STEM Education for the 21st Century helping with UN Sustainable Development Goals

The United National Sustainable Development Goals #SDG are a useful framework for future curriculum, as it aligns learning objectives within classes to urgent global needs. It was a nice surprise to get the email below from Springer letting me know that my new book, STEM Education for the 21st Century, is one of their “top used publications on SpringerLink” concerning one or more of the UN SDGs. As it turns out the SDG I am advancing most is the SDG 4 – Quality Education.  You can download the book and its chapters at SpringerLink at this location:

We are delighted to inform you that your book STEM Education for the 21st Century is among the top used publications on SpringerLink that concern one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

They then advised me to let everyone know using social media to say that:

My book is helping solve some of the global challenges #SDG. Check out my eBook @SN_Authors 

SDGsFrom Springer comes this message as well:

Our books and journals share findings that address the world’s sustainable development challenges. We bring together research and other communities of people who are striving to solve these challenges. Find out more.

Soka University Observatory

As part of my work at Soka University, I developed a new observatory system, which is now known as the Nieves Observatory at Soka University of America. The telescope is a research-grade system that can be remotely operated and I am excited about being able to share the system with students who are all around the world, and also to help our Soka University students explore the universe with the telescope.  This will advance our Soka University mission to be not only global citizens but also cosmic or interplanetary global citizens!


My former student from Singapore, Jerrick Wee, helped set up our website which is intended to be something like a course on astronomy for students interested in using the system. The website is available at this link – The telescope has some fantastic characteristics, which for those interested in the tech – are listed below.


0.3m CDK Optical Telescope from Planewave Instruments.

The CDK14 covers a 70 mm field of view without any field curvature, off-axis coma, or astigmatism. The CDK14 is a lightweight carbon-fiber truss design weighs less than 50 lbs, with 3 cooling fans blowing air throughout the back of the telescope.

L-600 Direct Drive Mount

Designed and manufactured by PlaneWave Instruments, the mount operates with zero backlash and zero periodic error, virtually silent motion and slew speeds of up to 50 degrees per second!

Research-Grade Astronomical Camera

Equipped with research-grade FLI camera and a 10-position filter wheel. The camera has a field of view of 47 x 47 arcminutes. Our Plate scale at 1×1 binning is 0.7”/px, and we expect a our sensor will have Quantum Efficiency of over 50% in the mid-optical.

Broad and Narrow Band Optical Filters

The camera is equipped with both broadband and narrow band filters. For broadband we have the Johnson B and V photometric filters along with the Sloan (griz) filters. For narrow-band observations of nebulae we have H-alpha, OIII, SII filters.

The telescope was dedicated and named the Luis Nieves Observatory at Soka University of America in a ceremony which we conducted on October 12, 2019. The flyer for that ceremony is below.


We are incredibly grateful to Luis and Linda Nieves for providing the gift to make the telescope and observatory possible. Below is a photo of myself with Luis Nieves, our University President, Danny Habuki and a representative of the local Orange County Supervisor who presented us with a plaque for the telescope.


Since then we did a wonderful set of campus events, including a “star party” which invited all the students on campus and many of our faculty to have a chance to look through the telescope. Below are some photos from the star party event in late October 2019.

Nieves_Observatory_Starparty - 1

Nieves_Observatory_Starparty - 4

Nieves_Observatory_Starparty - 5

Our Soka University did a story on the telescope and how we have been using it for classes in the Spring 2020 semester. This semester was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but thankfully since the telescope could be used remotely, I was able to have many of our students access the observatory over the internet from their homes.  Here is a copy of that story from the SUA website, which was posted on June 8, 2020. The link for that story is:


Student and professor operate telescope in Nieves Observatory
Sweta Shrestha ’21 and Professor Bryan Penprase adjust the Nieves Observatory telescope.

By Riley Murphy ’20

Soka’s global vision is going intergalactic. The Luis and Linda Nieves Observatory gives Soka students—and astronomers around the world—access to powerful tools to study the cosmos.

The observatory, made possible by a gift from the Luis and Linda Nieves Family Foundation, features an advanced research-grade telescope that allows for the viewing of galaxies, nebulae, and other celestial bodies with precision. Observatory Systems of Pasadena, California, designed the observatory system using the latest telescope mount technology from PlaneWave Instruments of Compton, California. The remote operating system can be used by researchers and students from anywhere in the world.

Nieves Observatory at night

Bryan Penprase, dean of faculty and professor of astronomy, is a member of the Caltech-led group GROWTH (Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen), and looks forward to using the Nieves Observatory to connect Soka students with the group’s resources and expertise.

GROWTH’s network includes telescopes in the United States, India, Sweden, Taiwan, Japan, Israel, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Australia. “The sources that are discovered here in California can then be tracked by other telescopes around the world after sunrise in California,” Penprase said. “It allows a global community of astronomers to work together, and since here at Soka we’re so interested in global citizenship, I recognize that group to be an especially rich environment for our students to begin collaborating with astronomers from around the world.”

Soka students Taiga Morioka ’21 and Jett Facey ’21, who helped Penprase and Observatory Systems install the observatory, are co-authors with Penprase on a paper concerning a transient nova that is nearing publication in the Astrophysics Journal.

The “Sky Pavilion,” Penprase’s nickname for the observatory and its foundational platform, is located by the basketball courts on the western edge of the Soka campus, adjacent to the expansive green space of Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.

The setting, which provides clear viewing conditions shielded from Orange County’s urban light centers, has also upgraded the experience for Soka astronomy classes. And the remote control features were especially handy after students were forced to leave campus in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

M81 galaxy
Image of M81 galaxy by Rodas Bekele ’21

For instance, Rodas Bekele ’21, a third-year student from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was able to operate the telescope from Raleigh, North Carolina, where she is staying with her uncle’s family.

One of Bekele’s projects in “Astronomy 120: Earth’s Cosmic Context—The Discovery of Other Earths and the Origins of the Universe” was to capture an image of M81, a galaxy about 12 million light years from earth. So on several nights after the sunset in Aliso Viejo—later in the evening in North Carolina-—Bekele connected to the Nieves Observatory via the internet, set the coordinates for the galaxy and opened the camera’s aperture for several minutes. Her first results underwhelmed her.

“Honestly, when I started the class,” said Bekele, “I imagined when I looked through the telescope it would be like the pictures we see online, like the really colorful pretty galaxies, but it was literally like a dot.”

After experimenting with longer exposures and then running the results through computer software to adjust the color mix, Bekele, whose Soka concentration is Environmental Studies, produced a final image that Professor Penprase said, “shows wonderful detail in the spiral arms of M81 and reveals the structure of a beautiful face-on galaxy.”

Another class project singled out by Penprase was by Daniel Navarrete-Toulet ’21, who blended blue, green, and red images of the M51 galaxy to show its “true color.”

M51 galaxy
Image of M51 galaxy by Daniel Navarrete-Toulet ’21

Navarrete-Toulet, a third-year Social and Behavioral Sciences student from San Diego, said he was immediately transfixed by the project, staying up to nearly dawn working on the image. M51, a spiral galaxy 23 million light years from Earth, is in optimal position for viewing from Aliso Viejo in the 3 a.m. hour. Navarrete-Toulet focused on the galaxy and set the camera to capture light for 10 minutes for each of the colors. He then spent another 45 minutes adjusting the mix until he had it right.

“You don’t know what they’ll look like put together,” Navarrete-Toulet said, “but after that you get this magnificent little thing.”

The astronomy class was one of Navarrete-Toulet’s favorites this semester; so much so that he got permission from Penprase to use the telescope during his free time. And during Soka’s spring semester finals week last month, Navarrete-Toulet was connecting to the telescope late at night to work on his final project, studying evidence of planets in other solar systems by observing dips in the brightness of stars. It’s a relatively new method of study, and Navarrete-Toulet said he feels fortunate to have the opportunity at Soka.

“It’s really quite marvelous,” he said, “that something that we wouldn’t have been able to do 20 years ago anywhere, we’re doing today in an undergraduate setting.”

View more images at the Nieves Observatory website.


New Program for Fulbright Fellowship Advising at Soka University

After consulting with our colleagues at Pitzer College, which has one of the best Fulbright advising programs in our area, we developed a Soka University Fulbright program, led by faculty member Sarah England. Meetings at Pitzer College, and help from Nigel Boyle, then Dean of Pitzer College, helped us develop a program to recruit potential Fulbright fellows from among our Soka University students. This included a very proactive communication strategy and direct mail to the students in the summer encouraging them to apply for the program, followed by several workshops to explain the Fulbright program and help them develop their applications. The program worked extremely well, and we had eight applicants in the first year, with six finalists and two Fulbright recipients in 2019. In 2020, we had six applicants and two recipients. This year, even with the COVID pandemic, our students are very interested in getting a Fulbright fellowship and we are optimistic we can send some more of our students on Fulbright fellowships. The program is perfectly matched to our Soka University emphasis on Global Citizenship and since all of our students have taken two years or more of language, studied abroad and often have travelled to dozens of countries and served in international internships, our students are very competitive in the program. It has been a joy to develop this program and I am sure that it will benefit many students in the coming year and help them be more influential in their careers and lives as global citizens.  Below are some of the stories from the SUA website describing our Fulbright award winning students.


A new Fulbright Fellowship Advising program has been created at Soka University of America, to help advise students who are interested in being part of the Fulbright program, which awards grants to conduct research and teach English in more than 140 countries. The program was initiated by Bryan Penprase, dean of faculty, who appointed SUA anthropology professor Sarah England as the inaugural Fulbright advisor, with the support from SUA VPAA Edward Feasel. Professor England in her first year as Fulbright advisor was able to advise eight SUA students who completed applications for Fulbright fellowships in six different countries (Spain, Colombia, Indonesia, France, South Korea, and Portugal). Of these eight students who applied, six reached semi-finalist status, where the Fulbright commission recommends them to the host country. Of those six finalists, two were granted Fulbright Fellowships. The two SUA Fulbright recipients for 2019 are Sofia Dugas, who will be an English teaching assistant in Medellin, Columbia, and Miranda Almeida, who will be an English teaching assistant in Spain. The other applicants include Jessica Lee, Celeste Marquez, Suzanna Stockey, Zoe Frye, Michael Note, and Khyla Horton.

The Fulbright US Student Program is designed specifically for US citizen students with a degree from a US university to study, research, engage in an artistic activity, and teach English abroad. Grants are for one year and follow the US academic calendar. The program includes fellowships for research in one of 140 participating countries, or fellowships enabling students to serve as a teaching assistant in one of 75 participating countries. Fulbright awardees are also expected to carry out some form of community engagement project in addition to their research or teaching.

