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Movement to Improve Undergraduate STEM Education Heats up in Arizona Desert Next Month

Tucson, AZ – June 18, 2012 – The movement to improve science education at America’s research universities is likely to gain momentum July 11 to 13 as the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) hosts its 18th Annual Cottrell Scholar Conference in Tucson, AZ. Representatives of the American Association of Universities (AAU), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and the New York Academy of Sciences are attending the conference with 50 scholar-educators who have received Cottrell Scholar awards from RCSA. Both the AAU and the NSF have been stressing the need to improve undergraduate education for STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math). Both organizations, as well as others, have been sounding the alarm in recent years regarding rising STEM competencies abroad and the threat it poses to America’s traditional global leadership in science and technology. RCSA Program Director and chair of the conference, Silvia Ronco, said a key objective of the July gathering is to build a community of outstanding scholar-educators who are dedicated to becoming leaders in both research and teaching, and who collectively have the potential to change the way science is taught nationally. She added the conference has a highly interactive format to encourage team building and collaborations. Keynote speakers at the conference include:
  • Tobin Smith, AAU Vice President for Policy
  • Luis Echegoyen, who holds the Welch Chair of Chemistry at the University of Texas El Paso and former director of the NSF Chemistry Division
  • Celeste Rohlfing, deputy assistant director of the NSF Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences and former assistant director for physical sciences at the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
  • Michael Schatz, a Cottrell Scholar and Professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a member of the Georgia Tech Physics Education Research Group
Elizabeth McCormack, professor of physics at Bryn Mawr College and a member of the RCSA Board of Directors, is the conference facilitator. RCSA, an independent foundation celebrating its centennial this year, has long advocated on behalf of those working to improve science education, said RCSA President & CEO James M. Gentile. He noted that in 1978 foundation personnel were instrumental in creating the Council on Undergraduate Research, an organization that has grown to have members in more than 900 colleges and universities. The upcoming Cottrell Scholar conference comes on the heels of AAU President Hunter Rawlings’ March essay criticizing the cultures of research universities for neglecting undergraduate STEM education. “We now know that more than 50 percent of the students starting college with a stated desire to major in science or engineering drop out of those majors before graduating,” he wrote. Earlier this year, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report on STEM education with recommendations in five categories, including the development of metrics for improvement and partnerships among stakeholders. Last year, RCSA supported a group of Cottrell Scholars wishing to more actively promote educational initiatives and partnerships among their various research institutions. The group is officially known as the Cottrell Scholar Collaborative. The Cottrell Scholar program supports early career faculty at research universities who combine excellence in research and teaching with a strong emphasis on interactive learning in lower-level undergraduate courses. Since 1994, the program has supported more than 250 young scholars. ### For additional information, contact Emma McKinstry at Goodman Media International, (212) 576-2700 or About Research Corporation for Science Advancement Research Corporation for Science Advancement ( was founded in 1912 and is the second-oldest foundation in the United States (after the Carnegie Corporation) and the oldest foundation for science advancement. Research Corporation is a leading advocate for the sciences and a major funder of scientific innovation and of research in America’s colleges and universities.

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