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Two representatives of Texas A&M University join the University of Texas innovators profiled on the State of Tomorrow™ Web site. Chemical physicist Dudley R. Herschbach, 1986 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, believes children are the ideal scholars because they’re naturally curious and uninhibited about experimenting; he touts programs that make science more interesting and accessible to students and the general public alike. Before President George W. Bush appointed him Secretary of Defense and President Barack Obama retained him there, Robert M. Gates was the president of A&M; worried about declining enrollment figures for math and science students even as globalization was making these studies more crucial to our economy, he advocated an education push comparable to the nation’s successful 1960s drive to put a man on the moon.
The two Aggies are in good company. Citing the extent to which science students are forced nowadays to memorize information and regurgitate answers, former president of the National Academies of Science and current editor of the journal Science Bruce Alberts recently denounced such science education techniques. Alberts called for a teaching “revolution” that would de-emphasize the need for test-driven memorization in favor of inquiry-based learning. And the University of Houston has initiated an online program allowing middle-school math and science teachers to earn a master’s degree for free. The Integrated Science, Math and Reflective Thinking (iSMART) degree is yet another higher-education program, such as the University of Texas’ UTeach, designed to create better teachers to inspire and develop the scientists, engineers and technologists of tomorrow.
The Innocence Project of Texas is part of a national program that uses newly discovered evidence (primarily DNA) to exonerate people behind bars who have been wrongly convicted of crimes. With the help of students from UT Arlington, more prisoners have been exonerated in Dallas County than in any other county in the nation. Under the supervision of Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Dr. John Stickels, some 40–60 students are participating in the project at any given time, many of them criminology/criminal justice majors who earn course credits for their roles in attempting to win freedom for the wrongly convicted.
In Shadow of a Doubt we explored how law students on another campus, the University of Houston, research applications to help determine which cases the Innocence Project takes on, and how those cases are then argued in court. The project, in the words of Stickels, “…applies through practice what they’re learning in the classroom.”
Harvard’s Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation has named UT Austin’s UTeach Natural Sciences program one of the Top 50 Innovations in American Government. UTeach prevailed among some 600 applicants. Six of the 50 finalists will be honored with an Innovations in American Government Award. UTeach, a program to train K–12 math and science teachers, is recognized for the increased size of its graduating class (now up to 70 annually); a superior record of teacher performance and retention (80 percent of its graduates are still teaching after five years, 10 percent higher than the national average); and the national growth of replica programs (13 colleges and universities have received grants to start their own curricula patterned after UTeach).
Using modern learning theories and considerable hands-on classroom experience, UTeach prepares college math and science majors to become K–12 teachers as they themselves are advancing their own math and science educations. In The Best & the Brightest, UTeach creator Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, dean of the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin, and Austin middle school science teacher and UTeach graduate Elizabeth Abernathy explain the origins of UTeach and how the program works.
State of Tomorrow “takes to the water” for our two newest profiles of university researchers and problem-solvers in Texas. Lee Fuiman, director of the UT Austin Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, lays out some of the critical issues facing the Gulf of Mexico and what’s being done to overcome them. Meanwhile, at the River Systems Institute at Texas State University-San Marcos, director Andrew Sansom describes how to preserve and protect those waterways from stresses that are inevitable in the future.
We encourage you to check out the profiles of two more higher education innovators who are working diligently to improve our quality of life. Dr. Stanley M. Lemon of UT Medical Branch – Galveston explains why the prestigious new Galveston National Laboratory is a crucial factor in the fight against emerging infectious diseases. And Dr. Roger Rosenberg of UT Southwestern Medical Center – Dallas reveals why he is optimistic that neurologists are closing in on viable treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
In an article concerning the shortage of nurses in Texas, The Monitor in McAllen quotes the chairman of the Texas Nursing Workforce Shortage Coalition and the president and chief executive officer of the Texas Hospital Association, Dan Stultz:
“Demand for full-time registered nurses in Texas in 2008 exceeded supply by 22,000 and, without major increases in funding for nurse education, this gap will widen to 70,000 by 2020 as the state’s rapidly growing population ages and as older nurses retire or reduce the hours they work.”
The quality of our hospitals and healthcare depends on the quality — and quantity — of our healthcare workforce. Shortage of Nurses follows nursing students at two innovative programs designed to accelerate graduation and address the critical need for more healthcare professionals in our state.