College dean speaks out on staying motivated
By Cari Hachmann/ The Portland Observer
As a kid, Tuajuanda Jordan hated science. Biology was unquestionably boring, and she did not know a single scientist. “When I was growing up, there were no African-American scientists,” said Jordan.
In the 11th grade, however, a chemistry class seized her curiosity. and the young introvert realized that many of the answers to her questions could be answered in the laboratory, studying the science of matter.
Jordan soon advanced in the academic lab world; she graduated from Fisk University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry, and in 1989 she became the first African-American woman to graduate with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Purdue University.
Today, as Lewis and Clark’s new Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Jordan hopes to act as role model for all students who seek higher education, while encouraging diversity in science and other fields.
“It’s important for students to see people like me,” said Jordan, sitting in her office wearing a bright orange blouse, the school color for Lewis and Clark, during the first week of student orientation.
Jordan, who was the first in her family to go to college and graduate, continued, “It’s also important for students to know that to go places; you don’t need to have a mentor that looks like you.”
As long as students are given respect and guidance, Jordan believes they will stay motivated for success, and her wealth of experience in science education backs that up.
After completing her postdoctoral training, Jordan served as a chemistry professor and associate vice president of academic affairs at Xavier University in New Orleans.
When Hurricane Katrina drowned much of the historically-black campus, Jordan and fellow administrators took pay cuts to ensure there were enough resources for Xavier to re-open its doors as the first college in New Orleans to welcome displaced students back to classes.
After 11 years at Xavier, Jordan left in 2005 and accepted the position as director of the Science Education Alliance of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where she joined scientists and educators in a collaborative effort to enhance science literacy among college freshman and train a future generation of scientists.
In 2008, she headlined the National Genomics Research Initiative, a program created to captivate undergrads in the field of science, specifically genomics, by immersing them in a real scientific research experience.
“Students become more engaged when they realize they are working on something they didn’t know the answer to,” said Jordan, who encouraged students to act like scientists, talk like scientists, and test hypotheses like scientists, “And the true moment of discovery is when they get the answer.”
The Geonomics Initiative, a lab experience that educators find both cost-effective and promising, in that it retains about 90 percent of students in science programs, is now implemented at over 60 institutions.
In addition to publishing and presenting on science education, Jordan’s research has been featured in top scientific journals.
Jordan decided to accept the offer at Lewis & Clark because of the potential and energy she saw in the school and commitment of faculty to students in every study.
“There is a true relationship between students and faculty, where they appear to be colleagues,” she said about the Portland school, “Staff are committed to student success –you can feel it.”