STEM program manager joins education department


As MCLA continues its strong support of the Berkshire STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) Pipeline, our Education Department recently welcomed a new assistant professor when last month Chris Himes, Ph.D., began a tenure track position as the Evelyn H. and Arlindo Jorge Endowed Chair.

An evolutionary biologist by training, Himes is interested in how DNA evolves in response to environmental conditions. In addition, he's particularly interested in teaching methodologies that enhance or inhibit learning, and how that may relate to diversity in the sciences.

"Are there classroom practices that are more inclusive of people from different types of backgrounds, like first-generation, low-income or under-represented students?" he asked. "The idea is to make the sciences more inclusive through the way we teach."

The careers of the future will be based on the STEM disciplines, according to Himes.

"There's a national concern over our international standing on innovation and technology, but more locally, the state is concerned about it, as well," he said. "To stay competitive as a community, we really need to up our understanding and applications of science and math, particularly in K to 12 and through college."

Himes continued, "MCLA can fill a really unique role in continuing to enhance the training of our next generation of teachers for our public school districts. This is a pivotal time. The state is looking to adopt new science standards, which will transform science and engineering as taught in our public school systems."

His new position as a faculty member in the Education Department represents the College's interest in promoting science and math education as it continues to enhance those programs, said Himes. "We have a very strong education department that's been training area teachers for a very long time."

Himes, who has been the College's STEM program manager since fall 2011, will maintain that position and continue to integrate STEM outreach and STEM initiatives throughout Berkshire County. Those efforts will be interfaced with the campus, as MCLA educates the next generation of teachers.

 Together, both responsibilities add up to his "dream career."

"I couldn't have imagined this would be a possibility; to be able to work in tandem with the academic department with faculty colleagues, and also have a close working relationship with the college administration and those at the Department of Higher Education, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education," Himes said. "It's walking in two worlds on the College campus. It's really exciting."

What does he hope students learn from him?

"I hope they embrace this moment of being in college because, for many of us, college is the last time that it is our job is to learn. This should be an exciting period. Every semester you're going to walk away with a new batch of knowledge, and you should be able to be proud of that and embrace it."

Himes earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington. He also served post-doctoral fellowships at Williams College and the University of New Mexico, where he received training on educational practices at the college level.