SCI-Southwest is committed to improving science education at all levels. To this end, we have developed a number of SENCER courses: Sustainable Physical Science, Earth Science in the Context of Natural Disasters, Introduction to Environmental Chemistry, Climate Change, and Water in a Changing World.

We have also developed a transdisciplinary certificate program titled: Science, Society and Sustainability and have created two additional SENCER courses to support the certificate: Conversations in Community Sustainability and Building Sustainable Communities.

Finally, we are incorporating SENCER Ideals into our chemistry/biochemistry undergraduate and graduate program through the development of the dual poster project. Here, students present their research with both a technical poster and a public poster. The public poster is designed to explain the research to lay people and discuss the broader impacts of the project.

Nasrin Mirsaleh-Kohan and Cynthia Maguire of SCI-Southwest and Texas Woman's University

Nasrin Mirsaleh-Kohan and Cynthia Maguire of SCI-Southwest and Texas Woman’s University at SSI 2016

In addition to the above initiatives, we have sponsored symposia at national meetings (American Chemical Society and the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education) to inform other educators about SENCER. We have one book published from the proceedings of one of these symposia and another forthcoming. We have also formed a partnership with the Mississippi River Field Institute of the National Audubon Society to monitor the environment associated with the Mississippi River watershed.

SCI-Southwest initiatives are open to participants around the United States but are primarily designed to address the needs and interests of individuals in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.

About the Host Institution: Texas Woman’s University

Texas Woman’s University is the host institution for the SCI-Southwest. Established in 1901, Texas Woman’s University (TWU) is unique as the nation’s largest university primarily for women with enrollment for this academic year exceeding 14,000: over 90% of these students are women and some 44% are from underrepresented groups. As such, Texas Woman’s University has a strong commitment to educating female and other ethnically diverse students, both in the state of Texas and nationally. The primary mission of TWU is to empower students by inspiring intellectual curiosity and lifelong learning, embracing scholarship and research, developing leadership and personal responsibility, and promoting diversity and respect for all individuals.

In 2017, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was recognized by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) as a model department for incorporating of civic engagement and social responsibility into our degree programs.  Of the 23 departments highlighted in their journal peerReview, ours was the only hard science department so recognized.

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The meeting is planned to be held as a “hybrid” meeting. If you have any questions or interested in presenting, please feel free to contact Drs. Richard Sheardy ([email protected]) or Nasrin Kohan([email protected]).


TWU Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Robby A. Petros, Joins IN4OBE Advisory Board

Dr. Robby A. Petros is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Texas Woman’s University. He earned is PhD from Columbia University and did postdoctoral studies in the NIH-funded Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. His entry into the OBE movement came as he began applying the same skills used in research to his teaching. More information here


The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the SENCER Center for Innovation Southwest (SCI-SW) hosted the fifth annual SENCER Regional Symposium at Texas Woman’s University on January 31, 2020. This year’s focus (Citizen Science: The Impact on our Communities by Plastics in our Environment) was unique since it was our first symposium directed to a complex, capacious issue rather than science education per se as in previous SCI-SW symposia. The day started with a poster session in the morning. Of the 100 total registered, 63 were from TWU and 39 were from other institutions. Interestingly, we had 34 TWU students who had registered for the symposium.

Throughout the day, our speakers presented information, innovation and ideas about the use of plastics in our daily lives, the impact that plastics and their degradation products have on our environment and our health, and what we can and cannot do about this critical, civic issue. Further, with the help of Dr. Cathy Middlecamp and her students, we put together the TWU Zero Impact Team of TWU undergraduate students to help plan this event as a Zero Waste event.

