Cullowhee, NC, United States
Cullowhee, NC, United States

Western Carolina University is a coeducational public university located in Cullowhee, North Carolina, United States. The university is a constituent campus of the University of North Carolina system.The fifth oldest institution of the sixteen four-year universities in the UNC system, the university was founded to educate the people of the western North Carolina mountains. The university has expanded its mission to serve the entire state and the nation and has grown to become a major cultural, scientific, and educational force in the state and region. WCU now serves more than 10,000 full-time undergraduate and post graduate students, providing an education to students from 48 states and 35 countries. Enrollment for fall 2014 was 10,382. Wikipedia.


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News Article | May 26, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

LifeCenters Communities is pleased to announce the addition of a new member to our Advisory Board, Steve Craver. The Board provides leadership and invaluable counsel in support of LifeCenters mission, changing the way seniors life life. Steve Craver is founder and president of Communicate to Connect™. Steve has coached and trained thousands of business executives, including Fortune 500 CEOs, managers, sales people, analysts, and wholesalers. He regularly speaks to conventions and corporate gatherings made up of leaders from major corporations, financial institutions and non-profits. Steve’s extensive career in sales, training and sales management spans a period of more than 30 years. Prior to founding Communicate to Connect, Steve was National Sales Manager for a major international corporation and Executive Director of a non-profit dedicated to training individuals to become effective communicators. Steve is an astute observer of people and their behavior, with the ability to identify key characteristics that help people move themselves and their business to the next level. He is a certified executive coach, a certified life planner and a certified strategic business planner. He has a large amount of experience in multi-cultural settings. Steve has been featured in numerous publications and newspapers, including articles in The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. He holds a B.S. degree in psychology and a minor in speech communication from Western Carolina University. He and his wife live in historic Franklin, Tennessee, along with their two Labrador Retrievers. He enjoys spending time with his family and maintaining the grounds around his home. LifeCenters Communities works with industry leading partners to create wealth through investment in Seniors Housing communities. These communities serve an ever growing demand and ensure that those who have paved the way for us have a place to thrive and enjoy life to the fullest. Our sites are unique and carefully selected with beautiful surroundings and neighborhood amenities readily available. Our vision is to provide the entire spectrum of Independent Living (IL), Assisted Living (AL) and Memory Care (MC) ensures that, regardless of current or future needs, families’ needs are met.


News Article | April 21, 2017
Site: www.scientificamerican.com

On April 22, scientists and their allies will gather at over 500 locations around the world to march in defense of science and evidence-based policymaking. The lead march will convene scientists and allies from around the United States in Washington DC, where they will march from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol. I’m joining them because I’m convinced the scientific community must build a unified political movement to advocate for the considerable benefits science brings to our nation and the world — benefits that have been undermined for too long. Scientists didn’t start this fight. For years, a growing cadre of politicians have dismissed evidence in favor of their opinions and moved to cut public support for scientific research. The election of Donald J. Trump — a man who seemingly can’t distinguish fact from fiction and wants to gut funding for scientific research — makes it clear that science can’t stand up for itself in the realm of politics. While the threats against science are clear, many in the scientific community still question whether or not a science march is the right way to respond. A notable early criticism came from Professor Robert Young of Western Carolina University, who penned a Washington Post op-ed calling the march a “bad idea,” because it would further contribute to the politicization of science. His op-ed was shared and discussed widely amongst my American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow colleagues, all of whom are scientists serving in the federal government. Many of us debated whether or not we would individually march while AAAS the institution debated whether or not it would throw its considerable science advocacy weight behind the march. In the end, both AAAS and many of my colleagues settled on the same conclusion: science has been politicized and demonized by non-scientists for too long, and now scientists must stand up for science in the political realm. Several other prominent scientific societies and the leading academic journal Nature came to same conclusion. In Nature’s words, “Whatever misgivings some may have, these should surely be eclipsed by the opportunity to identify and harness the collective energy that this organized event offers researchers everywhere.” Another leading scientific publication — PHD Comics — summarized the thinking of many in the scientific community with the flow chart below. (If you’re not already familiar with PHD Comics, I highly recommend you check out the site and the creator’s new book We Have No Idea.) In my opinion, the skepticism expressed about the march is healthy, and will only work to improve the march and enhance its impact. It’s distinctly scientific really: the organizers of the march suggested a new approach; their scientist peers offered constructive criticism; and the march organizers adjusted their strategy based on peer review. The organizers did not have to engage traditionally risk-averse, non-partisan professional societies — many of which expressed skepticism about the march — but they did and the march is better off for it. I have no doubt that I’ll see a protest sign or hear a chant that I disagree with at the march on Saturday. Instead of criticizing messages I disagree with from the sidelines, I will be marching to represent my own views. I’m marching because I think science and innovation are the foundation of the American economy, and that we’ve chipped away at that foundation for too long. I’m marching because too many of our elected officials have taken a dangerous turn away from evidence-based thinking. I’m marching because I think it is better to accept the tough truths science provides than it is to reject science because its challenges seem insurmountable. I’m marching because I believe in the potential for an enduring movement of scientists that will make our politics more honest and pragmatic. But we can’t do it without you, so I hope you’ll join us. Find information on your local March for Science here: https://www.marchforscience.com/.


