent, from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which funds the national laboratories, considered among the crown jewels of basic research in the world.”

The story noted that the budget reflects an effort to zero-out funding for all climate change research, including within the EPA.

The budget must be passed by Congress and will, as is always the case, undergo significant changes. Indeed, some proposed cuts are already being deemed “non-starters” by several Republican leaders in Congress, particularly cuts to medical research.

Not all agencies are affected equally. Several websites and science advocacy organizations noted that the National Science Foundation was not mentioned in the White House’s budget. “Given the cuts seen for many other federal science agencies…some have seen the omission in the budget outline released today as a blessing,” observed the SAGE-sponsored website, Social Science Space.

Restoring Native Prairie Lands

Students and staff at Sisseton Wahpeton College in South Dakota have re-seeded 100 acres of farmland, restoring a lost prairie.

By Katie Scarlett Brandt

A sea of green grasses swayed across the northern plains 200 years ago. They created a dry, land-locked ocean, filled with bison instead of whales, birds in place of fish.

With European settlement, much of North America’s grasslands were lost by the middle of the twentieth century, largely due to extensive farming. Of the more than 170 million acres of tallgrass prairie that once covered the plains, less than 4 percent remains, according to the National Park Service.

However, Sisseton Wahpeton College in Sisseton, South Dakota is working to bring it back. The tribal college, located in northeastern South Dakota, seeded a 100-acre parcel located behind college’s rural campus in 2009, converting it from farmland after two years of planning. Eight years later, college employees and students work together to eliminate non-native species and restore the prairie grasses, flowers, and shrubs that once occupied the area.

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Awards for “makers” making a difference

Infosys Foundation USA has launched its second year of the Infy Maker Awards competition to provide $10,000 to adult “makers” who are working on social impact projects. This year’s themes are education, health, environmental sustainability, and combating hunger.

Infosystems Foundation USA is a non-profit organization working to “expand professional development in computer science, coding, and making, especially for educators teaching in historically under-represented schools and communities,“ according to its website.

Applicants are asked to upload a photo and 90 second video and “answer several questions about your project and the problem you’re trying to solve.”

And what, exactly, is a “maker”? Adweek offers this quick definition:

“A convergence of computer hackers and traditional artisans, the niche is established enough to have its own magazine, Make, as well as hands-on Maker Faires that are catnip for DIYers who used to toil in solitude. Makers tap into an American admiration for self-reliance and combine that with open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology like 3-D printers.”

If that sounds like you or someone you know, the deadline for applying is Feb. 28, 2017.

For more information visit www.infymakers.com

I’m curious: Does this movement resonate in native communities, tribal colleges, and minority-serving colleges? Are there any students or instructors who consider themselves “makers”? Let us know.