|Volume 7, Issue 1 -
TAPIA AND COMPANY PUT CRPC'S BEST FOOT FORWARD IN TEXAS CAPITAL
In January, CRPC Education and Human Resources Director Richard Tapia went to Austin to speak before legislators, educators, and others at the Texas Education Agency's 1995 Midwinter Conference. Accompanied by Cassandra McZeal (a participant of the CRPC's Spend a Summer with a Scientist (SaS) program) and Cynthia Lanius (a Mathematics and Computational Sciences Awareness Workshop (MCSA) participant), Tapia discussed the progress of the MCSA workshop.
The MCSA workshop brings K-12 educators from high schools with high minority enrollment to Rice University to increase educator awareness of the computational and mathematical sciences world, so that they can be more effective and authoritative in guiding and counseling students. To leverage the CRPC's goal of reaching these students, workshop attendees are encouraged to return to their schools with plans for outreach activities that will increase student interest in science, mathematics, and engineering.
Tapia reported that the presentation was a success because it put a human face on the issue of educating minority groups underrepresented in technical fields. Both McZeal, a graduate student, and Lanius, a teacher at a school with large minority enrollment, recalled personal experiences from their respective programs that shaped their attitude of the issues involved with minority education.
The group also tried to highlight the benefit of having educators interact with cutting-edge researchers. "We really don't try to talk down to the teachers because they have come from a very different perspective than ours, having been at the front line of educating our children," Tapia said. "With the MCSA workshop, we come from the stance of having an exciting resource to share. We say to them, 'Hey, look at all the interesting things we're doing,' and they respond with more ideas." Lanius commented on how this interaction has helped many teachers. "Most K-12 educators do not attend research institutions so this picture of how research is done today is a new and important one for them," said Lanius.
In a political environment where government policies of underrepresented groups are being examined under the microscope, Tapia does not see the need for minorities in science and engineering as an "us versus them" situation, but as a national priority. "No first-world country can maintain its economic health when a large segment of its population is being shut out of opportunities in science and technology. Given the shortage of scientists and engineers that the U.S. will face in the 21st Century, it becomes imperative for us to properly educate all individuals with the potential to succeed in math and science." Lanius noted that the conference gave the CRPC more ideas on the MCSA workshop's direction. "Many attendees expressed interest in having the CRPC expand the program to reach educators across the state," she said.
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