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LBC Community Projects: Collectively Advancing the College Mission
Mission, Vision, and Objectives

During 2008-09, Lyman Briggs faculty, staff, students, and alumni worked together, under the guidance of LBC alumnus Kevin Ohl, to create a mission statement and a guiding vision for the college, along with specific objectives that will lead to realizing the vision. The resulting documents are available online on the About Lyman Briggs page and are linked to descriptions of current college projects related to the objectives.

Inclusive and Transparent Search Practices

LBC faculty and staff have been striving to make our searches for new colleagues as open and inclusive as possible. A faculty meeting on 2-28-06 created a list of best search practices for the college, which was updated by the Briggs Advisory Council in spring 2009 based on recent search experiences. In spring 2008, new language was drafted for our advertisements to make clear that working with diverse student populations is a key part of Lyman Briggs; this has been used as a model by the MSU Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives. The new LBC ad hoc Diversity Advisory Committee led a faculty meeting Faculty Diversity on 12-28-04 and the ensuing discussion led to the creation of a web page with resources about inclusive searches. In spring 2009, the faculty wrote an explicit description of the teaching portfolio required as part of faculty job applications, to ensure that all candidates understand what is expected.

Robust Teaching Evaluation Processes

The LBC faculty are undertaking a multi-semester evaluation of alternative teaching evaluation instruments to augment or possibly replace the use of SIRS forms. In fall 2008, several training sessions familiarized the faculty with the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) and faculty were encouraged to use it for qualitative evaluation during spring 2009. During a two year test period from fall 2008 - fall 2010, progressively larger groups of faculty have been using the customizable Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) instrument alongside the SIRS, in order to determine whether the SALG would be a more informative student evaluation tool for LBC.

Bridging the Two Cultures

Lyman Briggs College was founded with the mission of bridging what author C.P. Snow famously called the "Two Cultures" of the sciences and humanities. In early years, the introductory HPS (history, philosophy, and sociology of science) class was even called "Third Culture Rhetoric"; the HPS classes continue to be a crucial component of the liberal science education provided to Briggs students. In May 2009, LBC co-sponsored a conference “Science & Liberal Education”, marking the 50th anniversary of Snow's "Two Cultures" lecture and reflecting on progress in realizing a Third Culture. The LBC community continues to actively build bridges among the varied STEM and HPS elements of the college's culture and curriculum. Some faculty are auditing entire Briggs courses in other fields in order to assess opportunities for highlighting cross-disciplinary connections in their own classes. Another increasingly popular path is the team-teaching of linked courses by STEM and HPS faculty, either during the academic year or as part of a summertime study abroad program. Many faculty are involved in an NSF-funded project Bridging the Disciplines through Authentic Inquiry and Discourse (BRAID), that studies the impact on student learning of educational modules interconnecting courses in separate disciplines or suites of STEM and HPS courses taught as an inter-related whole. Briggs faculty, staff, and students are also key participant in three cross-college projects that place science in broader context: the specialization on Science, Technology, the Environment and Public Policy (STEPPS), and the 21st Century Chautauqua on Personal and Social Responsibility (Chautauqua).

Supporting Diverse Student Populations

Building on its tradition of collaboration with MSU's College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), and the Drew Science Enrichment Laboratory (Drew) programs, and on the efforts of the Briggs Multiracial Alliance (BMA) to foster a welcoming community, Briggs is seeking new ways to support its diverse student body. During 2008-10, LBC is reviewing and revising its curricula to ensure that students entering LBC with low math preparation are better supported and retained in STEM majors; an LBC Biology/Chemistry pilot effort to provide curricular enrichment and greater faculty contact for these students is underway. Starting in fall 2010, a team of HPS and STEM faculty is offering a new course on Diversity in Science that include student research on the tangible impacts of inclusion; students who have just finished the course will lead the presentations and discussions on this topic with incoming LBC freshmen during Fall Welcome. Also starting in fall 2010, LBC is offering an Undergraduate Research Experience in Mathematics (UREM), a year long program that provides research experience in mathematics for a diverse cohort of undergraduate students. All three of these projects are funded during by Creating Inclusive Excellence grants from the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives (CIE).

In spring 2009, LBC was awarded a $600k NSF S-STEM grant designed to support recruitment and retention through degree completion of a diverse cohort of students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Briggs will work with the MSU Office of Financial Aid to administer 3 year scholarships to LBC majors. Recipients will also be required to participate in regularly scheduled activities providing a wide-ranging introduction to opportunities in science. These will include the participation of Briggs alumni through seminars, mentoring and internship opportunities. In summer 2010, Briggs applied for a second S-STEM grant to enable another cohort of students to participate, and we are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the proposal.

Undergraduate Research

Consistent with the Boyer Commission Report, the NRC's BIO2010 Report and Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Lyman Briggs promotes undergraduate research experiences through professorial assistantships, honors seminars, research grants, and inquiry-based labs in LBC courses. The Lyman Briggs undergraduate research program supports students in STEM and HPS disciplines with funds, faculty mentorship, and opportunities to present findings at local, regional, or national conferences. As of fall 2010, several corporate and federal grants have helped us continue to expand the undergraduate research program, and additional grant proposals are pending.

Research-validated Pedagogy:

LBC faculty are engaged in a long-term effort to strengthen the core STEM courses by adopting research-validated educational techniques that help students acquire expert-level thinking skills. Examples include concept mapping linked to question creation by students, transformation of recitations into hands-on workshops, and incorporation of inquiry-based labs that stress experimental design as well as lab techniques. Several proposals for external funds to augment these efforts are pending, as of fall 2009.

LBC faculty of all disciplines who are engaging in research on or dissemination of effective pedagogy continue to be recognized and supported by MSU’s Lilly Teaching Fellows program and external programs such as The Biology Scholars Program and the New Physics & Astronomy Faculty Workshops. Briggs faculty also serve on the MSU Faculty Advisory Boards of the Lilly Fellows program and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL).

Creating a Culture of Scholarship:

LBC faculty from several disciplines are banding together with colleagues from their joint appointment departments to hold Writing Boot Camps (WBC), retreats that use group camaraderie to facilitate writing productivity. Essentially, they reserve a block of time during the semester and Christmas and summer breaks - and absolutely dedicate this time to writing. Members meet at a booked classroom or conference room, and only have access to the library on the internet (ie, NO email). They begin at 8:30 am and finish at 4:30 pm with scheduled breaks and lunch throughout the day. One person (or group, depending on the number of participants) is responsible for handling lunch for one day. Little incentive prizes are offered during the day. During WBC, each person will write what they need to write (proposals, manuscripts, etc). During the semester they typically schedule 4 mini-WBCs (Friday/Saturday). During the Christmas break and Summer it is possible to schedule a longer WBC that lasts a full week. Once a member commits to a time slot, they are not permitted to back out – each person's participation helps motivate others. Members report that the technique can be incredibly effective!

Professional Development:

The LBC faculty and staff have organized a series of seminars during 2010-11 to address issues of common interest to us as mentors and educators. The topics of those presented so far have included: Counseling in relation to calamity, Academic integrity, the LBC Evaluation Process, Civility in the classroom, and a special MLK Day session on Inclusion, featuring an LGBTQ student panel and extended discussion.