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XCIT 2017

We invite you to join the Xavier Contemplative Inquiry Team for the 2017-2018 school year. We meet monthly over the course of the year and provide support for each member’s personal practice, contemplative pedagogy, and related research. This year, we'll be adopting an explicit focus on STEM disciplines to examine some of the exciting scientific research in this area. The team is open to all faculty, staff and students.

Read more on our wiki, then download the call for participation and apply today.

by Tiera S. Coston


"Colorful World Globe Human Family" by GDJ is licensed under CC BY.

The idea of diversity has been a popular theme in every aspect of society from sports and politics to  economics and education. And, it should be. Countless studies have shown that diverse groups make better decisions and obtain better results than uniform groups. The nature of the diversity includes everything from ethnicity, gender, and the type of work performed to  sexual orientation,  geographic location and religion. Richard Freeman and Wei Huang specifically demonstrated this phenomenon in the area of research. Through an analysis of 2.5 million research papers, the duo revealed that papers with a more ethnically diverse group of authors were published in higher-impact journals and were cited more often than papers whose authors were of the same ethnicity.1 There are many possible reasons for this effect, but some cited by Freeman and Wei include: 1) a greater variety of perspectives addressing the problem; 2) extra effort or work put in by group members to overcome possible cultural or communication barriers; 3) exposure of the group's work to diverse networks because of the makeup of the group; and 4) exposure of the group to various tools and languages to address the problem. Despite these advantages, we, as individuals in society, tend to collaborate most with those with whom we have similarities on some level. Studies like the one conducted by Freeman and Huang provide us a glimpse of potential successes, breakthroughs and triumphs that are possible when we engage in problem-solving with diverse teams. We are called upon to use this information as an impetus to purposefully seek out collaborative relationships with those whose background, outlook, and professional and personal circles are different from our own.

1. Freeman RB, Huang W. Collaborating with People Like Me: Ethnic Co-Authorship within the U.S. Journal of Labor Economics, Special Issue on High Skill Immigration [Internet]. 2015;33 (3):S289-S318.

by Karen Nichols

At last month's OLC Innovate Conference here in New Orleans, I attended many interesting sessions. I found the one on particularly useful and would like to share it with you.

The Brainfacts site is the brainchild of the Society for Neuroscience.  According to the presenter, Alissa Ortman, the original intent was to publish correct information in easy to understand language and dispel myths about their field.  The site, which now has numerous partners and contributors, is a safe, reliable resource for you to recommend to your students.  The contributors are all vetted and the information is presented using a variety of tools and platforms and written at about a tenth-grade level.  You can also sign up for their blog, or follow them on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Information for Educators, the Press and Policymakers may be accessed from the top right of the homepage.  The information has been curated into 6 categories in a dropdown format which can be accessed from several different webpages.  They are:  About Neuroscience, Brain Basics, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving, Diseases & Disorders, Across the Lifespan, and In Society.

Here are a few links to give you a sample of the information and formats:

Video:  Why Does Food Make Your Mouth Water?

Podcast: Patient HM and His Missing Memories

Blog:  Zika:  10 Things to Know

I'm following on both Facebook and Twitter and I hope you'll find the information interesting and useful too.


Download Conversation #45

Calvin Mackie

A conversation with Dr. Calvin Mackie of STEM NOLA on teaching, learning, and service learning.

Dr. Calvin Mackie is one of the nation’s most prolific young STEM and Educational Motivational Speakers and Leaders. He is an award winning mentor, an international renowned motivational speaker, and a successful entrepreneur. His message as a mentor, speaker, entrepreneur and former engineering professor continues to transcend race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and time. His passion and talent is totally devoted to helping people unleash their greatness and transcend personal and societal barriers. Operating under the premise that exposure and experience are two important parameters of success, he utilizes unique strategies and methodologies to motivate and inspire. Calvin Mackie has lectured widely throughout the United States, helping people change the way they think about achieving their lifelong dreams through education in general, and STEM specifically.

Links for this episode:

...continue reading "Conversation #45: Calvin Mackie on STEM"

Do you require your students to write a research paper for your course? How do they do? Are they full of Wikipedia references or do your students have a good handle on primary sources?

For years I have struggled with that issues in my senior level Drug Design and Synthesis course. Despite lengthy talks and handouts on the subject, I would get a whole lot of WebMD in the final papers. Years ago, I had the students go to the library one class period for research and reference instruction. At some point, students started telling me that they have heard that lecture several times in other courses, so I stopped requiring it. But the papers got worse and worse.

I then contacted the science librarian, Mary George, and discussed the assignment with her. She set up a personal website for my students that had many of the resources they needed for that paper. Check it out:

It has the best search engines for our topics, links to online journals that we have subscriptions to, links for inter library loan, etc. It is AWESOME!

