It was a big summer of transition in the Forbes team, with team members moving on to next steps and new team members coming on board. Congrats to newly-minted Ph.D. Tina Vo who will begin a tenure-track position at UNLV as an Assistant Professor of Science Education in August. Dante Cisterna, UnICORN project postdoc, is also starting a new position at ETS in July. Destini Petitt completed her M.S. in the School of Natural Resources and will begin doctoral studies in the Dept. of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Ashley (McKenzie) Sutter (formerly Peterson), will leave us for a second time to return to her position with USDA. And, finally, Florian Böschl, doctoral student at the University of Leipzig in Germany, will return home after a summer in Lincoln. We wish them all the best!
Joining the team are two new SNR doctoral students, Amie Sommers and Kim Carroll-Steward, undergraduate research assistant Brooke Mott, and incoming postdoctoral researcher Ranu Roy, who recently completed her Ph.D. at Indiana University. They join a fantastic continuing group of team members, including SNR doctoral student Diane Lally, postdoc Devarati Bhattacharya, and undergraduate research assistants Holly White, Isabella Catalano, and Nancy Theodor.
Congrats to Ashley (McKenzie) Sutter for publication of her thesis work in the International Journal of Science Education. Utilizing value belief norm (VBN) theory and construal level theory (CLT), the study explores how undergraduate students reason and make decisions about prairie dog conversation issues. The research, which was conducted in the SCIL 101 course (Science and Decision-Making for a Complex World), is grounded in the use of structured-decision making as a teaching and learning strategy in large enrollment, undergraduate STEM courses. Findings from the study illustrate the interrelationships between students’ values, problemmatization of the issue, and science-informed decision-making.
Over the past two years, I have been working with an amazing group of colleagues to cultivate and establish a transdisciplinary community of educators and education researchers who focus on the Food-Energy-Water-Nexus. In May, we were fortunate enough to be able to take the next major step forward in this endeavor. Through funding through the USDA-NIFA Higher Education Challenge grant program, APLU’s Network of STEM Education Centers Research Action Cluster grant program, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Virginia Tech, we were able to hold an invited conference with nearly 50 participants from over 40 U.S. and international institutions. The conference – Innovating Teaching and Learning in the Food-Energy-Water-Nexus: Toward a National Collaborative for Food, Energy, & Water Systems Education (NC-FEW) – was held May 22-23 in the Washington, D.C. metro area at the Virginia Tech Executive Briefing Center. Conference participants had opportunities to share their research and engage with colleagues from a diverse array of disciplinary backgrounds (education, STEM disciplines, agriculture, natural resources) to articulate and shape discourse around a systemic approach to FEW-Nexus education and education research. We benefited tremendously from insights of invited speakers, including INFEWS program officers Rachel Melnick (USDA-NIFA) and Tom Torgersen (NSF), Kacy Redd (APLU/NSEC), and Jeff Weld (White House Office of Science and Technology Policy). A special thanks to Co-PIs and conference planning committee members Hannah Scherer, Hui-Hui Wang, Nicole Sintov, and Kelly Millenbah for helping plan and facilitate the conference, as well as staff from the UNL Center for Science, Math, and Computer Education (CSMCE). We look forward to next steps advancing the goals and priorities of this developing network.
Many thanks to all members of our research and instructional team who collaborated on a study investigating undergraduate students’ reasoning about water-focused socioscientific issues. Carried out in the first iteration of the revised SCIL 101 course (formerly AGRI/NRES 103) with more than 200 students, study results illustrate strengths and limitations of students’ thinking about the use of groundwater for agriculture in the context of a multi-week course module. Thanks to Dr. Jaime Sabel for leading this effort!
Sabel, J.L., Vo, T., Alred, A., Dauer, J.M., & Forbes, C.T. (2017). Undergraduate students’ scientifically-informed decision-making about socio-hydrological issues. Journal of College Science Teaching, 46(6), 64-72.
In the Fall, 2016 semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach one of four large sections a required course for all CASNR students – SCIL 101 Science and Decision-Making for a Complex World. The class, re-conceptualized and redeveloped from a long-standing introductory course (AGRI/NRES 103 Introduction to Agricultural and Natural Resource Systems), involves students learning to make science-informed decisions about agriculture and natural resource issues. Comprised of four modules designed around food, energy, and water issues, SCIL 101 offers students the opportunity explore these challenges issues from multiple perspectives, ultimately conducting independent research on a question of their choosing. My section of the class this fall had 130 students, almost half of which were CASNR undergraduate students from Rwanda studying in IANR to become future agricultural leaders in their home country. I am also very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with an amazing team of graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, including WELL project graduate students Diane Lally and Destini Petitt, and Science Literacy graduate student McKenzie Peterson.