Six Universities Join Renowned Network to Improve Research & Teaching Skills of Future STEM Faculty

The CIRTL Network aims to grow international membership next

May 28, 2020   |   By Lynn Armitage, WCER Communications

A new cohort of universities in the U.S. and Canada will be welcomed this fall into the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), an international network of 35 research universities dedicated to delivering more effective undergraduate STEM learning by ensuring that today’s STEM graduate students—the science, technology, engineering and math faculty of the future—are skilled in both teaching and research.

“Our goal is to develop a STEM faculty of great researchers who are also great teachers, not one or the other,” says Kitch Barnicle, associate director of the CIRTL Network, operated within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research in UW─Madison’s School of Education.

CIRTL’s six new members include: University of Arizona; University of Florida; University of Houston; University of Idaho; University of Illinois─Chicago; and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Each member university is tasked with developing its own local learning community within which graduate students can learn and implement proven STEM teaching practices that meet the needs of a diverse undergraduate student population. These learning communities are built on CIRTL’s core ideas of teaching-as-research, learning communities and learning-through-diversity.

“Our newest member universities will bring an even greater diversity in the expertise that the Network is giving our future faculty,” says CIRTL Director Robert Mathieu, a UW‒Madison astronomy professor and former WCER director. “Several of our new partner institutions emphasize teaching indigenous students, while others contribute valuable experience serving students in urban multicultural environments.”

To help build their unique local communities, CIRTL members gain access to multiple Network resources, including ongoing professional development, program evaluation guides, research briefs and―highly relevant to this new COVID-19 era―online, cross-Network courses, workshops and drop-in events.

“Now, during this pandemic, having a strong virtual learning community of peers and an established program of online offerings across the CIRTL Network provides members with a way to collaborate and leverage shared resources to better serve our graduate students and postdocs,” says Barnicle.

CIRTL, launched in 2003 at UW–Madison, has always been ahead of the curve in remote learning, says Mathieu. “Because our member institutions are based across North America, CIRTL was shovel-ready to help faculty and graduate students develop their online teaching skills at each university through our cross-Network learning community.”

Next year, Mathieu will continue to connect the CIRTL Network internationally when he moves to Chile as a Fulbright Scholar. CIRTL’s director garnered this honor with a proposal based on connecting STEM higher education across nations. “Chile has made a national commitment to advancing its world position in STEM fields,” and Mathieu says he looks forward to representing CIRTL and collaborating with Chilean faculty and students on STEM teaching and research.

Adam Fontecchio, a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Network member Drexel University, has been tapped to serve as CIRTL’s acting director while Mathieu is away.