1. Helen Boylan
  2. https://www.westminster.edu/profile.cfm?boylanhm
  3. Professor, Director of the Center for the Environment
  4. Environmental Project Management Academy
  5. https://www.westminster.edu/about/news/release.cfm?id=9391
  6. Westminster College
  1. Alison DuBois
  2. https://www.westminster.edu/profile.cfm?duboisal
  3. Director of Graduate School, Associate Professor
  4. Environmental Project Management Academy
  5. https://www.westminster.edu/about/news/release.cfm?id=9391
  6. Westminster College
  1. Brian Petrus
  2. https://www.westminster.edu/profile.cfm?petrusba
  3. Assistant Professor, Program Coordinator in the School of Business
  4. Environmental Project Management Academy
  5. https://www.westminster.edu/about/news/release.cfm?id=9391
  6. Westminster College
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Gregory Rushton

    Gregory Rushton

    Facilitator
    May 12, 2019 | 11:02 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your project with us!  How do you decide on the service learning project for each year and who makes the decisions regarding timeline, deliverables, and design?

  • Icon for: Helen Boylan

    Helen Boylan

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 11:34 a.m.

    Hello, Gregory.  Thank you for your question.  Because our program is an NSF-funded program, our community partners and their needs were decided upon as part of the proposal development process.  Having done service learning for 10+ years prior to starting the EPMA program, I understand how critical the partner and project are to the success of the service learning experience.  With that being said, the partners were people/organizations with which one of the three of us PI's on the grant have existing relationships.  It was also essential that our partners have an understanding that the student educational experience is the priority (and that the deliverables/outcomes of the service learning project are secondary).

    The projects were designed based on identified partner needs and the ability to blend business and environmental science concepts into the project work.  We three PI's design a flexible timeline and associated deliverables.  We do give the students a lot of flexiblity in terms of developing the tasks and sub-tasks and associated timelines for those.  The non-negotiable deliverables include the end-of-semester technical report and oral presentation to our community partner.

  • Icon for: Monae Verbeke

    Monae Verbeke

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 11:18 p.m.

    I caught at the beginning of the film that one of the goals was for non-STEM majors to develop science literacy. I'm intrigued to know more about how you defined science literacy - and why that was one of your goals (over say developing science skills)?

  • Icon for: Helen Boylan

    Helen Boylan

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 03:29 p.m.

    Hi, Monae.  Thanks for watching and commenting!  We define scientific literacy in our grant proposal as "scientific inquiry methods, evaluation and use of scientific literature, data analysis and interpretation, and ability to make predictions and draw conclusions."  For the business students in the EPMA program, we focused on scientific literacy rather than developing specific science skills.  (To be fair, however, they certainly did learn specific science skills along the way.)  The emphasis on scientific literacy is to enable the participating business students to be "scientifically literate" out in the workforce.  We want them to complete this program with an ability to pursue careers in the business of doing science.  That means that they need to be able to communicate science and interpret scientific data.  For many business students in our program, they would have not considered careers in the scientific industry prior to participating in EPMA.  Because of their experience integrating business and science in EPMA, they have the confidence and basic science understanding to make a career in the business of doing science a possibility.

     
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    Becca Schillaci
  • Icon for: R. Bruce Mattingly

    R. Bruce Mattingly

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 14, 2019 | 01:47 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this outstanding work. I have a couple of questions about the term "cluster course."

    1. Do the participating students enroll in both the science course and the business course?

    2. Am I correct in assuming that the cluster course idea is a larger structure that can accommodate many different course pairings? In other words, is the EPMA just one instance of a cluster course?

    Your project is very similar in spirit to the Common Problem Project described in our video. We have students from STEM classes working collaboratively with students from the humanities to address real-world problems from their local communities. We would welcome your feedback on what we're doing.

  • Icon for: Helen Boylan

    Helen Boylan

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 03:42 p.m.

     Hi, Bruce.  Thanks for watching and for your questions!

    1) Students who participate in EPMA are simultaneously enrolled in both the project management course and the environmental science course.

    2) The "cluster" is a liberal studies requirement at Westminster College.  It is a pairing of two courses, from two different disciplines, to a common cohort of students, an interdisciplinary experience.  At WC, there is a good bit of flexibility in terms of how much the two courses in the cluster are integrated.  Our EPMA program is at one extreme, where the content and project is integrated into both courses, and both professors attend all class/lab meetings of both courses.  A truly unique aspect of the EPMA program is the embedded leadership seminar.   For approximately 1.5 hrs each week, a third professor works with the students to develop leadership and soft skills.  The students are then able to hone these skills as they work on the project work in small teams.  (The students generally view the leadership portion of the cluster the most valuable part of the experience.  However, I don't think they would have that same perception if they weren't using those leadership and soft skills in the project aspect of the EPMA program.)

