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  • Building Community in the Climate Change Movement

    In March are three exciting events in a collaboration between Environmental Studies (ENST), Science, Technology and Society (STS), and the Grand Challenges Program.

    Mark your calendars now for these exciting virtual events on three consecutive Tuesdays at 5:30pm EST via Zoom. Please click on the links below to pre-register.

    (photo credit Marcus Branch)

    Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, writer, and Brooklyn native.  She is founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for coastal cities, and co-creator and co-host of the Spotify/Gimlet podcast How to Save a Planet. With Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, she co-edited the climate anthology All We Can Save, and co-founded The All We Can Save Project. Recently, she co-authored the Blue New Deal, a roadmap for including the ocean in climate policy. Previously, she was executive director of the Waitt Institute, developed policy at the EPA and NOAA, served as a leader of the March for Science, and taught as an adjunct professor at New York University. Dr. Johnson earned a BA from Harvard University in environmental science and public policy, and a Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in marine biology. She publishes widely, including in The New York Times, Washington PostLos Angeles Times, and Time, and she blogs on Scientific American. She is on the 2021 Time 100 Next List and was named one of Elle’s 27 Women Leading on Climate. Outside Magazine called her  “the most influential marine biologist of our time.” Her mission is to build community around solutions to our climate crisis. Find her@ayanaeliza.

    Dr. Robert Kopp is a climate scientist who serves at Rutgers University as Director of the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Sciences and a Professor in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences. His research focuses on past and future sea-level change, on the interactions between physical climate change and the economy, and on the use of climate risk information in decision making. He is an author of the Fourth National Climate Assessment and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s forthcoming Sixth Assessment Report, as well as a director of the Climate Impact Lab. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and a recipient of AGU’s James B. Macelwane and William Gilbert Medals and the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA)’s Sir Nicholas Shackleton Medal.

    Announcing Spring 2021 Grand Challenges Courses

    This semester there will be several courses, old and new, supported by Grand Challenges. More information is available here

    Professor Jan Cameron Reflects on a GC Intensive 

    Creating Communities That Care (CLCS175)
    The Fall 2020 intensive Creating Communities That Care was a six-week course exploring the notion of community in science, and in particular, what it means to pursue diversity and inclusion in our scientific community.  We studied the concept of inclusive excellence as part of the process of an institution’s development, and considered what inclusive excellence in science may look like here at Vassar.  A series of lively discussions zeroed in on culture: What is an institution’s culture? How do we experience it, and how do we investigate it?  How might it shape our perspectives, values, and learning experiences?  What impact might this seemingly invisible force have on a student's success in math and science?  Our work combined readings from the literature on diversity and multicultural organizational development with discussions and reflections on how these various notions may impact us as individuals, and our community more broadly.   

    More Information About the Grand Challenges Program

    Grand Challenges is a five-year initiative of curricular innovation, faculty development, and community engagement at Vassar College, founded in 2018 with the help of a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, whose aim is to foster inclusive excellence in STEM education at the college.

    An institution embodies inclusive excellence to the extent that it pursues and achieves its scientific and educational goals within a pervasive culture of inclusion— that is, an intellectual climate which is founded on the diversity of identities, backgrounds and perspectives of its members, which is committed to supporting the hard work of its members, and which expects that all members play a vital role in the community.

  • Faculty

    The Grand Challenge program is fostering a community of faculty and students coming together to tackle complex interdisciplinary problems. As the problems evolve, so do our ways to teach, learn, and collaborate. Explore how the Grand Challenges program can facilitate our evolution as teachers, scholars, and members of an engaged community.

  • Community

    How might students and faculty work together in pursuit of these goals? In what ways can we bring this work to the whole campus community?

    We envision the Grand Challenges taking shape in the following categories:

    • Courses and Curriculum
    • Collaboration and Mentorship
    • Communicating Science
    • Community Engagement
  • Our Principles and Priorities

    Grand Challenges is a five-year initiative of curricular innovation, faculty development, and community engagement at Vassar College, founded with the help of a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, with the aim of fostering inclusive excellence in STEM education at the college. An institution that embodies inclusive excellence is founded on the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives of its members; supports the hard work of its members; and makes space for all its members to participate meaningfully.

    Grand Challenges embodies the following principles

    • We learn most effectively when empowered to discover, amplify, and leverage our individual strengths, and when those strengths are supported and valued by our community.  
    • We learn when we take risks, and when we experience, and overcome, failure.  Responding productively to failure is essential to learning and to scientific advancement.
    • Every individual’s scientific work is necessarily linked to the greater community of scientists.  Therefore, excellence in science education requires engagement across difference and openness to diverse perspectives. 
    • Our academic community is most vibrant and dynamic when we recognize a variety of ways to engage with scientific knowledge.  Excellent science education combines rigorous academic standards with a wide range of opportunities to participate. 

    Our current priorities are

    • Transforming the science curriculum in ways that enhance student engagement—with a particular focus on students from groups currently underrepresented in STEM—while improving the intellectual climate for all. 
    • Supporting faculty development through scholarly projects and pedagogical innovations that further the goals of inclusive excellence.
    • Implementing community-building activities that enhance the sense of belonging of members of the Vassar science community, and the college as a whole.

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