Medgar Evers College Professor Dr. Charles desBordes, Recipient of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship

Dr. Charles desBordes, Biology Professor at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, was awarded the 2011 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship. Dr. desBordes participated in the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology at Yale University this past summer. This unique Institute provided the Professor of Biology an opportunity to model current research, mentoring and scientific teaching principles in order to develop innovative instructional skills that he will implement upon his return to the campus.

“I learned innovative scientific teaching strategies directly from leaders in scientific education reformation and am now better prepared to both teach complex ideas and concepts to my students plus assess their learning and progress more effectively,” said Dr. desBordes. “My experience at the Summer Institute has improved my ability as an educator and given me the confidence and experience to implement new teaching strategies in the classroom. I am positive it will lead to increased achievement and outcomes, as well as provide enjoyment and excitement for learning to our students.”

Dr. desBordes received his award with an invitation by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Academies to a gathering at Yale University this past August to build teaching skills and transform the undergraduate biology classroom. The Summer Institute was co-directed by Dr. Robert Lue, professor of the practice of molecular and cellular biology and director of life sciences education at Harvard University, and Dr. Jennifer Frederick, associate director of the Center for Scientific Teaching and the Graduate Teaching Center at Yale University. This unique Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology is designed to model the scientific teaching principles on which it is founded and draws on the expertise of both participants and presenters. Current research, active learning, assessment, and diversity are woven through the program, creating a forum for participants to share ideas and develop innovative instructional materials which they implement upon returning to their own campuses.

“Having had the opportunity to speak with Dr. desBordes regarding his research I find him to be among some of our brightest and engaging faculty,” said Medgar Evers College President William L. Pollard. “I am pleased and proud that he represents a model of faculty in research and scholarship at Medgar Evers College. Prior to receiving his award for the 2011 American Association for Cancer Research Scholar Award, desBordes helped me to understand the complex subject of Cancer research, in language I could understand. The National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology is one of significance for universities; anything that enhances the ability of our faculty to teach effectively is prudent. It reinforces the ability of our students to learn and internalize knowledge.”

Understanding the essentiality of student mentorship, a crucial component for improving undergraduate education, Dr. desBordes has counseled numerous students, written countless numbers of letters of evaluation and recommendation, and guided students through the often-harrowing process of applying to medical and graduate schools of biomedical sciences. For instance, under the auspices of the Fogarty International MIRT program, he involved Medgar students in research at his other research study sites as unique and as far away as the Department of Microbiology, National University of Singapore, Singapore, the Department of Virology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland and the Department of Chemistry, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. All of these students have been admitted to either graduate or medical schools. Two of them are presently recipients of the prestigious Jonas E. Salk award for CUNY students and have both matriculated as M.D./Ph.D. students at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook and SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. He is most proud of fostering the admission of the Medgar Evers College students into the Early Medical Education (EME) program at SUNY Downstate. Dr. desBordes, a faculty member at Medgar Evers College for over 24 years, unceasingly encourages students to develop an interest in biomedical research.

About the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology

The goal of the Summer Institute for Undergraduate Education in Biology is to transform biology education at colleges and universities by improving classroom education and attracting more diverse students to research. As the faculties are the fundamental component in ensuring the academic development of the student, the institute trains the faculty and instructional staff in a scientific approach to teaching that reflects their work as researchers. Participants learn practical strategies for enhancing student learning. The institute models the scientific teaching principles of active learning, assessment, and diversity, which are integrated into all aspects of the schedule. Activities include reading, reflective writing, planning, researching, discussing teaching methods and philosophy, interactive presentations, and developing teaching materials. The target group is comprised of both new and experienced instructors who teach courses that include introductory or survey biology, introductory molecular biology/genetics, and introductory ecology/evolution courses. Approximately 36 (18 pairs of) faculty and instructional staff from 18 different colleges and universities attend each institute. By the end of an institute, participants will have observed, evaluated, and collected a portfolio of innovative teaching approaches and instructional materials that are ready to be adopted and adapted to their own teaching environments.

About Medgar Evers College, CUNY

Medgar Evers College was founded in 1970 through the efforts from educators and community leaders in central Brooklyn. The College is named after Medgar Wiley Evers, a Mississippi-born black civil rights activist who was assassinated on June 12, 1963. The College is divided into four schools: The School of Business; The School of Professional and Community Development; The School of Liberal Arts and Education; and The School of Science, Health, and Technology. Through these Schools, the College offers 29 associate and baccalaureate degree programs, as well as certificate programs in fields such as English, Nursing, and Accounting. Medgar Evers College also operates several co-curricular and external programs and associated centers such as the Male Development and Empowerment Center, the Center for Women’s Development, the Center for Black Literature, and The DuBois Bunche Center for Public Policy.