    The Common Problem Project sounds quite similar.  I will definitely check it out!

     

  • Icon for: Brad Weaver

    Brad Weaver

    May 15, 2019 | 11:08 a.m.

    This is a great project.  How do I hitch our wagon in the School of Communication to it?

  • Icon for: Brian Petrus

    Brian Petrus

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 05:28 p.m.

    Hi Brad,

    Thank you for your interest in this project!  We have one more year already scheduled with partners already selected; however, we are also greatly interested in exploring the sustainability of this program and the translation of this interdisciplinary type of experience across other major areas of study.  We should talk further on this soon!  In the meantime, perhaps there's a way to link in a video project in one of your classes to our next cohort?  As our next community partner is located in New Castle, this may be a great way to gain some exposure in a more localized area.    

  • Icon for: Alison DuBois

    Alison DuBois

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 12:05 p.m.

    Check out this video from IUP. It may give you some ideas!

    https://stemforall2019.videohall.com/presentati...

    Ali

  • Icon for: Becca Schillaci

    Becca Schillaci

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2019 | 01:19 p.m.

    Really great work! I imagine that teaching STEM material to both STEM and non-STEM majors (and likewise teaching business material to business and non-business majors) has its challenges. Do you find you need to differentiate learning? What contributes to your success in engaging students from (seemingly) disparate backgrounds in knowledge/interest?

  • Icon for: Helen Boylan

    Helen Boylan

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 05:34 p.m.

    Hi, Becca.  Thanks for your question.  It is certainly true that teaching STEM material to a mixed cohort of business and STEM students has it challenges.  As an example, during lab #1 this semester I was asked by a business major to explain the concept of pH, when pH is second-nature to our STEM majors.  A fundamental understanding of pH was critical for this year's project, in which we were studying abandoned mine drainage.

    I would not say that we differentiate instruction.  Rather, we start instruction from basic principles, but we progress pretty quickly to fairly meaty content for both the project management and STEM courses.  I think the success in our model comes from two, interrelated aspects:

    1) Application of the content to real-world issues.  In order to apply the content, the students in many ways have to "figure it out."  Sure, we as faculty can help and we give them the basic content and skills at the start of the semester, but they often rely on their peers to help them learn what they need to know in project work.

    2) Cross-functional teamwork and learning.  Our students do project work in teams in which the teams include both STEM and business majors.  The STEM majors help the business students apply scientific techniques, while the business students help the STEM students apply business skills.  Both cohorts of students benefit from this approach.  Not only are they learning content and skills from another discipline, they are learning to communicate their own disciplinary knowledge to someone outside their discipline.

    Direct communication and interaction with the community partner who explains the real-world problem that the students are working on is what really engages and motivates the students, regardless of major.  Students want to help make the world a better place.  They see value in a real-world project in which they can make a difference.  Finally their coursework counts for "more than a grade."

     
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    Becca Schillaci
  • Icon for: Becca Schillaci

    Becca Schillaci

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2019 | 10:46 a.m.

    I think this part of your response is particularly important! Thanks for sharing. "Not only are they learning content and skills from another discipline, they are learning to communicate their own disciplinary knowledge to someone outside their discipline."

  • Small default profile

    Cliff Denholm

    May 16, 2019 | 12:32 p.m.

    Nice video!  The students did a great job!  I really enjoyed working with them!  I really like the idea of the cluster course.  It provides the students from different educational programs to be exposed to a completely different field and a chance to collaborate with each other as people do on projects in the so called "real world".  Great experience for all involved.

     

  • Icon for: Brian Petrus

    Brian Petrus

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 05:40 p.m.

    Thank you for your comments, Cliff, and THANK YOU for lending your time and expertise to our cohort of students.  Your assistance was not only greatly appreciated, but it was invaluable to our student's (and my) understanding of abandoned mine drainage and the societal impact it has on this geographic area.  Seeing pictures of the "sludge" does not do it any justice.  Getting the students out of the classroom and conducting field tests was a major value-add to this course architecture and overall experience.   

  • Small default profile

    Yiannoula Katsadas

    Undergraduate Student
    May 16, 2019 | 12:34 p.m.

