Drs. Austin and Cole receive research grant

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Water is essential to life … and thanks to a SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities) grant, Geneva faculty and students will be focused on research and problem solving related to this precious commodity.

Geneva faculty members Rodney Austin and Jeffrey Cole are the recipients of the SENCER grant which will help them to explore complex issues related to water.

The project is the result of work done during a four-day, residential summer institute at the University of Southern Maine that Austin and Cole attended as part of a national SENCR initiative. SENCER is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

By participating in the SENCER project, Geneva College is contributing to a national reform effort that connects the improvement of undergraduate science education to some of the most vexing civic challenges future graduates will face. At the institute, teams and individual representatives envisioned and developed courses with rigorous science content taught through problem solving. Throughout the year Austin and Cole will continue to engage with innovative pedagogies, assessment and undergraduate research.

"Jeff and Rodney's work on this project, both because of its interdisciplinary emphases as well as its promise for civic engagement, is precisely the kind of work that Christian colleges like Geneva do well to pursue more rigorously and effectively. Their work, in no small way, is a testimony for us all." said David Guthrie, academic dean of Geneva College.

David Burns, executive director of the National Center for Civic Engagement and principal investigator for the SENCER initiative, expressed his appreciation for the leadership that Geneva College brings to this national effort to improve science education. "So many of our most significant civic challenges require a knowledge of science and mathematics. We are pleased to partner with Geneva College in focusing the intelligence and capacity of students, faculty and academic leaders on some of the hardest problems of our time."

Chemistry professor Rodney Austin added, "Fostering servant-leaders is a major purpose of the educational mission at Geneva College. Tackling the difficult problems of issues related to water using both science and social science skills will permit students to become more astute citizens."

SENCER is a national dissemination project designed to promote reform through faculty development, a focus on local systemic change and improved assessment strategies. The project is designed to achieve three goals: 1) improve science education, especially for students who may never major in a scientific field; 2) connect science education reform to more robust and relevant general education programs; and 3) stimulate informed civic engagement with scientific questions on the part of today′s students.


Led by David Burns, SENCER is the signature program of the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement, based at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. Since its inception, SENCER has worked with nearly 1,300 faculty members at more than 300 colleges and universities in 46 states and thirteen foreign nations to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning. For more information on the SENCER initiative, the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement, and Harrisburg University, visit or contact