As I said before, I went a SPIN-UP workshop (you can find tons of info and the SPIN-UP report here). The basic idea of the SPIN-UP program is to first look at schools that are successful in their production of undergraduate physics majors. And with an understanding of what makes them successful, help other institutions become successful. Maybe you couldn’t make it to the meeting, so here are some highlights. Oh. I believe that this highlights have very general applications. Although this is aimed at undergraduate physics, it seems it would apply to many other majors and maybe even to high school.
My initial guess was that building a community of learners was one of the most important things to do to help the program. It seems that the others at the workshop agree. For our institution, the plan is to not only build communities, but to connect them. We want to make a connection between the upper level students, newbie students and high school students. You know, make the students do our work for us (I am kidding).
This is the best thing I got from the workshop. When you get some physicists together to discuss what needs to be done, the natural tendency is to think and talk about how the administration could change or something else that is outside our control. Yes, changing some of these things would be nice (suppose we want a new building or more faculty etc…). But, don’t dwell on this. You can’t do anything about it. However, if you focus on the stuff you CAN do, it can and will make a difference. It was nice to see other programs that had problems yet still thrived. We want to be that program.
Physicists are Funny
It sure is nice to be around others who have a similar sense of humor. When I go into a class, I have to turn off part of my smart-assness. With other physicists, I can be who I am. They are just as bad as I am. I like that.