193 Integrating Climate Studies course in the undergraduate program- an effort to develop minority young scientists in STEM field

Tuesday, 8 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Buddhi Raj Gyawali, Kentucky State Univ., Frankfort, KY; and M. Silitonga and K. Bates

Handout (231.4 kB)

Kentucky State University (KSU) is developing a minor in Environmental Systems in its newly launched undergraduate program in Agriculture, Food and Environment (AFE). The primary objective of this plan is to produce competitive young scientists in environmental science occupations. This objective will be accomplished through developing a series of academic, instructional, scholarship, and curriculum development initiatives. We propose to develop market-responsive curricula, faculty teaching and mentoring programs, development of student scholars, state-of-the-art laboratories with cutting-edge modern technology, and recruitment and retention programs to increase enrollment of graduating high school seniors and two-year college students in the field of environmental studies and sustainable systems. We will thus meet the KSU's goal of elevating programs to the highest standards with competent faculty who will have enhanced capability of using state-of-the-art technology, have created market-responsive curricula, and increased recruitment, retention, graduation, and professional job-placement rates of minority students.

The College of Agriculture Food Sciences and Sustainable Systems (CAFSSS) has been tirelessly engaged in minority students' recruitment efforts for last several months. About 50 students are expected to enroll in its AFE program beginning Fall 2012. This number will gradually increase once the AFE program obtains its full shape. The CAFSSS needs to develop new courses and recruit more faculty. In support of this effort, CAFSSS is planning to offer an undergraduate course in Climate Change Studies (3 credit hours) in Spring 2013. The course will be offered to undergraduate students in its AFE program but will be open to students from other disciplines such as biology, computer science, and aquaculture programs. About 10 students are expected to enroll into this course. The course will be taught as a hybrid environment (both online and in-class settings). Course materials developed by American Meteorological Society (AMS) will be primarily used for teaching and laboratory exercises. Supplementary course materials will be collected in the form of case studies, journal articles, geospatial, and real time weather data for experiential and problem-based learning. Dr. Buddhi Gyawali, Assistant professor of GIS and remote sensing will teach the course. He recently attended AMS' Climate Change diversity workshop in Washington D.C. This exposure has been very beneficial for him in learning theoretical and empirical insights of climate change science theories, its causes and consequences , as well as, curriculum development and teaching techniques. The workshop was instrumental for him to network with other scientists, educators, teachers, NOAA and NASA personnel and agency representatives from various field.

It is imperative that more debates have occurred lately than ever before on causes and consequences of climate change. Scientists generally agree that human activities have important role in changing the climate causing more warming of the earth, which will consequently cause more risks to agriculture, ecosystems, and other entities of natural and human systems. Climate science education has become central foci in the national policy initiatives for improving citizens' scientific literacy about causes and consequences of climate change. This effort requires more talented and diverse young scientists to conduct climate change education and research for scientific decision making in the use and management of natural resources by local, state, tribal, and national governments as well as community-based organizations, businesses, households and individuals. As recommended by National Science Foundation's (NSF) report on “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and engineering 2000” academic institutions need to train more minority students in the STEM field. The inclusion of Climate Studies course in the CAFSSS's academic program will certainly assist to train more minorities in environmental science studies. The course will provide students with opportunities to learn basics about climate science, methods and data used by scientists to examine climate change, and relationship between humans and environment for causing climate change and its mitigation and adaptation efforts. Students will use hands-on practical experiences for downloading, analyzing and reporting of climate change data and conducting their interpretation. After the completion of the course, students will have elevated knowledge and techniques to use for scientific research and decision making, as well as, make them more competitive in the area of renewal energy and natural resources management field. This interdisciplinary minor in environmental systems program will also develop a pipeline of students for the KSU's graduate programs in environmental Studies.

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