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Schug to head UTA's efforts with national center to enhance teaching experience for doctoral students


UT Arlington is joining an elite, national organization whose purpose is to produce better university teachers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning, or CIRTL, was originally funded through a multi-million dollar grant by the National Science Foundation to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007. Howard University, Michigan State University, University of Colorado-Boulder, Texas A&M University and Vanderbilt University joined the effort in a second phase. After a competitive application process, these “core institutional members” have invited 19 other universities to join an expanded CIRTL Network and seek additional NSF funding. UT Arlington has accepted the invitation.

The center aims to provide doctoral students with better tools to teach students in STEM fields. Each participating university will build a program on its campus, and the network of schools will share teaching methods, success stories and key techniques to better prepare those graduate students with the skills needed to be successful teachers in the classroom.

Kevin Schug, an associate professor in chemistry and biochemistry, will spearhead UT Arlington’s Organizational Network for Teaching as Research Advancement and Collaboration (ON-TRAC), which will be housed in the Office of Graduate Studies.

“When I graduated, I had limited training to take on the classroom challenge,” said Schug, who won the 2010 Eli Lilly Young Analytical Scientist Award. “You do plenty of research when you’re studying for your Ph.D. You are adept at that, but not necessarily at stepping into a classroom with prepared lesson plans, answering questions and all that comes with that experience.”

ON-TRAC will help build better instructors for higher education, but the overriding goal extends beyond the college classroom. Ultimately, the center intends to improve science, technology, engineering and math education for students nationwide, increase diversity in those fields and the STEM literacy of the nation.

Philip Cohen, dean of the UT Arlington Graduate School, said participating in the nationwide consortium will “help us improve not only the teaching abilities of the future STEM faculty our doctoral programs produce but also our undergraduate STEM education programs.

“What people don’t realize is that 80 percent of all the professors in higher education come from the top 100 STEM Ph.D.-producing universities,” Cohen said. “We need to teach those Ph.D. students the best practices in the classroom.”

UT Arlington faculty and staff working on the program include Lynn Peterson, professor and senior associate dean in the College of Engineering; Ann Cavallo, professor and associate dean in the College of Education and Health Professions; James Epperson, associate professor in the College of Science; Mahera Philobos, assistant dean in the College of Engineering; Marc Schwartz, professor in the College of Education and Health Professions; and Raymond “Joe” Jackson, associate dean in the Office of Graduate Studies.