MADISON — The University of Wisconsin System’s Women and Science Program received a Certificate of Excellence recently as part of the nationwide Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Faculty Development to Enhance Undergraduate Teaching and Learning.
The Hesburgh Awards are sponsored by TIAA-CREF and presented at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education (ACE). The awards are given based on “significance of the program to higher education, appropriate program rationale, and successful results and impact on undergraduate teaching and student learning.”
The UW System Women and Science Program began in 1992 as an effort to attract and retain more women and students of color in science, mathematics, and engineering, according to Heidi Fencl, a faculty member at UW-Oshkosh who directs the program.
Original funding was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF), in response to widespread concerns about the underrepresentation of women and persons of color in these technical careers. At the conclusion of the NSF grant, the program became part of the UW System. It is housed at UW-Oshkosh but is supported and governed by all UW System institutions.
The program provides role models of professional women scientists and increases faculty expertise in teaching these subjects to women and students of color. Specifically targeted are large-enrollment introductory level courses, which is where many highly qualified undergraduate students drop out of science, mathematics and engineering.
Says Fencl, “By taking steps to make the campus and classroom climate warmer for women and students of color, all students reap the benefits of better teaching.”
The program sponsors a national Curriculum Reform Institute, a workshop for new faculty in science, mathematics, and engineering, a spring retreat, and other activities. The program also houses a library of books and laboratory manuals that relate to this topic.
Since its founding, the program has fostered development of more than 75 new or revised courses, and has extended opportunities to more than 250 different science educators in the UW System. Many of these educators have participated in more than one event or activity.
In addition to the UW System Women and Science Program, programs at three other institutions received Hesburgh Certificates of Excellence at the 2001 ACE Annual Meeting, held in February in Washington, D.C.: Metropolitan State College of Denver (CO), Missouri Southern State College, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. This year’s top Hesburgh Award recipient was Utah Valley State College.
TIAA-CREF is the largest retirement system in the world, serving higher education and non-profit education/research employees and their families. The awards program is named in honor of the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame and a nationally recognized educator and humanitarian.