Our first plenary speaker, Dr. Cathy Middlecamp from the University of Wisconsin talked about the idea of planning an event, such as this symposium, in such a fashion as to minimize the environmental impact: Planning a Zero Waste Event: The Inside Story. Helping her with her story were undergraduate students Riley Collins and Catie McDonald of the University of Wisconsin and the TWU Zero Impact Team: Liliana Driver, Raven Gallenstein, Yesinia Olguin, Jessica Hernandez and Emily Howard, all TWU undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry majors. The TWU faculty advisor for the team is Ms. Alana Taylor. Last fall, Riley and Catie visited TWU to help our newly formed TWU Zero Impact Team organize this symposium as a Zero Waste event. Each student had a chance to talk about the project, what they learned and their experience.

Throughout the fall and early spring semesters, the TWU team met with Drs. Kohan and Sheardy and Ms. Taylor to discuss their research and findings. The team first surveyed local hotels and restaurants that cater to learn about their sustainable practices. Based on their analyses, the team recommended a local hotel to house our guest speakers and a local restaurant to cater our lunch, both of which were chosen because the students judged them to have adapted the most sustainable practices. The team also recommended the use of ceramic plates and coffee cups, metal silverware and cloth napkins since, in the long run, using these items is more sustainable than using either plastic or paper products. The team also recommended the use of reusable name tags. Finally, the food left over from the lunch was designated for composting. All of these items will be used for future conferences and events hosted by SCI-SW and the TWU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Further, we will make these items available to other groups wanting to organize a zero waste event and offer our help in their planning.

Drs. Reid Bishop and Brandon Magers from Belhaven University talked about stewardship of the lower Mississippi river delta (Plastics in the Lower Mississippi River Delta) by presenting some of the educational projects they have been working on with students. Mr. David Hunter from the City of Denton spoke about Denton’s concerns related to water quality (A View from the Blue: Plastics and Related Items in Freshwater Systems, The City of Denton, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and Beyond). The issues of using plastics in the teaching and research laboratories was the topic of the presentation by Dr. Davida Smyth from The New

School (The Sustainability Challenges Facing Research and Teaching Laboratories When Going Green). Dr. Garon Smith from the University of Montana described a project with a local cardboard box recycling company (Plastics Waste: An Opportunity in Recycling Cardboard Containers?). Can scientists effectively use film to help educate the public? Dr. Sherine Obare from UNC-Greensboro gave a very compelling talk about the power of film in that regard (Transformative Power of Film in Environmental Science). Dr. Matt Fisher from St. Vincent College explained how the American Chemical Society (ACS) develops policy related to public issues and the chemistry community (Science and Citizenship: How the Chemistry Community Connects to Policy Decisions). Dr. Richard Sheardy from TWU described the new departmental wide undergraduate research project focusing on plastics and their degradation products in north Texas. To finish the day, Dr. Stephen Carroll from Santa Clara University put everything together in his plenary (How Civic Engagement Produces Transformative, Durable Learning)!

The organizers (Dr. Nasrin Kohan, Ms. Cynthia Maguire and Dr. Richard D Sheardy) gratefully acknowledge the following for their generous financial support of this symposium: The TWU Office of the Provost, the TWU Office of Student Life, the TWU Center for Faculty Excellence, the TWU Buildwell Committee, the University of Wisconsin Sustainability Office, and the TWU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Without this support, we would not have been able to host this event. We also appreciate the welcome remarks from Interim Provost Dr. Carolyn Kapinus and Vice President for Student Life, Dr. Monica Mendez-Grant. We also thank the Denton Record Chronicle ( and the TWU Lasso ( ) for their articles about this event! Last but not least, we greatly appreciate the help of Ms. Courtney Hawkins and Ms. Mehgann Mallory from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for all the behind the scenes work they did.

We had the SCI-SW Board of Directors Meeting on Thursday, January 30. In attendance were Co-Directors Cynthia Maguire and Nasrin Kohan, TWU liaison Richard Sheardy and board members, Matt Fisher, Cathy Middlecamp, Reid Bishop, Brandon Magers, Stephen Carroll and Garon Smith, Rob Petros, and Karen Dunlap. The board focused on evaluation of the symposium, and continuation and funding of future annual symposia. We also discussed the Mississippi River Project (Tara project). We have set aside May 18-22, 2020 for the first attempt at the Tara project course. This course will be focusing on plastics in the lower Mississippi River delta and will include classroom, fieldwork and laboratory experiences. This course will ultimately serve as a model for developing stewardship of important water resources anywhere.


