New Science Center Enhances Student Learning

New Science Center Enhances Student Learning

A student's gloved hands working in a science lab.

A generous grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as part of its Inclusive Excellence 3 (IE3) initiative will fund Fairfield University's new Science Center for the next five years.

The Science Center joins the Math and Writing Centers as tangible expressions of Fairfield University's unwavering commitment to bolstering academic resources for student success.

— Mark Ligas, PhD, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Excellence and Associate Professor

This fall semester, Fairfield University welcomed a new academic resource to its campus — the Science Center. Located within the Academic Commons on the main level of the DiMenna-Nyselius Library Complex, the Science Center aims to become a vibrant hub of academic engagement and learning for students across all four undergraduate schools.

Designed with the students' well-being in mind, the Science Center seeks to alleviate the anxiety and stress that often accompany the rigorous coursework of natural and behavioral science programs. The physical space is intentionally constructed to provide a welcoming environment conducive to learning. This center is poised to offer peer tutoring and collaborative study opportunities for a range of courses, including general biology, general chemistry, general physics, organic chemistry, anatomy and physiology, general chemistry for health sciences, general physics for life sciences, behavioral neuroscience, and statistics for behavioral sciences. Additionally, it will serve as a dedicated space for students to engage in scientific discourse and discuss their coursework with peers.

“The Science Center joins the Math and Writing Centers as tangible expressions of Fairfield University's unwavering commitment to bolstering academic resources for student success,” Mark Ligas, PhD, vice provost for undergraduate excellence and associate professor of marketing wrote in a recent announcement to faculty. “These initiatives are driven by a faculty that highly values and appreciates the importance of fostering student learning beyond the confines of traditional classrooms and laboratories.”

The Science Center was made possible by the generous support it received from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as part of its Inclusive Excellence 3 (IE3) initiative. This initiative challenges colleges and universities across the United States to substantially and sustainably enhance their capacity for student belonging, particularly for individuals who have historically been excluded from the sciences.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is one of the most well-recognized and prestigious institutes that supports science research and education worldwide. In 2019, HHMI initiated the third round of its Inclusive Excellence (IE) initiative, which aims to increase institutional capacity for inclusive learning for students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

The successful grant application that made the Science Center a reality was the result of visionary and collaborative work by faculty members Shelley Phelan, PhD, (biology), Angela Biselli, PhD, (physics), Laura McSweeney, PhD, (mathematics), and Jillian Smith-Carpenter, PhD, (chemistry/biochemistry). This team of faculty is part of a 14-institution Learning Community Cluster (LCC) that was collectively awarded $8M for this 6-year collaborative effort. In addition to the individual institutional awards, the entire LCC will share approximately $2M to jointly explore, develop, and implement new approaches, programs, and structures that will reshape the first-year experience for STEM students on all 14 campuses. Through DEI-focused professional development in STEM, redesign of introductory science and math courses, and creation of an inclusive STEM community within and outside of the classroom, this effort will contribute to the creation of a stronger and more diverse STEM workforce in the future.

The Science Center is just one of several initiatives planned over the course of the grant, as Fairfield University endeavors to enhance the success of first-year science and mathematics learning across the board.

Tags:  Top Stories,  College of Arts & Sciences

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