We then had a class in the computer lab in the library where we all used the website and became familiar with it. I had the students pull a reference for a literature reading assignment so they could a) walk through how to access those journals and b) leave that day with that paper in hand. I then had them begin searching for their research paper topic. Mary and I were there to help them trouble shoot and by the end of the class period they were all on their way to gathering sources for their final research papers.

It was a huge success. But the real benefit came when I read the papers. There was not a Wikipedia or WebMD reference to be found. The students used real primary sources and the paper quality was much improved.

I highly recommend you contacting your division/department librarian to set up this tool for your course. It is a fabulous resource for all faculty.

This summer I discovered an invaluable resource I never realized we had here at Xavier (I am embarrassed to say after 12 years here) and that is our research librarians.  I was writing a pedagogical paper which used very different search engines and resources than my normal scholarly publications in chemistry.  Quite frankly, I was at a loss as to where to start searching for background materials related to my paper.

On the library main page, you can select services and click 'request consultation' to get to the form.  (Or click here:

Johanna White contacted me and we had a great chat about what I was trying to do.  She walked me through a few resources and then decided to dig around on her own.  About a week later I got a great email from her with more suggestions on which journals to search and how to access them.

If you are considering writing and publishing  a pedagogical paper (which is, in fact valued by the university and the rank and tenure committee) but the educational and social sciences are outside of your field of research, I can HIGHLY recommend working with one our our research librarians.   Once you summarize your project on the form they will decide who would be the best fit for your project.  It is as easy as that!

Now, if only someone can help me with not using the passive voice...

Cheers, Stassi

Dr. Kandethody Ramachandran visited Xavier University of Louisiana to discuss the details and accomplishments of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP) Project at the University of South Florida (USF). Dr. Ramachandran described how methods were instituted that effectively advanced student success in Calculus. The STEP project at USF is based on the premise that success in calculus is the gateway to success in the STEM fields. STEP is aimed at increasing STEM graduates through intervention programs in the Engineering and Life Science Calculus sequences. Through this project, several transportable strategies such as, one stop extended hour tutoring lab (STEM Mart), project-based teaching, and peer leading have been developed and implemented. These multiple strategies have transformed the teaching of calculus at USF and are leading to increased retention and pass rates for students. Also, faculty are enthusiastic in implementing these strategies in their class rooms. STEM Mart is a tutoring center that provides undergraduate students in the STEM disciplines an opportunity to receive free tutoring from other successful undergraduate students selected by the program. In project based teaching, “bridge” projects were introduced into Engineering Calculus II and III and Life Sciences Calculus II. Students work with a faculty member or supervisor in their workplace to define a problem, write and analyze appropriate equations, and write a narrative report – in essence, they write a story problem, and then answer it and write it up as a scientific report. In peer leading, a curriculum of inquiry-based activities was developed that follows the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. Undergraduate peer leaders lead weekly, 50-minute guided-inquiry sessions in Engineering and Life Science Calculus I. The curricula developed by faculty and graduate students focus on guiding students to discover concepts of calculus prior to lecture, along with algebra and trigonometry warm-ups. These strategies have proven successful with an overall pass rate that went from about 50-55% before project inception to about 70-73% by the end of six years.


by Tiera S. Coston

Growth Fixed Image

How would you feel if someone told you that your intelligence, talents, and personality were fixed traits that could not be changed? What if someone else told you that these same traits could be nurtured, developed and grown throughout your life? How would you feel then? The answers to these questions have an enormous impact on a person's mindset, and consequently, in mentoring. A mindset is a set of beliefs that an individual has about his/her most elemental traits. When we, as mentors, foster a fixed mindset (whether consciously or unconsciously), we may leave our mentees with the belief that their intelligence, abilities and talents are already determined and nothing can be done to change them. However, when we foster a growth mindset, our mentees are shown that their traits can be developed throughout their lives with conscious and sustained effort. Mentees can then begin to see a world without limitations. GROWTH AND FIXED MINDSETS IN MENTORING: THE TALE OF THE HELP AND THE HINDRANCE focuses on examining those behaviors, many of which we may be unaware, that foster the growth and the fixed mindsets. It also provides some helpful scenarios that demonstrate how to foster a growth mindset and discourage a fixed one. Finally, a mindset quiz is included to help you (and your mentees) determine what kind of mindset you have.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the importance of STEM education in keeping America competitive and innovative in the 21st century. What is much less frequently spoken of, however, is the importance of art in innovation. Infusing the artistic (A) into STEM provides the STEAM that drives innovation. Nine creativity-inspiring tips were used to link three seemingly dissimilar entities: 1) The Greek Muses; 2) New Orleans streets; and 3) the idea that art is necessary to drive scientific advancement. So, sit back a take a trip around the streets of the 'Big Easy' to be reminded of how to nurture and support your own creativity to fuel those much desired innovations in science, technology, engineering and math.