In the past few years, the folks associated with the New Paltz EvoS program have been working directly with Paul Bingham and Joanne Souza at Stonybrook – who are, in their own way, working on the same thing as we are – cutting-edge undergraduate evolution education. They are creating and delivering high-quality curriculum for undergraduate students to develop a basic understanding of evolution and, moreoever, an understanding of how this education can lead to new insights into findings that permeate academia.
In 2003, David Sloan Wilson and his colleagues created the first-ever campus wide program in interdisciplinary Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) – and this program has immediately become a stalwart figure within the Binghamton curriculum.
And New Paltz’s own EvoS program started on the heels of these other programs – formally starting in 2007. Each of these programs provides students with basic opportunities to learn deeply about the basics of evolutionary theory (e.g., natural selection, sexual selection, byproducts, multi-level selection, etc.) – and each curriculum has advanced classes that connect the ideas of evolution in a near-infinite number of directions – connecting with such diverse areas as plant biology to the philosophy of war – and everything in between.
At some point, we started working together – with great success. A recent NSF grant that funded the expansion of the EvoS idea came to the tune of $500K to help New Paltz and Binghamton expand our offerings and programs and make them easily connectable to other institutions and programs.
In working with Stonybrook, we quickly realized potential for another major contributor to this cause. And the folks at Albany (such as super-star Gordon Gallup) have also expressed strong interest in developing an EvoS program at that major institution.
Working together. That’s the motto here. Individually, each institution can offer only so much. But if we start to connect with our sister organiziations that include their own sets of curricula and related details, we’ve got something big on our hands. And if we start thinking just a bit about this “64 campues in the SUNY System” thing, possibilities permeate the sky.
I’m happy to say that all the players on this team are contributors – the group working on this is as capable, productive, and fun as any group I’ve worked on across my career. Further, this is a group that is used to finding large success follow their work and reasoning. So there’s a lot of reason for optimism.
We’re currently at the planning stages – and we may stay at this level for a spell. But make no mistake about it – the SUNY-Wide EvoS program – which we’ll bill as the single broadest and deepest evolution education offered on earth – is coming soon – so keep your eyes open.
Possibilities may include various high-quality online classes offered to students across the SUNY System and beyond, study abroad opportunities for students to spend some time on a sister campus for a semester or year or so, SUNY-wide EvoS conferences where individuals from these different groups could join together, share ideas, and plan the future, and more. If you believe, as we do, that evolution education is the next great thing in higher education since the cap and gown, you should keep an eye on this trend – and we’d be glad to hear from others regarding how to get involved.
Currently, we’re working, with the formidable Rosemarie Chang at the helm, on a large grant to help support the future of this project. As with anything great, it’s a long-shot. But I’ll say confidently that knowing who all the players are, this one’s going to go regardless (grant or otherwise). It’s a matter of time and at least minor resources – and major resourcefuless (which, and you’ll see as you age, is much more important than ‘resources’ that come in any size). While the current members of this team can build mountains with solid and well-targeted external funding, my best guess is that mountains are going to be built on this one in any case. The issues at hand are too crucial in terms of the future of evolution education – and the players at hand are too successful, motivated, and talented to fail at something this important.
And while we’re not exactly steering the HMS Beagle, I suggest not missing the boat!