News Article | April 18, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

On Saturday, thousands of scientists are set to abandon the cloistered neutrality of their laboratories to plunge into the the political fray against Donald Trump in what will likely be the largest-ever protest by science advocates. The March for Science, a demonstration modeled in part on January’s huge Women’s March, will inundate Washington DC’s national mall with a jumble of marine biologists, birdwatchers, climate researchers and others enraged by what they see as an assault by Trump’s administration upon evidence-based thinking and scientists themselves. The march is a visceral response to a presidency that has set about the evisceration of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and many of its science-based rules, the dismissal of basic climate change tenets by the president and his appointees and a proposed budget that would remove around $7bn from science programs, ranging from cancer research to oceanography to Nasa’s monitoring of the Earth. Many scientists at federal agencies, concerned their work may be sidelined or censored for political purposes, will take the unusual step of publicly damning the administration. “It’s important for scientists to get out of the lab and talk about what’s important,” said Andrew Rosenberg, who spent a decade at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is now at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “You don’t check your citizenship at the door when you get a PhD. No one would tell an architect they can’t have a view on HUD [the Department of Housing and Urban Development]. That would be nonsense.” Rosenberg said younger scientists, in particular, are increasingly rejecting a stance of studied silence when faced with what they see as threats to their profession. “They don’t accept that they have to wait until tenure, comfortable in a lab to maybe then speak out,” he said. “Academia is less appealing to many of them these days, so they want to know how they can have an impact now. They aren’t content that people will just read their papers in academic journals. I think retreating to your lab and hoping it will all go away is not going to be the best strategy.” The idea to march was first tossed around on a Reddit thread in January. One of those on the discussion, University of Texas postdoctoral fellow Jonathan Berman, decided to put the idea into motion. A day or two after being set up, a Facebook page promoting the march had attracted more than 300,0000 members. The march now has dozens of people grappling with the logistics of the DC march and more than 500 companion events around the world. More than 100 organizations have lent their support, including the institutional heft of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific organization, and the American Geophysical Union. In March, Bill Nye, the bow-tied embodiment of science for many Americans, and Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who alerted the world to soaring levels of lead in the blood of children in Flint, Michigan, were named as honorary co-chairs. Organizers won’t commit to an expected number of protestors but are downplaying expectations that it will be anywhere near the scale of the Women’s March. The tone is expected to waver between pro-science and anti-Trump. The march will dovetail with the People’s Climate March, which will take place a week later. Signs reading “Make America Smart Again” and “What do we want? Evidence-based policy. When do we want it? After peer review” are expected to make an appearance at the science march. Copies of the Lorax will be handed out. There may well be a sea of brain-like knitted hats. “There will be plenty of ridiculous signs, it will be a lot of fun with serious moments too,” said Ayana Johnson, a marine biologist who became an organizer after seeing fellow scientists downloading climate data in case the administration removed it from public view. “I found that horrifying. That for me was the real alarm, but everyone has their own story.” The satellite marches around the world suggest Trump isn’t the sole cause of scientists’ unease. Globally, there is a “trend of anti-intellectualism”, said Johnson, where politicians play to voters’ base emotions rather than provide evidence-based policy. “We have gotten ourselves into this situation because the public doesn’t understand how science benefits us in our everyday lives,” Johnson admitted. “We haven’t done a good job communicating the value of the work we do.” Some scientists, while sharing much of the anguish of the marchers, have questioned whether a protest in the heart of DC will in fact be counterproductive. Trump is probably more likely to respond to the march with an angry tweet than rethink cuts to cancer research, while Republicans who believe scientists are merely green-tinged activists with fancy titles will feel vindicated. “The march won’t change any minds in the Trump administration and it won’t convince rural and working class America that science is relevant to their lives,” said Robert Young, an expert in coastal geology at Western Carolina University. “The march is on Earth Day, which plays into conservative and climate skeptic thinking that scientists are just environmentalists. Just watch how it will be covered by Fox News and conservative bloggers.” Young said he doesn’t think scientists should just “sit on their hands” and is similarly troubled that, for example, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt doesn’t accept the widespread understanding that carbon dioxide is a primary driver of global warming. “But we’ve convinced all the people we are going to convince,” Young said. “We can march and shout our heads off, but that won’t engage with people who have not bought the message. “We need more face-to-face interaction in local communities. We should do AM radio talkshows. That can be quite a challenge, but that’s the radio that my family and my wife’s family listen to and they are regular working-class Americans. We need to meet these folks where they live.” While the public largely tells pollsters that it supports scientists and their work, there is underlying friction. Innovations in technology have helped drive automation of some jobs, while our ever-improving understanding of our environment has led to restrictions on some polluting industries. Trump tapped into this simmering angst and scientists’ challenge may well be explaining how their breakthroughs can help all of us. The March for Science “will exacerbate rather than address these tensions” according to Jason Lloyd, a program manager for the Consortium for Science, Policy, & Outcomes at Arizona State University. “The biggest issue confronting science is not a malicious and incompetent executive,” Lloyd wrote for Slate. “The critical challenge ... is figuring out how scientists can build an enduring relationship with all segments of the American public, so that discounting, defunding or vilifying scientists’ important work is politically intolerable.” Even some of the march’s supporters concede that the event won’t change administration thinking overnight. But even people who specialize in cool, rational thinking occasionally need to wail their frustration. “Scientists are very worried that we are losing science from the public sphere,” said Rosenberg. “I don’t think these events will prove a turning point but in Congress and in the states this will matter. Our representatives need to know that voters care about science.”


