The National Science Foundation recently announced an ambitious plan to transform biology education across the United States called "Vision and Change." Funding for this mission is being provided by a new NSF grant program called "TUES" for Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science.
This finding may have been a surprise to some, but two year colleges have a disproportionate impact on biology education in the U.S. (1, 2). At least half of the country's biology students are enrolled at two year colleges. Additionally, community colleges often provide the only college-level biology courses for the nation's high school biology teachers. Community college biotechnology programs, in particular, are also leading providers of professional development opportunities for high school instructors.
One of the challenges, however, in transforming a practice as extensive as college biology teaching is building cohorts and getting seed money out to the people who can implement this change. This is even more difficult with two-year college faculty because community colleges and community college faculty lack the grant-writing experience and support found at the R1 universities. Their goal is to educate students, not bring in grant funds.
The NSF is working to help community college faculty learn how to write grants and get more funds to make transforming biology education go beyond an appealing vision.
If you are a faculty member at a two year college, the NSF is sponsoring a workshop from July 19-22nd in Reno, NV and will provide up to $750 to help with travel expenses and lodging.
1. Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education, A Call to Action. 2011. www.visionandchange.org
2. Fletcher LA, & Carter VC (2010). The important role of community colleges in undergraduate biology education. CBE life sciences education, 9 (4), 382-3 PMID: 21123677