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Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) Diplomacy: Preliminary Results from an Initial Pilot Course

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Embedding Sociotechnical Systems Thinking II

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Daniel B. Oerther Missouri University of Science & Technology Orcid 16x16

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Professor Daniel B. Oerther, PhD, PE, BCEE, CEng, D.AAS, F.AAN, F.RSA, F.RSPH joined the faculty of the Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2010 after ten years on the faculty of the University of Cincinnati where he served as Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Since 2014, he has concurrently served as a Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State in the areas of environment, science, technology, and health (ESTH). Oerther earned his B.A. in biological sciences and his B.S. in environmental health engineering from Northwestern University (1995), and he earned his M.S. (1998) in environmental health engineering and his Ph.D. (2002) from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has completed postgraduate coursework in Microbial Ecology from the Marine Biology Laboratory, Environmental Health from the University of Cincinnati, Public Health from The Johns Hopkins University, and Public Administration from Indiana University, Bloomington. Oerther is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE, DC, MO, and OH), Board Certified in Environmental Engineering (BCEE) by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientist (AAEES), and registered as a Chartered Engineer (CEng) by the U.K. Engineering Council. He is recognized as a Diplomate of the American Academy of Sanitarians (D.AAS). His scholarship, teaching, service, and professional practice focus in the fields of environmental biotechnology and sustainable development where he specializes in promoting Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH), food and nutrition security, energy efficiency, and poverty alleviation. Oerther's awards for teaching include the best paper award from the Environmental Engineering Division of ASEE, as well as recognition from the NSPE, the AAEES, and the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP). He participated in both the 2006 and the 2015 conferences of the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) as well as the 2011 Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium (FOEE) of the U.S. National Academies. Oerther is a four-time recipient of Fulbright, and he has been recognized with a Meritorious Honor Award by the U.S. Department of State. Due to his collaborations with nurses and healthcare professionals, Professor Oerther has been inducted as a Lifetime Honorary Member of Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing (STTI), and he has been inducted as a Lifetime Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (F.AAN). Dan is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (F.RSA) and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health (F.RSPH).

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The emergent, interdisciplinary topic of “Science Diplomacy” includes: 1) training scientists to serve as diplomats (i.e., integrating the ‘art’ of political science into the STEM disciplines to create STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art, and math), 2) empowering countries to collaborate on scientific advancement through diplomacy (i.e., CERN and the international space station), and 3) building cross-cultural relationships among scientists from different countries (i.e., Fulbright exchange in STEM disciplines). Because science diplomacy occurs at the nexus of diverse disciplines, it is simultaneously difficult for a single individual to learn the full range of topics necessary to offer such a course, and it is structurally problematic for two or more faculty from diverse academic departments (often in different colleges) to co-teach such a course (i.e., cross listing a course among a Department of Engineering and a Department of Political Science can be a challenge). Nonetheless, training students in Science Diplomacy is critically important to – inter alia – manage the global environment (i.e., polar regions, oceans, transnational freshwater, biodiversity, and atmospheric quality), to protect global health (i.e., biodefense, pandemics, and emergent infections), and to share human-made technological ecosystems (i.e., infrastructure, energy production, outer space, and the internet). Recognizing the need to bridge science and diplomacy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) created the Center for Science Diplomacy, launched the quarterly publication, Science & Diplomacy, and has begun to offer short courses and research gatherings. A very limited number of institutions have also begun to offer courses on “Science Diplomacy” – Tufts, Columbia, and NYU – and some institutions are creating MOOCs in science diplomacy – SUNY has a MOOC with a specialization in global health diplomacy. Recently, a monograph originally prepared in French was translated into English and is being marketed by Springer as a ‘text book’ for Science Diplomacy instruction.

Through a Presidential initiative at our university, a new course, cross-listed between the a Department of Engineering and a Department of Political Science has been developed. The course consists of three major cognitive (knowledge) activities, including: 1) students complete low-level Bloom’s taxonomy learning (i.e., recall) through listening to pre-recorded lectures, reviewing assigned reading, and completing low-stakes, frequent online quizzes (i.e., a flipped classroom); 2) students complete high-level Bloom’s taxonomy learning (i.e., creation) through the preparation of two, term-length written documents, namely: a) the construction of a new, comprehensive case study of science diplomacy on a topic selected by the student and approved by the instructor; and b) an application for a science diplomacy fellowship/internship/scholarship (i.e., term-length inductive learning); and 3) students complete mid-level Bloom’s taxonomy learning (i.e., analysis) through completing five, one-page, essays in response to existing case studies (i.e., rubric-based grading of essays). To accommodate the diverse learning styles and preferred means of assessment for a diverse student population across multiple disciplines, course grading also includes asynchronous, regular participation in an online discussion board (i.e., course participation), a written midterm, and a written final exam all aimed at low and mid-level Bloom’s taxonomy learning. A ‘buffet approach’ is used to assign final grades with students completing a sub-set of available assignments providing ample opportunities for each student to demonstrate ‘excellence’ (i.e., ‘A’) in learning the cognitive content.

To supplement the cognitive (knowledge) content, learning in the affective (attitude) domain is achieved through online journaling with self-assessment, peer feedback, and instructor evaluation. Code-word searches are used to document personal growth in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Learning in the psychomotor (skills) domain is achieved through mock negotiations among teams of students employing a Model United Nations activity.

This article will present the format of the course and the results of evaluation of a pilot offering.

Oerther, D. B. (2018, June), Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) Diplomacy: Preliminary Results from an Initial Pilot Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30952

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