Money for makeovers

Bethany English

Reinvention can be an expensive process, but grant money is easing the burden on many departments as they look at how to improve their curriculum.

Associate Provost Stephane Booth invited professors to write proposals about how to make their courses more engaging. After being reviewed, the best ideas would receive a $6,000 grant toward their innovations.

The School of Fashion Design and Merchandising knew exactly what to do with their grant money.

Sherry Schofield-Tomschin, associate professor of fashion design, said her proposal focused on creating a new junior-level class that would combine design students and merchandising students.

These “two very distinct groups” are kept separated throughout most of their time in the fashion program, Schofield-Tomschin explained. But that separated approach doesn’t offer students a real-world experience.

“Once they go out into the world, really the design and merchandising are working very comingled,” Schofield-Tomschin said.

A major challenge to combining these separate groups is the difference in workload and how they are taught. Design students focus on the creative end in studio classes, while merchandising students focus on the business aspects of the fashion industry.

The grant money will compensate professors for their time and research as they work to create a pilot program of a more inclusive class. This pilot will be launched through the Florence fashion program because of the smaller number of students in the class.

Jon Secaur, assistant physics professor, also received a grant for innovations to the Physics I lab.

“I didn’t feel labs as we currently had them were very fun, very engaging,” Secaur said.

In the past, Secaur has used grant money to fund the creation of a new lab manual, update the audio-visual elements of a lecture room and create an online version of the class “7 Ideas that Shook the Universe.”

This time, the money will be put toward creating a more engaging lab experience. Students will do the lab and then see a demonstration that illustrates the concepts they have just learned.

Two graduate students and current high school physics teachers, Michelle Spain and Jake Saylor used the summer to come up with ideas for these new more interactive labs.

One innovation is a pendulum experiment that will show students how to determine tempo. Once they learn that, they will use an iPhone or iPod to play a song. Then they create a pendulum that keeps the same tempo as that song playing through the speakers.

Secaur said he hopes these demonstrations will make labs more fun for students who may have been “seeing labs as a chore.”

Spain and Saylor will also work with Secaur to develop how to create labs that can be completed online at home.

Seven other innovation grants were awarded to various departments.

Contact Bethany English at [email protected].