Soka University of America, with its commitment to developing global citizens, is an ideal training ground for students interested in Fulbright and other international fellowships. After the success of the inaugural year of SUA’s Fulbright Advising program, new workshops are being planned for students to apply next year. In the next round, we are hopeful to have even more applicants, and we will also help advise our domestic and international students interested in fellowships through the Princeton in Asia/Africa/Latin America programs, which offer a similar opportunity to work abroad to help NGOs and educators in a wide variety of countries.

Photo Courtesy of Soka University Archivist and Photographer.

Two students in Soka’s Class of 2020—Isolde Pierce and Trey Carlisle—have received Fulbright fellowships to continue their studies and contributions abroad.

Carlisle has accepted a research fellowship in Nanjing, China, and Pierce will be an English teaching assistant in the Canary Islands of Spain. The fellowships, which will start in January, are part of the Fulbright US Student Program.

Trey Carlisle ’20

The program, administered by the US State Department, is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and other countries, which makes Soka students natural candidates. Two years ago Soka created a Fulbright Advising Program to help students navigate the rigorous application process. And now the program, led by anthropology professor Sarah England, has helped SUA students receive two Fulbright grants two years in a row.

Carlisle, whose Soka concentration is Social and Behavioral Sciences, will be looking into how Black and Latinx music and dance, such as Hip Hop and Zumba dance, can be used to foster appreciation for and understanding of the histories and cultures of the US and China. Carlisle, from Los Angeles, was inspired by his semester studying abroad in China.

“Even though Black and Latinx art forms are popular in China, there is still a lack of awareness toward the history and experiences of Black and Latinx people,” Carlisle said. “Similarly, although Chinese cultural expression, for example Tai Chi and Kung Fu, are extremely popular in the US, there is a great ignorance among Americans toward the history and the experiences of Chinese people.

“The goal of my research is to explore how both Chinese and Afro-diasporic art forms can be used as bridges to enhance cultural appreciation, rather than perpetuate cultural appropriation.”

Pierce, from Davis, California, said three international travel and education experiences at Soka sparked her interest in teaching abroad. As a freshman she was in Peru with biology professor Anthony Mazeroll’s Amazon research center. Before her junior year, she taught English to children in a service learning program in Chile. During her semester abroad in the Dominican Republic, she continued to hone her Spanish language skills and her awareness of Spain’s influence over Latin American culture.

In addition to teaching English on the Canary Islands, Pierce, whose Soka concentration is Environmental Studies, will work on a community project involving conservation in marine ecosystems.

“I hope to connect with the students in a way that inspires them to appreciate the environment and take care of nature,” Pierce said.




MOU with Claremont Graduate University for accelerated MA degrees

On March 25, 2019, SUA signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with Claremont Graduate University (CGU), to enable SUA students to have preferred access to their Accelerated Degree programs in four tracks, Education (with an MA or MA + teaching credential), Management (with an MBA from the CGU Drucker School of Management), and International Studies (with an MA in International Studies). Present at the signing at CGU were Ed Feasel, VPAA, Bryan Penprase, Dean of Faculty, Esther Chang, SBS Concentration Director and Ian Read, International Studies Concentration Director.

In all of the CGU MA degree tracks, SUA students will be eligible to apply in their junior year at SUA, and CGU will give our SUA students preferential access to these excellent MA programs. This arrangement is only available to students at the Claremont Colleges and SUA, and provides a great opportunity for students to complete a MA degree in less time and cost. As part of the arrangement, CGU has agreed to waive the GRE requirement and application fees. Once admitted, SUA students can then transfer some of their SUA coursework to their CGU MA degree and are also eligible to take CGU courses for their MA degree while enrolled as a senior at SUA. In addition, CGU will be providing $10,000 fellowships to SUA students, and SUA will provide five $10,000 scholarships based on merit, for the CGU programs.

The CGU accelerated MA degree programs available to SUA students include a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the Drucker School of Management, an MA in Education (with a teaching credential or without), and an MA in International Studies. In the coming years we look forward to offering SUA students this exciting new opportunity. The Soka University news story on this signing is below, along with some of the photos from the event.


From SUA website story at


Vice President for Academic Affairs & Chief Academic Officer Ed Feasel, signed an agreement with Claremont Graduate University to provide accelerated bachelor’s to master’s programs for Soka students in international studies, education/teaching credential, and master’s of business administration. This unique partnership creates an opportunity for students to begin work on their master’s program while completing their undergraduate degrees and using credits earned to complete their CGU MA degrees ​in shorter time.

In addition to the signing with CGU’s Provost Patricia Easton (seated, right), Dean of Faculty Bryan Penprase also signed agreements with three CGU deans: DeLacy Ganley (School of Educational Studies), Michelle Bligh (School of Social Science, Policy & Evaluation), and Jenny Darroch (Peter F. Drucker & Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management). Also in attendance were Soka concentration directors Esther S. Chang (Social and Behavioral Sciences), Ian Read (International Studies), and CGU Dean of Admissions Timothy Council.


Since signing the MOU, several SUA students have taken part in the program. We also have discussed with faculty and gauged student interest, which has suggested that we consider expanding the MOU to include two new fields, an MA in Psychology and an MS in Information Systems management. In Fall 2020 I will be working with the faculty and the leadership from both SUA and CGU to consider expanding this MOU, and look forward to it helping our students gain advanced degrees at CGU with less cost and faster than would otherwise be possible.  The MS in Information Systems builds on SUA’s strong interest in Geographic Information Systems, and would be helpful for many students in a variety of concentrations. The MA in psychology builds on SUAs excellent psychology offerings and we look forward to both programs moving forward in the coming months.

Research Enhancement at Soka University

In parallel with our initiatives to enhance teaching, we launched several programs to help support and incentivise faculty research at Soka University.  One of our initial efforts was to include Soka University of America in leading databases such as SCOPUS and SCIVAL, and so in my first year as Dean, I managed to get these databases to include Soka University and several other small liberal arts colleges to their databases to enable tracking of faculty research output.  This allows for a benchmark and a method for measuring progress. In the years as Dean of Faculty, I worked closely with my Associate Dean Michael Wiener and our Sponsored Research Officer, Shuna McMichaels to help highlight and incentivize faculty research. These efforts include several tracks, described below.

To enhance the visibility of the faculty scholarship, we sponsored a monthly “meet the author” talk by faculty members, where they would give a presentation about their most recent book, article or artistic work to our university community. These events, organised by Michael Wiener, took place in our Athenaeum, and allowed for faculty to learn more about each other’s scholarship and also engage in discussions afterwards over a nice catered reception. A series of these talks took place over AY 2018-19 and AY 2019-20.  In addition to the community-building event, I worked with the SUA library to improve the representation of faculty works on our library website and in the physical exhibits at the library. The library kindly moved aside some of the displays in the entry to the library and made space for two bookshelves and display cases to showcase (literally) the amazing scholarship of our university community. This culminated in a wonderful faculty research reception on May 2, 2019, at the SUA library, attended by over 20 faculty to celebrate faculty research. The short news items about this sent to all faculty is below.

Faculty Works Exhibit at the Library. We have had a wonderful opening of the Faculty Works exhibit at the library – thanks to Esther Chang, Junyi Liu and Hiroko Tomono for their wonderful efforts bringing the exhibit together. Please do stop by when you have a chance. We also are discussing with the library about having additional events like our last Friday reception at the library to encourage faculty discussions about their intellectual pursuits and enjoy leaning more about each other’s research projects.  We also have an online directory of faculty works created by the library at this location:

Along with the physical display of faculty books, manuscripts and works of art, we also have a catalog of faculty publications from the last five years available on our Portal.  This document, showed the wide range of faculty publications and was a helpful document for sharing the SUA scholarship with others. A PDF of this document and cover of the booklet is available below. Faculty research citations.ver.May3.2019

Alongside these great community-building events, the Associate Dean Michael Wiener and I worked together to provide course relief for exceptionally productive scholars within our faculty and a Merit Award program in which a review of the past two years of faculty publications provided the basis for recognition in an awards banquet, in which our university President, VPAA and Dean all celebrated the accomplishments of the faculty. They also received a cash bonus as well to recognise their hard work in producing excellent scholarship while also teaching our students at SUA. Our ratings for publication output followed a precise algorithm, whereby we awarded points for the quality of the publications that faculty were using for their journal articles, and the quality of the university presses used for monographs. Quantifying this system was a challenge but necessary to assure fairness in the program. Our journal ratings were based on a mix of journal metrics from Scopus, Scimago, and other websites, while our Monographs were rated according to rankings available at AAUP and Elsevier. An excerpt of these journal and monograph ratings from our memo to faculty is below:

Journals: Guides for citation rates and quality of journals in Sciences, Medicine, Social Sciences, Health, Arts and Humanities:

Monographs: Resources for finding high quality book publishers and academic presses:

The process for enhancing and incentivising faculty scholarship is ongoing, and in my new position as Vice President for Sponsored Research and External Academic Relations, I look forward to helping advance faculty in their research with externally funded grants, and to work to foster collaborations with liberal arts peer institutions and also with R1 universities. Together these efforts will help our students at SUA have a deeper and more rewarding undergraduate experience, as faculty can help them connect to the most urgent questions in their fields and to work alongside them in creating new knowledge and artistic creations in our libraries, laboratories, and studios. Below is a photo from our May 2019 Merit Award banquet which is described at the SUA website in this story –

Teaching Enhancement at Soka University

Soka University has a strong tradition of emphasis on effective teaching, and its extensive GE and Core curriculum helped to bring faculty together to discuss courses and pedagogy. This was a strength that I leveraged, along with the Faculty Enhancement Committee, in developing a strategy for enhancing and building teaching effectiveness at Soka University. One element in urgent need of updating was the teaching evaluation system, which relied on paper scantron forms from the IDEA organization. In the first year as Dean (AY 2017-18) I arranged for a new online course evaluation system, which was based on the IDEA Diagonostic test, but provided by the company CampusLabs, which included in the newer system the options for custom instructor questions and also included additional resources for helping faculty teach. In Fall of 2017 (my first semester as Dean) I set up a series of workshops with faculty to learn the new system and also to provide a chance for them to ask questions and discuss teaching evaluation. To reduce the challenge on faculty used to the older system we also provided an “opt-in” for the first year, as we transitioned the entire faculty to online teaching evaluations. This was a good idea since the old system was about to be retired.

