**THIS SITE IS NO LONGER BEING UPDATED. Please visit FIRST’s new website at first.davidson.edu/home.**


Resources and Time for Exploration

FIRST places strong emphasis on faculty development to enhance inclusion in STEM at Davidson.  Two curricular innovation programs are included: 


1) a significant redesign of gateways physics courses through a collaboration of all physics faculty members (redesign beginning summer 2019 with the debut of PHY125 in Fall 2019) to create new studio style introductory courses that infuse inclusive and interactive engagement teaching practices, integrate lecture and laboratory, and emphasize how basic mathematics and physical principles are directly relevant to everyday life including applications to the life sciences.  Through this redesign, physics faculty members will create new curricular materials including kinesthetic, peer instruction, and laboratory exercises, hands-on mini-labs, video analysis and interactive simulations, and a new electronic course book.

2) support for individual STEM faculty members to infuse inclusive pedagogies throughout all levels and disciplines of Davidson’s STEM curriculum through FIRST’s resources and time for exploration (RATE).  Specifically, FIRST RATE provides time (course release), community (a cohort), and assistance (FIRST Analyst; professional development fund) for each of Davidson’s permanent STEM faculty members to expand their knowledge of diversity, inclusivity, equity, and social justice to implement specific interventions, strategies, and/or topics in new and existing STEM courses sustainable and lasting ways.

2019-20 FIRST RATE Cohort:

Dr. Tim Gfroerer (PHY) will develop a new non-majors lab course titled Energy, the Environment, and Engineering Design (En3D).  En3D will introduce engineering design through a focus on energy and the environment.  Classes will meet in a combined discussion/laboratory setting where students will work in teams to create computer-controlled models of energy-efficient buildings.

Dr. Kevin Smith (BIO) will develop a new research-intensive, group investigation course with the working title of Data Science in Biology.  This course will introduce students who have no college exposure to biological data analysis to the basic principles of data analysis as applied in the biological sciences.  Students will work with Excel and the R programming language to gain skills in data importing, cleaning, and manipulation, data visualization, and foundational statistical principles.

Dr. Erland Stevens (CHE) will bring a greater sense of belonging, community, inclusivity, and equity into his organic chemistry classes (CHE 250/350) to represent a healthy and welcoming learning environment for all interested students.  He will significantly revise instructional videos and classroom exercises so that both courses are fully flipped.

2020-21 FIRST RATE Cohort:

Dr. Dave Wessner (BIO) will incorporate additional elements of inclusivity, diversity, and social justice into three courses: BIO 111: Molecules, Genes, and Cell, BIO 202: Microbiology, and BIO 360: Biology of HIV/AIDS.  BIO 360 was the first Natural Science and Math JEC course and the other courses contain elements of inclusivity and social justice on which Dr. Wessner will build by implementing social justice content and integrating inclusivity into learning outcomes and assessments.

Dr. Mitch Anstey (CHE) will promote diversity, develop community, and break down stereotype threats within CHE 115: Principles of Chemistry.  Through groupwork, free resources, and intentional affirmations, Dr. Anstey will build a community of students investigating the world of chemistry together.

Dr. Jeff Myers (CHE) will integrate active learning and groupwork into CHE 230/BIO 303: Fundamentals of Biochemistry and CHE 330: Experimental Biochemistry.  By considering cultural diversity and gender in classroom small group dynamics, Dr. Myers will promote feelings of belongingness, community, and respect for other backgrounds.

Dr. Heather Smith (MAT/CSC) will restructure MAT 111: Calculus I to enhance student interaction with new material in low stakes environments to foster inclusive environments in which stereotype threats and other barriers to learning are reduced or removed.

Dr. Raghu Ramanujan (MAT/CSC) will foster a greater sense of student self-efficacy and persistence in CSC 121: Programming and Problem-Solving.  The course will be redesigned to incorporate standards-based assessment and asynchronous instruction to be more welcoming to students with limited computer science backgrounds and to increase the presence of underrepresented students and women in upper-level CSC classes and in the CSC major.

Dr. Michelle Kuchera (PHY) will improve PHY 320: Modern Physics.  An essential gateway upper-level physics course, Modern Physics will be remodeled to increase active learning elements, highlight underrepresented physicists, and showcase current innovations by highlighting how scientific discovery, culture, and political climate interact in today’s world.

Drs. Cindy Hauser (CHE) and Karen Bernd (BIO) will develop a course, Case Studies in Environmental Health Disparities, as a new Natural Science & Math JEC course.  The course will explore biological and chemical aspects of environmental health issues that disproportionally affect marginalized populations.  It will use active learning to create an inclusive and social justice-focused learning environment in STEM.

2021-22 FIRST RATE Cohort:

Dr. Karen Hales (BIO) will develop a new JEC course entitled BIO 269 Genetics, Disability, and Gender Identities where students will develop a foundation in the genetic and environmental complexities of human traits that will enable critical analysis of sociopolitical claims regarding these topics.

Dr. Laurie Heyer (MAT/CSC) will develop a new course, MAT 101: Mathematics for Human Flourishing, highlighting beauty and wonder within mathematics.  The course introduces students to mathematics in ways that integrate basic human desires, level playing fields, and creates a new narrative of mathematics for students who may have prior negative experiences.

Dr. Yan Zhuang (MAT/CSC) will redesign MAT 112: Calculus I and Modeling with the goal of both flipping and implementing a semester-long project.  The course will promote growth mindsets, feelings of agency, and confidence for students who do not typically see themselves in mathematics.

Dr. Tabitha Peck (MAT/CSC) will redesign Data Visualization (CSC362) to satisfy the Justice, Equality, and Community (JEC) graduation requirement by developing assignments that empower students to connect data visualization skills to real-world issues of justice, equality, and community.  Additionally, class activities will incorporate inclusive pedagogical practices to promote community, discussion, and understanding.

Dr. Susana Wadgymar (BIO) will promote inclusion, engagement, and support for students in Biostatistics for Life Scientists (BIO240) by incorporating data sets and examples that reflect diverse backgrounds and perspectives.  In addition, updated tutor materials will help students develop analytical skills and expand statistical knowledge along with case studies that examine issues relevant to society and the environment.

Dr. Debbie Thurtle-Schmidt (BIO) will redesign Genomics (BIO309) to satisfy the Justice, Equality, and Community (JEC) graduation requirement.  Students will examine genomic and proteomic primary literature and data to investigate basic scientific questions and how these technologies, research, and findings intersect with social and ethical issues. The course will emphasize the relevance of these research fields and discuss important considerations for the use and misuse of genomic data, particularly with regard for marginalized groups and individuals.

Dr. Rachid El Bejjani (BIO) will create a new course, BIO252: “C. elegans Models of Neurobiology and Genetics Research”.  The course will prioritize first-year students, sophomores, students without prior research experience, and students from marginalized identities.  Articles, news, discussions, and lab projects using C. elegans to investigate questions in neurobiology and cell biology using genetic methodologies, imaging, and molecular biology techniques will encourage and empower to generate new scientific knowledge.

Dr. Mario Belloni (PHY) will develop a new JEC course, Physics 101: Removing the Barriers to Inclusivity in Physics and Astronomy.  PHY101 will examine historical and current barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusivity in physics and astronomy that exclude individuals on intersecting domains of identity (race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, physical ability, etc.).  Physics and astronomy education research will form the course’s foundation and students will contribute their experiences to analyze techniques that can mitigate inequities and implement evidence-based strategies.

Dr. Dan Boye (PHY) will reimagine Music: Sound with Impact (PHY116) which satisfies the NSMRQ Ways of Knowing requirement.  Beyond developing a scientific appreciation of world music, this interdisciplinary course will emphasize creative growth through maker projects and outside-the-lab/in-the-field exercises.

2022-23 FIRST RATE Cohort:

Dr. Mark Barsoum (BIO) will develop and offer a new upper-level course. BIO 262: Antiracist Physiology and Medicine.  This JEC course will consider historical and contemporary racist practices in healthcare and biomedical research.  Students will work to dispel myths of biological race and its many insidious consequences, including learning biological and physiology truths as a counterforce to currently held misconceptions that lead to racist medical practices and inequities in health, healthcare, and medical treatment.

Dr. Hanna Key (CHE) will reconceptualize an existing upper-level lab course, CHE 250: Organic Chemistry course by developing a homework system that uses shorter and more frequent problem sets that incorporate daily life examples of organic chemistry concepts.  Students will also participate in a series of discussions that aim to promote academic success and enhance a sense of belonging.

