FEd August 1995 Newsletter - TYC21 -- Breaking Down Barriers

August 1995



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TYC21 -- Breaking Down Barriers

Mary Beth Monroe

In March 1995, the National Science Foundation announced funding support for an American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) project entitled "The Two-Year College in the Twenty- First Century: Breaking Down Barriers" (TYC21). During the next four years, TYC21 will develop and foster a national network of two-year college (TYC) physics faculty. The goal is to enhance learning opportunities for students in physics and technical science courses and to empower TYC faculty as a newly recognized, but experienced, voice within the science-mathematics-engineering- technology community.

Two-year colleges are an important part of physics and technical education in the United States. TYCs currently enroll 43% of the students in introductory physics and approximately 50% of the women and minorities in undergraduate courses. Physics departments at TYCs are very small (often a single physicist) and focus on education instead of active technical research efforts. In addition to offering technical programs on TYC campuses, some TYCs provide on-site instructional training for industrial employees.

During the 1989 topical conference (supported by AAPT and NSF) entitled "Critical Issues in Two-Year College Physics and Astronomy - 1990 and Beyond", the participants realized that TYC programs are often invisible to the science community, to the general education community and to the industrial and business communities. Motivated by the issue of professional isolation, TYC21 will establish a personal network of TYC physics faculty by creating opportunities to share ideas on a professional and personal basis throughout the physics community. Members of organizations like the American Physical Society (and the Forum on Education) represent the target audience of the larger physics community in which TYC21 wishes to increase the recognition of the roles that TYCs play in preparing students of all ages as future scientists or citizens who are scientifically literate. APS members will be actively sought out by TYC21 and encouraged to examine and discuss the physics taking place in TYCs and to help TYC faculty members make productive contributions to the larger physics enterprise.

The TYC21 network will develop through a series of local and national meetings. At the local level, TYC21 will foster professional involvement through a series of fifteen regional meetings led by regional coordinators. The coordinators and regional leadership teams will organize local meetings and involve participants as they develop regional activities related to critical issues identified from the proceedings of the 1989 conference and the 1992 NSF Workshop on the Role of Professional Societies in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education in Two-Year Colleges. To engage the local networks and provide a national forum, the regional coordinators and three elected delegates from each region will attend an annual national meeting, convened as an AAPT Topical Conference, where resource speakers and consultants will involve participants in a more global discussion of the critical issues and timely pedagogical issues. The activities of TYC21 will provide opportunities for the community to foster leadership, communication and scholarship and, thereby under the auspices of AAPT, the network will be self- sustaining past the funded term of the project. In addition, the activities of TYC21 will promote outreach and partnerships with members and professional societies of higher education, precollege education, industry and business.

See the sidebar discussion on how you can help.

Mary Beth Monroe is Professor of Physics at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde Texas, and is a PI for TYC21 with Carol A. Lucey, (Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Alfred State College of Technology in Alfred, New York.)