News Article | April 21, 2017
Site: www.csmonitor.com

Neuroscientist Shruti Muralidhar (front l.) and microbiologist Abhishek Chari (front r.) hold placards and chant during a rally for science, Feb. 19, 2017, in Boston. Similar marches are scheduled for Saturday, April 20, in Washington, D.C., and 500 cities around the world. Many scientists say they feel compelled to march in the name of science. But for others, the foray into activism runs the risk of worsening the polarization the march is meant to ease. —Jenny Tam spent much of her life avoiding politics. She grew up in a small town in Arkansas, as the child of Chinese immigrants who had seen the dangers of political backlash, and she always tried to stay nonpolitical. All that changed for Dr. Tam, now an immunologist and biophysicist at Massachusetts General Hospital, as she watched the current administration dismiss facts and saw a lack of understanding of how rigorous peer-reviewed studies really are. Suddenly, she felt the need to march into the fray, helping to found the group FACTS (Fostering Advocacy and Collaboration Through Science). Tam isn’t alone among scientists who feel compelled to step out of the lab or the field to stand up for science. On Saturday, which is also Earth Day, these newly minted activists and other science supporters plan to gather in Washington, D.C., and in more than 500 other cities for a March for Science. The foray into activism and politics is a tough one for some scientists. And although the organizers have taken pains to note the march is nonpartisan, concern that the focus will become political has sparked some controversy and debate among scientists. Many supporters of the march note that science is already political, and that ignoring its importance to policy is disingenuous. The march is needed, they say, due to the increased attacks on science, threats to slash funding for research, and lack of understanding of what scientists do. But critics worry that despite all the declarations that the march is “non-partisan,” it will be viewed by many Americans as anti-Trump and anti-Republican, and that it will only increase the partisan divide and cement the impression in some people’s minds that scientists are driven by ideology rather than evidence. “I worry there will be people there carrying signs that have incendiary messages, and it’s that one percent that will become the meme for the conservative blogosphere,” says Robert Young, a coastal geologist at Western Carolina University. He cringes imagining rural America’s reaction to, say, a sign saying “Make America smart again.” Dr. Young has seen first-hand the ways politicians can try to delegitimize science when he helped author a report on sea-level rise that had data that developers didn’t want to hear and state legislators dismissed. And back in his 20s, he says, he might have joined Saturday’s march himself. But Young says he’s also become more pragmatic with experience, and he worries that a march – one that he says will certainly be viewed as partisan by much of America – will only solidify barriers. “If you want to make a difference and you want to live within the political realities we live in right now, then calling these people out and embarrassing them is not going to help us win,” Young says. Other scientists say they hear that argument and acknowledge there is a risk but suggest that there is a much greater risk to not doing anything. “It’s absurd to think of science as being apolitical,” says Alan Townsend, an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder. “It doesn’t mean it should be partisan, but it’s embroiled in the world of politics as well, and we have to engage.” Certain groups may use the march to attack scientists, he acknowledges, but says there’s nothing new in that narrative. “And the upside potential is more meaningful and needed.” The backing for the science march has been widespread, including behemoths like the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific society, as well as dozens of research groups, museums, small scientific organizations, and nonprofits. A huge piece of the march is simply making both science and scientists more accessible and visible to the public. Most marches have planned education stations; in Washington, nearly two dozen “teach-ins” are being offered, on topics ranging from food solutions and creek critters to carbon innovation and the physics of superheroes. “We’ll have booths set up by a variety of organizations to talk about the science they’re doing, so that the public begins to get a more expansive view of what science is,” says Scott Franklin, a physicist at the Rochester Institute of Technology