Smith Teaching and Learning grants benefit undergraduate education

A landscape oil painting.Four College of Arts and Sciences faculty members received funding from the Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teaching and Learning Endowment to pursue ideas that focus on enhancing the education of WSU students.

“The applications for this year’s awards presented a broad scope of plans and ideas to boost teaching and learning at our university,” 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 in 2000. Since then, thousands of learners at WSU have benefited from the scores of innovative ideas to transform pedagogy and curricular issues made possible by the Smith Teaching and Learning grants.

All together, eight projects involving fifteen WSU faculty received funding for 2019-2020.

“The proposals touched on many disciplines and were all very compelling. Each one has the potential to contribute in significant ways to transformative educational experiences at WSU,” said Wack.

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.

Arts and Sciences recipients and projects for 2019-20

Amy Nielsen, clinical assistant professor of chemistry, and Joe Hedges, assistant professor and coordinator in 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.

On the Vancouver campus, Alexander Dimitrov, associate professor in mathematics and statistics, and Tahira Probst, professor in psychology, are collaborating with Kristin Lesseig, associate professor in the Dept. of Teaching and Learning to identify current WSU instructor mindsets regarding students’ math intelligence and abilities. The project, titled “Interventions to Instill Growth Mindset Attitudes Among Instructors in Math-intensive Gateway Courses,” builds upon outcomes from a 2016-18 WSU Student Success Seed Grant project and will assess how mindset changes in teachers impact student success in gateway math-intensive courses. Uchila Umesh, professor of marketing, is also be part of the interdisciplinary team.

Learn about all of this year’s Smith Teaching and Learning grant recipients at WSU Insider.

Top photo: This oil-on-canvas painting, by student artist Christina Sagrelius (’17 BFA), is rich with Prussian blue pigment that students created in a chemistry lab. With their new Smith Teaching and Learning Grant, recipients Amy Nielsen and Joe Hedges will take the unique chemistry+art experience further.