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PRESIDENT’S PERSPECTIVE Science at Skidmore: Back to the future

In this issue of Scope, we explore Skidmore’s growing engagement with the world of health care. I reference not only the impressive and varied achieve- ments of our alumni but also the ways in which we are responding to the resur- gence of interest among our students in the health professions. I say “resurgence” because this is, in many ways, a case of going “back to the future,” for as many of our graduates know, Skidmore has a long and storied history of preparing students for successful careers—indeed, leadership roles—in nursing and other health fields. Today, more than ever, we need creative, interdisciplinary thought in these areas, and we are preparing our students to provide it. From 1922 to 1985, Skidmore trained several thousand women as nurses, many of whom went on to become influential leaders in the field,


improving the quality of nursing care around the country and setting stan- dards for the industry. Skidmore’s pro- gram stood out for its combination of intensive, real-world experience and rig- orous course work. In an era when most nurses completed only a two-year certifi- cate program, Skidmore offered a four- year BS-degree program incorporating two years of study and practical experi- ence in various New York City hospitals. Today’s increasing interest in the health professions also aligns neatly with Skidmore’s broader effort to raise the profile and strength of our programs in the natural sciences. Over the past several years we have made a number of investments to move us along this path: adding a neuroscience major, splitting chemistry and physics into two separate departments while increasing staffing in those areas, and expanding opportuni- ties for summer research in the sciences. More broadly, our strategic plan re -

affirms our mission of preparing every Skidmore graduate to live as an in- formed, responsible citizen. Today this requires the abil- ity to understand and con- tribute to public discourse on scientific issues ranging from energy security to cloning. To foster such en- gaged scientific literacy, we have launched a number of efforts to help all our students under- stand how science-related issues inte- grate with and inform a wide array of disciplines. For example, this fall more than a dozen Skidmore faculty members are including modules in their first-year Scribner Seminars exploring ideas about the end of the world, rang- ing from the Mayan calendar to the “Rapture” to global warm-


program is attract- ing considerable in- terest from students and will, we hope, become a model for future collabora- tions. Additionally, we created a new position in our Ca- reer Development Center, the responsi- bilities of which in-

ing and the looming global water crisis. Many of our investments have al- ready borne fruit. Roughly a third of our students now major in the natural sci- ences, with much of that growth coming over just the past decade. Science faculty members now compete more successful- ly than ever for outside grant support from agencies such as the National Sci- ence Foundation and the National Insti- tutes of Health (currently providing Skidmore with more than $6 million in active grants), and our students regularly gain admission to the most prestigious science graduate programs.

A particular driver of renewed interest in nursing is the exciting collaboration that we have established with the New York University School of Nursing: an ar- ticulation agreement to fast-track Skid- more graduates into NYU’s graduate nursing programs. Spearheaded by Terry Fulmer ’76, Skidmore trustee and former dean of the NYU School of Nursing, this

clude supporting students in their efforts to explore opportunities in the health fields, whether in medicine, nursing, or other allied professions. As I noted earlier, this increased em- phasis on the sciences and the medical professions is, in many ways, a return to an important part of our heritage. It also is another example of what makes a Skidmore education unique, for what we are doing is not simply teaching science but teaching it in a specifically Skidmore way. Science at Skidmore is intensely in- terdisciplinary, grounded in a funda- mental belief that good science must fos- ter creativity and new ways of thinking and learning. It also is informed by a strong desire to help students find ways to bring what they learn into the world to make a real impact on the lives of others.

In its report to the board of trustees outlining the importance of investing in new science facilities, the Skidmore Sci- ence Working Group argued that “the 21st century poses global challenges that will require new modes of thinking and new technologies to resolve; among them are food and energy security, human health and disease, and natural resource depletion. Indeed, improving science education to support innovation and creative problem-solving is a nation- al priority.” I couldn’t agree more, and I believe that the stories you will read in this issue will confirm how much Skid- more students, faculty, and alumni have to offer in meeting those challenges.



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