To aid in the teaching enhancement effort, I convened a series of discussions with faculty teaching in the various GE courses, to help them engage in discussions about these courses, which had groups of faculty offering different sections of required courses. The goal in these discussions was to share insights into the curriculum and pedagogy, and to document these insights in a booklet. Each of the groups, which included faculty teaching American Experience, Pacific basin, Core I (subtitled “Enduring Questions of Humanity”), Core II (subtitled “Enduring Questions in a Social Context”), Modes of Inquiry, and Creativity Forum, got together, discussed the course, and were asked to write up the meaning of the course and to give samples of how each faulty member saw this course. My reasoning was that these discussions would leverage this existing “common intellectual property” and help faculty approach their teaching in these courses with a more collective approach that would highlight the social and collaborative approach of a learning community. This hypothesis was aligned with educational research into communities of practice, which require a community to have standards and a property that they share and these groups were hoped to form the basis of a set of communities on campus to share ideas on teaching. By documenting existing practice, it was also possible to improve it, a technique I learned from my SoTL course at Yale_NUS known as “Appreciative Inquiry.” The resulting booklet was a very useful document for recording insights into this curriculum, which had been offered for nearly 20 years, and was helpful for sharing with outside visitors to Soka University, and eventually became an invaluable resource for incoming faculty and for our new website, which was launched during 2019-20. Below is the cover from our 66-page SUA curriculum booklet, which can also be downloaded from this site at the link here: A Guide To General Education and the Core Curriculum.



In parallel to the Core and GE discussions, I worked with my associate Dean, Michael Weiner, to set up a series of discussions about the Capstone process, which was an important part of each of our concentrations. All of the students would prepare a thesis based on original work in their senior year, which included courses in Fall and spring amounting to 12 credit hours. It was important to document how each concentration approached this process, and by discussing and documenting this, the hope was that adjacent concentrations could learn from each other and improve and streamline their procedures. The result from that effort was a Capstone Document, which was very helpful for improving the process within each concentration and did produce a number of innovations and improvements in our capstone process, such as an enhanced emphasis on deliverables in January of senior year to help students finish their project, and a poster fair from our Social and Behavioural Sciences (SBS) concentration to celebrate the accomplishments of our seniors. The latter was developed by Peter Burns and Esther Chang, the SBS concentration director. The resulting 35-page booklet and its cover are below. This document can be downloaded at this link:



In my second year as Dean, I decided to adopt some new approaches, aided by the Faculty Enhancement Committee and its chair, Peter Burns, who was an excellent teacher and enthusiastic about sharing ideas about teaching and helping to mentor colleagues. With the committee, we set up a series of teaching lunches during AY 2018-19 that included faculty presentations and discussions about teaching, as well as outside experts to bring new ideas to our community.  The discussions sometimes centered on our curriculum, like an October event in 2018 that featured an article and a discussion about “Learning Clusters” which are Soka University’s immersive 3.5 week courses we offer each January:

Please join us at noon on October 3 for a brown bag discussion on student-directed teaching.As Learning Cluster approaches, we will read “Student-Directed Learning: An Exercise in Student Engagement,” and answer the following questions:

1) What is your assessment of the approach presented in this article?

2) Have you used similar approaches in the past, and if so, with which kinds of success?

3) To what extent can the approach presented in this article be used in Soka Learning Clusters?

The subsequent discussion was also centered around an article and was a discussion on the topic of mentoring:

The next faculty teaching brown bag will be at noon on November 14 and the faculty will read and discuss the “Guide to Best Practices in Faculty Mentoring: A Roadmap for Departments, Schools, Mentors and Mentees,” by the Office of the Provost at Columbia University.  We will discuss the importance of mentoring, formal and informal mentoring, and possible best practices in mentoring for Soka University.

The discussions about teaching continued in the concentrations and one innovation that arose was known as the Teaching Slam – which was invented by Esther Chang and supported by Peter Burns. The SBS faculty convened this teaching slam in December 2018 and shared short snippets (2-4 minutes) from their classes, along with handouts, and gave time for questions and discussion. This innovation was very successful, and Peter Burns implemented a campus-wide Teaching Slam for all faculty at the end of the semester. The Teaching Slam became an annual tradition, and included a nice catered lunch for helping build community and morale.


Our first visitor to campus was Darryl Yong, an amazing teacher and scholar from Harvey Mudd College. He came and gave a pair of workshops in December 2018. Darryl also came out to Singapore when I was starting the Yale_NUS Teaching Center and did a great job with our group at Soka University. Below is the announcement for his talk.

On Wednesday, December 5 we will be visited by Darryl Yong, founding director of the Claremont Colleges Teaching and Learning Center and a professor at Harvey Mudd College. He will provide a lunch discussion and workshop during his visit. 
His lunch talk will be on Making Active Learning Intentionally Inclusive. He will include a review of some of the research on active learning, then discuss ways that students can experience it differently, then how we can improve the experience for all students.  The lunch talk is at noon, December 5, in SC401.
His afternoon talk will be on Transparency in Teaching and Learning, and he will share new research on how transparency from instructors helps learning, and give tips on how to be more transparent, and a hands-on workshop that will allow faculty to make changes to their own syllabi and assignments. The afternoon talk is at 4:40PM, December 5, in SC401. 

A second visitor to campus was Michael Denning, the UC Irvine Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning. Michael came to campus and helped us learn more about how UC Irvine has been promoting active learning among its faculty, and its new feature-intensive teaching space known as the Anteater Pavillion, which the faculty can use for their classes if they are able to get some training or document some of their new ideas in teaching.  The lunch was a great chance to connect with Michael and also enhanced our connections with UC Irvine.

Lunch with Michael Dennin, UC Irvine Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, May 8 at noon, SC 401. Come to discuss new developments in undergraduate education and pedagogy with Michael Dennin. Thanks to the Faculty Enhancement Committee for helping organise the lunch series this year. RSVP to follow.
In parallel with the lunch discussions, I created a program known as the Teaching Innovation Grant, whereby faculty could propose to get some funding of $1000 for enhancing a course or $3000 for a group project. These funds could be used for implementing new technology in a course, for bringing in a visitor to campus or to get some training in a teaching technique at a conference. Below is the “official” description of the program sent to all faculty:
The grants will provide funding for implementing a new pedagogical approach or curriculum, which could support the acquisition of new technology,  for attending a seminar and  presenting  results  of  the  implementation  at  educational conferences, or for student stipends to help with the development of the innovation. The grants can be made to individual faculty or to groups of faculty within SUA to improve the pedagogy and curriculum within  an  individual  course  or  a  set  of  linked  courses.  A  focus  of  the  effort  will  be  to  capture  and disseminate the results of these innovations broadly within our SUA community, as well as at academic and professional development conferences. Eligible applicants include all full-time faculty.
Each semester I issued a call for proposals for these grants and it provided resources for an amazing group of faculty to do some exciting new projects. After implementing their innovation, faculty are asked to present some of their ideas at a teaching lunch.  Below is a listing of the nine teaching innovation grants that were awarded from the Dean’s office in two years (AY 2018-19 and AY 2019-20). It was especially rewarding to see that the grants were helping faculty across most of our concentrations, and were especially helpful in humanities, and fostered some use of digital technologies in humanities that included podcasting, scanned newspapers for studying Brazilian history, and podcasting as a tool for supplementing student writing. Adding innovative technology implementation into our curriculum proved to be very valuable when our campus was required to shift to online instruction in Spring 2020!
Professor (Concentration) Purpose of Teaching Innovation Grant 
Ian Read (INTS) Using digital media and scanned online newspapers for studying Brazilian history
Junyi Liu (SBS) Investment competition within economics course using software platform from Wharton School
Robert Allinson (HUM) Including video testimonies from Holocaust survivors within his course and also developing other online technologies
Shane Barter (INTS) Integrating preparation for a research conference to be attended by students within an international studies course
Kristi Wilson (Writing) Developing podcast technologies within writing courses as extended medium of communication
Tomas Crowder Toraborelli (GE) Developing podcast technologies within writing courses as extended medium of communication
Xiaoxing Liu (LCP) Attendance at the CLTA-SC Technology Workshop & Internation Conference on Chinese Pedagogy (Harvard)
Sandrine Simeon & Pablo Camus (LCP) Talk Abroad implementation in language classes to enable live conversations with native speakers in foreign languages
James Spady (HUM) Travel to UC campus archives for student training and research on Native American rights on behalf of the Acjachemen Nation
One additional element in teaching enhancement which we developed was the New Faculty Workshop. The new faculty would have a chance to get oriented to Soka University in the morning, and to have an overview of our curriculum, our student needs, and the unique approaches to teaching and curriculum at Soka University. This was also a chance to bring all the faculty together before classes started to build community and to share ideas for the coming academic year.  The workshop included a lunch where the new faculty would be formally introduced. The lunch was followed by sessions open to all faculty to discuss teaching, upcoming new features for the coming academic year, and a review of our procedures for advising, and teaching workshops on topics that were selected by the Teaching Enhancement committee.  Below is a program from our first faculty workshop, which are now an annual tradition – at least for two years so far!

Schedule for New Faculty Workshop and Full Faculty Discussions – September 5, 2018

Session 1: Overview of Soka Student Body and Mission – 10:00-10:45  [Audience: New full-time faculty]  

  • Dean and Faculty Enhancement Committee will introduce themselves, and the workshop and offer ideas about teaching and working at SUA (10 minutes).
  • Our student profile – based on Admissions (Andrew Woolsey, Dean of Enrolment Services – 10 minutes)
  • Overview of Soka student body (Hyon Moon, Dean of Students  – 10 minutes)
  • Discussion of Soka’s unique mission, values, and learning environment – and question and answers  (15 minutes)

Coffee Break (15 minutes)

Session 2: Advising Workshop — 11:00-12:00 [entire faculty] Maathai 207

  • Overview of Advising Process, Curriculum, Health and Wellness, and Life Science advising (10 minutes)
  • Advice for Advisors and insights from the Advising Committee [Sarah England, Chair, Advising Committee] (15 minutes)
  • Health and Wellness, Accommodations and Student Health Issues, and Review of Title IX policies [Brian Durick, Student Affairs and Anhthu Dang, Counselor] (20 minutes)
  • Discussion and Q&A (15 minutes)

Welcoming Lunch for All Faculty – 12:00-1:30 PM [entire faculty] Performing Arts Hall Lobby

Dean will introduce and welcome new faculty starting at SUA, followed by brief announcements from concentration directors and coordinators. We will also have a discussion of the SUA GE and Core curriculum document, the new Life Science concentration, and coordination of the GE courses.  Ideas for Faculty Enhancement activities for upcoming academic year will be discussed.

Session 3: Syllabus Workshop and Conclusion of New Faculty Workshop – 2:00-3:00PM [audience: new full-time faculty] Maathai 207

  • Faculty Enhancement Committee members discuss how they create their syllabi and approach teaching at SUA.
  • Principles of Course Design and Grading from the Faculty Enhancement Committee
  • Chance to review syllabi with experienced and new faculty for updates and improvements
  • Wrap up and questions and answers
During AY 2019-20, we continued the new faculty workshop, and as we were hiring a number of new faculty we were able to bring in a cohort of 6 faculty who were hired in the previous two years, along with an equal number of new adjunct faculty. This cohort of new faculty has been an exciting new element at Soka University, and should provide new energies and ideas for many years to come. In this year we began earlier in the summer and one of our sociology faculty hired in 2017-18, Danielle Denardo, led a workshop for new faculty on syllabus creation. Below is the program for the second new faculty workshop in Fall of 2019.
Schedule for New Faculty Workshop and Full Faculty Discussions – September 4, 2019
Coffee and Informal Welcoming Reception – 9:30-10:00AM, Maathai 207
Session 1: Overview of Soka Student Body and Mission – 10:00-10:45  [Audience: New faculty]  Maathai 207
  • Dean and Faculty Enhancement Committee will introduce themselves, and the workshop and offer ideas about teaching and working at SUA (10 minutes).
  • Overview of Soka student body (Hyon Moon, Dean of Students  – 10 minutes)
  • Our student profile – based on Admissions data (Andrew Woolsey, Dean of Enrolment Services – 10 minutes)
  • Discussion of Soka’s unique mission, values, and learning environment – and question and answers ) (15 minutes)

Coffee Break (15 minutes)

Session 2: Advising Workshop — 11:00-12:00 [entire faculty] Maathai 207

  • Overview of Advising Process, Curriculum, Health and Wellness, and Life Science advising (10 minutes)
  • Advice for Advisors and insights from the Advising Committee [Sarah England, Chair, Advising Committee] (15 minutes)
  • New ideas for student Health and Wellness, Support for Student Athletes, and helping students with Title IX issues [Brian Durick, Student Affairs, Mike Moore, and Anhthu Dang, Counselor] (20 minutes)
  • Discussion and Q&A (15 minutes)

Welcoming Lunch for All Faculty – 12:00-1:15 PM [entire faculty] Performing Arts Hall Lobby

Dean will introduce and welcome new faculty starting at SUA, followed by brief announcements from concentration directors and coordinators. We will also updates on our new Fulbright advising program, our new CGU accelerated degree program, the  new Life Science concentration, and will distribute our new Core/GE booklet.  Ideas for Faculty Enhancement activities for upcoming academic year will be discussed, along with other new programs.

Session 3: Discussions and Q&A for New Faculty – 1:30-2:15PM [audience: new faculty and interested continuing faculty] Maathai 207  

  • The Faculty Enhancement Committee will convene a discussion about a variety of topics of interest to new faculty teaching at SUA including the following topics:
    • Student Evaluations
    • The Portal
    • Syllabus Construction
    • Grading and Assessment Procedures
    • Tips for class discussions and active learning
    • Other topics of interest to faculty

Session 4: Learning Cluster and GE Info Session and Conclusion of New Faculty Workshop – 2:15-3PM [audience: new faculty and interested continuing faculty]  Maathai 207

  • Discussion of learning cluster course design process—what to expect and how to prepare
  • Discussion of GE/Core/Modes—what to expect and how to prepare
  • Wrap up and questions and answers
One exciting feature of this academic year was the opportunity to bring our faculty into a mini-course on effective teaching with Carl Wieman, 2001 Nobel laureate in Physics and director of many exciting teaching initiatives, which together are known as the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative. Carl has developed exciting new programs at University of Colorado, Boulder, University of British Columbia, and now at Stanford University. You can read more about the CWSEI in his recent book on the same topic. Carl’s mini-course was a development he has been working on for a while, and during 2019-20 our Soka University faculty, along with other science and medical faculty from Cornell University, University of Oregon, Stanford University, and a few other institutions, were able to take an intensive and interactive course “Principles and Practices of Effective University Teaching” with Carl Wieman over Zoom. It was a great experience and we all received certificates for the effort. I took the course along with five of our SUA faculty, Zahra Afrasiabi (Chemistry), Marie Nydam (Biology), Susan Walsh (Biology), Anna Varvak (Mathematics), Danielle Denardo (Sociology).  It was especially rewarding that I had helped hire four of these five faculty in the past two years!  Below is an image of my certificate from the course. A syllabus from the course and a set of course readings from this amazing course is also provided below.

Carl Wieman course materials for Principles and Practices of Effective University Teaching course, 2019:

Bryan Penprase certificate

In the rest of the AY 2019-20 our faculty development efforts were focused on a campus-wide effort to improve our diversity, inclusion and equity at Soka University. We had campus-wide implicit bias training, workshops on critical race theory and a conference on Ethnic Studies sponsored by the Dean’s office and Academic affairs. Then COVID-19 hit, and in mid-March my efforts were focused on pivoting our campus to online instruction with a series of discussions and training sessions with support from our campus IT group. The details for those very intensive efforts will be provided in subsequent posts.




SUA Life Sciences Concentration Development and Science Advisory Board

One of my big tasks upon arriving at SUA was to help develop their new interdisciplinary Life Sciences concentration. Soka University is an amazing and interdisciplinary liberal arts university, with a mission to “foster global citizens dedicated to living a contributive life.” We wanted to add Life Sciences as a fifth concentration, after the existing concentrations that include Social and Behavioural Sciences, Environmental Studies, International Studies and Humanities. The new concentration needed to be true to Soka University’s mission and values, and consistent with its innovative and interdisciplinary approach.

The existing science faculty at SUA were providing excellent courses as part of the General Education and the Environmental Studies programs at SUA. They included Phat Vu (Physics), Robert Hamersley (Molecular Biology), Zahra Afrasiabi (Chemistry), Lisa Crummett (Biology) and Anthony Mazeroll (Biology). When I arrived I worked closely with this group of faculty to develop a plan for expanding their blueprint for the concentration and consulting with top experts in the field to help design the new Life Sciences curriculum in a way that represents the state of science and science education in 2020. The unique chance to build the concentration from scratch allowed us the chance to leverage the decades of knowledge and experience in improving STEM education to be more inclusive and interactive, and also to shift the curriculum to focus on emerging areas of vital interest to biology and chemistry, and to include more Project Based Learning and active learning throughout the curriculum.

To start the process, we developed a Science Advisory Board that included top scientists and academic leaders from Stanford, the Claremont Colleges, National University of Singapore, and Duke University. Our group of SUA constituted our Life Sciences “Task Force” and we met throughout the year of 2017-18 to discuss with the Science Advisory Board and with each other how we will develop our curriculum, and also how the Life Sciences concentration will complement SUA’s existing concentrations and programs. A series of three Life Science Symposia were organized in 2018 which allowed groups of outside advisors and our SUA science faculty to meet with the Soka community and share what we learned and to also field questions and get inputs for our design of the Life Sciences concentration.  From the year of discussion and planning came our Life Sciences Planning Report, which gave an overview of the Vision for Life Sciences, the process for consulting with our Advisory Board, and the key features of the new Soka University Life Sciences curriculum. More details about these topics are below, along with links to our Life Sciences faculty who joined us during 2018-19 and 2019-20.  We hired four amazing new full-time faculty to our Life Sciences concentration, who include Susan Walsh (Molecular and Cell Biology, formerly from Rollins College), Marie Nydam (Marine Biology and Genomics, formerly from Centre College), Nidanie Henderson-Stull (Biochemistry, formerly from Amherst College) and Robert Levenson (Biochemistry, formerly from UCSB). We also were joined by Bob Moyzis, who serves as a Distinguished Visiting Professor (Biochemistry, formerly from Los Alamos Genomics lab, and UC Irvine Medical Center).

More details about the development process is below, along with a beautiful photo of our 91,000 square foot Life Sciences building. Our new concentration, with its eight wonderful full-time and one amazing visiting faculty members, is opening in Fall 2020, along with our new building. We already have about 50 students interested in sciences, between the classes arriving in 2020 and the class that arrived in 2019. It has been a very exciting project – and I am delighted to see the Life Sciences concentration come online this year! In March 2019 we published the SUA Life Sciences Planning Document which summarizes our development of the concentration in more detail.

Below – the home to our new Life Sciences Concentration at Soka University – the magnificent 91,000 square foot Curie Hall, opening in 2020.

Curie Hall science lab exterior

Vision for Life Sciences Concentration at Soka University

During our planning year of 2017-18, we developed the following “vision statement” about the program that was included in our Life Sciences report:

The Life Sciences Concentration at Soka University will offer a rigorous curriculum that provides a solid foundation in the sciences, including courses that embody the latest emerging discoveries in biology and chemistry, and a student-centered pedagogy that challenges students to apply what they have learned. The BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Life Sciences will feature inquiry-based learning through student-led experiments, giving valuable research experience on topics of interest in current scientific research. The Life Science curriculum will also be integrated with Soka University’s innovative Core and General Education curriculum and will prepare well-rounded students that are more than technically proficient and scientifically knowledgeable. The curriculum will enable students to help develop scientific breakthroughs in the Life Sciences that will enhance the sustainability of our planet and promote human health, and to encourage ethical uses of technology that incorporate Soka University’s core values of peace and global citizenship.

The SUA Life Sciences curriculum has been designed by Soka University faculty and staff in consultation with some of the world’s leading experts in biology research, education and medical education through a Science Advisory Board, who have met with the Soka University faculty and shared their insights with them as they develop key elements of the new Life Science Curriculum.

Key Elements of the SUA Life Sciences Curriculum

In our planning year we outlined the following courses as key parts of our introductory curriculum in Life Sciences. The curriculum was designed to offer an efficient, interdisciplinary and cutting-edge introduction to the most relevant parts of biology, chemistry and physics for students graduating from SUA into the new world of Life Sciences and should prepare them for a wide range of fields.

Below in outline form are some of the key elements of the new Life Science curriculum at Soka University of America.

Foundations of Chemistry Course. A new introductory chemistry course will begin project-based learning from the first semester, with our students taking charge of synthesising molecules relevant to research in cancer in their first semester. The lab will be integrated with the course, and will progress sequentially into more sophisticated skills than are usually developed in a first-semester Chemistry course.

Integrated Biology and Chemistry Course. A new innovative interdisciplinary course will integrate the first-year course in chemistry and biology and will teach students greater efficiency and develop increased understanding in essential concepts in both subjects. The Integrated Biology and Chemistry course will be based on a research-based theme, with some features patterned after a similar course developed at the Keck Science Department in Claremont, based on discussions with Science Advisory Board member Emily Wiley and others.

Interdisciplinary Project-Based Laboratory Courses. By developing a 3-unit inquiry-based laboratory course as a separate course, students will experience a more authentic learning environment that includes the authentic processes of scientific research than would be possible in a more typical 1-unit laboratory course. This course would be patterned after the new Stanford Biology laboratory courses and will let students design experiments and solve research problems over several weeks. The laboratory course will explore topics spanning multiple disciplines, such as Physics and Biology, or Biology and Chemistry. The course would feature a mix of in-class experiments, and independent work by students to acquire background, analyze results, and prepare presentations of results using techniques used in actual scientific research.

