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Since making the transition from the lab bench to an advising desk, Texas A&M College of Science Associate Dean Dr. Timothy P. Scott has emerged as a national voice for STEM education, mathematics and science teacher preparation and professional development, and science education policy.

COLLEGE STATION --

When it comes to main jobs, Dr. Timothy P. Scott's as associate dean for undergraduate programs in the College of Science boils down to making sure science majors graduate from Texas A&M University. However, when it comes to other duties as assigned, he prefers to focus on the journey more so than the destination -- for the students and for himself.

Scott serves as director of the Texas A&M Science Undergraduate Programs Office, where his stock in trade revolves around all aspects of preparing the next generation of career professionals and leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). For the past two decades, he has been integral to the university's campus-wide commitment to STEM education and advancement as well as to national efforts in this regard, emerging as a go-to expert in both establishing and maintaining innovative academic programs.

As one of the longest-serving associate deans in the College of Science (he was appointed by former Dean of Science Richard E. Ewing in 2000), Scott's seniority comes with perks -- an experience-packed curriculum vita and a list of successes as legion as his connections. Despite acquiring a fan base that would rival that of an A-list actor, he remains humble to a fault and ever-cognizant of the bit part he works to live for in Aggieland.

"The most exciting part of my job is just getting to play just a very small role in a young person's life -- providing support and encouragement and seeing where they go," Scott said.

Riding herd on STEM success

Scott, a 1989 Texas A&M graduate who earned both his master's in biology (1989) and his doctorate in zoology (1996), works hard on behalf of the Texas A&M College of Science but just as steadfastly for those in the educational trenches with him. A true big-picture thinker, his commitment to STEM education shines brightest in the instances in which he uses his expertise to benefit the university as a whole, not just his own college.

Case in point: Scott's latest undertaking, overseeing a STEM-specialized cohort of incoming freshmen scholarship recipients exploring their collegiate potential, is without a single science major.

"I've always wanted all students to be challenged academically, to deepen their ability to solve real-world problems and to grow as individual leaders," he said.

The students are part of the acclaimed Posse Foundation, a nonprofit organization that prepares 10 first-generation students per cohort to attend select colleges across the country. Texas A&M's is one of approximately 70 current cohorts nationwide. The organization's name, as the story goes, stems from a comment from a college dropout who lamented that he could have persevered, had his "posse" been with him.

When Scott McDonald, Texas A&M assistant vice president and director of admissions, initially facilitated the partnership between Texas A&M and the Posse Foundation in April 2012, he, in effect, needed a posse of his own to take the reins. Heather Wilkinson in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences served as the first Texas A&M STEM Posse Faculty Mentor, followed by Scott, who assumed responsibility for the second group this past summer.

As the Posse Scholars' faculty mentor, Scott frequently meets with the students, both individually and as a group, to discuss issues and offer guidance, ranging from curriculum choices and financial aid options to how to study and find their niche in college.

"As soon as we learned that the cohorts from the Houston Posse office were all going to be STEM majors, we immediately thought of Dr. Scott," McDonald said. "The mentor component of the Posse program is critical to the success of the students, and Dr. Scott's compassion for student success made him an excellent choice."

As in so many other educational and advising cases, Scott boasts prior experience in encouraging and retaining students in the face of academic and socioeconomic challenge. He previously served as project director for the National Science Foundation-funded Palo Alto College-Texas A&M University Science Scholars Program, which offered scholarships and other assistance to science majors at the San Antonio-based community college as incentives toward obtaining four-year science degrees at Texas A&M. Based on lessons learned and shared nationally, Scott launched a Transfer Learning Community to assist all entering College of Science transfer students in their transition to Texas A&M from other colleges and universities -- model results he regularly presents to audiences ranging from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to the National Institute of the Study of Transfer Students.

Tim of all trades

The line between administrator, advisor, educator and advocate is one Scott has straddled for many years. And being a hands-on leader, Scott often is the first to roll up his sleeves to help insure a program's success.

As a co-director of Texas A&M's Center for Mathematics and Science Education (CMSE), he provides oversight for various mathematics and science education research and professional development programs while also advising policy makers on strategies to enhance science literacy across Texas and the U.S. Since Scott assumed his co-director role in 2000, the center has attracted more than $28 million in funding from both public and private sectors to help accomplish these tasks.

In 2001, one of Scott's biggest career accomplishments was his leading role in a novel College of Science/College of Education and Human Development collaboration to launch aggieTEACH, a national peer-reviewed teacher recruitment program designed to increase the number of secondary mathematics and science teachers at both state and national levels. To date, aggieTEACH has put approximately 450 teachers in the workforce, an accomplishment that has helped Texas A&M lead the state in university-certified mathematics and science teacher production for nearly a decade. Many of them graduated with the help of NSF-funded Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships -- at $10,000 per year, one of the most financially lucrative offered by the college -- supporting STEM education and related teaching careers. The program has received three different Noyce awards from NSF since 2001.

Patricia Oliver '11, a 9th grade chemistry and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher at West Mesquite High School, says she owes her career to Scott's guidance and her aggieTEACH program preparation.

"Dr. Scott stepped in as both an academic mentor and a life coach," Oliver said. "He never passed on an opportunity to ask me about my progress and even encouraged me to apply for the Robert Noyce Scholarship which funded my junior and senior years at Texas A&M. If not for the aggieTEACH program and Dr. Scott's patience and encouragement, I would not be the confident teacher I am today."

