Director’s Letter November 2022

Head and heart

Only through the bringing together of head and heart- intelligence and goodness- shall man rise to a fulfillment of his true nature. From Love in Action, Martin Luther King, Jr.

RMBL has a responsibility to evaluate the success of our education programs. In spending 10 weeks in Gothic, students give us the greatest gift, the gift of time. We have an obligation to the faculty that send students; a bad summer experience can turn a student off science forever. For science educators who measure success by sparking careers in the sciences, such a loss is painful. The National Science Foundation should support other science training programs if they are better than ours, just as private supporters have a plethora of opportunities to support education, churches, social causes, and the environment.

My heart tells me that our programs matter. Students fill our dining hall with laughter, creativity, and engaged conversation. They engage in our community of scholars and embrace opportunities to climb mountains, bird-watch, and wander new ecosystems, from the depths of the Black Canyon to alpine meadows. Students come back, sometimes for lifetimes and sometimes after an absence of decades. They tell us about the importance of a summer in Gothic to their lives and when I see them pointing out to their partner and children the cabin they stayed in, I have no doubt about the impact RMBL had.

My head agrees. When we survey students, they tell us that a summer in Gothic is one of the more meaningful experiences from their college career. Indeed, many students from non-research institutions tell us it is the most important experience of their college career in terms of science.

The data shows a summer at RMBL follows many students for a lifetime. For an unusual number of students, a summer in Gothic becomes just the first of many, as they make the choice not only to enter science, but to continue working at RMBL. The adjoining article about Jocelyn Navarro tells the story of one such student. Beyond returning to RMBL, our longitudinal tracking finds alumni in science positions everywhere, from faculty positions to the corporate world. Indeed, one published study found that a summer in Gothic increases the likelihood of a student going on to a PhD program by 60%.

A pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King explores in his sermon “Love in Action” the dangers of ignorance, building upon perhaps some of the most famous words in history, “they know not what they do”. From racism to destruction by the atom bomb, he expressed fear of a “rendezvous with chaos” more because of blindness than badness. King explicitly endorses the power of science in this sermon and RMBL can take pride in its role in creating scientifically literate citizens, informed as scientific practitioners as well as citizens.

But King makes explicit the fulfillment that comes from bringing together the heart and the head. Not only does RMBL provide students the opportunity to learn, but also to be touched, through engagement in our community, and through the beauty of the mountains and wildflowers. The science engages the head, and the beauty and community engage the heart. Your support makes it possible!

More reading: A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ian Billick - Director RMBL

Ian Billick | PhD
Executive Director, RMBL