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Mary Walczak
Professor
walczak@stolaf.edu
Chemistry Department
St. Olaf College
A Case in Point: From Active Learning to the Job Market 

This case was developed for use in the first weeks of a course in order to show students how participating in active learning exercises in their classes can benefit them. It uses the fictionalized story of a manager of a scientific consulting firm who has approval to hire an entry level scientist. Students read evaluations of the five job candidates, then rank them and list the reasons for that ranking and/or analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate in regard to the position. This prepares them to discuss (and defend) in class their ranking. The case serves to motivate students for active learning pedagogies throughout the course, and also demonstrates how they can use their course work to gain skills that may make them employable. The case is designed to be equally useful in any type of science course at an introductory (majors or non-majors) or advanced level, in any field from chemistry to environmental science to biology. With upper-level students, it can be used to explore the transition from college to a career, and help them translate their education experiences into marketable skills.


The Benign Hamburger 

In this dilemma case study, the executives of a popular restaurant chain must decide whether to use irradiated meat, in this case, beef, to protect its customers from the bacteria, E. coli. Students learn about food irradiation and discuss issues related to food safety and the public’s acceptance of new food technologies. As developed, the case could be used in a variety of introductory science courses in chemistry, physics, biology, environmental science, and agricultural science.