Office of Public Affairs
Nov. 29, 2001
CONTACT: Alok Kumar, 312-2695
NASA TAPS SUNY OSWEGO PROFESSOR TO EVALUATE NATIONAL PROGRAM
OSWEGO -- SUNY Oswego physics Professor Alok Kumar was recently named a NASA Opportunities for Visionary Academics faculty fellow for 2001-02, but he is quick to credit others at the college for the honor.
Kumar is one of only five educators nationwide selected to review the NOVA program, which encourages colleges to develop pre-service courses to help future teachers become more qualified to teach math, science and technology. The fellowship requires him to evaluate participating college programs across the Northeast and as far away as Wisconsin and North Carolina.
"NASA realized that they can get more benefits, more top minds interested in sciences, if they trained pre-service teachers," Kumar said of NOVA, which was launched in 1995. "They know these teachers will go out, get a job and provide quality instruction to the American youth."
Kumar said that NASA's investments supporting all levels of education -- from elementary schools to colleges -- have rocketed upward in recent years. "In 1992, they spent $66 million just for educational purposes. In 1999, they spent $100 million," he said. "They need the best scientists. Their success largely depends on the educational system we have in this country."
SUNY Oswego's partnership with NASA/NOVA began in 1999, when Kumar, Jack Narayan of the math department and Carl Salvagin of the technology department teamed up under a NOVA grant to develop a pair of interdisciplinary courses making math, science and technology topics more inquiry-based and participatory.
"With inquiry-based systems, instructors and students are both active participants in the learning process, asking questions and developing solutions," Kumar explained.
That initial success led to Kumar's selection as a NOVA faculty fellow, but the physics professor deflects any personal plaudits. "The reason I was selected for this honor is because this college has so many quality people. Team work is very important in higher education," Kumar said. "It's not just my honor. It is a victory for my colleagues in the department and my NOVA team members. It is an honor to all of them."
At the end of the NOVA program reviews, all the faculty fellows and program leaders will meet next summer at the University of Alabama to share experiences. "It will be a wonderful opportunity to hear what is going on nationally," Kumar noted.
"My hope is that it provides some new opportunities for SUNY Oswego," he said. "It's helping the learner-centered process on this campus. That's the main reason I am getting involved."
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