Commentary from Dr. Burns 2/14/2020:
I was able to invite [a representative] from the Lutheran Campus Ministry here at UMBC to visit my class (BIOL 483: Evolution- From Genes to Genomes) last semester. I had students anonymously submit questions about religion and evolution to [them], and we had a roundtable discussion about perceived challenges in communication between scientists and the public. I also had students write an opinion piece in the style of The Conversation using four different prompts. I'll attach the rubric I used to this email, as well as the articles and discussion questions students answered as part of the class. [Ed. note: both also available for download by clicking the icons below.]
The biggest takeaway I had from organizing this experience was that students and the general public rarely get to see the scientist me as a 'whole person'-- someone with passions and struggles, a complicated relationship with faith, and a sincere desire to understand the daily lives of people in my community. I have since tried to inject a small bit of myself into subsequent lectures by talking about the experiences I had in college or graduate school, or recounting the first time I did a lab procedure or met the author of one of their papers. Evolution plays out on a scale almost too grand for us to fathom-- I hope my efforts make the field feel less remote to my students and the public.