NASA grant to fund the start of a new educational program across four campuses
Nevada’s private space industry has been making headlines in recent months as private companies continue to blaze the trail with new partnerships with NASA and other leading private space-based initiatives. But now, Nevada’s students are about to be the next in line to take a bold step into the unknown.
The Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) was awarded funding of $500,000 through the Nevada NASA Space Grant Consortium (NVSGC) for the creation of a new program that will change how Nevada’s community college students learn, all the while planting the seed for an education system that will help staff Nevada’s future space and science-related industries.
Titled “A Community College Partnership Creating a Community of Practice Model to Engage and Retain Minority Students,” the program will create a community of practice (CoP) at each campus involved in the program. Though the term CoP is a fairly newly coined term, the concept isn’t.
“Communities of practice are how humans have traditionally learned since the dawn of time,” said Dr. Darren Divine, vice president of academic affairs for College of Southern Nevada. “People who share similar interests create communities around those interests; students have been doing this for quite some time via study groups. However, this program will take that concept to a whole new level, adding a virtual element that will eliminate distance as an obstacle.”
With a CoP established at each of the four participating campuses — College of Southern Nevada, Western Nevada College, Great Basin College and Truckee MeadowsCommunity College — the program will link each group to the others with monthly video conferences. Starting in the spring of 2015, students will receive significant participant (scholarship) support, individualized degree planning and weekly interdisciplinary biological and physical science study and inquiry as they work towards Associate of Science degrees. This program will support faculty as they present science content in ways that impact student persistence and graduation attainment.
“Students can learn a great deal from one another — sometimes even more than from the classroom itself,” Divine said. “This program will give them access to students from across the state, and as a result, varying perspectives they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.”