James Duderstadt, President Emeritus of University of Michigan, is reshaping higher education. He has written and spoken about a university as a social institution with social responsibility as described in his book entitled A University for the 21st Century published by the University of Michigan Press in 2000.
Social responsibility is especially important for a land grant university like Virginia Tech. One of the ways in which a univerity can exercise its social responsibility is through sharing the research and scholarly endeavors of the faculty and the students, especially graduate students. The “open access” movement is a possibility for sharing university’s research but I’ll save that discussion for another blog. Instead, I wish to reflect about the ways in which a research land grant university like Virginia Tech can meet its responsibility to share the results of research.
As faculty and graduate students we have historically been educated and trained to communicate our research/scholarship to those within our discipline primarily. We learn how to prepare powerpoint or keynote presentations. We prepare posters and practice our 15 minute research presentations. We practice reading and sharing our scholarly endeavors through other media. But we have not typically been provided with opportunites to learn and therefore we are not as skilled in communicating our scholarship to others outside our discipline and especially not to the public in general.
Enter actor Alan Alda and “communicating science”. On the occasion of the annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools in 2010, attendees had the opportunity to learn about and experience the Communicating Science initiative offered through the center at Stony Brook University. Many of us were in agreement that the initiative is a powerful program that helps “scientists” and scholars to develop communication skills.
Realizing the importance of this work, Virginia Tech has embraced “communicating science” and initiated a program here. Within the context of the Transformative Graduate Education (TGE) initiative of the VT Graduate School, Professor Patty Raun from the Theatre Department has offered sessions within GRAD 5104 Preparing the Future Professoriate graduate course and has established a new graduate course on Communicating Science. Through this program and others we will engage VT graduate students with the social responsibility of the university to communicate science.