Indiana State University Newsroom

Professor, student team win national award

March 29, 2011

An Indiana State University professor and students received a national award today (March 29) in Washington, D.C. from the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement.

Jim Speer, associate professor of earth and environmental systems, and a team of students were recognized for the university's Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities program.

SENCER is based on the belief that college students can take what they learn in their classrooms and by focusing on real-world problems and using a hands-on approach, they can help in solving community problems. SENCER is the signature program for the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement.

During SENCER's 2011 Washington Symposium and Capitol Hill Poster Session held March 27-29, Indiana State University's SENCER Student Leadership Team and Jim Speer received the William E. Bennett Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Citizen Science.

"It is wonderful that Jim Speer and the Project SCENCER team have been recognized nationally for their good work," said ISU President Dan Bradley. "SCENCER is a great fit for Indiana State. Engagement and experiential learning are at the heart of our strategic plan and our philosophy of education. Jim and the entire team are great role models for everyone on campus."

ISU's SENCER Student Leadership team presented at the opening session with Speer about implementing a student team during the Washington D.C. conference. Students also presented posters at the conference. Another ISU professor, Larry Tinnerman, also led a session during the conference.

Indiana State University faculty and staff attended their first SENCER Summer Institute in the summer of 2009 in Chicago. At that time the team had one student as part of the five-person team. Her perspective to the SENCER model and the conference were invaluable to the development of SENCER at ISU. After the 2009 conference, team members realized it would not be enough to go back to campus and spread the word about SENCER to faculty; in the true meaning of SENCER - learning through doing - they needed to get students involved.

"We're using SENCER ideals to really administer SENCER on campus," said Speer. "This is a model that, I think, could be taken out across the nation."

Students bring their experience from their fields of study and apply it to the SENCER model, whether it's a political science student studying survey data or a public relations major creating a SENCER awareness campaign for the campus.

Speer said it is an honor to receive the award in the third year that it has been presented.

"This brings national notoriety to Indiana State," he said.

Contact: Jim Speer, associate professor of geography and geology, 812 237-3011, 
Writer: Jennifer Sicking, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or