Single Semesters of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry. An alternative to the traditional year-long organic chemistry sequence is a semester of Organic Chemistry followed by a semester of Biochemistry. This combination is now favored by leading undergraduate institutions for preparing pre-medical students and provides more background biochemistry which is critical within modern biology.

A New Physics for Life Science course. Rather that offering a physics course to prepare engineers or future physicists, our new Life Science concentration will develop course that will feature applications of physics in biological contexts. This course could fulfil the pre-medical physics requirements and prepare students for the MCAT, while also providing very interesting examples of physics in action within organisms.

In addition to these innovative curricular elements, the new Life Science concentration will feature advanced elective courses in many of the cutting-edge fields of modern Biology, and may offer courses in fields such as genomics, neuroscience, immunology and molecular biology, based on the expertise of our Soka University faculty.

Soka University Science Advisory Board Members and Specialties

Our Science Advisory Board met with our SUA faculty during 2017-18, and helped provide ideas and inputs to our planning for the Life Science curriculum and our hiring plan. Below is a description of the Advisory Board and some of the details of their work. We look forward to inviting many of them back to campus as we open our new building in 2020!

David Oxtoby, Chemist – Former President of Pomona College, and former President of Harvard’s Board of Overseers; now based at Harvard. David is an expert on undergraduate education and is also the author of one of the most widely used Chemistry textbooks.

Andrew Endy, BioengineeringStanford University – Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford,  Drew is the Founder of the BIOFAB and IGEM groups, and one of the world’s leading synthetic biologists.

Elizabeth Orwin, Biomechanics, Harvey Mudd College – Biomechanics expert, and Chair of Harvey Mudd Engineering, Liz is an expert on experiential learning and linkages between Life Science and Biotechnology.

Emily Wiley, Biology, Keck Science Department – Professor of Biology at Scripps/CMC/Pitzer Colleges Keck Science Department, Emily is one of the leaders of the Keck Science curriculum development effort that has produced accelerated introductory science sequences that merge the disciplines of Physics, Biology and Chemistry.

Bob Kamei, Medical Education/Learning Science, NUS – Associate Provost, National University of Singapore, and former Professor at the Duke-NUS Medical School, Bob is one of the founders of the educational program at Duke-NUS, and developed new forms of Team Based Learning and assessment within the Duke-NUS program that is being emulated worldwide.

Martha Cyert, Stanford University – Biology Professor at Stanford University, Martha is a leader in reshaping Stanford’s undergraduate Biology curriculum and a leader of BioX, one of the most innovative interdisciplinary biology programs at Stanford.

Brian Greene, Columbia University – Physics Professor at Columbia University. Brian is a well-known author and speaker, as well as a leading physicist in string theory. Brian’s skills as an interpreter of science and the intersections between science, philosophy, music and the arts will be very powerful in shaping our vision of the Soka University Life Science curriculum.

Timeline for Life Sciences Planning at Soka University 2017-19

Through a series of in-depth discussions with the Science Advisory board, which included public presentations for the Soka University community, key elements of the curriculum and a strategy for hiring new faculty emerged. Below is an outline of the key events in shaping the Soka University Life Science curriculum during 2017-18.

Life Science Symposium I: December 12, 2017: Liz Orwin, Emily Wiley, Martha Cyert.

Half of the Science Advisory Board attended our first event, and a public symposium enabled them to present their perspectives on biology education and curriculum.  The meetings featured discussions of leading biology programs at the Claremont Colleges and at Stanford University.

Life Science Symposium II: January 16, 2018: Drew Endy, David Oxtoby, Bob Kamei

During this event the other half of our Science Advisory Board attended Soka University, and also presented at a public symposium their perspectives on emerging frontiers of biology, medical education and science in liberal arts colleges.

Medical and Pre-Medical Education Symposium – April 18, 2018:  Bob Kamei, M.D., Linton Yee, M.D., and Dr. Richard Lewis

Medical education experts from leading medical schools has convened with the Task Force to discuss requirements for admissions into Medical School, and other aspects of Medical Education. These discussions included discussions with Bob Kamei, M.D., (NUS, formerly Duke-NUS Medical Center and UCSF Medical School), Linton Yee (Duke Medical School Professor and Admissions Chair), and Richard Lewis (Professor of Neuroscience and pre-medical advisor at Pomona College).

Brian Greene – Dialog on Science, Creativity and Reality – February 13, 2019

During the Dialog on Science, Creativity and Reality, we featured Brian Greene and Gabrielle Starr, President of Pomona College, in a series of discussions with faculty and students culminating in a large public event with Brian Greene in our Performing Arts Center. Within the discussions we explored how perspectives in science can inform deeper inquiries in humanities, the arts, and social sciences, and ways that our Life Science Concentration can complement our other Concentrations, Programs and Areas at Soka University.

First Round of Life Sciences Faculty hired – Spring 2019

After a very competitive nationwide search, SUA is delighted to have hired our first two tenure-track faculty in the Life Sciences concentration. Susan Walsh accepted the offer to join SUA as an Associate Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology, and Marie Nydam accepted the office to join SUA as an Assistant Professor of Biology. Robert Moyzis accepted the offer to join SUA as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Biological Chemistry. More information on these new faculty members, and our continuing SUA science faculty who are joining the Life Sciences concentration can be found on our Life Sciences Faculty Page.

Timeline for Life Sciences Concentration 2019-20

New Faculty Workshop – September 4, 2019

Workshops and discussions introduced our new faculty to our colleagues and we offered series of workshops on syllabus design, grading and our GE curriculum. A lunch discussion with all of the faculty updated everyone on our progress with the new concentration and some of our plans for the coming year.

Retreat for Life Science planning – September 27, 2019

An afternoon retreat allowed for an in-depth discussion of our curriculum design efforts for this year, some of the upcoming faculty enhancement events for STEM and other faculty, plans for the opening of our Life Science concentration in Fall 2020, and our efforts for developing grants for external funding. Our teams of faculty designing our Life Science courses discussed their initial plans for the courses offered next year. The courses and faculty members developing them are listed below:

  • Project-Based Laboratory Course – Lisa Crummett and Marie Nydam
  • Integrated Biology/Chemistry Course – Susan Walsh and Zahra Afrasiabi
  • Physics for Life Science Course – Phat Vu (for next academic year)

Carl Wieman workshop on science teaching –  T/Th Oct. 2-22, 2019

Seven of our SUA faculty are participated in a mini-course on the latest techniques of effective teaching from Carl Wieman, Nobel Laureate and director of the Stanford University Carl Wieman Science Teaching Initiative. Our SUA faculty joined faculty from across the country in this exciting synchronous online course, offered October 3-22. Our participating faculty had an amazing experience working with Carl Wieman at Stanford, along with faculty from Cornell, Oregon State and other major universities.

Life Science Concentration Director Nominations and Elections – late October, 2019

Susan Walsh was elected as the inaugural Life Sciences concentration director, and began serving in Fall 2019.

Biochemistry Searches – late Fall Semester 2019

In 2019, we successfully filled two positions for Assistant Professor of Biochemistry. We are delighted to welcome Robert Levenson and Nidanie Henderson-Stull to our academic community!

Science building opening and dedication – AY 2020-21

We will be celebrating the opening of our new Science Hall, which has been named Curie Hall in honor of Marie Curie, some time in the coming academic year. We hope that some of our Science Advisory Board members can join us.

Other Events for 2019-20 – Global Public Health Speaker Series

During the 2019-20 year we featured a series of speakers and discussions on public health led by a team of faculty from across campus, including faculty who have expertise in Biology, Sociology, Anthropology, and Urban Planning. We also look forward to additional talks on Diversity in STEM and other vital topics related to the new science concentration.

Global Liberal Arts Conferences at Soka University and peer Liberal Arts Colleges

After my work in Singapore at Yale-NUS College, which included helping organising the Yale-NUS opening symposium and a conference at Yale University on Global Liberal arts, I was eager to work with Soka University to develop new types of global liberal arts programs that fully engage the diversity of students and faculty and link discussions within the classroom to urgent global issues and that approach academics with an international perspective that multi-faceted, and that departs from US and colonial perspectives so prevalent in US higher education.  Thankfully Soka University has as its central mission to foster global citizenship within its graduates to help them live a contributive life – and so a global liberal arts conference was one of the first big projects during my term as Dean of Faculty.

Our conference at Soka University was arranged in 2018 and was co-organized by leaders at Pomona College, Carleton College, Middlebury College, and Yale University. Our organising committee (which included Mary Coffey (Pomona), Jane Edwards (Yale), Scott Carpenter (Carleton), Timi Mayer (Middlebury)) did great work with the conference and brought together leaders from over 50 universities and colleges in 11 countries to our beautiful campus at Soka University. The SUA Global Liberal Arts meeting was on June 3-5, 2018, and our SUA Globalized Liberal Arts website contains more information on the program. I include some of this information below to help give more texture to this post, and to help remind of the many amazing sessions present at the meeting.  The list of presenters is also on our conference website, and some of our keynote presentations included Hiram Chodosh, president of CMC, Patti McGill Peterson, Senior Fellow of the American Council on Education, and Adam Weinberg, President of Denison University. A set of panels included discussions on the Core and GE curriculum in Global Liberal Arts, Centers for Global Learning, Study Abroad in a Connected World, the Global Liberal Arts College, Capturing Global Experience, and Globalized STEM education.


We prepared a SUA Global Liberal Arts Conference Report from the meeting and learned a lot from the many exciting talks and dynamic presenters. We also are looking forward to further collaborations that have arisen from this meeting. After this meeting, I got involved in what was formerly a Mellon-funded consortium of liberal arts institutions that had sponsored a number of initiatives and hosted several meetings on their campuses. The meetings that occurred after our SUA meeting included a meeting in September 2018 at Colby College, where I presented a talk on “Developing Global Engagement through Cultural Diversity and Interdisciplinary Curriculum” that highlighted some of the features of our Soka University Curriculum. I include a Powerpoint File for my talk for anyone who is interested.

