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Stony Brook Among 8 Universities Selected to Test-drive NSF Funded PULSE certification of Undergraduate Biology Education

More than 70 life science departments applied to be part of the pilot certification project

 

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(L to R): Undergraduate Biology Curriculum Coordinator. Joan M. Miyazaki; Professor and Chairman Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Robert S. Haltiwanger; Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Lorna Role; TA Coordinator, Deborah A. Spikes; Undergraduate Biology Professor and Director of Introductory Laboratories,  Marvin O'Neal III;  and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Colleges, Charles Robbins. Not pictured: Dr. J. Peter Gergen, Professor of Biochemistry, Cell Biology and Director of Undergraduate Biology.

STONY BROOK, NY, June 8, 2015 –  Stony Brook University has been selected to test-drive the PULSE (Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education) certification process, an ambitious endeavor designed to motivate important changes in life sciences education nationwide. More than 70 life science departments applied to be part of the pilot certification project, funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, and eight were selected based on initial evidence of transformed and innovative educational practices.  The programs chosen represent a wide variety of schools, including two-year colleges, liberal-arts institutions, regional comprehensive colleges, research universities and Minority Serving Institutions. This effort is widely recognized as important in the life sciences community.

 “Securing this award in a highly competitive environment is a significant accomplishment for Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Biology Program,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, President of Stony Brook University. “The Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education certification process is in great hands at Stony Brook, and I congratulate the team of faculty from the life sciences undergraduate biology department and our academic administrative leadership on being selected to participate in this transformative process.”

Stony Brook was selected for the pilot program after participation in an extensive self-study and site visit by PULSE certification team members where assessment data were analyzed and Progression Levels were assigned to each program. PULSE Progression Levels provide independent verification of a life science department’s transformative features and are designed to reflect how far the department has come in implementing the recommendations of the  Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action (V&C),   report issued by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011.  For the PULSE progression levels, every level of PULSE Progression indicates a dedicated and concerted effort by the department to change their approach to life sciences education and sustain their transformation efforts. 

PULSE Progression is much like the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification where organizations displaying certain thresholds of achievement are recognized, such as LEED Silver, Gold, and Platinum Certification. 

“Stony Brook began an overhaul of its curriculum in 2007, and since then have put considerable effort into transforming its undergraduate biology program in ways that align with the objectives articulated in the 2011 V&C report,” said Dennis N. Assanis, Stony Brook University's Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. Charles Robbins, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Dean of Undergraduate Colleges, went on to say “It’s an excellent time for undergraduate biology to undertake a serious review of its progress in reinventing life sciences education; and it’s important that this is done using mutually agreed upon and well defined goals and objectives.

Dr. J. Peter Gergen, Professor of Biochemistry, Cell Biology and Director of Undergraduate Biology added “The PULSE program has helped us take the temperature of our department; it has clearly outlined our progress, helped us further define our goals and given us a plan for the future. I am confident that our participation in this project will further elevate our program and there are lessons that we have learned that may be useful to others in the higher education community.”  

Undergraduate Biology at Stony Brook University is a large program serving more than 600 majors per year with an annual enrollment of about 12,000 students. The program serves not only majors but also a very large population of students majoring in life science-related fields, for example the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Health Technology and Management and the College of Engineering and Applied Science. More than 70 faculty from three departments (Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Ecology and Evolution and Neurobiology and Behavior) teach courses in the Undergraduate Biology Program.

PULSE is a collaborative effort developed and funded by NSF, NIH/NIGMS, and HHMI and consists of 40 current or former life-science department chairs or deans who serve as Vision and Change Leadership Fellows.  “Since it was formed in 2012, PULSE has been instrumental in helping to mobilize the community to implement the recommendations in the Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action report” says Yolanda George, Deputy Director, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The new education paradigm places more emphasis on scientific reasoning and the ability to think critically rather than the mastery of facts only. Laboratory work is given a new prominence and shifts from teacher-directed exercises to student-centered ones, where the students design their own experiments to answer the questions they generate.

Additional background information about the PULSE pilot process is available here.

Current and past members of the Certification Team include Pamela Pape-Lindstrom, Everett Community College, Tom Jack, Dartmouth College, Karen Aguirre, Coastal Carolina University, Judy Awong-Taylor, Georgia Gwinnett College, Teri Balser, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Loretta Brancaccio-Taras, Kingsborough Community College, Marcy Kelly, Pace University, Kate Marley, Doane College, Kathy Miller, Washington University in St. Louis, Marcy Osgood, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and Sandra Romano, University of the Virgin Islands.    

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