July 31, 2015

More than 230 faculty members and educational administrators from around the country have come to WPI for the 5-day 2015 SENCER Summer Institute (SSI 2015), a symposium focused on connecting undergraduate STEM education to real-world topics and problems.

Participants from over 100 institutions, including colleges, educational associations, and STEM organizations, are attending SSI 2015, running July 30 – August 3.

This year’s event marks the 15th anniversary of both SSI and its guiding initiative, Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibilities (SENCER), a signature program of the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement (NCSCE) that is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). SENCER seeks to make STEM subjects more accessible and meaningful to students by applying them to civic questions—a learning model that resonates strongly at WPI.

“The WPI Plan and SENCER have a lot in common,” says Karen Kashmanian Oates, WPI’s Dean of Arts & Sciences and SENCER Senior Fellow and co-PI of the first NSF grant. “We both strive to provide students with deep and authentic learning experiences that use science and engineering to solve multidisciplinary problems and make positive impacts in the world.

Oates and several other WPI faculty members will share their expertise in connecting STEM education to real-world problems during several sessions at SSI 2015, which features a mix of plenary speeches, workshops on effective pedagogies, and examples of successful campus and community applications. Sessions cover a wide range of topics, from assessing student learning with real-world projects to creating meaningful STEM experiences for underrepresented minority and visually impaired students.

In addition to hosting SS1 2015, WPI is the permanent host of the SENCER Center of Innovation New England, a regional center offering expertise for members of the SENCER community. Oates also founded NCSCE, a national organization that supports campus-based science education that builds strong student civic engagement, as a faculty member at Harrisburg University in 2004.