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Bynum says he realized in the early 1990s that “science in the United States was grade A, while science education was more like a C. Improving science education and providing more opportunities for students who traditionally had missed out was clearly in the individual and national interest. I felt sure that if I built something that addressed those needs, institutional and financial support would follow. Besides, it's such satisfying work.”
Bynum's program now works with students from middle school through postdoctoral levels. He won the 2002 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. True to form, he used the $10,000 prize to generate more than $100,000 in fellowships for prospective science and math teachers who do their student teaching in districts designated “high-need.”
More than 80 percent of the 127 school districts of Long Island (where Stony Brook is located) now participate in Bynum's programs, and he is thrilled that his dream has grown into something so pervasive.
Kenny credits it all to Bynum: “He is growing our scientists of the future.”
At California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), the late Jim Jensen, then dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, saw a need in the early 1990s for a place on campus that science students could call home. His vision was of a safe haven where students could feel they belonged and find a firm footing in the sciences, whether they were starting as freshmen or transferring—as many at CSULB do—from a community college. So he applied and received a $750,000 education grant from HHMI in 1991.
Jensen's dream has grown into the James L. Jensen Student Access to Science and Mathematics Center, where entering freshmen can go on a “science safari,” a weekend on-campus orientation program to introduce science-related campus resources and opportunities, and transfer students can learn about natural science majors at the university. Through the center, hundreds of students have found research opportunities and gotten advice about science careers from faculty and peer mentors. The center has become something of a science umbrella, coordinating eight student programs, including the National Institutes of Health-funded Access to Research Careers and Bridges to the Baccalaureate, and the National Science Foundation-funded Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.
Sometimes seed money can serve a very different purpose—teaching educators what not to do. Hope College in Holland, Michigan, wanted to involve minority middle and high school students in science. With a $750,000 grant from HHMI in 1991, it tried to develop a middle school recreation program, research clubs, and summer research on campus for high school students.
“It didn't work very well, and we didn't get another HHMI grant, though not entirely because of our inability to sustain this effort,” says James Gentile, then a biology professor and HHMI program director at Hope. “But we knew how important it was to reach minority students early. So we sat down and said, `How can we do this more effectively, with less money?'” recalls Gentile, now president of the Research Corporation, a private foundation based in Tucson, Arizona, that supports college-level basic research in the physical sciences.
He credits the vision and initiative of Todd Gugino, director of Hope's chemistry laboratories, with helping the college shift gears and launch a science camp in 1998, initially funded through the parents of the students who participated. The camp has been such a hit with west Michigan kids and their families that almost 700 campers will attend this summer, many with scholarships underwritten by local companies and private donors, reports Gugino, who directs the program.
“It is a wonderful example of faculty and staff working together to keep a vision alive until it could develop into a sustainable initiative that really works well in the Hope environment,” says Gentile.