This meeting was followed by an amazing retreat of liberal arts leaders at Connecticut College, entitled “Advancing Global Liberal Education Across Institutions,” on January 18-19, 2019, and a subsequent meeting entitled Creating Inclusive Global Communities – Global Engagement in the Liberal Arts” at Dickinson College on October 4-5, 2019. We sent a team from Soka University to this meeting, which included myself, Ian Read, our International Studies Concentration Director, Osamu Ishiyama, our Language and Culture Program Director, and Alex Okuda, our Study Abroad Director. At that meeting our SUA team convened a session and presented how our programs at Soka University all link together and discussed with the participants how to improve connections between these programs. I include the Powerpoint File for that talk  for anyone who is interested.  The organizing committee for that conference is below:

  • Stephen Angle, Director of Fries Center for Global Studies, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, Professor of Philosophy, Wesleyan University, Connecticut.
  • Samantha Brandauer, Associate Provost and Executive Director, Center for Global Study and Engagement, Dickinson College, Pennsylvania.
  • Scott Carpenter, Marjorie Crabb Garbisch Professor of French and the Liberal Arts, Director of the Center for Global and Regional Studies, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota.
  • Amy Dooling, Professor of Chinese, Associate Dean of Global Initiatives, Director of The Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement, Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut.
  • Shuchi Kapila, Professor of English, Assistant Vice-President and Senior International Officer, Institute for Global Engagement, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa.
  • Arne Koch, Associate Professor of German, Dean of Global Engagement, Colby College, Waterville, Maine.
  • Andrea Lanoux, Professor of Slavic Studies, Director of Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA), Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut.
  • Sue Mennicke, Associate Dean for International Programs, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
  • Carolyn North, Assistant Dean, Off Campus Study, Hamilton College, Clinton, New York.
  • Bryan Penprase, Dean of Faculty, Undergraduate Program, Soka University of America, California.
  • David Tompkins, Associate Professor of History, Director of European Studies, Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota.

After these meetings we came up with the acronym for our group which we entitled the Global Education in the Liberal Arts – or GELA, and an “executive committee” met to plan some additional collaborative projects, and a next meeting in fall of 2020 at Wesleyan University. This group includes a really exciting mix of leaders from the best global liberal arts programs in the country and I am excited to be able to be part of the group and look forward to our future collaborations.

Unfortunately in March of 2020 COVID hit and this delayed our 2020 meeting and interrupted our plans – but I am sure we will reconvene and I look forward to working more with this group, and perhaps even hosting another Global Liberal Arts event at Soka University – maybe in 2021!

The Soka University GLA conference schedule from June 2018 is below:



4:30 – 5:30 PM – Evening welcoming reception – Founders Hall, Soka University of America

5:45 PM – Buffet Dinner – Soka University Art Gallery, Founders Hall

6:45 PM Plenary Keynote talk I, Hiram Chodosh, President, Claremont McKenna College, The Future of Learning

7:15 PM -7:45 Roundtable Discussion on Globalization and Liberal Arts Education


8:00 AM – Registration and Coffee  – Performing Arts Center, Soka University

8:30 AM – Welcome and Introduction to Soka University and Overview of the Globalizing the Liberal Arts Conference – Performing Arts Center Main Hall

8:45 AM – Plenary Keynote II, Patti McGill Peterson, Senior Fellow, American Council on Education – Venue: Performing Arts Center Main Hall

Title: “Globally Engaged Institutions: Lists of Initiatives or Institutional DNA” 

Description: The global engagement of higher education has a long and multifaceted history. Ultimately, each college or university decides whether and to what extent a commitment to being a globally oriented institution will be part of its mission.  If an explicit commitment is articulated, the next steps are determining its architecture and building blocks.  This process is often referred to as comprehensive internationalization and conveys a wide range of activity as institutions attempt to define themselves in global terms.  In her presentation, Dr. Peterson will provide a broad overview of the internationalization of higher education in the United States and offer an assessment of current efforts to make global learning the centerpiece.  She will conclude with observations about the relationship of this work to an America First agenda.


Bryan Penprase, Dean of Faculty, Soka University of America


Bryan Penprase, Dean of Faculty, Soka University of America, The Soka University Curriculum.

This talk will provide an overview of the Soka University curriculum, which includes a hybrid block-semester calendar, experiential learning courses known as “Learning Clusters” and a Core and GE curriculum that fosters a sense of global citizenship within students and which includes study abroad in a foreign language and language proficiency for all students.

David Helfand, Professor of Astronomy, and Chair of the Committee on Innovative Teaching and Learning Columbia University, Essential Ingredients of a Liberal Arts Curriculum.

A common experience, a broadening experience but, most importantly, an experience that requires self-reflection and deep learning, a general education core is an essential component of any curriculum that claims the moniker “liberal” — it is the piece of the curriculum that prepares students to be truly free citizens of the world.

Terry Nardin,  Professor of Political Science and Director of the Common Curriculum at Yale-NUS Yale-NUS College (Singapore), The Common Curriculum at Yale-NUS College.

The Common Curriculum at Yale-NUS provides an alternative approach to general education that is global in intent and execution. Since all students have the same Common Curriculum experience, it also strengthens their ability to learn from one another.

Noah Pickus,  Dean, Undergraduate Curriculum Affairs and Faculty Development Duke Kunshan University (China), The Duke-Kunshan University Curriculum.

This talk describes alternative approaches to general education and the unique features of Duke Kunshan University’s curriculum, with special attention to its shared, integrated, immersive, flexible, and signature dimensions.

10:30 – 11:00 AM – Coffee Break – Lobby of Performing Arts Center


Mary Coffey,  Associate Dean, Pomona College, Oldenborg Center for Modern Languages and International Relations

This panel will present various models of Centers for Global Learning/Global Engagement, exploring both new and long-standing centers within the tradition of liberal arts institutions. Centers with a focus on global learning have a surprising range of diversity in both institutional structure and activities. How do these various centers participate in the liberal arts mission of their institutions? What are the challenges of operating and sustaining such ventures? What can we learn about successful and less successful initiatives that would help our own institutions in future planning?


Tamar Mayer,  Director of the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs and the Program in International and Global Studies, Middlebury College, Expanding the Charge: Globalizing the International Center.

Middlebury’s Rohatyn Center for International Affairs was charged with being the epi-center for all co-curricular activities that are international in nature on campus. But while the International privileges the nation-state and its international institutions, many of the social, environmental, even economic and political problems cut across political boundaries and present themselves at local and global scales. In response, the Rohatyn Center has changed its name and charge to focus on the global. In this presentation, I will discuss what this shift has entailed and draw on lessons learned.

Kate Patch,  Senior Director of Global Initiatives, Grinnell College, Institute for Global Engagement, Internationalizing the Liberal Arts Campus, Now What?

Comprehensive internationalization is not an end-game scenario. Once a campus commits to the process and the structure is built, the “real work” begins.  Within liberal arts colleges, unique challenges arise in the pursuit to align strategic global goals across campus. This presentation will highlight Grinnell College’s creation of the Institute for Global Engagement and the future path forward.

Richard Detweiler, President, Global Liberal Arts Alliance (GLAA), Developing Global Education Networks

There are basically two approaches to the development of global educational networks: transactional or relational. A transactional approach, which emphasizes contract-like negotiation for specific purposes, is most typical. A relational approach, which emphasizes the building of meaningful partnerships among equals through time invested in developing and maintaining a shared vision, goals, and outcomes, begins more slowly but results in richer and long-lasting collaboration. The development of the relationship-based Global Liberal Arts Alliance by the GLCA will be described.

Anne Dwyer, Associate Professor and Director, Oldenborg Center for Modern Languages and International Relations, Rebuilding “The Borg”: Reimagining a Residential Center as a Global Hub

Pomona College’s Oldenborg Center for Modern Languages and International Relations, founded in 1966, originally combined a coeducational language residence with “groups organized to study international relations,” and over time developed a mix of residential and curricular programming, including language tables and a lecture series with high community participation. Now the college is planning to rebuild it as a globally-focused center. But what do these ongoing changes mean in terms of new institutional structures and physical spaces? How do we embrace the new without diluting the language-learning mission of today’s “Borg”?  How might the balance of residential and curricular programming shift? How might the center make more space for the campus’s diverse language communities? In short, how might a reinvigorated global center channel the disparate and divergent global activities of our students and faculty and become an even stronger intellectual and social hub for the college and its surrounding community?


Jane Edwards, Dean of International and Professional Experience, Yale University, Setting the Stage for Moving the Furniture.

We will begin with a rapid review of what we have learned about effective practice in the design of study abroad programs, and in providing guidance for students so that they can learn and grow through the experience. This will help us think together about how we can best respond to the extraordinary technological and social changes that have so changed the daily reality of study abroad, and that challenge the validity of models developed decades ago. We will look at recent research and practical guidance in the field, and think about how to develop a plan for reviewing and recalibrating our own program design and our work with our students.”


Antonio Gonzalez, Professor of Spanish and Director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, Wesleyan University, Replicating Intercultural Learning in the High-Tech Classroom: Unforeseen Challenges.

The new high-tech videoconferencing systems that allow colleagues from different areas of the world to co-teach across cultural boundaries and time zones pose new opportunities and challenges to faculty committed to intercultural learning.  Advances in technology enable us to achieve a certain authenticity of experience by replicating the type of academic exchange that was previously accessible only by studying abroad. However, as we move to incorporate these platforms in our teaching, we will need to carefully assess how to truly prepare our students attitudinally to engage effectively with the world beyond their borders from within the comfort zone of their domestic campus environment.

Vanita Shastri, Dean of Global Education & Strategic Programs, Ashoka University (India), Development and Challenges of Student Mobility for Indian Institutions.

Student mobility of both outbound and inbound present challenges and opportunities for a new university. Sharing some aspects of the journey and milestones that Ashoka has been able to reach in this regard, issues of  interest and importance include financing, aid and student exchange as specific areas of challenge for institutions beyond the United States.

Talya Zemach-Bersin,  Postdoctoral Fellow, Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, Brown University and an instructor in Yale’s Education Studies Program, The Cultural Politics of Study Abroad.

While many forms of border crossing have been embraced by academics as important fields of inquiry, the matter of American students studying and volunteering abroad has been largely quarantined in the professional domain of international education. What would happen to our assessment of study abroad if we examined it through the disciplinary lenses of history, foreign relations, or anthropology? When taken as a legitimate object of study, student mobility emerges not as an inevitable educational good, but as an enterprise deeply embedded in the politics of America’s relationship to the world. This presentation will identify some of the major ethical questions and pedagogical concerns that emerge from a critical analysis of student interviews and study abroad advertisements.

1:00 PM – Lunch – Performing Arts Hall Patio

2:30 PM – Overview of Parallel Sessions – Venue: Pauling Hall 216

Parallel Working Group Discussions I – Break-out rooms. Each working group session will discuss a theme from the morning presentations in greater depth, sharing insights from the many institutions represented at the meeting, and working together to find solutions to common problems within each theme. These discussions will be summarized and reported back at the plenary 4:30PM session. 

