Students studying outside the library

Goldey named to national leadership panel

Initiative aimed at improving undergraduate life sciences education

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Dr. Ellen Goldey works with students in the biology lab.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Dr. Ellen S. Goldey, the William R. Kenan Professor of Biology and chair of the Department of Biology at Wofford College, has been named one of 40 Vision and Change Leadership Fellows by the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE).

The PULSE program is a joint initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) based in Washington, D.C. The effort is supporting a yearlong program in which Vision and Change Leadership Fellows consider and then recommend models for improving undergraduate life sciences education. 

The fellows will identify and consider how to eliminate barriers to the systemic changes that are needed to improve undergraduate life sciences education. Goldey recently led the effort to improve the first-year biology curriculum at Wofford, which received the 2012 Exemplary Program Award from the Association for General and Liberal Studies. 

“This recognition is not just for Dr. Goldey as a teacher and scholar, but for her role as a national leader in program assessment and curriculum design,” Wofford President Benjamin B. Dunlap says. “She is a doer who makes things happen. Her impact is enormous.”

“The fellows represent a diverse group of extremely capable faculty,” says Judith Verbeke of NSF. “They bring a variety of experiences that will inform the development of an implementation framework that will transform undergraduate education in the life sciences.”

These post-secondary life sciences faculty members were competitively selected by an expert panel for their experience in catalyzing reform in undergraduate biology education.

After evaluating more than 250 applications, the PULSE steering committee selected the fellows from 24 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands who represent research universities, liberal arts colleges, comprehensive/regional universities, and two-year colleges.

“We are very excited about the work on which the fellows are about to embark,” says Clifton A. Poodry of NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences. “The PULSE program will help move life sciences education forward.”

“The strong response we received to the call for applications reflects broad consensus in the community that change is needed,” says HHMI’s Cynthia Bauerle. The way biology is taught needs to change in order to spark student interest in science and prepare them to answer challenging 21st century problems. “The time is now,” Bauerle adds.

In 2006, NSF initiated a multi-year conversation with the scientific community, with assistance from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. That dialogue, which was co-funded by NIH and HHMI, generated the 2011 report, “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action.”

The scientific community actively informed the recommendations in the “Vision and Change” report. Among these were the recognition that a 21st century education requires changes to how biology is taught, how academic departments support faculty, and how curricular decisions are made.

“NSF, HHMI and NIH launched the PULSE program to foster widespread systemic change,” Verbeke says. Supporting the effort are Knowinnovation Inc. and the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

PULSE will stimulate systemic change in undergraduate life science education by focusing on strategies that drive institutional change. Because a change in institutional culture is needed, PULSE activities are focused on academic departments and not individual faculty members.

In May, PULSE announced a national competition to identify Vision and Change Leadership Fellows. The 40 fellows announced recently will produce an implementation framework describing strategies for change. This document will be available on the PULSE website, where other life scientists may review it and provide comments from November 2012 until May 2013. The biology community is encouraged to review and enrich this framework via the PULSE online colleague community. Program organizers stress that they welcome the participation of the breadth of the post-secondary life sciences community.

A full list of the Vision and Change Leadership Fellows is available at, where you can learn more about PULSE or engage with the growing online PULSE community.