By Dr. Danny Welsch, Associate Dean, School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
Leave it to a bunch of scientists and engineers to stick to a schedule and actually start the march early! That’s what happened on a rainy Saturday, April 22, when my family and friends traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in the March for Science on the National Mall. The march, which coincided with Earth Day, started early in the morning with teach-ins and other activities on the Mall. Its stated goal was to highlight the importance of science and showcase the critical link between science, public policy, and a safe and civilized society.
The goal of many programs in our School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math mesh nicely with the goal of the march. We are educating the next generation of scientists who can make an impact; who understand the science, but also why it’s important. They know how to communicate that importance so that the science matters. That’s what the march was all about, and that’s what we train our students to do. This goal is most clear in our new Natural Sciences program, where students not only take courses in chemistry, physics, and biology, but also in scientific writing, philosophy of science, and history of science. This is also true in our Environmental Science program, where students focus not only on the science of the environment, but on how environmental systems are managed, and how policy impacts that management. Many of those policy courses are being rapidly updated to keep pace with the new administration.
While watching the rally, I was struck by the compelling opportunity that APUS has to train the next generation of STEM professionals. Because many of our students have experience in public service and the military before coming to us, they have a unique perspective on the link between science and society. This is not a perspective shared by most “classically trained” scientists, so our students stand apart in this respect.
Speakers at the march included Bill Nye (the Science Guy!), astronauts, presidents of learned societies, climate researchers (including a former professor of mine), and activists. The rally, while favoring policies supportive of science and scientific funding, was non-partisan. Leaders were rarely mentioned, with speakers preferring to focus on policies friendly to science, rather than blaming specific politicians. Scientists, future scientists and supporters of science all marched a few blocks down Constitution Avenue, past the EPA, the Smithsonian and Department of Justice. Overall, the march was a fun and exciting demonstration of democracy, and marchers were clearly passionate about the cause.