ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE) Offers Community and Training for Biology Educators

Jan. 13, 2020

At the ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE), attendees share best practices for the classroom, hear education research updates and meet new colleagues focused on teaching.

Jaclyn Madden (2019 ASMCUE Chair) and Dr. John Buchner, Vice Chair of the ASMCUE 2020 Planning Committee.
Jaclyn Madden (2019 ASMCUE Chair) and Dr. John Buchner, Vice Chair of the ASMCUE 2020 Planning Committee.

Conferences are important to your professional and career development. They are a great way to network with people in your field, but also to learn tried and true practices that you can implement in your everyday work. The ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE) is no different. We interview Dr. Nancy Boury from Iowa State University and Dr. John Buchner from the University of Maryland, Chair and Vice Chair of the ASMCUE 2020 Planning Committee, respectively, for their insights on ASMCUE.

What makes ASMCUE so different from other conferences?

Boury: One thing that sets ASMCUE apart from other meetings that I have attended is the emphasis on collegiality and networking. At my first ASMCUE, I attended the Thursday night networking reception, which I had been dreading because small talk has never been my strong suit. Several faculty introduced themselves and I felt like I belonged to this teaching community by the end of the evening. 

A second thing that sets ASMCUE apart is the opportunity to contribute to how microbiology is taught beyond your classroom or campus. For instance, at past meetings, participants have spearheaded ASM Education initiatives, such as curricular guidelines, common microbiology learning objectives and validated assessments.

Buchner: The small size (around 350 attendees) means that you can really get to know many of the attendees. We are not in competition with each other for funding, or anything else, so we can be open and exchange ideas and encouragement, without worrying about stepping on each other’s territory or research. This lends a very friendly air to the meeting.

How can ASMCUE help advance your career as an educator?

Boury: I went to my first ASMCUE after I had been teaching biology and microbiology for about 4 years. At ASMCUE, I learned about the value of assessment for individual activities, courses and curriculum. After attending my first meeting, I became the departmental curriculum development resource and assessment committee representative and published in the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education (JMBE).

The networking available at ASMCUE led me to write multiple chapters in genetics, biology and microbiology textbooks and support materials through contracts with publishers. I also learned about the National Science Foundation Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program at ASMCUE. This led me to become a reviewer for several years and eventually, I was awarded 3 IUSE grants for active education research programs. Before coming to ASMCUE, I had no idea who to contact and how to ask about authoring and reviewer opportunities. As a former first-generation student, there is a lot about academia that others might take for granted. Attending ASMCUE really helped (and continues to help) me bridge that knowledge gap.   

Buchner: I agree with Dr. Boury - networking is a key avenue for using ASMCUE to advance your career. My mentors told me that I had to go to ASMCUE, though I didn’t know what it was. At that first meeting, I was introduced to a huge network of people, a bevy of new ideas for my classroom and opportunities to contribute to the ASM Microbiology Concept Inventory Task Force. If you feel isolated in your department, college or program, there is a network at ASMCUE willing to support you and your teaching career.

What are some exciting features of ASMCUE 2020 that attendees can look forward to? 

Boury: We think that participants will have an outstanding opportunity to hear fascinating plenary talks. Because of the small meeting size, participants will be able to meet one-on-one with the plenary speakers over meals or networking receptions. I am particularly excited to see Dr. Mary Pat Wenderoth’s talk and network with her, because she has been so influential to the field of biology education research.

Buchner: We are adding value to your ASMCUE registration this year, particularly as it relates to two items. For the first time, we are allowing all participants who register for the full conference to attend one 4-hour pre-conference complimentary. Second, we are adding a new session which we call “Activity Test Kitchen.” Here, all attendees will bring one active learning activity to the session to receive peer feedback and critique. The end result is that you will leave ASMCUE with a model activity that you can use in the biology or microbiology classroom immediately.

Author: Contributor

The Education Board's mission is to educate individuals at all levels in the microbiological sciences. It supports both student and faculty development through fellowships, online publications, conferences, workshops, and institutes, and networking opportunities.