Dr. Bryan Thurtle-Schmidt (BIO) will redesign an existing upper-level lab course, BIO 303: Biochemistry.  He will eliminate textbook expenses for students by incorporating primary literature readings as the foundation for learning important biochemical concepts and understanding how scientific knowledge is communicated.  Selected papers will be authored by counterstereotypical scientists from groups historically excluded from STEM and class time will include learning about the scientists and their important discoveries.

Dr. Kristen Thompson (PHY) will improve an existing non-majors lab course, PHY 106: Introductory Astronomy.   This popular general education course will foster student belonging by exploring astronomy as a human endeavor that has been long been practiced by all peoples, civilizations, and cultures.  Course content will shift intentionally away from exclusively western and scientific views to expand to include perspectives from non-western cultures, indigenous communities, and underserved populations.

Dr. John Yukich (PHY) will improve an existing upper-level course PHY 201: Mathematical Methods for Scientists.  This important course develops mathematical skills that students need to pursue upper-division courses in physics as well as other natural sciences.  The reimagined curriculum and structure will incorporate real world applications of mathematical methods that tackle scientific problems in physics, engineering, medicine, chemistry, and the life sciences for students who come to the course with a broad range of prior mathematical experiences and confidence levels.

2023-24 FIRST RATE Cohort:

Dr. Scott Villa (BIO) will improve an existing upper-level lab course, BIO 223: Animal Behavior by addressing the overrepresentation of Anglo-European, cis-male views of animal behavior as well as culturist, sexist, and elitist language describing behavioral phenomena.  The redesigned course will attempt to shift classroom culture norms by restructuring language, introducing broad ranges of animal behaviors, highlighting diverse researchers, and expanding inclusive presentation strategies.

Dr. Tim Chartier (MAT/CSC) will improve an existing upper-level course, MAT/CSC 210: Mathematical Modeling.  Students will learn to gain insights into the world through modeling and be empowered to solve problems.  Coursework will expand beyond simply using modeling for numerical demonstrations of injustices toward to work toward a more just society that dismantles systemic inequities.  Students will use linear programing, simulation, and Markov Chains to ask questions, reveal injustice, and cultivate safer environments .

Dr. Anthony Kuchera (PHY) will improve an existing upper-level lab course, PHY 310: Electronics and Instrumentation.   This laboratory-intensive course will be redesigned to address existing structural challenges that have not appropriately considered differential student experiences regarding belonging, performance, prior experiences, and time investment. Pro-social topics will be intentionally incorporated into the course material as well as attention to enhancing student self-efficacy and success.

Dr. Catherine Nemitz (MAT/CSC) will improve an existing upper-level programming course, CSC 221: Data structures to address inequities in traditional grading practices that often discourage some students from persisting in the major.  This restructuring of assignments, pair programming, and assessments is intended to bolster student confidence in programming and problem-solving skills by creating welcoming and supportive learning environments in an important foundational course where department data show imposter phenomena and limited confidence negatively influence student experiences.

Dr. Sophia Sarafova (BIO) will improve an existing gateway lab course BIO 111/113: Introductory Biology.   The course will feature redesigned assignments and testing strategies with the aim of reducing student anxiety and creating more welcoming environments for learners who bring a broad diversity of skills and experiences.  In addition, the course will enhance structure and feedback for students, intentionally foster growth mindsets, and improve communication to emphasize learning and skill acquisition.

Dr. Bryce Wiedenbeck (MAT/CSC) will develop a new course, CSC2##: Socially Responsible Mechanism Design.  This new JEC course will consider how computational mechanisms can influence behavior and incentives.  Students will use tools from game theory and social choice to critique and develop better understandings of how theoretical modeling can aligns with topics of social justice.

Dr. Carl Yerger (MAT/CSC)  will improve an existing upper-level course, MAT 341: Mathematical Statistics.  The revised course will be marketed make it more welcoming to students from disciplines beyond mathematics.   The problems, applications, and examples used throughout will shift away from traditional business, engineering, politics, and science topics toward topics of social justice.  New course material and supplemental information will emphasize using statistical tools to understand and address challenges of diversity, equity, and inclusion.