    This cluster kicked my booty but I’m so glad I got this real world experience!! (I’m the one in the pink hat, blue blazer, and I was showing off a worm I found in the lab!) 

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Becca Schillaci
    Mary Murphy
  • Icon for: Becca Schillaci

    Becca Schillaci

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2019 | 10:48 a.m.

    It's great to hear from a student! :) Thanks for sharing! How did you learn about the course? What made you decide you wanted to take it?

    For presenters: Was there are selection process for student participation?

  • Icon for: Brian Petrus

    Brian Petrus

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 06:16 p.m.

    Hi, Becca.  Thank you for watching our video and for your questions!  

    As the "cluster" is a liberal studies requirement at Westminster College, there is somewhat of a natural funnel already established as it relates to garnishing student participation.  However, as our grant application was specifically tailored towards business and STEM students, with a conscious effort towards an equal mix of majors and gender, in combination with a preference towards sophomore and junior status students for evaluative growth purposes, we actively advertised the EPMA experience and held information sessions prior to spring registration in order to garnish additional interest in the course(s) and to explain the expected workload and overall experience.    

    Students that met the course prerequisites and that attended the information sessions were more or less placed at the top of the registration list.  It was then a first-come, first-serve selection process during active registration.  Of course, if a student required a cluster course this semester in order to graduate, that, too, was taken into consideration.  

    Generally speaking, cluster courses do not carry prerequisites.  Given the complexities of our selected projects, however, certain requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities were necessary as it relates to our overall selection process.    

         

  • Icon for: Mark Mort

    Mark Mort

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 16, 2019 | 11:30 p.m.

    This is such a fantastic idea.  Have you been able to work with local partners to create/identify internship opportunities for the students in this cluster course?  Great work!

  • Icon for: Brian Petrus

    Brian Petrus

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 07:18 p.m.

    Hi, Mark.  Thank you for watching our video and for your comments and questions! 

    Our first project was geared towards solar feasibility in the Borough of New Wilmington.  Unfortunately, the areas under study did not receive enough sunlight in order to substantiate the cost of the panels.  Additionally, the Borough did not qualify for several of the major tax incentives that would make it economically feasible given their non-profit status.  Accordingly, we were not able to readily identify any applicable and ongoing internship opportunities.  Had this project been financially feasible, we believe many opportunities would have been present and would have actively pursued them!  I will note, however, that we received immediate word from two of our students about the direct applicability of the course material in their internships held over the summer of 2018.

    As per this year's study, two of the major recommendations that the students proposed to the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition were directly linked towards ongoing work/internship activities.  One recommendation was geared towards a marketing/business internship in order to more actively market the "sludge" that is currently in storage.  Another recommendation initiated additional collaborative relationships with Westminster College students for the co-development and writing of grants specifically related to the extraction process costs associated with abandoned mine drainage.

    While no internships have been successfully developed as of yet, we hope that these collaborative relationships continue beyond the classroom and associated projects.  Internship opportunities have certainly been identified and we look forward to further development.    

  • Icon for: James Liszka

    James Liszka

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 17, 2019 | 08:26 a.m.

    Hi Helen,

    As Bruce Mattingly mentioned above, our Common Problem Project, has some similarities with your project. As he noted, we open it up to a number of pairings between STEM and other disciplines, and there's more of a focus on problem-solving than service learning. I was particularly interested in your assessment approach. I wonder if there's opportunity to compare notes in the future and learn from each others' projects.

  • Icon for: Brian Petrus

    Brian Petrus

    Co-Presenter
    May 19, 2019 | 09:57 a.m.

    Hi, James.  

    We greatly value the opportunity to interact, engage, and learn from others.  It sounds and looks (great video, by the way!) like the Common Problem Project and our project have similar characteristics.  In terms of assessment approaches, we've opted for pre and post testing with control and comparison groups in combination with various in-class assessment methodologies.  I think we'd welcome the opportunity to compare notes and learn from each other in the future.  

  • Icon for: Becca Schillaci

    Becca Schillaci

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2019 | 10:50 a.m.

    The video mentioned that you'll be taking this model into other academic disciplines and other institutions. Do you anticipate any challenges in accomplishing these goals?

  • Icon for: Brian Petrus

    Brian Petrus

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 07:48 p.m.

    Hi, Becca!  The transference of this model into other academic disciplines would certainly prove challenging but not impossible.  Based on our experience, it would require a significant upfront investment of time and energy in addition to hardworking, collaborative colleagues that don't mind spending A LOT of time together!  Really, one of the most challenging aspects would be the selection of the project and the buy-in of the collaborative partner.  We're hopeful that our "lessons learned" notations might assist future iterations of the model. 

