BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Forget town versus gown: students at the
University at Buffalo are not only interested in the community
outside of UB, but through the university's innovative
living/learning program called the Undergraduate Academies, more of
them are now connecting with it.
Thanks to a new grant, "Bringing Theory to Practice," from the
Association of American Colleges and Universities, UB's
Undergraduate Academies will be offering sophomores, in addition to
freshmen, the chance to participate in civic engagement projects in
the Buffalo Public Schools.
Starting next fall, interested sophomores moving into William R.
Greiner Hall, the new residence hall on UB's North Campus, will
have the opportunity to work with students at Buffalo's Native
American Magnet School 19 and the Seneca Math Science and
Technology Preparatory School (Seneca MST), helping students in
fifth through 12th grades do more science and become more
interested in it.
The grant provides additional resources for the UB/BPS
Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP), which
has been existence at the two middle schools since 2007 under the
direction of Joseph A. Gardella, PhD, the John and Frances Larkin
Professor of Chemistry in UB's College of Arts and Sciences.
The goal of ISEP is to increase dramatically the number of
Buffalo public school students who graduate from high school
interested in -- and ready for -- attending college with an
interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
At the same time, the academies are committed to enhancing fully
the UB undergraduate experience by enriching students' personal and
"It is difficult to put into words how this program has
tremendously enhanced my teaching and the students' learning," says
Heather Maciejewski, a science teacher in Buffalo's Native American
Magnet School 19, "whether it's a UB professor giving a talk or the
UB undergrads who help my students do more labs and more difficult
labs than I would be able to without them."
With the help of the UB students and ISEP, Maciejewski has been
able to establish and maintain a successful after-school science
program, where students do experiments that include everything from
programming robots to designing bridges.
The grant from the American Association of Colleges and
Universities will allow 24 more UB students to provide assistance
to both NAMS and Seneca Math and Science students.
It also will allow for the development of a new, year-long,
three-credit seminar, "Continuing Undergraduate Academies
Experience Seminar -- Community Linked Interdisciplinary Research,"
to further enhance the experience and allow sophomores to reflect
more broadly on their experience in the Buffalo Public Schools.
"This grant will allow UB students who have so enthusiastically
embraced the Undergraduate Academies in their freshman year to
continue to think more critically about topics that they encounter
in the world in the sophomore year," says Hadar Borden,
administrative director of UB's Undergraduate Academies. "The
combination of working in the schools and participating in the
seminar will allow them to see how they can take their academic
experience and apply it to achieve positive goals in the
Jenny Marie Wong, a senior chemistry major at UB, remembers her
experience fondly. While she was a freshman and sophomore in UB's
Honors College, she worked with inner-city students in the NAMS,
facilitating experiments and encouraging students to think
independently as they carried out their work.
"It was definitely a unique experience that I would recommend to
any student," she says. "Working with the students allowed me to
gain a better understanding and appreciation of the different
perspectives of others. Before I worked there, I had had no
experience working with students, nor did I have any understanding
of the challenges in inner-city schools."
Gardella, who has made a career out of mentoring, is a winner of
the 2005 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics
and Engineering Mentoring, administered by the National Science
Foundation. The awards honors individuals and organizations that
have demonstrated a commitment to mentoring students and boosting
the participation of minorities, women and disabled students in
science, mathematics and engineering. He applied some of his
National Science Foundation grant money from that award directly to
the Buffalo middle school programs.
In schools where students struggle with family, neighborhood and
financial difficulties, the changes that Gardella's programs have
made possible are dramatic.
"With this grant, we will be expanding the time that the UB
students are in the classroom with the teachers," he says. "I think
we are unusual in approaching service learning in schools for
support of science education in that we are looking to provide
mentoring and intensive hands-on science support. We are committed
to the longer term."
Maciejewski adds: "With there being no money for classroom
supplies, the partnership with UB has allowed for opportunities
that otherwise would not occur, such as labs and field trips. My
students now are afforded opportunities that other students, urban
or suburban, do not get to experience, such as UB professors
bringing their current research into our classroom and taking my
students to try out UB's equipment or see science demonstrations.
One UB professor actually brings us a human heart, brain and a pair
of lungs for the students to see and study close up."
In addition to Gardella, A. Scott Weber, PhD, UB vice provost
and dean for undergraduate education, and Dennis Black, UB vice
president for university life and services, also participated in
the successful grant proposal to the Association of American
Colleges and Universities.
More information on UB's Undergraduate Academies is available at
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.