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New Center Promotes STEM Research and Engagement

By Eric Breier

One of the attributes that attracted Ed Price to Cal State San Marcos was the opportunity to be on the ground floor in developing new programs.

“Having been involved in the development, for instance, of our applied physics degree, it’s tremendously satisfying to see these programs come to fruition and students graduate and go off and get jobs,” said Price, a professor of physics. “That, to me, is one of the great parts of working at this University.”

Price is on the ground floor of another project as the faculty director of CSUSM’s new Center for Research and Engagement in STEM Education (CRESE), which officially launched July 1.

The idea for the center emerged from work Price and fellow physics professor Chuck De Leone have done together over the last several years, which has included a number of sizable federal grant awards. Price said that Program Director Debbie DeRoma also was instrumental in making CRESE a reality.

As the center’s name suggests, its mission is to support STEM education research and support engagement in STEM education. That includes engaging the community, K-12 students and teachers, and CSUSM undergraduates.

Price notes that CRESE is separate from the STEM Tutoring Program, which operates under the Office for Undergraduate Studies. While the STEM Tutoring Program focuses on academic support for students, CRESE will be involved in things like research to develop new programs as well as testing pilot programs and documenting their effectiveness.

“There are a range of different access points for faculty,” Price said. “For some faculty, it may be that this is just a point where they can connect with colleagues who are interested in a topic. Maybe they have some ideas about something they want to do but it’s not what their training is in necessarily.

“The teacher-scholar model here is really strong and faculty are thinking about what they can do in the classroom to help their students be successful.”

CRESE is funded entirely through grants, and Price anticipates that the center will greatly benefit faculty submitting proposals related to STEM education research projects.

“It’s a great umbrella for us to have,” he said. “That’s a great banner to be putting a proposal under. Rather than just me as an individual, it signals there’s something larger going on here with more support and resources connected with that effort.

“One of the things that we’re really excited about with having the center is moving beyond the efforts of individuals, of which there are several very active individual faculty on this campus doing this kind of work, but now to have a more higher profile collective way for us to organize that work.”

One of Price’s first priorities is to promote awareness on campus about the center. He said some faculty members already have expressed interest in being affiliated with the center and he anticipates getting them on board once they return to campus this fall.

“Part of the proposal process for the center was to describe how the activities of the center will enhance the university’s mission,” Price said. “And I think it’s right in line with what we’re trying to do here on this campus to have innovative pedagogy, to support students and to support faculty. Getting approval for the center indicates confidence from the administration, and we’re excited about being able to advance the university’s mission through the work of the center.”