PULLMAN, Wash.—Fifteen Washington State University faculty members on three campuses are pursuing eight projects to improve undergraduate education, thanks to funding from the Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teaching and Learning Endowment.

Since 2000, the endowment has provided support for dozens of faculty-initiated ventures that focus on enhancing the education of students. Thousands of learners at WSU have benefitted directly or indirectly from scores of innovative ideas to transform pedagogy and curricular issues, said Mary F. Wack, vice provost for undergraduate education. Wack has led the Smith grant program since its establishment to honor President and Mrs. Smith upon his retirement.

“The applications for this year’s awards presented a broad scope of plans and ideas to boost teaching and learning at our university,” said Wack. “They touched on many disciplines and were all very compelling. It was a formidable challenge to ultimately select eight to be funded.

“Each of those has the potential to contribute in significant ways to transformative educational experiences at WSU.”

A broad range

Some of the new projects focus on curricular changes within a specific field, such as mathematics or mechanical engineering. A few are issue oriented, focusing on, for example, retention of women in engineering or strategies to advance STEM education. Some are led by an individual educator, one draws on graduate student expertise, and two call for interdisciplinary collaborations among faculty from several fields and colleges.

“All educators involved are clearly committed to excellence. We anticipate intriguing and inspiring results from these projects,” Wack said.

Recipients and projects for 2019-20

Faculty who received the competitive grants are as follows, in alphabetical order by last name:

Caitlin Bletscher, clinical assistant professor in the Dept. of Human Development, is developing an online, project-based course that will give WSU students a better understanding of extension systems throughout the world. Her Smith Grant project is titled, “Addressing an Essential, Forgotten Piece of the Land-Grant Mission through International Project-Based Learning: Development of a Hybrid, Online International Agricultural Extension Undergraduate Course Through Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL).” A three-credit course in the agricultural-and-food-systems programis intended to be offered through the Global Campus. It will involve a collaborative project to benefit communities in Haiti, and address a range of topics in the field of extension education, such as the role of public versus privatized extension, innovation adoption and dissemination, and human capital development.

Roland Chen, assistant professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, is revising pedagogical approaches to a 300-level design class, in response to assessment and employer feedback. His project is “Blended and Practice-Oriented Learning for Curriculum in Mechanical Design.” As a project result, the teachers delivering information will better utilize technology, and students will have access to a newly developed online video library outside of class times. The proposed structure will lead to new teaching and learning methods, so students with different learning styles can uniformly better apply design theory to practice in upper-level courses. This can result in graduates being better prepared for real-world tasks.

Anne Marie Guerrettaz, assistant professor in the Dept. of Teaching and Learning, and affiliate faculty in the Plateau Center for Native American Research and Collaboration, is developing with the Plateau Center a multi-step project to offer a conjoined undergraduate/graduate Indigenous language revitalization course at WSU. Her project is “Indigenous Language Revitalization: WSU Students Reviving and Reclaiming Local Native Languages.” Guerettaz will teach theoretical aspects of Indigenous language revitalization including anthropological, linguistic, and pedagogical principles, plus Northwest tribal language experts will teach their respective languages to WSU students in person and using online and videoconference platforms.

Kristin Lesseig, associate professor in the Dept. of Teaching and Learning at WSU Vancouver, is identifying current WSU instructor mindsets regarding students’ math intelligence and abilities. She will implement strategies to instill a growth mindset in those teachers, and assess how mindset changes impact student success in gateway math-intensive courses. In the project “Interventions to Instill Growth Mindset Attitudes Among Instructors in Math-intensive Gateway Courses,” she will work with these Vancouver faculty: Alexander Dimitrov, associate professor in the Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics;Tahira Probst, professor in the Dept. of Psychology; and, Uchila Umesh, professor of marketing in the Dept. of Marketing and International Business. The project builds upon outcomes from a 2016-18 WSU Student Success Seed Grant titled, “Interventions to Instill a Growth Mindset among Students in Math-Intensive Gateway Courses.”

Amy Nielsen, clinical assistant professor of chemistry, and Joe Hedges, assistant professor and coordinator in the Dept. of Fine Arts, are developing a new course in which students will learn the chemical origins of color perception and create painting projects from pigments they have synthesized themselves in the laboratory. Their Smith Grant project is “Chemistry and Art: Exploring the Painted Surface.” Using lecture, lab, and studio venues, the course fosters students’ formation of a tactile link between chemistry and painting, and looks at the evolution of colored pigments from natural ones used in cave paintings to the development and industrial synthesis of modern chemical pigments in the 20thcentury and beyond.

Soobin Seo, assistant professor in the School of Hospitality Business Management at WSU Everett, is focusing on project-based learning and the creation of a multidisciplinary experience preparing students to meet the demands of the changing marketplace they will enter as graduates. Working with her at Everett are: Jacob Murray, clinical assistant professor and program coordinator in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Mark Beattie, clinical assistant professor and program coordinator in the School of Hospitality Business Management, and associate vice chancellor for academic affairs; and, Lucrezia Cuen Paxson, clinical assistant professor in the Dept. of Strategic Communication. The project is, “STEM-Oriented Alliance for Research (SOAR): An Educational Model for Interdisciplinary Project-Based Learning.” The team aims to modify existing projects within three current business, engineering, and communication courses to include an interdisciplinary component.

Bernard Van Wie, professor in the Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, is expanding the use of Low-Cost Desktop Learning Modules (LC-DLMs) to potentially expose chemical engineering students to applications beyond traditional oil refining and catalysis foci—particularly to biomedical engineering. His project, with Ph.D. research assistants Kitana Kaiphanliamand Olivia Reynolds, is titled “Biomedically-Focused Hands-on Learning Devices for Retention of Women in Engineering.” Van Wie has built and used hands-on, interactive LC-DLMs for more than 20 years to boost student learning and augment teaching effectiveness; devices have typically been used for junior- and senior-level lessons. The team will design new cartridges to simulate fluid flow phenomena in blood vessels and introduce blood separation principles. The revised lessons could interest students to get connected to biomedical studies earlier in their academic careers, a focus that could draw women students, and retain them, in engineering studies.

Lisa Waananen Jones, clinical assistant professor in the Dept. of Journalism and Media Production, is creating an immersive, 24-hour project for journalism students involving news reporting. Her project is “Rural Reporting Plunge: An Experiential Rural Journalism Event.” Teams of four students each will gain experience Oct. 4-5, 2019 by travelling to locations near Pullman. They will interview residents on a topic and collect photos, video, and audio for a story that will be published online. The project expands upon an initial rural-reporting experience in 2018 that had reported positive outcomes.

Media contact:

  • Mary F. Wack, vice provost for undergraduate education, 509-335-8044, mwack@wsu.edu