Theme 1 Theme 2 Theme 3
The Role of the Core and GE Curriculum in Global Liberal ArtsPauling Hall 216 Centers for Global Learning: Variations in Structure and OperationsMaathai Hall 207 Study Abroad in a Connected WorldMaathai Hall 303

4:15 PM – Coffee Break -Performing Arts Center Lobby

4:45 PM – Reports from the Working Groups – Venue: Pauling Hall 216

6:00 PM – Overview of Conference and Upcoming Working groups

6:30 PM – Buffet Dinner – Performing Arts Center Lobby


 8:00 AM – Coffee and Refreshments – Performing Arts Center, Soka University

8:30 AM –  Introduction to Second Day of Conference – Venue:  Performing Arts Center, Soka University

8:45 AM – Plenary Keynote III, Adam Weinberg, President, Denison University, Venue: Performing Arts Center Main Hall

Title: “Creating a Globally Engaged Campus”

Description:  What does it mean to be a globally engaged campus? In this talk, Dr. Weinberg will lay out a series of principles to imagine a globally oriented liberal arts that educates and inspires a generation of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and local community members with the capacity to work on complex problems that span diverse cultural perspectives. Doing so requires thinking more deeply and broadly about who we need to engage on our campuses and how we want to engage them. It also requires more serious and sustained efforts to connect disparate initiatives that already are taking place on our campuses. Dr. Weinberg will lay out a series of principles and early action steps to move campuses in this direction.


Tamar Mayer, Director of the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs and of the Program in International and Global Studies, Middlebury College

In recent years, many liberal arts colleges have begun to promote themselves as incubators of “global citizenship.” In spite of these claims, however, it is unclear what precisely defines a college as global. The purpose of this roundtable discussion is to work toward a definition of the “global” in the liberal arts by looking at different versions of global programs from leading liberal arts colleges.



Jeremy Adelman, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History and Director of the Global History Lab Princeton University, Can We Bring the World into a Course? 

While I have done a lot of different programming and planning over the years, perhaps I should focus on my own experience in recent years with humanitarian humanities, integrating refugee learners and Princeton students into the same course without walls.  I will talk about the ups and downs of global blended learning, the challenges of helping students to collaborate across distances and socio-economic backgrounds and legal conditions.  How can a course bring the world to campus and give campus students access to voices from the rest of the world?  How can undergraduate learning be a service to humanity?”

Rosetta Marantz Cohen, Professor of Education and Child Study, Smith College, The Making of a School: Global Education in the Making

Regardless of geography, making schools requires close attention to historical, political, environmental, ethical, and practical considerations. This is even more crucial when the designers and educational experts operate from different parts of the globe. In order to afford our students the opportunity for a true global collaboration, the Department of Education and Child Study at Smith College offered this past semester a course entitled The Making of a School, in which students worked with Kenyan educators and experts on the ground to design a new boarding school for girls in Kenya. I’ll discuss the class, and the possibilities, complexities, and limitations inherent in an effort like this one.

Nadia Rabesahala Horning, Director of Social Entrepreneurship Programs, Middlebury College, Increasing the Flow of Ideas and People between a College and a Continent: the Middlebury-ALU Experiment.

What does it take to “globalize” a liberal arts college in New England? In this presentation, I will discuss the approach I have taken to this challenge since 2015. The approach consists of re-imagining my educator’s role as a facilitator of engagement across cultural and institutional boundaries. This conceptualization of the educator’s role is a departure from the conventional teacher-scholar one, and it has presented both challenges and opportunities. To unpack these, I will share insights from a recent trip I took with Middlebury College students to the African Leadership University (ALU) in Mauritius.”

Trisha Craig, Dean of International and Professional Experience Yale-NUS College (Singapore), In Asia, For the World: Establishing the Liberal Arts Abroad

What does it mean to introduce the liberal arts to parts of the world where it is a relatively unknown model of education? Starting from the experience of Yale-NUS in Singapore, I’ll talk first about the development of our curriculum,which is designed to answer the question ‘what does a young person need to know in the 20th century?’ and is built on a foundation of a robust common curriculum that has the East and West in dialogue. Then, the broader issue of why at a time when the liberal arts is losing its luster in the West, it is being championed by States elsewhere in the world will be considered. Finally, some of the implications for institutions operating in these new settings are discussed.

Kara Godwin, Higher Education Consultant and Research Fellow, Center for the International Higher Education,  Boston College. Liberal Education’s Global Trends and Critical Questions: Where to go from here?

 I come to this panel from a slightly different perspective in that I am a researcher who studies international higher education, and specifically, the global emergence of liberal arts education outside the U.S. Because I also do a lot of consulting related to liberal arts in the US and abroad, strategic initiatives, and higher ed learning/teaching/curriculum/assessment, I see angles from multiple institutions. My presentation objective will be to broaden perspectives. I would like to do this in two ways: provide an evidence-based summary of what is happening with liberal arts globally, and raise some tough questions about what it means that liberal ed is expanding. My goal is to get people thinking beyond their own institutions and see their institutions/programs within a broader global landscape.”

10:30 – 11:00 AM – Coffee Break

Scott Carpenter, Marjorie Crabb Garbisch Professor of French and the Liberal Arts, Director of the Center for Global and Regional Studies, Carleton College , Global Pathways

Eva Posfay, Professor of French, former Associate Dean, Carleton College Who Am I? Promoting Intercultural Reflection in the Classroom

How can our curricula help students think deeply about their intercultural experiences abroad? This presentation will discuss a variety of theoretical, analytical, and experiential strategies used in cross-cultural studies courses at Carleton.

Arne Koch, Dean of Global Engagement, Associate Professor of German, Colby College,   Integrating Off-Campus Study: Colby College’s Faculty Mentoring (Pilot) Program

How can we promote integration of study abroad into the fabric of our academic institutions to promote faculty exposure to students’ study-abroad experience and at the same time enhance departmental oversight of students’ off campus experiences, requiring them to articulate their academic and personal goals? Working from this question posited by Colby College’s Global Task Force in May 2016, Colby set out to create as a pilot the OCS Faculty Mentor Program this past spring. Aside from a program description, this presentation will discuss already identified challenges and ways in which an institutional commitment to integrating students’ study abroad experiences may be applicable at different institutions.

Eric Feldman, Program Manager, Office of Global Learning Initiative, Florida International University,  Prompting Reflection with ePortfolios in a Global Distinction Program

ePortfolios can be utilized to capture student reflection while storing and displaying artifacts of global learning experiences.  This session will share transferrable suggestions for practice regarding how to design ePortfolio instructions which excite students and allow them to show their creative side while containing standardized elements across participants.

Elaine Meyer-Lee, Associate Vice President for Global Learning and Leadership, Agnes Scott College,  Building on Global Immersion Experiences in the Curriculum and Co-Curriculum

Many campuses have now incorporated global immersion experiences of some kind into their curriculum, and this talk will offer some principles and examples for both embedding these more deeply within reflection courses and following them up with later connected manifestations of global learning, including  courses and co-curricular experiences leading toward a Global Learning Specialization noted on the transcript.  Ways in which a team-based advising approach and a digital portfolio can both assist students in articulating and curating this learning will be provided, as well as preliminary assessment findings from a multi-method longitudinal assessment.


Bryan Penprase, Dean of Faculty, Soka University of America


David Drew, Professor of Education and Joseph B. Platt Chair in the Management of Technology, Claremont Graduate University, Liberal Arts and Engineering. 

David E. Drew will discuss an NSF-funded feasibility study he and Louis Bucciarelli (MIT) have been conducting about innovative ways to more tightly integrate engineering education with the arts and humanities.  He also will discuss a) barriers to STEM education facing  women and students of color, both in the US and in other countries, and b) strategies and programs to overcome those barriers and increase access to, and diversity in, STEM.

Kathy Takayama, Senior Science Education Fellow at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Inclusive STEM Education. 

I will share the processes of a collaborative approach toward inclusive STEM education through the integration of theatre and STEM pedagogy. We facilitate an embodied understanding of diversity, identity, and the power of embracing failure, to promote openness to possibility and stimulate idea generation. By “deconstructing” the signature pedagogies of STEM, we explore stereotype threat, microaggressions, and help reconstruct cultures of inclusion and generosity to foster self-authorship for learners and bring their identities into the global narrative of STEM.

Katie Purvis-Roberts, Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Science; W.M. Keck Science Department of Claremont McKenna, Pitzer and Scripps Colleges, International Environmental Chemistry. 

How can we encourage science students to be involved in international collaborations? A case study of student collaboration in an Environmental Chemistry course at the Claremont Colleges focused on environmental issues in Asia will be discussed. As part of the course, the students grapple with real-world environmental problems by working on projects with students from the National University of Malaysia around renewable energy, climate change, and air quality. Eventually a network of engineering and science faculty within Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies will be developed to utilize student work on real-world projects to inform policy for the APEC Energy Working Group.

Juan Manuel Fernández-Cárdenas , Professor of Education and Director of the Master in Educational Technology, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico, Understanding the teaching of STEM education through dialogue and transformative learning in Mexico.

STEM education operates in the contemporary context of globalization and is influenced by a complex interplay of local and global (or ‘glocal’) forces. Globalization itself is held up by some as a panacea for inequality but is simultaneously shown to be propagating as many inequalities as it is solving. STEM education is similarly contradictory, being seen as a universal driving force for international development, but also accentuating social and cultural inequalities. In this presentation, the aim is to explore perspectives on STEM education focusing on dialogue and transformative learning, addressing the following guiding questions: a) How can we overcome the seemingly contradictory agenda of STEM education in order to simultaneously create economic development and meet the social needs of participants? and b) What sorts of innovations and new approaches are being introduced with regards to the teaching of STEM in Mexico?

1:00 PM – Lunch – Performing Arts Center Lobby & Patio

2:30 PM – Overview of Parallel Sessions – Venue: Pauling Hall 216

Parallel Working Group Discussions II – Break-out rooms. As during the first day of the conference, each working group session will discuss a theme from the morning presentations in greater depth, sharing insights from the many institutions represented at the meeting, and working together to find solutions to common problems within each theme. These discussions will be summarized and reported back at the plenary 4:30PM session. 

Theme 4 Theme 5 Theme 6
The Global Liberal Arts CollegeMaathai Hall 207 Capturing the Global ExperiencePauling Hall 216 Globalized STEM EducationMaathai Hall 303

4:15 PM – Coffee Break – Performing Arts Center

4:45 PM – Reports from the Working Groups – Venue: Pauling Hall 216

5:30 PM – Roundtable Discussion: “What is a Global College?” – Venue: Pauling Hall 216

6:00 PM – Reception : Performing Arts Center Lobby

6:30 PM – Closing Buffet Dinner – Venue: Performing Arts Center Lobby

7:30 PM – Meeting Adjourns

New Position as Vice President for Sponsored Research and External Academic Relations

I am honored to serve Soka University in the capacity as Vice President for Sponsored Research and External Academic Relations. In this role, I will help foster new externally funded projects that will help SUA’s faculty expand their research and scholarship and also enable SUA as an institution to more fully realise many of its strategic priorities.  I will also be working to expand connections between SUA and regional and peer institutions, to enable SUA to have more academic collaborations and partnerships as it expands and becomes more recognised as a world leader in global liberal arts and as it defines and builds on its mission for fostering global citizenship.

