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NSF Awards Recognize Comprehensive Reform Of Undergraduate Education

August 19, 1997
National Science Foundation
University of California-Irvine leaders have decided that their existing mathematics and science curriculums are no longer adequate to prepare students to meet the needs of modern society.

     University of California-Irvine leaders have decided thattheir existing mathematics and science curriculums are no longeradequate to prepare students to meet the needs of modern society.

     From that seemingly simple and straightforward proposition,U.C.-Irvine is about to embark on an ambitious strategy tomodernize its teaching.  The university will infuse technologyinto all teaching, forging partnerships with professionalassociations, and create a series of interdisciplinary curricula.

     These ground-breaking changes and institutional commitmentled the National Science Foundation to include U.C.-Irvine among19 colleges and universities to receive monetary awards in thesecond year of the agency's Institution-Wide Reform ofUndergraduate Education (IR) initiative.

     "U.C.-Irvine has made the kind of commitment tocomprehensively restructure, not merely tinker, at the margins ofreform, which is what the IR initiative is about," said Luther S.Wiliams, who heads NSF's education and human resourcesdirectorate.

     The UC-Irvine initiative is among many of the progressivechanges being made by two and four-year institutions that NSF isrecognizing through awards of up to $200,000 in the second yearof the IR initiative.

     Florida A&ive.M University, for example, is an awardee fordeveloping a multidisciplinary science course for non-sciencemajors and creating a faculty professional development initiativethat emphasizes effective use of technology.

     At Millikin University, a small school in Decatur, Ill.,introductory science courses and related labs will link the studyof biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics to otherscientific and technological disciplines.  The school will alsorequire students to teach a class in local K-12 schools.

      "The problems of the future will be very complex and theywill require interdisciplinary approaches and solutions," NormanFortenberry, who heads NSF's division of undergraduate education,points out.  "At too many institutions, there is not a mechanismfor faculty to work with their counterparts in other disciplines,nor to team-teach across disciplines."

     NSF launched the IR initiative in 1996 to rewardinstitutions that have made significant improvements in thequality of undergraduate education and are now prepared tointroduce sweeping changes to extend those innovations to benefitall students.  The changes reflect the institutions' response tothe new demands faced by undergraduates to succeed in a highlytechnological society.

     Williams said the IR initiative addresses serious nationaldeficiencies in undergraduate education that were highlighted ina report, "Shaping the Future: New Expectations for UndergraduateEducation in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology."NSF published the report last summer.

     The IR awards complement another NSF initiative, theRecognition Awards for the Integration of Research and Education(RAIRE), which provided $500,000 grants to 10 research-intensiveuniversities for their commitments to blending their research andeducation programs.  RAIRE recognizes the prior achievements oflarge research universities, says Williams, while the IRintiative is open to all institutions that enroll undergraduatestudents and focuses on planned new programs to improve educationin math, science and engineering.


Attachment: Awards for Institution-wide Reform of UndergraduateEducation

  Awards for Institution-wide Reform of Undergraduate Education

Alverno College:  The women's college in Milwaukee is expandingthe  quantitative reasoning requirement for all students beyondthe introductory level, including non-math and science majors.

Brooklyn College - City University of New York:  The school's"across the curriculum" project systematically links quantitativeskills through core course in math, natural sciences and socialsciences.

Broward Community College:  This two-year Florida college's newExploration Center will have an integrated math, science,engineering and technology curriculum with multi-course projectsand interaction with business and govenment agencies.

City College - City University of New York:  The school isincreasing the engagement of faculty in undergraduate educationthrough new reward structures, formal training in curriculumdesign and mentoring and support systems.

Colorado School of Mines:  The school is in the fourth year of acurriculum reform process, currently implementing a uniqueundergraduate engineering curriculum that will include new texts,lab experiments and multimedia materials.

Colorado State University:  A two-year project will overhaulmath, science and computing skills for non-science majors.  Multidisciplinary, lab-based core courses have clearly defined linksbetween the impact of science and technology on society and theessential role of non-science disciplines.

Drexel University:  Drexel is building faculty-wide teachingdevelopment activities based on successful programs inmath/science integration with engineering, widening the effortinto investigative, problem-solving bioscience curriculums.

Hampshire College:  The Massachusetts institution's expandedInquiry Project Courses include an original research project toexpand student skills in critical thinking, quantitativereasoning, collaborative research and communications.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology:  M.I.T. is developingdiscipline-specific communications instruction and practice intoits technical and scientific undergraduate programs, recognizingthat scientists' and engineers' professional success depends uponhow they communicate to wide audiences.

Milikin University:  The Illinois university is fundamentallychanging introductory science courses across disciplines toincrease student understanding of the linkages between them, andapplying this knowledge to solve problems in the local community.

New York City Technical College - City University of New York:The revision of core mathematics and science courses includesidentifying connections among the courses and developingexperience-based problems that enhance student skills in criticalthinking.

Portland State University:  A Science Cornerstone Project ofinterdisciplinary courses is designed to achieve improved scienceliteracy among students majoring in fields outside science, math,engineering and technology.

Sinclair Community College:  The Dayton, Ohio college isemploying new methods to align curriculum format to moderndelivery systems and addressing new ways to align curriculumoutcomes with the requirements of the modern work place.

Southwestern College:  The Kansas school is structuring researchprojects to address real problems.  Freshmen students conduct anacross-the-curriculum project in water quality, formulatinghypotheses and designing experiments, then generating proposalsfor research by the next freshman class.

Trinity College, Connecticut:  Philosophy course labs are beingdeveloped to model those found in science departments to focus onstudents' problem-solving skills.  Cross-disciplinary techniquesin math and science associated with philosophy to improve mathand science literacy within a humanities setting.

University of California - Irvine:  Major curriculum changes inmath, computer science and engineering (and engineeringliteracy), along with a new infusion of educational technologyand multidisciplinary curricular committees are part of aCampuswide Reform Initiative.

University of Delaware:  Interdisciplinary faculty teams arecreating freshman and sophomore-based Foundation Courses inscience and engineering to increase analytical skills, bettercommunication, teamwork and resource utilization.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute:  Addressing concerns of studentsthat introductory science and mathematics courses have littlerelation to one another, WPI has begun a system of peer-assistedcooperative learning, open-ended group course projects andintegrated computational and instructional technology.

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National Science Foundation. "NSF Awards Recognize Comprehensive Reform Of Undergraduate Education." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 August 1997. <>.
National Science Foundation. (1997, August 19). NSF Awards Recognize Comprehensive Reform Of Undergraduate Education. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 26, 2017 from
National Science Foundation. "NSF Awards Recognize Comprehensive Reform Of Undergraduate Education." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 26, 2017).