Butler University is the new host institution for the SENCER Center for Innovation Midwest. SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities) is a nationwide organization that engages students in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as the civic issues in which they play an integral role.
The goals of SENCER are to get more students interested and engaged in learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses; help students connect STEM learning to their other studies; strengthen students' understanding of science and civic engagement, and their capacity for responsible work and citizenship.
As the home of the SENCER Center for Innovation Midwest (Central Plains Region), Butler will work with area colleges and universities to bring the ideals of SENCER to faculty, staff and students at Butler and to interested institutions in the central plains region.
“This is a real plus for us because it’s a different way of involving students in education,” said Robert Holm, director of Butler’s Institute for Research and Scholarship. “It’s a way of getting students involved in the community. They carry that sense of involvement with them when they leave and become actively involved in the community in which they live.”
SENCER has seven regional centers across the country. The Central Plains Region home had previously been Harold Washington College in Chicago.
Laura Behling, associate provost for faculty affairs and interdisciplinary programs, said the expectations for a Butler SCI are innovations in education, new programs through civic partnerships, Butler leadership in the community, and new teaching methods all in the context of civic engagement.
“Butler faculty and staff have already proven to be expert models of science education engaged in civic endeavors, as evidenced by the courses that have been developed by the University, the presentations of faculty at SENCER institutes, and the recognition by SENCER of the University’s efforts,” Behling said.
Becoming the SENCER Center for Innovation assists Butler in achieving its educational mission with regard to civic education and engagement, general education (core), and STEM majors courses. The SCI also provides Butler and regional institutions with leadership for: developing or enhancing civic education and civic engagement at the local level, in the Midwest, and nationally; faculty development, course development, curricular development and faculty/undergraduate research support; unique, out of classroom learning opportunities; and strategies to connect k-16 science education with civic education.
“Becoming the Midwest SENCER Center for Innovation advances the mission of the University, highlights the innovative curriculum already in place, and provides a vital means of faculty support, development, and accomplishment,” Behling said.
The Center for Innovation at Butler will be co-directed by Behling and Holm, and rely on the leadership team of Margaret Brabant, Professor of Political Science, Donald Braid, Director of the Center for Citizenship and Community, and Joe Kirsch, Professor of Chemistry. In conjunction with the Undergraduate Research Conference at Butler in April, the Butler Center for Innovation will host its first faculty development workshop for faculty interested in learning more about the SENCER model.