and one of the organizers of the march in Rochester, N.Y. “The more visible scientists are in the community the more normalized we get.” Some participants also say that, while the march may have been catalyzed in part by the Trump administration – with its proposed cuts for research funding, its loose use of “facts,” and the nomination of some climate-change critics to prominent roles – the antagonism toward science among some policymakers in particular, has been building for several decades, and has reached a point where scientists need to push back, whatever the risks. Climate change is just one example. Once it became associated with Al Gore around the 2000 election, some Republicans who had previously proposed climate action solidified in opposition and started denying the reality of climate change, says John Holdren, a senior adviser to former President Obama on science and technology. Partisan opposition to Mr. Obama, who supported action on climate change, just intensified the divide. Is there a risk that the march will further alienate people? Of course, says Dr. Holdren. “The very notion of marching will aggravate some people. But you know it is pretty well-established reality that nothing one does in the domain of political action pleases everybody…. My own view is that the potential benefits do outweigh the downsides.” The March for Science grew out of the momentum of the Women’s March in January and has faced similar criticisms and internal turmoil about inclusion of diverse peoples and perspectives. Public critics have also suggested that the inclusion of certain advocacy groups, which they say ignore science on issues like GMOs, could make the march problematic. Those critics note that antagonism toward science is not partisan – just as climate-change denial is associated with the right, some on the left are leading the charge to dismiss science around GMOs or vaccines. “Science is not a buffet where people can pick and choose the parts that they like and disregard the rest,” wrote Alma Laney, a plant virologist and blogger, in a blog post about why he was not marching. “Climate change denial, young earth creationism, anti-vaccine and anti-genetic engineering arguments are not equal to the science on those topics. It's incredibly sad to see a group that purports to be standing up for all science to willingly partner with groups that are antiscience or hold antiscience positions.” Still, for all the criticism and disagreements, most observers have noted just how broad the support for the science march has been, including many people and groups who disagree politically, but feel deeply that a strong commitment to high-quality science and research is necessary. Many supporters of the march see it as an opportunity to shed positive light on science. As Tam, the immunology researcher, says, the march “should be a celebration of the science our country has really excelled at.” And, rather than marching for one concrete goal – increased NIH funding, say, or a broader acceptance of climate change – many of the organizers and participants express hope that the march could help demystify the scientific process for some Americans, and also encourage more scientists to be engaged in the public sphere, whether through serving on local town councils or committees, reaching out to lawmakers, or simply talking to people in their community about what they do. Michael Eisen, a computational biologist at the University of California in Berkley who recently announced his Senate candidacy, will be speaking at the march in San Francisco because “it’s about standing up for a worldview and a way of approaching problems.” “Too often we think of it as this kind of priesthood, with scientists who work in labs and produce science. But really, I think most people are basically scientists in the way they live,” and the way they apply the scientific method in their daily lives, he says. Eisen hopes the march will help connect scientists and the public and to express that science truly is for everyone. Holdren, Obama’s science advisor, sees the march as something of an experiment. “We are trying something new compared to the historical approach of writing sober op-editorial pieces, and giving talks to rotary clubs, and folks at universities talking to each other, the national academies of science, and engineering, and medicine, holding their meetings and issuing their press releases,” he says. “The more we get people talking about society's interest in science and technology, the better. If the March advances that conversation and persuades more people to engage in that conversation in more different ways, then it will have been a success."


