Belhaven University

STEM Commitments [White House Summit on College Opportunity, Dec. 2014]

GOAL:  Belhaven University commits to redesigning the general core science curriculum for non-science majors to emphasize the scientific basis of our society and economy, in order to inspire 10 percent of these students to pursue STEM degrees.

ACTION PLAN:  Due to the challenges in preparing first-generation university students, Belhaven University must become innovative in order to attract new students to STEM majors. Universities often require all students to take an entry-level science lab course that is part of the science majors' sequence; yet instead of creating interesting, new avenues of study for all students, this requirement may act to cement non-science majors in their assumptions that they are not interested in or capable of becoming scientists. To overcome this misconception, Belhaven is changing the general core curriculum for teaching science to non-science majors; the goal is to excite students about science by relating it directly to their personal interests in the environment and practical problems related to sustainable future. This approach should not only educate all students in scientific literacy, but inspire 10 percent of these entering non-science students to pursue STEM degrees.

Two new core courses, "Science & Culture I: Physical and Computational Sciences for a Sustainable Future" and "Science & Culture II: Biological Sciences for a Sustainable Future" will be the pillars of Belhaven's new pedagogical approach to teaching science via a modern problem-based interdisciplinary methodology. These courses build critical problem solving skills in students by focusing their attention on data collection, graphical analysis, and critical interpretation of results through the application of computer integrated technology. The associated lab components will introduce students to scientific databases, consumer products, environmental quality, biodiversity and conservation, public health, and personal hygiene and nutrition. These courses will present the history of scientific advancement, the philosophical foundations of science and the scientific method, as well providing an open forum to present, discuss, and analyze past and present societal problems and opportunities that are scientific in nature.

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