This year’s winner of the Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award for a Department or Program, presented by the Georgia Board of Regents, is UWise, University of West Georgia Institutional STEM Excellence. The UWise program addresses important state and national needs in the area of STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and is funded by Georgia BOR STEM II Initiative.
The goals of the UWise initiative are to increase the overall academic performance and progression of STEM majors, prepare students for success in STEM gateway courses, facilitate faculty engagement in innovative approaches in STEM teaching and learning, provide opportunities for hands-on research experience for students and to explore STEM career opportunities, including teaching.
In order to achieve these goals, UWise provides support to STEM majors through an innovative Summer Bridge program, which allows incoming students to transition into college during the summer preceding their freshman year, as well as targeted and cohesive freshman seminar courses and opportunities to participate in undergraduate research. UWise also supports faculty by providing mini-grants for projects that investigate approaches aimed at improving STEM pedagogies and student learning outcomes. Preliminary data show increased student success, in individual courses as well as retention.
UWise has engaged a total of 40 faculty members, largely from the College of Science and Mathematics, and also from the College of Arts and Humanities and College of Education. The faculty members form a de facto learning community that is working closely with the Center of Teaching and Learning. A truly innovative outcome is STEM to STEAM, with the A standing for the Arts, English composition courses that incorporate ideas from STEM disciplines. This concept is the basis for the recently funded replicate grant from the Board of Regents Complete College Georgia. UWise has also formed the basis for an National Science Foundation grant to the College of Science and Mathematics, funded in the amount of a $250,000, which focuses on evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning in STEM disciplines.
Dr. Myrna Gantner, UWG’s associate vice president for Academic Affairs, is the Principal Investigator, and Dr. S. Swamy Mruthinti, UWG professor of biology, is the co-Principal Investigator. Over a period of four years, starting in 2011, this initiative has been funded in excess of 1.2 million dollars.