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Westminster Rises Among Leading Institutions in Transforming Student Learning Experiences

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Posted on Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Westminster College was selected as one of only 12 institutions in the country to be part of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Transformations Project. The CUR Transformations Project is a four-year project designed to create cohesive, research-based undergraduate curricula in biology, chemistry, physics and psychology programs. Supported with funding from the National Science Foundation, Westminster is now among leading institutions pursuing school and college-wide transformations in student learning through undergraduate research.

According to Mitch Malachowski, lead principal investigator of the CUR Transformations Project, “[Westminster’s] proposal really stood out amongst the many strong proposals [that were] received.” Along with other accepted institutions, Westminster will attend a collective meeting later this year in Washington D.C to launch the project.

“The project will support the integration of research into Westminster’s biology and psychology program curriculums, and the interdisciplinary neuroscience program and related molecular biology major as well,” says Dr. Karen Resendes, Co-Director of Undergraduate Research and Associate Professor of Biology (Institutional Contact).

In addition to working with consultants provided by CUR (one for biology and one for psychology), teams of Westminster biology and psychology faculty members will use the support provided by the grant to attend national workshops and training sessions. Funding has also been delegated towards conducting professional development at Westminster.  

“Exactly what the outcome of our projects will look like will depend on the decisions each program makes on how to move forward when we meet our consultants,” added Resendes. “No matter how we proceed the goals of the grant are to build on our current published successes in research in the curriculum and to make the transformations of these programs a model for growth across campus.”

The success of Westminster’s proposal was a joint effort thanks to teams of biology and psychology faculty members who serve in college-wide roles that directly impact the ability to carry out the aims of the grant. The Institutional Coordinating Leadership Team members includes: Dr. Karen Resendes; Dr. Jamie McMinn, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Psychology; Dr. Sandra Webster, Chair of Outcomes Assessment Advisory Committee and Professor of Psychology; Dr. John Robertson, Chair of Curriculum Committee and Program Coordinator/Associate Professor of Biology (Designated Contact Biology); and Dr. Mandy Medvin, Program Coordinator/Professor of Psychology.

Since coming on in June, incoming Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Dr. Jeffrey Coker has agreed to join the Institutional Coordinating Leadership Team.

“This is wonderfully symbolic of Westminster’s emerging national leadership in the area of undergraduate research, and experiential learning more broadly,” says Coker.

Departmental leadership teams include faculty members from various sub-disciplines. The biology leadership team includes Dr. Joshua Corrette-Bennett, Associate Professor of Biology (former chair of the biology department); Dr. Diana Ortiz, Assistant Professor of Biology; and institutional team members Resendes and Robertson.

The psychology leadership team includes Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Dr. Deanne Buffalari and institutional team members Webster and Medvin. Buffalari teaches learning, cognition, and behavioral neuroscience, all courses that include undergraduate research. Webster, professor of psychology, has significant experience in department administration, assessment and faculty development. Medvin, current psychology program chair, has led curriculum development at an institutional level.

For more information, contact Tom Fields at or 724-946-7190.