Butcher D.J.,Western Carolina University
Applied Spectroscopy Reviews | Year: 2013

Optical analytical atomic spectrometry includes the techniques of atomic emission, atomic absorption, and atomic fluorescence. In this review, developments in these techniques are reviewed from January 2011 through June 2012, including a summary of applications in various areas of science. The goal is to summarize the most significant recent developments in optical atomic spectrometry. © 2013 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.


Butcher D.J.,Western Carolina University
Analytica Chimica Acta | Year: 2013

Molecular absorption spectrometry (MAS), originally developed in the 1970s, is a technique to determine non-metals in flames and graphite furnaces by monitoring the absorbance of diatomic molecules. Early studies employed low resolution instruments designed for line source atomic absorption, which provided a limited choice of analytical wavelengths, insufficient spectral resolution, and spectral interferences. However, the development of high-resolution continuum source atomic absorption spectrometry (HR-CS AAS) instrumentation has allowed the analysis of challenging samples for non-metals as well as some difficult elements to determine by AAS, such as aluminum and phosphorus. In this review, theory and analytical considerations for MAS are discussed. The principles and limitations of low resolution MAS are described, along with its applications. HR-CS AAS instrumentation is reviewed, emphasizing performance characteristics most relevant for MAS. Applications of flame and HR-CS GFMAS are reviewed, highlighting the most significant work to date. The paper concludes with an evaluation of the enhanced analytical capabilities provided by HR-CS MAS. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 473.18K | Year: 2015

This project seeks to understand prehistoric and historical Norse uses of whales, seals and walruses in the North Atlantic and Eastern Arctic over the course of the Middle Ages, from 800-1500 CE (Common Era). Evidence from Arctic and North Atlantic historical and literary sources and archaeological sites reveals frequent use of marine mammals by prehistoric hunters and scavengers and Norse settlers, but details about the uses of whale, seal, and walrus are unquantified, broad and approximate. These northern regions are critically important ecosystems to current North American economies and interests. They were home to the worlds earliest whaling industries and support ongoing sealing and whaling traditions. However, we know almost nothing about the origins and scale of whale, seal, and walrus use in these once fertile waters. Given the complexity of marine food webs in regions like the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, reconstruction of preindustrial or pristine maritime ecosystems is critical in modern restoration efforts and for the preservation and sustainable use of fish and mammal populations today. Without clear knowledge of ancient and early historic marine mammal populations, we cannot gauge what healthy marine mammal populations would look like today.

The fourteen-member research team, from the disciplines of humanities, history, archaeology, biology, genetics and others, aims to investigate the deep history of whale, seal, and walrus use in the Eastern Arctic and North Atlantic. This research will span the first settlements of the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland in the Viking Age (beginning around 800 CE), through the Medieval Warm Period (circa 1000-1250), and concluding with the Little Ice Age at the end of the Middle Ages (1300-1500). In addition to assessing the social, cultural, and economic importance of marine mammal use among Norse populations, the research study uses cutting-edge genetic and chemical analyses to provide a far better understanding of marine mammal populations in the Arctic and North Atlantic before the major changes resulting from industrial-scale hunting beginning in the sixteenth century. Evidence from houses, burials, and trading sites, from current archaeological excavations and museum collections, as well as histories, sagas, maps, illuminated manuscripts and other traditional sources of knowledge, are combined with scientific approaches to ancient animal bones and the genetic stories that they can tell. This project will build interdisciplinary connections across the social and natural sciences, will bring together researchers and students from six countries and eleven academic institutions and museums, and will employ the most current technologies and scholarship in genetics, biology, digital humanities, and zooarchaeology. The research team hopes to uncover new evidence about the marine animals that populated medieval seas, and the manners in which medieval Icelanders, Greenlanders, and others encountered and exploited these mammals. The project team will produce scholarly articles, translations, new genetic and zooarchaeological data sets, will participate in academic conferences and public presentations, and will design both curricular and museum materials to communicate our results to a broader audience. Undergraduate and graduate students will be guided through transdisciplinary research collaborations in the US and abroad. Finally, the team scientists think that their results may also aid colleagues in the natural sciences in reconstruction of ancient seas, climates, animal populations, and environmental change, with direct application to major issues of future sustainability.