From July 2017 to August 2020 I served as Soka University’s Dean of Faculty, where I was responsible for managing the undergraduate program with its innovative Soka University curriculum and dynamic faculty, and its energetic and diverse community of students. As Dean of Faculty I had the wonderful opportunity to work with SUA faculty to help develop a new interdisciplinary Life Sciences program, develop new programs for incentivising faculty research, to help improve teaching at SUA, help SUA connect with peer liberal arts institutions, and improve Soka’s unique Core and GE curriculum. I was especially grateful for the opportunity to develop the 2018 Globalised Liberal Arts conference, co-organized by SUA, Pomona College, Carleton College, Middlebury College, and  Yale University, work with the Science Advisory Board and SUA faculty to develop the new Life Sciences curriculum, and to work with faculty and administration to develop the new Fellowship advising program, the new CPT program, the accelerated MA degree program with CGU, the new Merit program, the Teaching Innovation Grant program, more inclusive practices in search committees, and to help guide our transition to online instruction with new training programs for faculty. I feel especially grateful to have been able to help recruit 9 excellent new tenure-track faculty to SUA in fields ranging from Studio Art, Writing, Biochemistry, Sociology, French, Mathematics, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Biology and am delighted to be able help bring these amazing professors to our academic community.

While I was Dean of Faculty I took a break from posting on this site, but now as my role at SUA is more externally facing, I will begin posting again to provide some details about recent innovations and developments at Soka University and in my other work on global liberal arts and STEM education and research.

My new book – STEM Education for the 21st Century – is published by Springer, Inc.

I have just published my book entitled STEM Education for the 21st Century, which was published in April of 2020 by Springer, Inc. The book includes an overview of diversity and inclusion in STEM education, theories of learning, a review of new types of active learning in science courses, new types of engineering education, a review of global interdisciplinary science curriculum, an overview of online education and some thoughts about the future of STEM education. The research for the book came about from eight years of work as an ACE fellow at Yale University, while working at Pomona College, while serving as the founding Director for the Yale-NUS Teaching and Learning Center, and while serving as Dean of Faculty at Soka University of America, where we developed a new interdisciplinary Life Sciences program. The book provides something of a travelog of my journeys in STEM education, and provides insights into the emerging new trends in STEM education as practiced at the best universities and colleges in the world.

Below is a link to the publisher’s site and a flyer which gives more information about the book.

My new Book – STEM Education for the 21st Century: 

Book flyer from pubisher


Here is the official “blurb” for the book!

STEM Education for the 21st Century, by Bryan Edward Penprase

This book chronicles the revolution in STEM teaching and learning that has arisen from a convergence of educational research, emerging technologies, and innovative ways of structuring both the physical space and classroom activities in STEM higher education. Beginning with a historical overview of US higher education and an overview of diversity in STEM in the US, the book sets a context in which our present-day innovation in science and technology urgently needs to provide more diversity and inclusion within STEM fields. Research-validated pedagogies using active learning and new types of research-based curriculum is transforming how physics, biology and other fields are taught in leading universities, and the book gives profiles of leading innovators in science education and examples of exciting new research-based courses taking root in US institutions. The book includes interviews with leading scientists and educators, case studies of new courses and new institutions, and descriptions of site visits where new trends in 21st STEM education are being developed. The book also takes the reader into innovative learning environments in engineering where students are empowered by emerging technologies to develop new creative capacity in their STEM education, through new centers for design thinking and liberal arts-based engineering.  Equally innovative are new conceptual frameworks for course design and learning, and the book explores the concepts of Scientific Teaching, Backward Course Design, Threshold Concepts and Learning Taxonomies in a systematic way with examples from diverse scientific fields. Finally, the book takes the reader inside the leading centers for online education, including Udacity, Coursera and EdX, interviews the leaders and founders of MOOC technology, and gives a sense of how online education is evolving and what this means for STEM education. This book provides a broad and deep exploration into the historical context of science education and into some of the cutting-edge innovations that are reshaping how leading universities teach science and engineering. The emergence of exponentially advancing technologies such as synthetic biology, artificial intelligence and materials sciences has been described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the book explores how these technologies will shape our future will bring a transformation of STEM curriculum that can help students solve many the most urgent problems facing our world and society.

Below are abstracts for each chapter. I welcome your feedback and ideas for followup works.

Chapter 1: History of STEM in the USA

A review of the history of Higher Education in the US, with an emphasis on the role STEM education and diversity within in US higher education from Colonial times to the 21st century.  The founding of the first universities in the US was motivated by providing religious training and later shifted toward science and engineering education as the nation began to grow and the education system included more diverse institutions. At each stage the growth of higher education produced new economic growth, and yet the expansion of the higher education system made slow progress in providing greater access to higher education for women and non-white students. In the 19th century the founding of liberal arts colleges, historically black colleges and Land Grant institutions began to provide more diverse curricula and provided access to women and African American students. In the 20th century, US universities were massively scaled up, and increasing fractions of students received degrees in STEM subjects, with the growth of a STEM workforce which enabled social mobility through higher education. The concept of a meritocratic system of equal opportunity, underlies the American Dream and expectations for social mobility in the US has not provided equal results for students from all racial and ethnic groups, and especially in STEM fields, where the levels of enrollment, degree completion and persistence through graduate programs are all lower for non-white students and women. Bringing greater equity and inclusion within STEM fields is urgently needed, and the chapter reviews some key recommendations for helping develop more diversity in the STEM workforce across all levels of higher education.

Chapter 2: Active and Peer-Based Learning

The chapter reviews the history of how STEM educators were able to document more effective learning through assessments that provided quantitative measures of learning in active-learning environments.  Key innovators within the field of active learning, peer-based learning and scientific teaching are profiled in detail, starting with leading innovators in the field of physics, were much of the best data validating active learning was first acquired. Eric Mazur’s peer learning techniques, which enable students to discuss problems within large classes and therby “construct knowledge” are described detail. The history of  Carl Wieman’s Science Education Initiative is described, with details about his transition from Nobel Prize winning physics researcher into an internationally recognized leader in STEM education. The transformation of physics and astrophysics with active learning and research-based curricula is described with numerous examples for making more exciting and engaging classes through active learning. The development of active learning in Biology is described, including the work in BioQuest, SEAPhages and a new initiative from Jo Handelsman known as TinyEarth. These research-based courses and approaches to active learning and course design are described in detail to give examples of how 21st century research can be brought into the classroom to bring students in active engagement with cutting-edge science.

Chapter 3: Theories of Teaching and Learning

Detailed examples of a variety of theories of learning and course design are described to provide an overview of teaching and learning concepts necessary for more effective STEM education. Examples include Jo Handelsman’s work on Scientific Teaching, and classic theories of learning such as Piaget’s theories of autonomy, Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, Belenky’s theories of learning, and other ideas from social constructivism that can be helpful in STEM education. Multiple taxonomies of learning can be used in STEM subjects to help structure course design, and Bloom’s Taxonomy, the Feisel Schmitz Taxonomy, and the Miller Taxonomy are described along with types of learning outcomes useful for course design. The ideas of Constructive Alignment and Threshold Concepts can help structure active learning pedagogy learning objectives that can unify and animate courses in STEM disciplines, and a review of these theories along with examples is provided. Schulman’s theory of pedagogical content knowledge and its application in STEM courses is described.

Chapter 4: Engineering Education Reconsidered

The new engineering education for the 21st century has been inspired by blending “design thinking” with active pedagogies to provide exciting new learning environments for engineering.  Detailed case studies of leading programs of innovative engineering education are provided, including the Center for Engineering at Yale University, California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo’s “Learn by Doing” approach, and the innovative Olin College of Engineering with its emphasis on project-based learning.  These three programs illustrate how new types of engineering education train students more effectively for the complex and interdisciplinary tasks that today’s engineers face in their work. A review of the new Liberal Arts Engineering movement is described, with detailed examples of the leading engineering programs that are blending disciplines from outside of STEM fields into the engineering curriculum to deepen and strengthen engineering education.

Chapter 5: Online Education in STEM

From a series of visits to the leading online learning centers during the “year of the MOOC” in 2013, the roots of the online learning phenomenon are explored, and their applications to STEM disciplines are described. Site visits to the headquarters of Coursera, edX, Udacity, and HarvardX are combined with an overview of their history and current programs, including interviews with the founders and leaders of all of these major online education centers. The evolution of online learning from its early days into the present is described, along with new types of online learning that include “stackable micro-credentials,” hybrid courses, and online degree programs. The future of online learning and its impacts on colleges and universities is also described, with examples of possible new types of online learning environments in STEM fields.

Chapter 6: Interdisciplinary Science

Numerous distinguished organizations, including the AAMC, AAAS, NSF, and NRC, have highlighted interdisciplinary research and education as vital for training future scientists and physicians. These recommendations are described in detail along with some examples of why interdisciplinary STEM education is needed for the 21st century. A review of a broad range of theories of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and integrated science education is described, along with a taxonomy of methods for integrating curriculum in interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary programs. A review of interdisciplinary science programs ranging from one semester to four-year durations gives examples of this new kind of education can be implemented, and how interdisciplinary science has transformed the landscape of science education. Case studies from a set of 12 interdisciplinary programs in 5 countries provide detailed information on the curriculum and the ways in which faculty prepare for teaching these programs. From the review of these 12 programs a set of “best practices” for interdisciplinary science is presented, with detailed recommendations for structuring faculty training and for organizing the curriculum and assessment of teaching and learning.

Chapter 7: The Future of STEM Teaching and Learning

The 21st century has been described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the emerging science and technology of our present century is described and compared with earlier industrial revolutions. In each case, transformative technologies have sparked revolutions that have shaped not only the economy, but also higher education and STEM education. The history of each of these revolutions is explored and the detailed ways that higher education and STEM education has evolved is reviewed in the past and present centuries. The main technologies of the current industrial revolution, Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Nanotechnology and the Internet of Things are described in separate sections. The role of these emergent technologies in a new kind of STEM curriculum is described, along with examples of new courses based on these technologies at Stanford, MIT and Harvard. These new exponential technologies and the emerging realities they will bring challenge the sustainability of our planet and our notions of humanity, and how this may shape our STEM education and our universities in the coming century is described.

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