Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities grant provides opportunities for MCNY American Urban Studies Program

January 5, 2011 – Dr. Heide Hlawaty, the chair of General Education and Liberal Arts Studies, and Dr. Richard Grallo, Associate Professor (Psychology) at Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY) are the recipients of a SENCER-National Science Foundation sub-grant to evaluate, explore, and deepen critical thinking skills and ways-of-thinking through solving real-world problems in interdisciplinary learning situations.

The project plan is the result of work done during a four-day, residential summer institute that Professors Lisa Bauer, Richard Grallo, Heide Hlawaty, Victoria Plavitu and Doru Tsaganea were invited to attend as part of a national initiative called Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER).  SENCER is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.  The Institute took place from July 29 – August 2, 2010 and was hosted by the University of North Carolina at Asheville. The participants made a poster presentation on STEM Education ideals at MCNY.  STEM is an education curriculum on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

By participating in the SENCER project, Metropolitan College of New York and its faculty members are contributing to a national reform effort that connects the improvement of undergraduate science education to some of the most vexing civic challenges our nation and our future graduates will face. Through the awarding of this grant, Metropolitan College of New York is involved in a two-year concentrated effort to improve science education through the creation and revision of selected STEM and non-STEM courses according to SENCER principles. At the SENCER Summer Institute, teams and individual representatives envisioned and developed courses and programs that teach rigorous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content through problems that require scientific knowledge and expertise.  Throughout the next two years, MCNY and Drs. Hlawaty and Grallo will continue to network with other faculty and engage with innovative pedagogies, assessment, and undergraduate research.

“The SENCER project matches two important principles of MCNY’s educational philosophy” said Dr. Vinton Thompson, President of MCNY, “it represents the application of knowledge to the solution of civic challenges and it empowers our students through enlisting them to help solve those problems”.  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 Metropolitan College of New York is bringing 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 be partnered with MCNY in focusing the intelligence and capacity of students, faculty, and academic leaders on some of the hardest problems of our time.”  

Heide Hlawaty, co-Principle Investigator of the project, commented “SENCER has provided me the opportunity to learn how to teach science in a wonderfully new way. Instead of teaching subjects in a system-of-the-week approach, SENCER has shown me various approaches that allow my students to make the relevant connections to their own lives and the lives of their community members. I believe that my involvement with this [SENCER] project has increased my pedagogical repertoire and has helped me revise our existing science courses in ways that  improve scientific literacy and numeracy in our students.  Plus, I have been introduced to a great bunch of individuals who are interesting and quite a lot of fun to be around!” 

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 supported with a grant from the National Science Foundation and is designed to achieve three pressing goals: to improve science education, especially for students who may never major in a scientific field; to connect science education reform to more robust and relevant general education programs; and to 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 more than 1,600 faculty members at more than 375 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