Two weeks ago, I traveled with Associate Professor of Biology Michèle Shuster to Washington DC to attend the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Universities Looking Forward Meeting. HHMI has funded undergraduate science education programs at select research universities for many years and NMSU has been an HHMI university since 2004.
At the meeting, we considered a range of future scenarios, many of them quite bleak, and how universities would sustain science education programs and a commitment to recruiting underrepresented minority students into science in light of these challenging circumstances. The purpose was not to depress all of us, but to encourage deep thinking about robust strategies for sustaining improvements in science education programs that have been made possible by HHMI funding.
The two days of scenario planning with Dr. Shuster and colleagues from around the country gave me an opportunity to reflect on the good work that has been done at NMSU on improving science education, especially biology education, over the course of the past dozen years, and the importance of sustaining the momentum we have generated. Funding from HHMI has allowed us to fund peer mentors, develop inquiry and case based introductory science courses, and provide students with greater opportunities to participate in research, both in research laboratories and through a guided biological research course. The end result has been a significant improvement in student success, especially among students from groups underrepresented in the sciences.
Sustaining these programs, without support from HHMI, will be challenging for NMSU and for other HHMI universities. Nevertheless, the programs have demonstrated their worth and it is imperative that we find and invest the resources necessary to ensure that they continue to be an important component of science education at NMSU.
With all best wishes,