Richard Cardullo Named Vision and Change Leadership Fellow, Susan Singer Serving as Program Advisor

Publish Date: 
Wed, 12/19/2012
  • Vision and Change Leadership Fellowship Program is a joint initiative of NSF, HHMI, and NIH/NIGMS
  • BSCS Board Chair Richard Cardullo selected as one of 40 Vision and Change Leadership Fellows
  • Former BSCS Board member Susan Singer serving as Fellowship program advisor
  • Read interviews with Richard Cardullo and Susan Singer, below
  • Read News Release, courtesy of PULSE

BSCS Board of Directors Chair Richard Cardullo has been selected as one of 40 Vision and Change Leadership Fellows to take part in the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE) program. The Vision and Change Leadership Fellowship is a joint initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and the National Institutes of Health/NIGMS (NIH/NIGMS).

The 40 post-secondary life sciences faculty members were competitively selected from more than 250 applicants for their experience in catalyzing reform in undergraduate biology education. The Fellows are working as a team to produce an implementation framework describing strategies for change within academic departments.

Former BSCS Board Member Susan Singer is serving as an advisor with the Fellowship program.

How did you become interested in this work?

CARDULLO: To be quite honest, it came from the the Vision and Change report, to which Susan was a major contributor and is something she’s been passionate about, something many of us have been passionate about.

Many of us have been frustrated for a long time. There have been a lot of documents over the years saying that we need change, and we haven’t seen the change. I think we have the vision. The hard part is the change, and one of the, I think, brilliant strokes in the vision and change document is suggesting this group.

The fact that these three major funding agencies--NSF, HHMI, and NIH--which fund most of science in this country, are saying this is important and we’re putting our support behind it, is critical.

It's exciting that we are equally represented between research universities, comprehensive universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges. It's really exciting talking to people from community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and comprehensive universities, and getting their point of view and seeing that we have a lot more in common than we have differences.

What do you personally bring to the table?

Right now I’m actually in a phase where I’m learning more than I’m giving back, and that’s what learning’s about anyway, early on. I have a long-term commitment of wanting to effect change. Over my 22-year career as a professor, for instance, I’ve always taught introductory courses, and I’ll never give it up. Even when I was a dean I never gave it up. There is an excitement talking to freshmen - they’re not a blank slate, they bring their own experiences. I’m at an institution that has a great deal of ethnic diversity, and they’re constantly challenging me to teach in different ways.

One of the things I can bring [to the Fellowship] is my own experiences coming from that type of university, and I can talk to somebody else who comes from a completely different environment. We have a very rich discussion about that, because everybody brings something different to the table.

Dr. Cardullo is a Distinguished Teaching Professor of Biology at the University of California Riverside.

How did you become involved in the Fellowship Program?

SINGER: As Rich has said, we’ve both cared deeply about this for a long time. I’ve been at Carleton for 27 years. In about 1999, I was at NSF in the BIO Directorate, and Terry Woodin, one of the program officers in Education and Human Resources, and I started a monthly brown bag lunch to get BIO and EHR folks to talk to each other. It was a little tiny seed that was planted and then I went back to my own institution.

Within NSF those seeds took hold, and they provided the first funding for AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) to hold all of the first regional meetings. Then with the large national meeting and the Vision and Change report, it became clearer and clearer that the pressure point was the department.

We can help individuals and they can make a huge difference, but unless we shift the culture in the departments, it’s not going to go. Having had the good fortune to be at a department that has really worked well together over the years to achieve common goals, I just really believe that’s the way in.

How do you see this Fellowship group working together?

We’ve got this amazing group of Fellows like Rich working together to really change departmental culture, and, as Rich says, we have NIH, NSF, and HHMI for the first time ever. I can't underscore how historic this is to have these three agencies working together. Each of them can push and support different kinds of things. What’s possible is powerful.

