Deans Message

Spring 2020

Photo of Dr. Philip Reeder Hello alumni, current students, faculty, staff, family and friends. It seems like winter has never really arrived in Pittsburgh this year. There has been very little snow and the temperatures have been for the most part mild. It has been awhile since we put out an issue of the Bayer School's Spectrum newsletter, and we thought it was about time to remedy that situation. One change that we have made is that the newsletter is now student run. With some guidance from Assistant Dean Phillip Palmer, and Dr. Kristin Klucevsek, who teaches our science writing courses, students associated with the student-run online science journal "D.U. Quark" have taken on the duties for creating two issues of Spectrum per year.

We had a productive few years since I last provided a "Dean's Message" for Spectrum. From my perspective, building and marketing our existing and new innovative programs, and creating new opportunities for students has been fundamental to enhancing enrollment and building a framework to increase retention. Freshman to sophomore retention rates in the Bayer School, have averaged nearly 90%, and the six-year graduation rate is 79%, for the last five years that data is available. Both of these metrics point to the hard work that our faculty, staff and administrators put in to assure that our academic enterprise is successful.

The hallmark of a Bayer School education is a team-based, hands-on approach to academic program assessment and development, wherein new and existing degree programs and courses, not only convey knowledge, but build meaningful skills, increase student confidence, and provide an education for the mind, body and spirit. A growing trend in academics is experience-based learning, where students connect with real world situations and problems, and are expected to examine, analyze, hypothesize, discuss, think critically, and pose informed solutions, often out in the community, working with community partners. The continued excellence of existing programs, and the creation, implementation and marketing of new programs has transformed, in my opinion, the Bayer School into an even more desired, intentional destination for a broader cross-section of students, thus strategically increasing enrollment.

During my tenure as Dean, undergraduate enrollment has increased 27% in the Bayer School. I attribute this increase, in part, to the innovative existing and new degree programs that have been created, and the expanded marketing of these opportunities, which has attracted new students to the institution and our programs, and has assisted with our ability to retain students. By way of example, our fastest growing degree programs involve 3 + 2 and 4 + 1 programs. Our Physics/Binary Engineering Program is structured so that students complete three years of coursework in Physics at Duquesne, followed by two years of coursework in Engineering at either Case Western Reserve University or the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). After five years (3 + 2) they receive a BA in Physics from Duquesne and a bachelor's degree in Engineering, in their area of specialization, from Pitt or Case Western. Somewhat modeled after this program we are finalizing plans for a 3 + 2 program in science and public health, which will be launched in fall 2020. Students complete three years of science course work in one of the majors we offer (Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, Environmental Science) and two years of coursework in the School of Public Health at Pitt, and receive and BA or BS science degree from Duquesne and a Master's of Public Health (MPH) in their area of specialization from Pitt.

Also, a professional Master's degree in Physics (4 + 1 program for Duquesne Physics students or a stand-alone two-year masters for other students) was just approved and will be launched in fall 2020. Also, in the final stages of approval, for launch in fall 2020, are a BS program in Sustainability Science, and a BA program in Sustainability Studies. These programs will be housed in the Center for Environmental Research and Education (CERE) and will be great additions to the already strong undergraduate and master's environmental science degree programs they offer. All of these programs will be launched in fall 2020. In fall 2019 a 4 + 1 program (BS to MS) in Chemistry or Biochemistry joined our existing roster of 4 + 1 programs that already includes a science undergraduate degree with an MS in Biotechnology or Environmental Management, or an MA in Science Education (wherein graduates are certified to teach K-12 science). The BS and BA programs in sustainability are also structured as 4 + 1 programs that can feed into the MS programs in Biotechnology, Environmental Management, or Science Education.

We are also in the process of expanding our fastest growing program, a very successful 4 + 1 Forensic Science and Law Program, by creating a professional doctorate in Forensic Science and Law. It will be the only doctoral program in the country that links Forensic Science, one of the fastest growing fields in the nation, with law.

I think that the growth and quality of our innovative existing and new programs attract students to the Bayer School, as evidenced by our 27% growth in freshman enrollment, as do specifically defined experiential and community engaged learning opportunities. In BSNES these expanded opportunities include new student service groups like the Multicultural STEM Group (MSG), the Bayer Association of Graduate Students (BAGS), and the Student Ambassador and Peer Mentoring Programs. These groups were founded over the past few years on the premise of building community, integrating students into the unique culture of the university community, exporting these attributes to local and regional communities (40 community partner relationships have been formally established), and from an administrative standpoint, increasing freshman and transfer applications, enrollment and retention.

Study abroad opportunities have been created as well, as part of the Duquesne's month-long Maymester Programs. Maymester 2018 provided course-based experiential learning opportunities in Tanzania, and Maymester 2019 in Belize (with Maymesters planned for both Tanzania and Belize in 2020). Coursework included astronomy, biodiversity, social justice, and people and cultures. Another expanded opportunity, which along with the opportunity to study abroad, is our most significant recruiting tool, is the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (URP). This program started in 1997, and since I have been directing the program (2014), it has expanded to 109 students in 2019, an increase of 68%.

The ten-week summer URP is a paid summer experience that provides students with essential research skills for careers in STEM-based fields. It is supported via external grant funding, including three Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grants (two from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and one from the National Institute of Health (NIH)), as well as funding from Pittsburgh Paint and Glass (PPG), and various sources within the university.

Expanded experiential learning opportunities are also provided for students via faculty research grants. Since becoming Dean, Bayer School faculty have received over $10.2 million dollars in grant funding to support their research, labs and students. During 2017-2018, 147 proposals for external funding were submitted by Bayer School faculty, and 64 were successfully funded for nearly $5 million dollars. These grants in part support the teacher-scholar model wherein students learn from faculty by participating in their research during summer URP, and throughout the year.

I feel that these summer research experiences, and many of the other opportunities that Bayer School students are afforded and take advantage or, go a long way to preparing the for life after Duquesne, be that entering the workforce, going to graduate school, or medical, dental, or veternary school. Over the past several years we have placed graduates in some of the finest graduate and professional schools in the nation that include Harvard, Northwestern, John Hopkins, Cal Tech, Yale, Ohio State and the University of Wisconsin, to name a few.

Congratulations to our dedicated students, faculty and staff on their accomplishments. Also, if you ever want to donate to any of the worthwhile endeavors that are going on in the Bayer School feel free to contact me to discuss the details.

Best Wishes,
Phil

Dean Phil Reeder's signature

Dean, Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences