Enabling Change Agents with Systems Thinking Tools

Thursday, October 22, 2020

9:00 am PT | 10:00 am MT | 11:00 am CT | 12:00 pm ET

Presenters: Bill Davis, Washington State University, Pam Pape-Lindstrom, Harford Community College, and Gary Reiness, Lewis and Clark College

Registration deadline: Tuesday, October 20


The Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE) is an organization dedicated to working with STEM departments to ensure they align their curricula and other activities with research-based practices. A subgroup, the Northwest PULSE Fellows, obtained NSF RCN-UBE funding to design and facilitate workshops for life sciences faculty from a diverse group of colleges and universities in the Pacific Northwest. Over 5 years, approximately 65 (of 140) institutions sent teams of 3-6 faculty and administrators to a workshop intended to empower them as change agents.During the 3-day workshop, each school developed a five-year action plan to revise their curriculum and transform their department in order to better educate all of their students. We framed the workshop around the tenets of systems thinking and provided participants training on the skills they would need to engage their entire department, including colleagues not present at the workshop, so that they might achieve department-wide goals. Prior to the workshops, each individual completed portions of the PULSE rubrics or the Snapshot rubric. Initial conversations within the team helped them to come to consensus on their current status. Conversations about the rubrics also helped them determine areas where their departments had room for improvement. Participants learned how to engage a group in a visioning exercise, and how to translate the results of that exercise into a specific action plan. In addition, because departments are themselves complex systems embedded in even more complex systems in higher education, we focused on providing skills for thinking about systems holistically, rather than tackling issues one at a time, which can cause unanticipated consequences. Participants were encouraged to identify champions and envision solutions with the most leverage within their system, that would enable significant buy-in and change.

We will describe the structure of the workshops, give a brief overview of the systems thinking tools we utilized, and present assessment results that demonstrate that teams who employed systems thinking skills were more likely to have enacted meaningful curricular and pedagogical change.


As a result of this webinar, participants will learn about:

  • the structure of the PULSE workshops
  • systems thinking tools for change agents
  • assessment results of curricular and pedagogical change efforts


Registration deadline: Tuesday, October 20

10:00 am PT | 11:00 am MT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm ET
Duration - 60 minutes
Format - Online web presentation via Zoom web meeting software with questions and discussion. Go to the webinar technology page for more information on using Zoom. Detailed instructions for joining the webinar will be emailed to registered participants one day prior to the webinar.
Preparation - There is no advance preparation required for this webinar.

Please email Mitchell Awalt (mawalt at carleton.edu) if you have any technical questions about this event.


William (Bill) Davis is the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Veterinary Medicine at WSU. From 2007-2019, he was the Associate Director for Undergraduate Studies in his department and helped lead transformation of its curriculum through the implementation of annual programmatic assessment and a focus on undergraduate research using innovative fast-track BS to PhD programs and the introduction of project based laboratories in the curriculum. Since 2009, he has also served as a faculty mentor in the WSU Team Mentoring Program, a Nationally recognized mentoring program for PEER (persons excluded because of their ethnicity or race) STEM students.. As an Associate Dean he has focused on student retention and transfer articulation. Bill's current research interests focus on the impacts of classroom and laboratory pedagogy on student learning outcomes in large enrollment courses. He is also active in developing innovative programs that lead to the transformation of both individual faculty and departments/institutions engaged in life sciences education, work facilitated by his efforts as a PULSE Vision & Change Leadership Fellow, the AAC&U-Project Kaleidoscope Summer Leadership Institute, and the Mobile Summer Scientific Teaching Institutes.

Pam Pape-Lindstrom earned a PhD in Biology from the University of South Carolina in the field of marine ecology. She taught in community colleges for twenty years and developed courses in sustainability and systems thinking. In 2012 she became a founding Fellow of the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education working on organizational change initiatives in STEM education. In 2017, she became the Dean of STEM at Harford Community College in Bel Air, MD. Dr. Pape-Lindstrom has had past NSF support for research in biology education and organizational change in life sciences education. Presently she is a co-PI on an ATE grant to improve access to biotechnology certificate and degree programs for under-represented students at HCC.

Gary Reiness is Professor of Biology Emeritus at Lewis & Clark College where he served as Biology Dept. Chair, Dean of Science, and Associate Dean for Faculty Development. Throughout his career, he has been active in national efforts to improve undergraduate science education. A member of the Council on Undergraduate Research since 1988, he was a Biology Division Councilor from 1989-1994 and 2006-9. In Project Kaleidoscope (AAC&U, he has served as a member of the National Steering Committee, Scientist-in-Residence, and STEM Leadership Institute mentor. From 2005-2011 and 2015-2019 he was an Associate Editor of CBE-Life Sciences Education. His research and educational work was funded by the NSF, NIH, and several private foundations, and he was P/co-author on grants to Lewis & Clark College from NSF, HHMI, and the W. M. Keck and Sherman Fairchild Foundations. He was educated at Johns Hopkins (BA) and Columbia Universities (PhD) and was a postdoctoral fellow in neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Francisco. He is a Leadership Fellow of the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education (PULSE) and a Fellow of the AAAS.

Resources and References

Click to view or download the webinar recordings (MP4 Video 155MB Oct23 20).