ASU alumna, professor receive 2021 Evolution Education Award

November 23, 2021

Arizona State University School of Life Sciences PhD alumna Elizabeth Barnes and Professor Sara Brownell have been awarded the 2021 Evolution Education Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers for their work overcoming the stigma that scientific teachings preclude religious beliefs. 

The Evolution Education Award recognizes innovative educators who “promote the accurate understanding of biological evolution.” Only one award is administered each year, alternating annually between educators in higher education and K–12. The award is sponsored by the National Center for Science Education and the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study Arizona State University School of Life Sciences professor Sara Brownell (left) and alumna Elizabeth Barnes (right) have been awarded by the National Association of Biology Teachers Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Professor Sara Brownell (left) and alumna Elizabeth Barnes have been awarded the 2021 Evolution Education Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers. Photo courtesy of Sara Brownell

This award recognizes Barnes’ thesis that was conducted with her adviser, Brownell.

Their shared work advocates for a “call to use cultural competence” when teaching evolution, a core principle of biology that can present a difficult obstacle for some students. 

“Most religious beliefs can be compatible with evolution,” Brownell said. “We encourage students to learn about evolution while also acknowledging that they may have religious beliefs and try to help them see how the two can be compatible.” 

Brownell and Barnes have found that there are many simple strategies that can be used by educators to help students reduce perceived conflict between their religious beliefs and the teachings of biological evolution. 

This can include acknowledging which questions science can and cannot answer. Where science attempts to answer questions that begin with “how,” religious teachings answer more theological questions that begin with “why.”

“Many students have misconceptions that one has to be an atheist to accept evolution, which means that we need to do a better job at highlighting that science is actually agnostic with respect to whether there is a God because it is outside of the bounds of science,” Brownell said.

Another technique is to include examples of notable scientists who also practice a religious faith in the coursework. 

A prominent example is Francis Collins, who served as director of the National Institutes of Health and helped oversee the human genome project. Collins is a geneticist and a faithful Christian. He also founded BioLogos, an organization that promotes discussion between Christians and scientists about evolution.

Educators who hold religious beliefs and teach biology are encouraged to share this facet of their identity with their students.

Studies conducted by Brownell and Barnes have shown a cultural disconnect at the college level between educators, who are mostly secular, and a large majority of students who define themselves as religious. 

Inclusive representation and strong role models can provide valuable support for students who may worry their religious identity excludes them from a path in STEM. 

Educators like Barnes and Brownell are working to increase dialogue about this social stigma in the classrooms, and this award reflects the work they have accomplished to spark discussion and use culturally competent education at the college level.

"Much of our work is showing that the perception of conflict between religion and evolution is greater than the reality of conflict,” Barnes said. “However, students are often only exposed to how science and religion can conflict and are not given the opportunity to see the many ways in which they can coexist peacefully.

“If we are going to increase trust in science and scientists among the public and our students, then we argue that scientists will need to start finding ways to communicate how religion and science can coexist. I think our award reflects that the scientific community is starting to recognize this as well."

Hayden Cunningham

Communications Assistant, School of Life Sciences

Faculty associate uses trading experience to teach negotiations to global studies students

November 23, 2021

When Herbert Roskind and his wife, Laura, moved to Arizona from Massachusets in 1997 after his retirement, they were looking for a way to get involved in their new community. So the Roskinds started taking courses at Arizona State University aimed at adult learners, where he met professors in a wide array of fields.

Seeing the impact that the university had on its students and the larger community, Roskind knew that he wanted to also be a part of the ASU family. Herb Roskind and Sparky Sparky and Herb Roskind. Download Full Image

“Starting here, I foresaw ASU was really going to go someplace,” he said. “We feel that ASU has adopted us, and we’re glad to be adopted.”

Through the courses he was taking, Roskind met Roger Adelson, now an emeritus professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. Adelson suggested that Roskind use his lifelong career experience in chemical commodity trading to teach a course at ASU.

Soon after his conversation with Adelson, Roskind received a call from David Jacobson, the founding director of the School of Global Studies, which would eventually merge into the School of Politics and Global Studies. Jacobson thought that the potential course would be an ideal match for global studies students given Roskind’s global experience.

Although unsure at first, Roskind agreed to work with faculty to form a syllabus for his course Negotiating Global Trade, now known as Global Trade in Real Time.

He has taught his class now for over a decade at ASU as a faculty associate. Accounting for cultural differences, the supply chain management course emphasizes negotiations, which according to Roskind are the most important skill a global studies student can learn.

He hopes that through his course, students from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences can gain some business literacy and inspiration for how they might use their degree in their careers.

An English graduate from Dartmouth, Roskind himself was a student from a liberal arts program. After his freshman year, he changed his major from chemistry since he found it to be too formulaic.

“I need something that doesn’t have a formula,” Roskind said. “They were teaching me the basics, and the basics bored me.”

English was a perfect fit for Roskind, who loves diving deep into topics and asking questions to find underutilized opportunities.

“A good education makes you look at a piece of paper and say, ‘What’s going on?’”

Roskind, having earned his English degree, was determined to see the world. He began his career by walking down Wall Street and into the Cunard Building.

“I knew they owned big ships,” Roskind said. “I literally knocked on doors until I found one that was very receptive. You couldn’t do that today.”

He got his start in the shipping room of Associated Metals and Minerals. He would go on to start his own chemical trading company, along with a series of other chemical businesses, taking him to places around the world like China, Japan and Europe. Roskind ultimately started five businesses: HoltraChem Inc., CalChor Inc., Carolina Nitrogen Inc., General Plastics Inc. and Technin Inc.

Problem solving and relationship building were keys to his success — skills that Roskind aims to teach in his course at ASU.

Learning goes beyond the classroom, according to Roskind, who encourages students to form connections with classmates or get involved through sports or clubs. Networking, he says, is a life skill, not just in business.

“I learn as much from our students or maybe more than they do from me,” Roskind said. “So much stuff is possible, and it doesn’t make any difference what you study.”

Throughout his time teaching, Roskind has formed lasting relationships with a number of students, many of whom went on to become entrepreneurs themselves. He shared that he’s happy that some of his students wanted to continue their mutual education.

Beyond teaching, Roskind and his wife serve on numerous boards, including the School of Politics and Global Studies, the Institute of Human Origins and many more.

He joined the recently formed School of Politics and Global Studies Advisory Board because to Roskind, politics makes a big difference — they happen on a global scale and are extremely complex.

“What we are doing in this school is focusing them on the problems to be solved and how they’re going to be solved,” Roskind said. “That’s the reason this school is very important.”

Whether it be through relationships, service, teaching or financial donations, Roskind is making an impact on students and alumni at ASU.

“Values are how one lives one’s life,” Roskind said. “So many people identify themselves with their occupation. It should, in my opinion, be identified with values. That’s who you really are.”

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies