A Vision for the Sciences at Xavier
The biology, chemistry, and physics departments at Xavier University together envision themselves as a vital part of the academic renaissance being planned for the next 10 years. We now make and will continue to make a significant contribution to "the University's rigorous undergraduate … studies (that) empower students to integrate theoretical and applied knowledge with questions of human values and ethical behavior, " as the Academic Vision states. Any true liberal arts education requires a strong scientific component, whether the student is concentrating in the sciences or the non-sciences. Our vision of the future includes improvements to our physical facilities and equipment and the establishment of interdisciplinary activities in the sciences that will expand our successes of the past.
Our programs currently are strong in many ways: providing service courses to other programs, providing core curriculum courses, and providing our majors with appropriately diverse and challenging courses within the disciplines. The strength of all the programs lies in the faculty, who are skillful in the classroom and also skillful in allotting their time among teaching lecture and laboratory classes, mentoring student research, acquiring external funding, performing their own research, and serving the university in a variety of ways. It is widely recognized that research experience is tremendously valuable for undergraduates. Therefore, we strongly believe that the large proportion of time faculty spend on mentoring student research is appropriate for Xavier's size and mission, and should not be diminished for the sake of more faculty research publications.
We are convinced that the academic quality of all of our programs is based on our commitment to the value of the laboratory experience, the single most important activity of scientists and students of the sciences. Although the science buildings that were renovated (or built) 12 years ago as a Science Center that planned to meet our laboratory needs at that time, we have experienced unanticipated growth since then. We envision a future with updated teaching facilities and larger, well-equipped research space for students and faculty projects. Recently, a significant number of new faculty members have replaced retired faculty. Although this has invigorated the departments, now there is an increasing need for funds for equipment. Also, more start-up funding for equipment than has been available in the past will be needed to successfully recruit new faculty. Beyond the expanded and improved physical facilities and equipment, the value of student research mentoring should be acknowledged as a significant role of the faculty, with credit hours awarded realistically to both students and faculty.
The science departments also value the interdisciplinary nature of their fields and realize the importance of research, which can demonstrate to students that interdependence. We envision students in the next decade being more actively supported in their research endeavors by greater funding for travel to regional and national conferences, by funding for summer research stipends and living expenses, by publication of abstracts of student research, and by a speakers series for the sciences scheduled at a common time. These activities would increase the interactions among all the science faculty and students, which in turn would foster an invigorated atmosphere in the science departments and a more prominent position for the sciences on campus and in the wider community.
In the next 10 years, we see Xavier University recognized as a leader in undergraduate research, with students and faculty working in well equipped, updated teaching laboratories and research facilities. Using these facilities, students will be engaged in activities that integrate the sciences and provide them with the best science education possible.