This project seeks answers to fundamental questions about medieval marine mammal exploitation, focusing on Norse uses of whales, seals and walruses in the North Atlantic prior to 1500 CE. In a region dominated by charismatic Arctic megafauna, where modern industrial whaling was born and where current whaling and sealing attract global attention, the prehistory and early history of marine mammal use remain unclear in its scale and purpose. The researchers transdisciplinary approach employs Local and Traditional Knowledge (LTK), digital humanities, environmental histories, and innovative technologies of genetic analysis to new and existing sea mammal archaeofaunal assemblages to produce a holistic long-term perspective on the social, cultural, and economic history of marine mammal use in medieval northern Europe. This research spans the first settlements of the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland in the Viking Age and the Medieval Climatic Optimum, through the Little Ice Age onset in the high Middle Ages and Early Modern periods. The length of the project survey period (+ 700 years) will result in samples across a broad range of time and space, which allows the science team to contextualize newly-generated aDNA marine mammal data across several documented periods of major climate change in the North Atlantic and Subarctic.

The project will also provide a far better understanding of marine mammal dynamics in these regions prior to the major changes resulting from industrial-scale hunting impacts beginning in the sixteenth century. The project utilizes: 1) a new integration with the rich medieval written record for Iceland aided by digital and environmental humanities approaches; 2) a greatly expanded zooarchaeological database created since the International Polar Year (IPY) by the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO) research cooperative; 3) newly expanded capabilities in ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis, allowing species-level identification on a wide range of otherwise unidentifiable sea mammal bones; 4) new data management and visualization tools providing more effective cross disciplinary communication and wider public engagement through cooperation with the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NISDC) and NABO project management system; and 5) facilities for wide transdisciplinary dissemination of results through the Integrated History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE) program as part of the Future Earth global change initiative. This project will build capacity for scientific collaboration and data management, dissemination, and visualization, while improving species-level identification, exceeding current capabilities of simple morphometric analysis or collagen fingerprinting of sea mammal bones from archaeological contexts and museum collections. In addition, it offers the promise to create important new bodies of evidence for a range of scholarly disciplines across a broad temporal and geographical series of case studies.

Finally, the proposed projects use of extant data sets - textual, archaeological, biological - may provide an innovative new model for transdisciplinary analysis of premodern marine mammal use that can be applied across the North Atlantic and circumpolar Arctic. The researchers hope to establish a historical baseline of marine mammal use that reveals a more complete economic and ecological portrait of the Norse North Atlantic. Through collaborations with North Pacific and Western Arctic colleagues, the research teams work will complete a circumpolar perspective of prehistoric and early historic marine mammal exploitation. By answering fundamental questions of marine mammal use, this research has the potential to provide context or evidence for lost genetic diversity among key marine species, now under pressure from both natural and human drivers of environmental change. This integrative approach, including collaboration of scholars and students from twelve institutions across North America and Europe, also provides new models and innovative methodologies for transdisciplinary research in the social sciences and humanities, with direct application to major issues of future sustainability.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 557.36K | Year: 2015

A previous NSF-supported project has resulted in high retention and improved GPA for STEM majors at the University of Central Florida. In an effort to expand on this work the institution has partnered with investigators at the University of NC-Wilmington (a primarily undergraduate, public institution) and Florida Atlantic University (a research-1, public institution) to study the ways in which a community built on disciplinary research will affect the retention of first-year students in STEM. The participants will live together in a learning community, take courses together, and work as research apprentices in faculty laboratories. This model, which has been shown to be particularly effective with students from underrepresented groups and first generation majors, will be adapted to include strategies for retaining transfer students through to graduation as well.