Democracy, Civic Engagement and Student Learning–A Regional Symposium at Texas Woman’s University

On Friday, February 1, 2019, the SENCER Center of Innovation Southwest (SCI-SW) and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Texas Woman’s University (TWU) hosted the Fourth Annual SCI-SW SENCER Regional Symposium in the Ann Stuart Science Complex. The theme of this year’s symposium aimed to link student learning, civic engagement and democracy. It brought speakers and experts in different disciplines from around the US and TWU to discuss together our roles in helping students develop a sense of civic virtue so they can build a thriving democracy for themselves and future generations.

The table below reports the number of attendees who registered for the meeting. Of the 92 total, 68 were from TWU and 24 were from other institutions. Brookhaven University sent 6, Texas A&M Texarkana sent 4 and UNT sent 3. Also in attendance was Walter Staveloz, Director International Relationships from the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) located in Washington, DC. His interest is in promoting citizen science at the international level through informal science educators at science and technology centers and museums of natural history. He is also very interested in collaborating with SCI-SW and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry on this project.

The event kicked off in the morning with a poster session. There were ten posters describing the work of students and faculty that fell within the realm of the symposium theme. Two of the posters were presented by faculty from other institutions (Dallas County Community College District and Worcester Polytechnic Institute).

The first plenary session opened with welcoming remarks by Dr. Alan Utter (Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, TWU). Dr. Richard Sheardy (Professor and Chair, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, TWU) followed with a brief presentation of how we came to the theme for this year’s symposium through our involvement in SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities), the AAC&U (Association of American Colleges & Universities) and the Citizens First! symposia at the national meetings of the ACS (American Chemical Society).

The first speaker, Dr. Reid Bishop (Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry, Belhaven University, Jackson, MS) spoke about exploring democratic choice in an undergraduate curriculum based in service, sustainability and civic engagement. Our second speaker, Dr. Jessica Gullion (Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Work, TWU) discussed her work with giving students hands-on experience coupled to research and instruction on working with community groups.

After, Dr. Gullion’s presentation, Chancellor Carine Feyten stopped by to say hello to the attendees. She expressed how this symposium reflected the educational mission and values of TWU. Following a short break, the event continued with two concurrent sessions. “Citizen Science” featured presentations by Dr. Sheardy, Dr. Garon Smith (Professor Emeritus, Department of Chemistry, University of Montana, Missoula, MT) and Dr. Amy Shachter (Senior Associate Provost for Research and Faculty Affairs, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA). “Democratic Engagement” featured talks by Dr. Timothy Hoye (Professor, Department of History and Government, TWU); Dr. David Rylander (Professor, College of Business, TWU) and Dr. Karen Oates (Professor, Department of Chemistry, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA).

The day concluded with the second plenary session which was opened up with a few words from Dr. Jennifer Martin (Executive Vice Provost, TWU). In the first plenary of the session, Dr. Cathy Middlecamp (Professor, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI) spoke about how addressing basic sustainability issues opens the door to civic engagement. Our final speaker of the day, Dr. Stephen Carroll (Professor, Department of English, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA) discussed the issue of assessing citizenship.

To finish the day, G Wiz (aka, Dr. Garon Smith) and the Mistress of Potions (Ms. Cynthia Maguire, Senior Lecturer, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, TWU) presented a wizard show. The show featured magic tricks based on actual chemical principles. Thus, the “magic” was explained in terms of a chemical reaction or other phenomena.

This symposium was organized by Dr. Nasrin Mirsaleh Kohan (Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, TWU) and Dr. Richard Sheardy. This symposium would not have been possible without the generous support of the TWU Center for Faculty Excellence (Dr. Jörg Waltje) and the Pioneer Center for Student Excellence (Dr. Joshua Adams and Mr. Kurt Krause).

