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Tue, October 22, 2019

Q&A: Carmen Fies, UTSA College of Education and Human Development

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Carmen Fies is an associate professor of STEM education and instructional technologies in the UTSA Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching in the College of Education and Human Development (COEHD).

In addition to that role, Fies is an associate professor of chemistry education in the College of Sciences, co-director of UTeachSA, director of the UTSA Center for Military Families and educator-in-residence at CAST Tech High School. 

We asked Fies about her current projects and what inspires her as a researcher.

Describe a current project you’re excited about.

The project I am most excited about right now is our first Astronomy Academy, a two-week professional development sequence for UTSA students who are planning to become secondary STEM teachers. With funding through the Space Telescope Science Institute and NASA, and in wonderful collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, SwRI, the McDonald Observatory, community partners at the Scobee Education Center and the Witte Museum, we provided our students with exciting astronomy learning experiences that they can now share with their future students.

What is something in your field that’s not talked about enough?

One of the populations I am particularly interested in is that of learners who are part of military families. They encounter challenges and opportunities not found in the more ‘stationary’ civilian population. At this point of time, there is not sufficient research to understand the educational experiences in that setting.

What is one experience as a professor or researcher that has inspired you?

Learners in the process of making meaning of new content ideas consistently inspire me. All learners ground the ways in which they unpack new ideas in their prior experiences, and each struggles to some degree with the new information. To be there and see when a new idea makes sense, when it becomes their own and now is part of their way of understanding the world around them, is particularly rewarding.

What advice do you have for a student interested in becoming a STEM educator?

Being an educator means to accept a responsibility for the academic preparation of future generations. It is a multi-faceted profession that will sometimes be challenging, but it more than makes up for it by being rewarding. As a STEM educator, you will have to be an expert in your content area and will have to have a solid grounding in pedagogical practice. Once you are a teacher, remember what it feels like to not already know something and make room for your learners to figure things out.

What makes UTSA unique as a research institution?

UTSA’s uniqueness is linked to its vibrant community. Given our larger community, with its highly diverse make-up, and with the currently rapid economic expansion of the city and region, particularly in STEM fields, UTSA has the opportunity to contribute to the development of a highly qualified workforce that is grounded in the local context.

As a current example, SA-Bexar STEM-STEAM Ecosystemis an initiative to develop cross sector STEM learning in communities and it is just starting in San Antonio and UTSA is part of it. The fact that our institution has established interdisciplinary programs and research will make it easier for us to play a major role in this area of research. Such research will help to inform national education and workforce preparation as the population trends on the national level also are indicative of diversification.

View the original on UTSA Today: https://www.utsa.edu/today/2018/07/story/QA-CarmenFies.html

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