Centenary faculty members awarded Board of Regents enhancement grants

SHREVEPORT, LA — Two Centenary faculty members were selected to receive Louisiana Board of Regents Departmental Enhancement Grants this spring. Dr. Tom Ticich, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Sharon Little, instructor of education, both received funding for tools and equipment that will improve learning experiences for Centenary students.

“These enhancement grants fuel innovation and forward momentum for Louisiana higher education,” says Dr. Jenifer K. Ward, Provost and Dean of the College. “Centenary is lucky that the Board of Regents recognizes this intellectual potential in our state and commits resources to support it.”

Ticich’s grant will help upgrade one of Centenary’s computer classrooms to sustain and enhance the chemistry curriculum, particularly in organic chemistry and biochemistry courses. The classroom currently houses 13 computers with access to Spartan (a molecular modeling software program), MathCad (a computer algebra program) in addition to Microsoft Office products. Grant funds will allow Centenary to purchase new computers to replace these units and purchase licenses for the current versions of Spartan and MathCad. Access to these computers and software is critical to Centenary’s discovery-based and atoms-first general chemistry curriculum, a pedagogical approach that has been evolving over the past two decades. Molecular modeling is central to the atoms-first approach while also building critical thinking skills through free exploration. The use of MathCad in physical chemistry empowers students to solve complex numerical problems and to develop an intuitive understanding of mathematical models through exploration.

“The project sustains these efforts but also enhances instruction in organic chemistry and biochemistry,” explains Ticich. “The extension of molecular modeling to organic chemistry will enhance instruction on the dynamic nature of molecules and their transformations. The proposed biochemistry activity uses a problem in protein engineering to teach fundamental principles of biochemical structure and function while engaging higher-order skills in a medical application.”

The grant award will continue to prepare Centenary students for successful careers in the sciences and health professions by improving their ability to use computational tools to solve chemical problems. Of the 72 majors in chemistry and biochemistry graduating from Centenary in the last ten years, 34.7% entered medical school, 12.5% entered other professional schools, 25% entered graduate school, and 27.8% entered the work force directly.

The Board of Regents also awarded funding to Sharon Little’s request to upgrade classroom technology and provide expert technical training for students in Centenary’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. The new equipment, including virtual reality (VR) glasses, phones, and headsets, will help Centenary MAT students meet New Common Core State Standards and state mandates requiring knowledge of and competence in technology. Many local public and private K-12 schools have adopted Google Suite of Apps for Educators (GSuite) in classrooms, and the enhancement grant will help fund professional development classes in GSuite and VR technology for all Centenary MAT students. Following the GSuite training, MAT candidates will have the opportunity to test to become Certified Google Educators Level 1.

Little’s grant application explained that “Implementation of this project will sustain the Centenary College Department of Education’s mission to equip candidates with the knowledge and practical experience necessary to use the latest methods and technologies to teach specific sets of skills and prepare students for Louisiana’s digital workforce as well as improve, adopt, and implement effective teaching strategies.”

The Louisiana Board of Regents Departmental Enhancement grants are competitive awards made by the State of Louisiana to improve educational and research infrastructure and capacity in academic, research, and agricultural department and units.