Aileen Beard hopes to accomplish many things as the College’s dean of the School of Sciences. One goal stands above the rest.
“St. Scholastica is not a research university, but undergraduate research is an important part of preparing students for the world now,” she said. “It’s been done here for a while. I’m hoping to institutionalize it, to make it a reason students come here.
“I plan to help the faculty become aware of opportunities out there. I’ll help find funding, and provide faculty the time to work with students. My primary goal is to have the Schools of Sciences be known as a place of creative, innovative teaching and strong undergraduate research.
“To me, undergrad research is where the real teaching happens. Teaching one-on-one, or one-on-two. It’s amazing how far students can come through collaborative work.”
Beard’s doctorate is in organic chemistry, with a specialty in organic synthesis. She joined the College in 2012, coming from teaching at Benedictine College in Kansas.
“The Benedictine heritage was a strong selling point” for St. Scholastica, she said. “I’d been teaching 18 years in that tradition.”
And what does the Benedictine way mean to her?
“It’s really the strong sense of community. We’re all in this together and we’re all working toward the same goals. I see that in play here.”
Asked for an example, she rattles off several without hesitation.
When the College dedicated the new Science Center addition at the start of the 2012-2013 academic year, she had been here all of a couple months.
“Even though I didn’t have anything to do with that building project, they wanted me to be up there when the ribbon was cut,” she said. “I felt honored, and like I was at home.
“During employee orientation, Sister Mary Rochefort” – associate vice president for mission integration – “talked to us about the Benedictine community and their values, and she sincerely invited us to be a part of that. That was very powerful.
“And every day when I walk through this beautiful space” – the Benedictine Commons in the Science Center – “I see how important science has been in the history (of the College). One the wall are (pictures of) the Sisters in their habits, in the labs, doing science when it was unusual for any woman to be in science. It feels good to be part of this fascinating heritage.”
Fostering interdisciplinary learning is another goal.
“This doesn’t have to be within the School of Sciences. I want to engage real-world problems. For instance, sustainability. What about combining biology and economics? One of the possibilities is to have a learning micro-community in which a group of students takes several courses along a theme, in a way that brings out the interconnections between disciplines.
“This approach isn’t new, but neither is it widely used yet. My vision is to be open to opportunities.”