We had the SCI-SW Board of Directors Meeting on Saturday. In attendance were Co-Directors Cynthia Maguire and Nasrin Mirsaleh Kohan, TWU liaison Richard Sheardy and board members Shaumarie Tanner (Biology, TWU), Cathy Middlecamp, Reid Bishop, Stephen Carroll and Garon Smith. This discussion focused on evaluation of this year’s symposium, and continuation and funding of future annual symposia. We also discussed the Mississippi River Project, our NSF proposal under review and the proposed creation of an air sampling center at TWU.

Meeting Resources

9 Steps to Designing a SENCER Model in 1 Hour
Presented by Stephen Carroll and Eliza Reilly

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Strategic Local Partnerships for Engaging Undergraduate Science Students in Opportunities of Civic Importance
Presented by G. Reid Bishop

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More Ideas to Build on the Zoo Project
Presented by G. Reid Bishop

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Animal Movement Study
Video by Belhaven University Students

High Impact STEM Learning and the Humanities
Presented by Eliza Reilly and Stephn Carroll

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Campus Compact of the Mountain West
Presented by CCMW

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Undergraduate Research and Civic Engagement
Presented by Steve Bachofer, Richard Sheardy, and Cynthia Maguire

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High Impact STEM Education: A SENCER Campus Compact Partnership
Presented by Amy Shachter

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Track 3: Sustainability Description and Overview
Presented by Amy Shachter and Catherine Kleier

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A SENCER Model: Chemistry and the Environment
Presented by Amy Shachter

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Strategies for Integrating Sustainability Across the Curriculum
Presented by Amy Shachter

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SCI-Southwest Spring 2016 Meeting
January 29, 2016
Texas Woman's University

Friday, January 29, 2016
9:00am – 4:00pm
Texas Woman’s University
Ann Stuart Science Complex

Expanding Civic Capacity: Connecting learning to critical real-world issues through undergraduate research and sustainability education

Tentative Agenda:

Morning Session: SENCER Ways of Undergraduate Research

Student Engagement in Learning through Civic Engagement
Joseph L. Kirsch
Butler University

Strategic Local Partnerships for Engaging Undergraduate Science Majors
and Non-Majors in Opportunities of Civic Importance
G. Reid Bishop
Belhaven University

Conceptualizing and Implementing a Research Informed Teaching Platform for Civic Engagement
Rob Sanford & Joe Staples
University of Southern Maine

SENCER Do-Now Social Media in the Classroom
Thomas C. Wood
George Mason University

Stephen Carroll
Santa Clara University

Afternoon Session: People, Planet, Profits: Multidisciplinary Trouble?

Sustainability: What, How, and Why Now? Ver. 2.0
Catherine Middlecamp
University of Wisconsin‒Madison

Hearing and Acting on the Cries of the World: The Challenge for Educating STEM Majors
Matt Fisher
Saint Vincent College

Urban Environmental Issues Rebooted
Steven Bachofer
St. Mary’s College

Science and Global Sustainability: Evolution of a Course for Non-science Majors
Bettie Davis
Saint Vincent College

TBA Session
Monica Devanas
Rutgers University

Meeting Flyer

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SCI-Southwest Spring 2015 Meeting
January 23, 2015
Texas Woman's University

Southwest Co-Directors

Dr. Cynthia Maguire, SCI-Southwest Co-Director

Ms. Cynthia Maguire
Chemistry & Biochemistry Senior Lecturer
Texas Woman’s University
[email protected]


Photo--Nasrin Kohan

Dr. Nasrin Mirsaleh-Kohan
Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Texas Woman’s University
[email protected]

Leadership Council

Dr. Brian Bilyeu
Xavier University

Dr. Reid Bishop
Bellhaven University

Mr. Ron Chandler
Conservation Initiative for the Asian Elephant

Dr. Kristen Kulinowski
Rice University

Dr. Catherine Middlecamp
University of Wisconsin Madison