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Skidmore science past, present, future PRESIDENT’S PERSPECTIVE

This issue of Scope references the sig- nificant attention Skidmore has focused on its physical and life sciences pro- grams over the past decade. The results of that focus are apparent in our grow- ing enrollments in the sciences, the sig- nificant research activity of our students, the increasing research productivity of our science faculty, and the vitality of our science curriculum. A further result will be even more readily apparent in the new Center for Integrated Sciences, previewed here. For those who have thought of Skid-

more as only—or even primarily—an “arts” school, this emphasis might seem surprising. But in fact it is quite consis- tent with our past and is particularly relevant to our present and future. Cer- tainly, graduates of Skidmore’s storied nursing program can attest that their curriculum was noted for its integration of demanding science instruction with practical skills. Based on this rigorous Skidmore training, many of our nurses went on to make im- portant contributions to the nursing profes- sion in this country. More broadly, to honor Skidmore’s commitment to prepare all its graduates to be informed citizens, I believe that a renewed emphasis on the sciences is necessary today, when so many critical public issues—from hydrofracking to medication-resistant bacteria to global climate change—require us all to under- stand and participate in the complex scientific and technological arguments that underpin pivotal policy decisions. In short, responsible citizenship in the 21st century requires a serious commit- ment to scientific literacy. When I consider Skidmore’s role in scientific literacy and leadership, many alumni, like Penny Chisholm ’69 and Jonathan Brestoff Parker ’08, come im- mediately to mind. Penny, pictured on this issue’s cover with President Obama,



is the first Skidmore winner of the prestigious National Medal of Science, an honor she received last year for her groundbreaking research into the plankton Prochloro- coccus, the world’s smallest and most abundant photo- synthetic organism. Her work is stunning in its com- plexity and inspiring in its pioneering of new under- standings about the earth’s oceans and atmosphere. To this day, Penny still points back to her studies at Skidmore, where she learned the principles of scien- tific thinking, as the basis of her success. Jonathan’s active connection with Skidmore has persisted beyond his grad- uation. This past December, he and Skid- more Associate Professor of Health and Exercise Sciences T. H. Reynolds cele - brated a milestone in the research they began when Jon was a student: they were awarded a U.S. patent for a potentially groundbreaking treat- ment for obesity and such related disorders as type-2 diabetes. For

Jon, currently a member of the Skidmore College Board of Trustees, this is only the latest in a remarkable string of ac- complishments. An M.D.-Ph.D. candi- date at the University of Pennsylvania, he has already won both Goldwater and Mitchell Fellowships and co-authored 31 articles and book chapters as well as a highly regarded textbook on epidemi - ology. I expect that his connection with Professor Reynolds will continue to flour ish even as he launches his own career as a leader in biomedical research. Penny and Jon are in the news of late,

yet they are only two exemplars of the impressive outcomes that students realize from their learning experiences in Skid- more science. Our approach to science education centers on three core elements that have been part of the College’s peda-


gogical DNA almost from the start. First, this institution has long promoted cre- ativity, actively en- couraging students to explore new ap- proaches and discov- er new solutions. Sec- ond, we have empha- sized interdiscipli- nary teaching and

learning, which have led faculty and stu- dents to cross boundaries and forge new ways of understanding. Third, we have always urged students to take their ideas and apply them in real practice—to make their creative thought material. At this point in Skidmore history, we

are taking a major step forward in science education by providing students and fac- ulty with a new facility for developing and uniting all three of these pedagogical strands; that is the driving vision behind the Center for Integrated Sciences. The building’s design will actively leverage our distinctive capacities by enabling us to build strategic partnerships among disciplines and encouraging intellectual way faring by our students, both within the sciences and in fields as varied as business and dance. It will also provide a space where ideas can be tested in the real world. Its planned “Idea Lab” will be the most expressly focused resource for this work, but in truth the entire facility will function as a laboratory for the inno- vation, development, testing, and appli- cation of new ideas. Skidmore’s faculty and administration feel keenly their responsibility both to maintain the College’s commitment to its rich heritage and to continually re - engineer its programs to meet the needs of students in today’s rapidly changing world. That is a challenging goal to achieve. I am delighted to report to you that in designing the Center for Inte - grated Sciences our faculty members have met this challenge in top form.



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