Grant Allows UM to Expand Neuroscience Education Across Disciplines

student working in a lab

The University of Montana’s mission to shape agile learners will take a step forward thanks to a $300,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation.

The grant will help UM faculty members create courses with neuroscience themes for both science and non-science students. This new undergraduate curriculum – which builds on UM’s growing neuroscience major – stresses the impact of fast-evolving brain science on our understanding of a wide range of human experiences, including psychology, literature, history, art, language and education.

Students majoring in the humanities or social sciences will have new opportunities to explore neuroscience and increase their scientific literacy on topics of increasing social relevance, such as Alzheimer’s disease and addiction. Students majoring in a science field will become more adept critical thinkers as they are exposed to the analytical approaches used by those in the humanities.

“Addressing society’s critical challenges requires drawing from and working across many disciplines,” said UM President Seth Bodnar. “This new undergraduate curriculum takes advantage of the intersections of UM’s strengths in the humanities, social sciences and sciences, providing students with an education that prepares them to be agile problem-solvers whose knowledge and skills span disciplines.”

The new curriculum will be in place for fall semester 2019. Current estimates suggest upward of 1,000 students will benefit over the initial three-year period of the grant. Leading the project from the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences is Regents Professor Rich Bridges. Other faculty involved in the project include:

Ashby Kinch | English
Sarah Certel | biology
Nathan Insel | psychology
Christopher Comer | neuroscience
Martin Horejsi | teaching and learning

Rich Bridges directs the Center for Structural and Functional Neuroscience at UM

More Details from Project Lead Investigator Rich Bridges, Ph.D.

Neuroscience is one of the fastest growing majors on campuses across the country, including here at UM. It is an interdisciplinary health science field that prepares students for a broad range of career paths. Beyond that, neuroscience appeals to everyone’s basic curiosity about how their brains work.

The University of Montana’s neuroscience major resembles many of the programs found at other research-intensive universities. However, UM’s program is unique in that we intend to also expand the program and integrate neuroscience with fields of study in the humanities and education.

UM is ideally suited to host a project that advances both liberal arts education and the biomedical sciences, given the participation and quality of the faculty and students from the College of Humanities and Sciences, the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences and the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences. We are developing new courses and learning experiences that break down traditional disciplinary boundaries and allow a greater number of students to benefit from the breadth and strengths of UM programs.

Grants from the Undergraduate Education Program of the W.M. Keck Foundation, which are awarded to promote “distinctive learning and research experiences,” have been made to some of the most prestigious and forward-thinking colleges and universities in the country. We are extremely proud that UM is a recipient.

About the W.M. Keck Foundation

Based in Los Angeles, the W.M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W.M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation’s grant making focuses primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering and undergraduate education. The foundation also maintains a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth.