“Through enhancing biology education and increasing biology-related outreach, we are committed to sharing our knowledge with the wider community.”
Partnerships between the Department of Biological Sciences and the community are primarily facilitated by our two outreach coordinators, Mrs. Jeanna Yates and Dr. Kaleb Heinrich, but virtually all department members are involved in various outreach efforts to some degree. Some of our highlights from the past year include: 1) Bama Biology Bootcamp (B3): a one week intensive program for incoming Biological Sciences majors and other freshmen enrolled in our majors Principles of Biology I course; 2) BSC 393 Biology Outreach class: UA Biology majors create and teach hands-on science lessons to K-12 students in the Tuscaloosa County and Tuscaloosa City schools throughout the calendar year. The BSC 393 UA students reach ~1000 students each summer, and ~500 each fall and spring semester (see below for more on this); 3) ArBOOretum: A well-attended, family-friendly, Halloween-themed, biology event at the UA Arboretum with educational activities about some of the spookier aspects of biodiversity (and lots of candy); 4) BioFest: A combined career fair for all STEM majors, welcome to new biology majors, and undergraduate and graduate student research poster colloquium; 5) Alabama Science Olympiad: An annual competition that is part of one of the largest K-12 STEM programs in the United States; and 6) UA Arts and Sciences Homecoming Tent: Faculty and students share research with the public during the football tailgate.
This past year Jeana Yates was awarded The University of Alabama’s Council on Community-Based Partnerships Premier Award for Community Engagement for her work with the Biology Outreach Program. This honor recognizes the program as an Outstanding Faculty/Staff-Initiated Engagement Effort for 2020 and includes $2,000 of funding support. For more information on this, check out the Department of Biological Sciences Outreach webpage (bsc.ua.edu/outreach/)!
Through these outreach efforts we also hope to expand opportunities for historically excluded groups, particularly black, Indigenous and people of color, and increase diversity among our student population through creating grassroots recruitment pipelines from the naturally diverse school system in Alabama. Central to this goal is the recruitment and ongoing support of diverse faculty members. These efforts are also exemplified by the department’s newly created Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee, which aims to create a welcoming and comfortable environment for all departmental members to thrive in, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.