This [Fellowship] is totally new in terms of structure and in terms of really pushing departmental change at scale. I think the stroke of brilliance in all of this is bringing in Know Innovation, which is an international consulting firm that has a tremendous amount of experience fostering creativity in groups. In a very short amount of time, these very talented folks have identified several different groups that have incredibly good ideas and plans for how to provide resources for the broader community, ways to go that will really support this change.

One thing I’d like to emphasize is that we have the PULSE fellows, and they’re amazing. We also have advisors and program officers supporting them, and everyone is embedded in this very large community of hundreds and hundreds of people that already have joined the virtual PULSE community. There are many visioning change efforts that continue to spring up all over the place. I see the PULSE Fellows as providing incredible leadership and filling in a gap that compliments what others are working on, and that’s really providing this push at the department level.

The Fellows are not changing just their own departments. Clearly their departments will change as a result of this, but the point is not to get these folks to just go back home and change their approach. The point is to bring their leadership skills and creativity together to figure out how they can provide the resources and the guidance to leverage change in institutions across the country.

There are visiting teams that are coming along, there are toolkits that are being developed, and there are conversations about certification for departments that are ready. The ideas are brilliant and they seem to be resonating with the community.

Dr. Singer is a Laurence McKinley Gould Professor of Natural Sciences at Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota.

News Release courtesy of PULSE

College Biology Faculty Named Leadership Fellows
40 fellows will help reform how life sciences are taught in post-secondary institutions

WASHINGTON, DC – The Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE)
program announced that it has selected 40 Vision and Change Leadership Fellows. The
fellows will identify and consider how to eliminate barriers to the systemic changes that are
needed to improve undergraduate life sciences education.

The PULSE program is a joint initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Howard
Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The effort is
supporting a yearlong program in which Vision and Change Leadership Fellows consider and
then recommend models for improving undergraduate life sciences education.

“The fellows represent a diverse group of extremely capable faculty,” said Judith Verbeke of
NSF. “They bring a variety of experiences that will inform the development of an
implementation framework that will transform undergraduate education in the life sciences.”
These post-secondary life sciences faculty members were competitively selected by an expert
panel for their experience in catalyzing reform in undergraduate biology education.

After evaluating more than 250 applications, the PULSE steering committee selected the fellows
announced today. These individuals come from 24 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and
represent research universities, liberal arts colleges, comprehensive/regional universities, and
two-year colleges.

“We are very excited about the work on which the fellows are about to embark,” said Clifton A.
Poodry of NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences. “The PULSE program will
help move life sciences education forward.”

“The strong response we received to the call for applications reflects broad consensus in the
community that change is needed,” said HHMI’s Cynthia Bauerle. The way biology is taught
needs to change in order to spark student interest in science and prepare them to answer
challenging 21st century problems. “The time is now,” said Bauerle.

In 2006, NSF initiated a multi-year conversation with the scientific community, with assistance
from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. That dialogue, which was cofunded
by NIH and HHMI, generated the 2011 report, Vision and Change in Undergraduate
Biology Education: A Call to Action.

The scientific community actively informed the recommendations in the Vision and Change
report. Among these were a recognition that a 21st century education requires changes to how
biology is taught, how academic departments support faculty, and how curricular decisions are

“To foster this widespread systemic change, NSF, HHMI, and NIH launched the PULSE
program,” said Verbeke. Supporting the effort are Knowinnovation, Inc. and the American
Institute of Biological Sciences.

PULSE will stimulate systemic change in undergraduate life science education by focusing on
strategies that drive institutional change. Because a change in institutional culture is needed,
PULSE activities are focused on academic departments and not individual faculty members.
In May, PULSE announced a national competition to identify Vision and Change Leadership
Fellows. The 40 fellows announced today will produce an implementation framework
describing strategies for change. This document will be available on the PULSE website where
other life scientists may review it and provide comments from November 2012 until May 2013.
The biology community is encouraged to review and enrich this framework via the PULSE
online colleague community. Program organizers stress that they welcome the participation of
the breadth of the post-secondary life sciences community.

A list of the Vision and Change Leadership Fellows is available at
Learn more about PULSE or engage with the growing online PULSE community.