    Transferring this model into other academic institutions brings about much more complicated issues.  For example, cluster courses are part of the liberal studies core at Westminster College.  This is more than likely not the case at other institutions.  Our cluster accounts for 8 of 16 typical credit hours during the semester.  This structure could prove quite challenging at other colleges and universities.  Of course, there is also the challenge of teaching loads and time commitments and constraints. 

    Numerous challenges are present, yes.  However, where there is a will, there is a way!  We believe this model is a major value-add to the students.  With appropriate modifications, we're confident that the overall idea and structure can be implemented wherever committed faculty are willing!      

  • Icon for: R. Bruce Mattingly

    R. Bruce Mattingly

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 17, 2019 | 10:36 p.m.

    Brian, I am really enjoying reading the discussions on your video. Your project has some similarities to ours (as I noted in an earlier comment) and we have grappled with many of the same issues. I would agree 100% that any collaboration will require a significant investment of time. In our experience, if two faculty members from any disciplines can identify a problem or issue that would make sense for each of their classes to address, then there is a strong chance of success if they do the appropriate planning ahead of time. One quick example not mentioned in our video -- we had a project centered on the general topic of migration that involved three classes: childhood education, political science, and history. And one quick warning -- as the number of classes increases, the logistical challenges increase exponentially!

    I also agree that transferring your work to other institutions might be challenging, but worth the investment because of the benefits to the students. Congratulations on an outstanding project!

     

  • Small default profile

    Shena Salvato

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 19, 2019 | 04:44 p.m.

    Hello, Helen. I appreciated the opportunity to watch your video and to see this collaborative project in action!

    I am intrigued by the exposure students have to content-specific academic language (you mentioned "pH"), which can have broader applications in adult life rather than being limited to one's field or profession. It seems the same will likely happen for the STEM students who are exposed to the "language of business", when they could learn some very practical terms to use in their daily lives. Do you have any anecdotes to illustrate this for the STEM students' heightened awareness of business language? It seems this cross-disciplinary experience can, consequently, help those students involved become more well-rounded individuals and informed citizens. Additionally, with each passing cohort, do you find that instructors identify increasingly more terms to teach explicitly because of the content-specific gaps students might present in class?

    Have you had any students who eventually decide to minor in the "other" discipline after having participated in this experience? At our institution, I often have students join our TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) minor from fields such as Adolescence Education math, science or social studies after taking one required course and being exposed to a world they had not realized existed. If students do not have time or space in their schedule to add the minor, others go on to specialize in TESOL in their graduate studies. Do you have any instances of students who have chosen to minor or pursue their graduate studies in the "other" field after having participated? This opportunity for connection seems to have benefits for the institution as a whole.

    Lastly, this experience seems that it would very positively influence future STEM and business teachers to engage in interdisciplinary work at the high school level. Have you had any pre-service teachers in your cohorts, and if so, have you had follow-up communication with them to see if and how they are applying what they learned through this experience to their own teaching?

    Thank you for the creative and innovative work you're doing with today's future leaders!

    Best,
    Shena

    P.S. As we met in sixth grade and have been collaborating since then, it is an honor to watch this as your higher ed. colleague, and to see the connection between our institutions in this thread. As Bruce and I work in the same building, I am very happy to serve as a liaison between WC and SUNY, as this seems to be no accidental connection!

  • Icon for: Helen Boylan

    Helen Boylan

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 01:28 p.m.

    Hi, Shena.  Thanks for you comments and questions!  One great anectdotal story comes to mind with reference to the STEM students' awareness of business language.   One biology major from last year's cohort had a summer research experience in a hospital setting.  He was working on a research team, and the PI on the project showed the team a Gantt chart for the project work.  Out of all the people, including professionals on the research team, our student was the only one who had any knowledge or experience with a Gantt chart.  He ended up explaining it to people in the group!  One great example of many...

    We have not had many students add a STEM minor.  We do have many STEM students that minor in business, and our cluster course does make that route more appealing for some students.  Given your comment, we might want to consider pathways that make a STEM minor more appealing for our business students.

    We have not had any pre-service teachers in our cohort yet.  I agree that it could encourage interdisciplinary work at the high school level.  Given the emphasis on project-based work and experiential learning in the high school setting, I agree that pre-service teachers would benefit from exposure to the EPMA program.

    Thanks for your offer to be a liaison with Bruce.  I think our team could gain a lot from conversations with his team!

     

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.