Soling Program appoints new director, sets new direction
Soling Program appoints new director, sets new directionSeptember 09, 2004Sara Millersemortim@syr.edu
James T. Spencer, professor of chemistry in The College of Arts and Sciences, has been named the new director of the University’s Soling Program. Spencer’s appointment is part of a re-envisioning of the Soling Program, which for 20 years has encouraged creative and independent thought in University students for the purpose of solving real-world problems and carrying out community-based projects. Students and faculty work collaboratively in University and community programs and interdisciplinary courses that focus on problem-solving; experiential learning; creativity; collaboration; and written, oral and visual communication.
The re-envisioning will emphasize courses that continue in the tradition of working with the community while encouraging greater student creativity. Founded in 1984, the Soling Program is endowed by alumnus and former Trustee Chester Soling ’54. Spencer will be responsible for organizing, recruiting and directing all aspects of the Soling Program.
“I’m of course very pleased and excited by this new appointment for many reasons. First, the very nature of the interdisciplinary approach to tackling real-life problems through the Soling Program is very appealing to me,” says Spencer. “In my research, I’ve always tried to incorporate a multifaceted approach to understanding chemical problems and have particularly enjoyed my many collaborations with physicists, geologists, engineers and others. The prospect of now expanding the collaborative interactions across campus is both timely and invigorating.”
Spencer has teaching and research interests in inorganic and organometallic chemistry, having authored more than 80 articles in leading professional journals. In 2000, he won the Distinguished Achievements in Boron Science Award. He has secured more than $2 million in external funding for his research. An exemplary and innovative teacher, Spencer is a longtime teacher of honors classes who regularly includes undergraduates in his research.
Spencer has also been appointed a core faculty member of the Renee Crown Honors Program and will work to integrate the activities of the two programs. “One particularly exciting thing for the coming year will be the forging of new ties with the Honors Program through the leadership of Sam Gorovitz, founding director of the Honors Program,” says Spencer. “Both programs can gain much from each other at their intersection.”
The Soling Program is designed to stimulate creative and independent thought among students throughout all colleges, schools and academic programs. Over the years, Soling Program students have worked with faculty and staff and individuals and groups outside the University to develop programs and projects for organizations, including public awareness campaigns for local non-profits; graphic design, computer program, video and website development for Syracuse businesses and the University community; and mentoring programs for local children. Building on this foundation, the Soling Program has added additional emphases on experiential learning, communication and collaboration.
Some of the Soling goals include: The creation of a published science journal and a literary journal; stronger links with University student groups; and increased support of short-term consultancies with scholars and practitioners.
These new initiatives and others will be “Windfall Projects,” supported by mini-grants to faculty to assist students in developing creative, community-based projects. Students are also being encouraged to pursue and develop their own independent study Soling Projects, working with a faculty advisor and small groups. The first of these new Windfall Projects will enable Prof. Susanne Baldwin’s mineralogy class to develop teaching units on New York State minerals for elementary students at a local school. Once tested, the units will be used as teaching tools at the MOST.
The Soling Program also plans to offer more credit-bearing, arts- and humanities-related courses open to students in any field of academic study. Last semester, the Soling Program’s Creativity in the Arts and Academe course partnered SU students with elementary school students in a Syracuse-area after-school program to produce two puppet plays and a video documentary, which were presented to children at the conclusion of the semester-long project. Building on that success, Soling will embark this spring on a three-year collaboration between SU, the Syracuse City School District and Open Hand Puppet Theater.
The puppet project is indicative of the new energy being infused into the program, says Susan Wadley, associate dean for curriculum, instruction and programs in The College of Arts and Sciences. “This revitalization of the Soling Program will offer students throughout the Univeristy an opportunity to explore community-based projects that engage their creativity and problem-solving skills,” she says.