Selected for their promising leadership and the clarity and potential impact of their proposed projects, Abby Hodges, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, and Bryant Mathews, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics, earned coveted invitations to the Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) Summer Leadership Institute held at Colorado College’s Baca Campus in Crestone this past summer. The PKAL Institute gathers science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty who demonstrate passion for developing projects that transform undergraduate education and provides them with the theory and practice necessary to act as campus change agents.
Through plenary sessions, experimental exercises, group discussions, and personal reflection time, participants explored STEM education challenges, discussed institutional change hurdles, created leadership growth plans, and became part of a national network of passionate STEM colleagues.
In addition to exemplary leadership qualifications, the PKAL Institute required participants to provide a letter of commitment from their dean pledging to fully support the participants in their leadership development after attending the summer institute. David Weeks, Ph.D., then-dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and current dean of the Honors College, penned a strong recommendation for both. “These professors have been, and will be, leaders on our campus,” Weeks said. Case in point, Hodges intends to launch a support program for ethnic minorities and first-generation college students. “With the recent implementation of more rigorous admissions requirements for science majors, the department would be better able to meet these students’ needs by applying Dr. Hodges’ strategy, which includes offering student-to-student mentorships, study skills workshops, and informal gatherings with professors,” said Weeks.
“All professors deal with larger-than-ideal class sizes and varying levels of science backgrounds, especially with entry-level students,” said Hodges. “It was invaluable to learn how other chemists approach these obstacles and their curricula, how they structure groups, order classes, and integrate case studies. Together, we developed creative solutions that will benefit our students this fall. Beyond that, I gained leadership training from exceptional mentors. The institute gave me an immediate edge in the classroom, new methods to motivate and inspire, and raised my expectations and hopes for my APU chemistry students.”
Mirroring that enthusiasm, Mathews’ project promotes STEM careers by raising student awareness of career options, involving more students in summer research and internships, and increasing student involvement in STEM professional conferences and career days. “As the math program at APU has grown, we’ve added more rigor and depth to our curriculum,” said Mathews. “We are excited about how these changes enable us to give our students a solid mathematical foundation, and we’re eager to see them enter graduate programs and careers that build on their undergraduate training.”