Hands-In 3.3.23

Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff, Mrs. Rubin, a substitute Biology teacher sometime during high school, opened my eyes to hands-in education. We were learning Ecology the rote-memorization way, a large number of animal groups, eating one other, up the food chain. One morning, Mrs. Rubin gave each of us four stakes, a ball of twine, a ruler and some small containers, instructing us to mark off a 2-foot square plot anywhere we chose on the school grounds. Wow! We were not sure this was even allowed but obeyed with glee. And we were to conduct an inventory on our plot to quantify how the food chain animals were distributed. I put my plot in the library garden, thrilled to rout around, collecting small beetles, bugs, various worms, snails, tiny jumping springtails, a spider, and a praying mantis. Then I came across a very large moth, with blue eyespots on its grey coat, wingspan way wider than my hand. I called Mrs. Rubin who calmly held her hand next to the moth, which calmly climbed on. It likes the warmth of my hand, she said. We admired the lovely animal, and I did not put it in a container but left it to enjoy my plot. I have no recollection of what we did with the inventory. Perhaps we realized that most of the animals were herbivores near the bottom of the food chain, and only the lone spider and mantid were carnivores. But the transcendent power of moving from textbook to the real thing has stayed with me across decades, and the immeasurable valuable of learning hands-in. We do hands-in at Northeastern really well. (I know it’s usually called hands-on, but my term may reflect the immersive participation better.) We call it Experiential Education, that leads every student to understand why their academics are so useful. Experiential is in Northeastern’s deepest history, starting with work as a way to pay for college, morphing into work as a way to understand what college is for. This week, our COS Co-op unit hosted a Spring Mixer in Curry Ballroom, with hundreds of undergraduates and graduate students and many employer-partners. It was the first in-person mixer since February 2020, itself worthy of celebrating. Groups of students had ten-minute ‘dates’ with prospective employers, as they looked for their first Co-ops often across broad options, and for their second Co-ops with more experience and opinion. The varied employer-partners told me over and over how pleased they were to connect with Northeastern, with our outstanding students and our wonderful Co-op Teams. It was brilliant to see members of the undergraduate and graduate Co-op Teams in person, and I would like to sincerely thank every member of these Teams for your outstanding work, for making the promise of Co-op real for each College of Science undergraduate, and for increasing numbers of graduate students. Thank you and congratulations! As you know, Experiential Learning at Northeastern goes beyond Co-op, into research, service, global experiences, and multiple creative lab classes. This week we learned that four of five undergraduates chosen to be Northeastern candidates for the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship are College of Science majors, in Biochemistry, Biology or Physics. We also learned that Vivek Kanpa, a Biology major (also a Data Science major) with a minor in Mathematics, was awarded the prestigious Mitchell Scholarship. To the faculty involved in teaching these students, mentoring them, and providing valuable research experiences, thank you and congratulations! Every day, we give our College of Science students opportunities way beyond a two-foot square plot, but the idea is the same. Learn by routing about, hands-in, growing to understand where you want to put your talent and time. Thank you and congratulations! to every staff member, every faculty member for contributing to our important, wonderful experiential landscape. Next week is Spring Break. I hope many of you will get some well-deserved rest and replenishment. The Weekly will be back on March 17.