Victoria L. May, Science Outreach director since 1998, has been appointed assistant dean of Arts & Sciences by Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences.
The appointment was effective July 1.
“Vicki has made our Science Outreach program a model for other universities in this country,” said Macias. “This new position recognizes her great success and anticipates further outreach efforts in all parts of Arts & Sciences.”
“I think teaching is the hardest job in the world,” May said.
May knows of what she speaks. She is a former high school and college chemistry instructor, who since coming to the University in 1993 has dedicated her career to supporting K-12 teachers and students. May has been the director of science outreach since 1998.
As director of Science Outreach, May works closely with the science faculty to improve teaching and learning in K-12 schools. A strong believer in the power of partnerships among universities, science education organizations and schools, she has developed programs to help all students learn science through investigation and exploration.
Sarah C.R. Elgin, Ph.D., the Viktor Hamburger Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences, professor of biology and founder of Science Outreach, hired May as a consultant for the Modern Genetics high school program in 1993.
“Vicki has done a tremendous job of making Washington University’s expertise in science accessible for the K-12 community,” Elgin said. “She knows both worlds and is wonderful at making the right connections that lead to productive interactions. Without Vicki, we would still have a lot of good intentions, but much less to show for our efforts in science education outreach.”
The National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health, the State of Missouri, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and other private foundations fund science outreach projects.
Since coming to the University, May has been instrumental in securing outside funding of more than $19.7 million for K-12 outreach and undergraduate education programs. In 2006-07, science outreach graduate courses for teachers, school partnerships and student programs were budgeted at $3.6 million.
“Our work wouldn’t be possible without the wonderful University faculty and staff involved with our programs, many of whom donate their time to working with teachers and kids,” May said.
In the past year, May has worked with Department of Biology members Barbara Schaal, Ph.D., the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology; Jon Chase, Ph.D., associate professor; Tiffany Knight, Ph.D., assistant professor; Ken Olsen, Ph.D., assistant professor; Ursula Goodenough, Ph.D., professor; plus several graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to develop a master’s degree program in biology for high school teachers.
Called Life Sciences for a Global Community, the first cohort of teachers began studies in July, with support of $3.9 million from NSF.
May is the principal investigator for the MySci hands-on science for elementary students project, a partnership between the St. Louis Science Center, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Saint Louis Zoo and the Visual Communications Research Studio in the Sam Fox School of Art & Design.
Educators from area schools and these institutions collaborated to build the mobile Investigation Station, where young children can explore science through their senses. Supported by the Monsanto Fund, MySci fills an important gap especially for urban students in underserved school districts.
May also is a leader in science education at the national and statewide levels. She has served as an adviser to the American Society of Cell Biology’s education committee.
Most recently, she has assumed a leadership role in the education initiatives of the Missouri METS (Mathematics, Engineering, Technology, Science) coalition, which serves in an advisory role to Gov. Matt Blunt. Through the METS work, May hopes to improve workforce development in science and technical fields throughout the state.
May looks forward to broadening K-12 science education outreach efforts in the future.
“I am thrilled about the vote of confidence Dean Macias has shown in our work,” May said, “and hope it opens the door for greater collaboration among faculty and programs involved in K-12 education throughout Arts & Sciences.”