Will lecture for life skills

In 2011, Scott initiated another cross-campus partnership between the College of Science and the Texas A&M Career Center to create SCEN 289: Careers in Life Science, a weekly, one-credit-hour course for junior and senior science majors offering tips and advice in fundamental career-readiness techniques and communication practices required in the current business environment. In addition to conceptualizing the course and designing its curriculum, Scott also lectured during the first two years.

The course was developed in full partnership with the College's External Advisory and Development Council (EADC), another added duty to Scott's portfolio as a liaison to college-wide development fundraising and relationship-building efforts. As leaders in their respective fields, many EADC members come back to campus and share their expertise and suggestions on navigating the search for the perfect position.

While the Career Center now handles the course, Scott has since picked up a 300-level, writing-intensive physiology class and laboratory that he team-teaches with fellow biologist and associate dean Dr. Mark Zoran, who oversees faculty affairs and graduate studies for the college. As a longtime advocate of undergraduates in the lab, Scott led the college-wide push to get students involved in undergraduate research, recruiting both the students and the faculty willing to serve as their mentors prior to turning over those reins to Dr. Ginger Carney, who was appointed last fall as the college's first associate dean for undergraduate research.

Dean of Science H. Joseph Newton, who as the college's executive associate dean under Ewing was instrumental in Scott's initial associate dean appointment, describes him as "the consummate multitasker" as well as one of Texas A&M's greatest assets and ambassadors.

"In addition to all the usual activities for majors in a dean's office, Tim oversees the incredibly large service teaching role that the College of Science plays for the entire university," Newton said. "Imagine dealing with the 250,000 semester credit hours we supply for every major on campus, from the logistics of determining numbers of sections and instructors needed for each course, to finding and scheduling actual classrooms and laboratories!

"Tim serves on every important university committee, and as a man of incredible vision, he is engaged with people all over the university as well as with research and policy organizations all over the state and country. His advice and counsel are sought every single day by a host of constituents. Texas A&M is indeed fortunate to have Tim Scott."

Preaching by practice

When Scott counsels students about their myriad major options and career paths, he speaks from experience well beyond his own undergraduate days. While at Texas A&M, he, too, has changed majors in a professional sense. He initially joined the Department of Biology in 1990 as a lecturer, where he taught and also conducted research on the natural history and variations of disease among different populations of alligators. After a few years, he gradually began a career shift toward science education policy -- a transition he says has become more fully realized with each passing year he has spent as an associate dean and overall student/science education advocate.

"When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I would always go back to the professors who had a profound effect on me as an undergraduate," Scott said. "I thought it was a role in which I could serve."

Being so hands-on definitely comes with a price. Scott estimates he answers at least 100 emails from students each day. Beyond a tireless work ethic, he credits his ability to juggle his multiple ventures to his "very dedicated" staff. Among those he singles out as his respective "left and right brain" are Sarah Thigpin, Undergraduate Programs Office administrative coordinator, and Adrienne Bentz, CMSE assistant director and assistant to the dean of graduate studies, in addition to a host of student workers and equally dedicated advisors in each of the college's five departments.

In order to keep a finger on the pulse of the undergraduate sector, Scott maintains close contact with the Dean's Student Advisory Panel, a group he started in 2010. The panel, overseen by Thigpin, is a student-led organization that represents the college's student body and works closely with faculty, staff and administrators to address topical academic issues.

"It's definitely not an 8-to-5 job," Scott said. "When you build learning communities and you have students who are reliant on them, they reach out to you at all hours, and it becomes a priority. And I have great support staff to help keep things on track."

To learn more about the undergraduate education in the Texas A&M College of Science, visit http://www.science.tamu.edu/for-undergraduates.php.

For additional information on the Posse Foundation, go to http://www.possefoundation.org/.

To see additional photographs approximating a day in the life of Tim Scott, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/tamuscience/sets/72157647644671547/.

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About Texas A&M Impacts: Texas A&M Impacts is an ongoing series highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students to their community, state, nation and world. To learn more about the series and see additional impacts, visit http://impacts.tamu.edu/.

About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents annual expenditures of more than $820 million. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit http://research.tamu.edu.

-aTm-

Contact: Chris Jarvis, (979) 845-7246 or cjarvis@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Timothy P. Scott, (979) 845-7362 or tim@science.tamu.edu

Jarvis Chris

  • The Doctor Is In

    Serving as Faculty Mentor for Texas A&M's 2014-15 Posse Scholars cohort is all in a day's work for Scott, who estimates he answers more than 100 emails from students each day.

  • Scott is widely respected within the Texas A&M community and in external circles for his hands-on approach to improving learning outcomes, from his open-door, one-on-one advising policy to his uncanny ability to meet students on their level.

  • Students who visit Scott's fifth-floor John R. Blocker Building office are guaranteed to receive the benefit of his full attention and expert advice, as well as a handshake and a smile.

  • This recent Friday afternoon Transfer Learning Community session was standing-room-only -- another indication of Scott's appeal as an educator and student advocate.

  • Members of the Dean's Student Advisory Panel, which Scott started in 2010 to give the College of Science's student body a voice on academic issues.

  • As the director of national peer-reviewed models for mathematics and science teacher preparation and transfer learning communities, Scott is an in-demand presenter and committee member. He currently is serving a two-year term on the executive committee of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Commission on the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI).

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