University of Pittsburgh

ACIE Award 2009

Developing Multidisciplinary Learning at UPJ

Karen Lee

Karen Lee

UPJ Nat Sci-Biol/Terr Ecolgy
JOHNS 0000 Johnstown
(814) 269-2990

At the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (UPJ), Karen Lee, Biology, has developed a new course with the help of Bruce Robart, Biology, and Fran Zauhar, Humanities. With her project Developing a Multidisciplinary Student-Faculty Learning Community, Lee has designed a course which will provide undergraduates with research opportunities, as well as utilize the “nature area” on the UPJ campus, which includes several acres of undeveloped woodland, streams, and a pond. This course is taught by faculty from different departments who team-teach modules on natural resource issues for the first half of the semester, using the nature area as a starting point.

The second half of the semester, students select a mentor and complete an individual research project in the field of their choice, again using the nature area as a focus.  For example, a biology student might sample the pond for water or air pollution, while a photography student could do a photo essay about the same pond. Given the diverse nature of students’ projects, Lee gauges their progress through entrance and exit interviews, along with a weekly journal or blog.

Lee hopes to expand the course in the future—right now, it is limited to students with merit-based scholarships—because she feels it will be most valuable to students with undeclared majors and those in need of academic support. She also plans to choose central topics other than natural resources, such as health care, economics, or education, all grounded in the campus or the surrounding area.

Innovation Progress Report

Investigating Nature Survey Results

2009 Teaching Times

Karen Lee, Bruce Robart,Fran Zauhar and their team working at the UPJ campus nature area. Karen Lee, Bruce Robart, Fran Zauhar and their team working at the UPJ campus nature area.