The core elements of the UCF model are the development of an academic research community that provides students with hands-on learning opportunities, access to faculty and trained graduate student and peer research mentors, and integration into student life through a wide variety of academic, social, and service activities. This project will address three research questions that are central to the national goal of increasing the number of high quality STEM graduates who go on to graduate school and into the workforce: (a) Can the UCF research community model be adapted successfully to accommodate a transfer student population? (b) What factors within a STEM research community influence transfer student success and impact transfer student retention? And (c) To what extent is the retention success of a current model replicable at other, public institutions? Formative and summative assessment will focus on the efficacy of the model on student retention and success in STEM for the different student populations (first-year and transfer) and at different institutions. The plan will use a mixed-method approach to assess the effectiveness of the proposed educational tools and educational content in fulfilling the desired learning outcomes, from both educators and participants perspectives. Student retention and GPA will be compared to matched cohorts. The findings from this project will be presented at state and national meetings such as the Florida Statewide Symposium on Engagement in Undergraduate Research and the Council on Undergraduate Research biennial conference. Results will also be submitted to the Journal of College Science Teaching.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 625.18K | Year: 2014

The United States faces a national need to increase substantially the number of American scientists and engineers. This project at Western Carolina State University addresses this need by providing academic and financial support to students pursuing engineering and engineering technology degrees at that institution. This initiative is called SPIRIT: Scholarship Program Initiative via Recruitment, Innovation, and Transformation. SPIRIT creates a focused approach to the recruitment, retention, education, and placement of engineering and technology students with academic talent and financial need. This program helps to develop domestic, workforce ready, engineers by providing scholarships that will assist qualified SPIRIT scholars to reduce their financial burden for obtaining an undergraduate education. The project promotes diversity in STEM fields, specifically for lower income students in STEM.

The project will utilize student-centered strategies to achieve goals for student retention and success in engineering and engineering technology majors. The educational program focuses on problem-based learning communities that nurture technical skills and professional skills. Students will be recruited into horizontally and vertically integrated cohorts that are developed into a Project Based Learning (PBL) community. The community will be characterized by extensive faculty mentoring, fundamental and applied research, hands-on design projects, and industry engagement. The horizontal integration method creates sub-cohorts with same-year students from different disciplines such as electrical engineering or mechanical engineering working in an environment that reflects how engineers work in the real world. The vertical integration method will enable sub-cohorts from different years to work together on different stages of projects in a PBL setting. The objectives of the SPIRIT program are to ensure an interdisciplinary environment that enhances technical competency through learning outcomes. These outcomes address improvements in critical skills such as intentional learning, problem solving, teamwork, project management, interpersonal communications, and leadership.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 286.60K | Year: 2012

Western Carolina University is awarded a grant for laboratory renovations at the Highlands Biological Station (HBS) located in the Blue Ridge of western North Carolina http://highlandsbiological.org/. Established as a center for research and training in the heart of the southern Appalachians, a temperate zone biodiversity hotspot, the William Chambers Coker Laboratory has been the primary locus of research and training at HBS for over 50 years. HBS serves all 17 institutions in the University of North Carolina system and annually attracts dozens of researchers from the US and abroad, hosts numerous visiting college and university classes, and for decades has offered an extensive program of summer courses in diverse areas of field biology.

Built in the 1950s, the West Wing of the Coker Laboratory is extensively used yet increasingly outmoded with modernization a top-priority renovation project to improve accessibility, and increase capacity and capability for research and training. Improvements will include (1) increasing the number of research laboratories in the west wing and equipping them with adequate work surfaces, lighting and electrical outlets, and (2) expanding and reconfiguring the main training lab to increase the amount of well-configured bench space and add additional equipment such as a fume hood, sinks, and storage for lab supplies. Common to both of these areas are electrical upgrades (the existing electrical system is not grounded and consists of 2-wire romex) and insulation/climate control (there is presently no insulation in this block building, and no humidity control). Improving safety and functionality through electrical and HVAC upgrades and reconfiguring research and teaching space of this wing for optimized use will yield a net increase in research laboratory space by 33%, and teaching/training space by 62%.

A prodigious quantity of scientific research and graduate and undergraduate courses have taken place in the Coker Laboratory over the years, largely centered around the unique and rich flora, fauna, and ecology of the region. As research base for numerous senior research groups and training ground for undergraduate and graduate students in many areas of terrestrial and aquatic ecology and organismal biology, these improvements will further enhance the high quality research and educational experiences for which HBS has been known for decades. Scientific productivity is closely linked to quality of research space, and HBSs ability to host researchers in expanded, modernized and ergonomically designed laboratories translates into quality publications and other research products. The Coker West Wing improvements also permit HBS to provide higher quality and quantities of immersion training in field biology, critical to preparing current and future generations of tertiary students from a variety of partnering institutions. Engagement with the local and regional communities will enable citizens to connect with and better understand the natural world through HBS-sponsored workshops, programs, and related activities for groups ranging from K-12 students to life-long learners to professionals conservation non-profits and federal and state agencies.

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