Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation
Welcome to reviewers of nominations for NSF Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars
December 7, 2004
Good morning. It's my pleasure to welcome you to the National Science Foundation. On behalf of NSF I'd like to express our gratitude to you--for your willingness to donate your time and expertise to evaluate the nominations for this year’s Distinguished Teaching Scholars. Your good judgment will be critical to selecting the distinguished individuals from a wide range of disciplinary areas who represent the creative integration of research and education.
As our scientific and learning environments grow ever more boundary-crossing and more complex, the "teaching scholar"–the calling recognized by this program--has become a more important pursuit than ever.
The NSF Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars honors outstanding individuals who have made a significant integrative impact on research in science, engineering, mathematics or technology; enhancing the education of undergraduates; and impacting K-12 teachers and students as well.
The award is NSF's highest honor for excellence in integrating teaching and research. We're fortunate that past awardees often return to participate in this review process.
The awardees you are all helping to select will stand as the finest examples of accomplished scientists and engineers whose roles as educators and mentors are as important as their ground-breaking research discoveries.
You are probably aware that the award will be worth $300,000 to each scholar over the next four years. The scholars may use the stipend to work on new projects, or to continue work in new ways that benefit their individual fields and the students they support.
The distinguished teaching scholars program began in 2001, and we have selected 27 awardees to date. They discuss their work in detail through interviews posted on the Project Kaleidoscope website.1 Collectively, their words comprise a snapshot into the sort of cultural change this award hopes to encourage. I'd like to share with you, briefly, a few of their insights:
*From a geologist awardee: "In lecture, I used to think I wasn't a good scientist if I admitted my passion. No more...[Now,] my goal with our non-major students is to instill life-long curiosity and interest and caring for the earth, [so they] view earth problems...as deserving their attention."
*An engineer says: "To say that I am integrating research and teaching is not quite right; I cannot make a distinction about which comes first...
"Engineering, in its true meaning, is really an integration of science, of society, and of art...Once [the students] see this, then we can begin the process of combating the fragmentation and specialization that has forced discourse into separate boxes and that does not allow...the technical to think about the aesthetic, or the political to think about the technical."
*From a mathematician: "Now, in many areas of mathematics, the computer is creating a whole new research and educational environment. Mathematics now has a truly experimental component. In my mind, these changes need to be brought into the classroom."
*And from a materials scientist: "Fortuitously, and probably not coincidentally, the environments that seem to be the most effective in promoting the professional and personal development of our students are also ones that are effective in getting real work done towards addressing complex, interdisciplinary problems."
These ideas portray the diversity of scholars selected, yet also suggest a unifying undercurrent of innovative thought. Most of the scholars also point out that the award serves as a symbol that such efforts are receiving national recognition and support.
How do we capitalize on these individual wellsprings of creative integration? I understand that there are efforts to gather the DTS alumni together to compare notes and perhaps to consider potential projects for collaboration. I know that such discussion might be extending beyond NSF's walls to include similar fellows being supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
It's exciting that we've now identified a pool of creative scholars who can serve as a resource for other faculty who want to follow new directions. The scholars could also be an as-yet-untapped resource for strengthening curricula and standards in a wide range of fields.
Today we are asking you to evaluate the impact the nominees have had on research and education, and how they might amplify these efforts in the future. NSF relies on the special insight of each of you to advance the integration of discovery and learning to the fullest extent. Thank you again for taking on this task, and I wish you very stimulating discussions.
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