Otterbein STEM Faculty Finding Innovative Ways to Engage Students

Posted Sep 07, 2020

Otterbein faculty are finding innovative ways to engage students during an unconventional fall semester. COVID Conversations examine COVID-19 from a variety of perspectives, drawing on the interdisciplinary expertise of Otterbein’s faculty. Each presentation will be about 20 minutes long, followed by a period of discussion. They are open to the entire campus community. 

“Consistent with the hallmark interdisciplinary nature of Otterbein, this series asks students to not only consider the science surrounding COVID-19 but its impact on diverse populations, effect on the economy, and portrayal by the media,” said Jennifer Bennett, associate professor in the Department of Biology and Earth Science.  

The schedule includes the following topics: 

  • Epidemiology of COVID-19 
  • Population genetics and evolution of SARS-CoV-2 
  • COVID Impact on Businesses & Business Law 
  • The Ghost Map and Victorian Contact Tracing 
  • Going Viral:  How does COVID really look and act? 
  • COVID Sports Cancellations 
  • 18th-Century Anti-Vaxxers:  Lessons for Plugging a COVID Vaccine?  
  • COVID and Its Effect on Communities of Color 
  • COVID-19, Triage Medicine, and Disability 
  • Bringing a COVID Vaccine to Market 
  • COVID and Animals: zoonotic disease origins and transmissions 
  • The Black Death, 1348-1350 
  • COVID Testing:  Have You had Coronavirus?  Should You Trust Your Results? 

In addition to COVID Conversations, STEM faculty are creating programming specific to students in STEM majors.  

“Science in the 21st century is collaborative, hands-on, multi-disciplinary and progressive. At Otterbein University, students interact with a community of scientists to solve real world problems and contribute to a growing body of knowledge,” said Bennett.  

Starting as early as their first year at Otterbein, students participate in hands-on experiments, form connections with peers and work alongside faculty who are experts in their field. They can network, learn from world class scientists from across the globe in our seminar series, and communicate their own novel research projects. STEM faculty designed additional programming with this in mind, creating opportunities for students to connect and experience STEM fields in a variety of ways both in-person and online. 

The new Signature STEM Series allows first-year STEM majors to interact with fellow students and faculty experts to experience science by doing in a variety of STEM fields. For example, faculty in the Department of Biology and Earth Science will lead an iNaturalist Learn and Earn session open to all STEM majors where students will explore outdoors in the field and join a Citizen Science Project while networking with scientists from around the world. 

Additionally, redesigned mentoring programs are providing an additional support network for incoming STEM majors, while in-person and online STEM social events allow students to get to know each other outside of the classroom. A STEMinar series and departmental seminars with invited speakers are also being planned.