September 20, 2004

New Outreach Office Opens

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For the past year, Stephen Hamilton, associate provost for outreach, has been setting up a new main office in Day Hall to connect existing outreach and extension programs at Cornell. His job is to look for ways to improve current outreach and make it more efficient. The program involves faculty and students sharing their resources and knowledge with county offices, teachers, K-12 students and community groups such as the 4-H club. There are many different outreach programs throughout Cornell, but this is the first time that they have been connected through a main office.

“Outreach is defined as activities in which resources of the University are shared with people who aren’t registered students or scholars,” Hamilton said. He added that outreach works both ways because it connects the University to the outside world and benefits others with its resources.

“I found it helpful to have some sort of centralized structure that I can link up with,” said David Bock, K-12 Outreach Coordinator, math.

“The new office has really organized everybody, now we can plan more collaborative events,” said Nicole Markelz, outreach coordinator, plant genome research program.

New Plans

According to Hamilton, there are plans for a teacher-professional development day at Cornell during spring break for science and math teachers in Ithaca and the surrounding school districts. Cornell is collaborating with the Sciencenter, Museum of the Earth and other organizations on the event. This is a way for Cornell outreach to be more efficient because multiple departments will be involved with the event.

Hamilton is also working on responding to issues of equity by increasing the number of women and under-represented minorities in science, math and engineering. He is also creating a main outreach website to link all of the programs at Cornell.

“We focus on youth development, helping kids develop life skills, decision-making, and increasing their awareness of opportunities in science,” said Charlotte Coffman, senior extension associate, textiles and apparel. The programs through her department are sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension. She said that there is an emphasis on hands-on projects. For example, in learning about fibrous plant products, public school students could make paper. They would learn about the paper-making process, recycling and the use of natural resources. Another hands-on program is testing detergent by smearing ketchup all over fabric and finding which detergent best removes it. Coffman said that there is a new 3-D body scanner that she is trying to relate to youth programs.

According to Bock, another outreach program underway is the Math Explorer’s Club, where students who have surpassed the level of math offered at the Ithaca High School can discuss advanced topics with Ph.D. candidates from the Cornell Math Department.

Coffman said that there are a few ways for Cornell students to get involved in outreach. These include taking a course where the professor exposes students to outreach, working for an outreach office, or volunteering. One example is Chemistry at the Mall where students volunteer to do science activities with kids at Pyramid Mall.

The National Science Foundation funds the outreach projects led by Lora K. Hine, education and outreach coordinator, elementary-particle physics. She said the NSF recently mandated that all grant proposals include an outreach component.

“The general public is paying for the scientific community to further their research, so with outreach they are giving back to the community,” Hine said. These outreach programs focus on topics such as electricity, magnetism, light, optics, math and probability, as well as elementary particle physics.

Archived article by Vanessa Hoffman
Sun Staff Writer