By Virginia McHugh-Kurtz

I want to give a huge “Thank You!” to RAFO for allowing be to attend the Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities 2018 SENCER Summer Institute at Santa Clara University. SENCER links science and civic engagement by connecting public issues and science. The SENCER Summer Institute consists of four days focused on many pathways of education, with tracks focused on practices that have be shown to be successful and have a profound impact. I gained insight on innovative techniques to engage students in learning about STEM in my classroom and to increase student success.

I spent a large portion of the conference attending a three-part workshop titled, “‘Thinking Like Leaders’: A Systems Approach to Improving Introductory Level Courses.” This workshop was led by many leaders in the scientific education community and aimed to improve student learning by helping them understand the components of the higher education system, the barriers within that system, and how to create change.

One session I attended was titled, “Real News of Fake News? Developing Scientific Literacy through Analysis of Media Reports.” In this session, different ways of verifying whether news is “real” or “fake” were presented, along with methods to help students identify and analyze scientific news. Identifying fake news and being scientifically literate are two important objectives in my courses, so this session inspired me to implement similar news analysis tools in my curricula.

Another session I attended was titled, “Building an Inclusive Classroom.” This session focused on the critical need to recruit and retain underrepresented minorities and women in STEM programs. The session also identified extrinsic factors on campus and in the classroom that present roadblocks for these groups and provided techniques to build a more inclusive classroom. It is important to highlight diverse scientists in the classroom and not ignore their struggles. STEM faculty needs to understand that not everyone has access to the same resources.

I am passionate about increasing diversity in STEM and creating an inclusive learning environment. Attending the SENCER Summer Institute motivates me to continue the work that I love and empowers me to make change. Thank you again to RAFO for this opportunity.