Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

Coming Together for Leadership in Undergraduate STEM Education

August 17, 2006

What is a leader? Who is a leader?

In 1999, we invited PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century members to reflect on what leadership meant to them. One wrote:

A leader is, in PKAL terms, a "change agent"— someone who works to improve the things she cares about, not because she was told to, but because it is the right thing to do. A leader can work in a very visible way, directing others and telling them what to do. But a leader can work more effectively in a more collaborative way, encouraging and motivating others by example more than by direction. There is no single correct way to lead, just as there is no single correct way to teach. I imagine that the most effective leaders, like the most effective teachers, use a variety of strategies depending on the circumstances.

"The trouble in our society is too many people say 'somebody' and think that that somebody usually means somebody else. ... It is clear that when you have the opportunity to make a difference, you'd better seize that opportunity and go forward with energy and enthusiasm." This comment is from one of the most important Congressional leaders in the area of national science policy, Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, Chair of the Science Committee, U.S. House of Representatives. In this interview, Boehlert challenges all of us to recognize that "this is a magic moment," and that all of us need to set up to the plate, and "do something about it, in their particular sphere of responsibility and opportunity."

Working to improve things they care about, and receiving national visibility for doing so, are the recipients of the NSF Distinguished Teaching Scholars award. Interviews with recent DTS awardees are presented here, describing for the larger community of STEM leaders what works for them in integrating education and research.

The PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century network was established as a formal mechanism to identify, nurture and celebrate emerging leaders within the undergraduate STEM community. Now with twelve years of network-building, there are over 1200 F21 members making a difference for their students, their home community and their scholarly communities. Statements from recent classes of F21 members are spotlighted here. A coherent vision of what the world of undergraduate STEM will be like in 2016 begins to emerge, from the perspective of those who will have opportunity to lead for decades to come. These statements are a resource for sessions at the PKAL F21 2006 National Assembly, to be held in Chicago October 6 – 8, 2006.