Alda Center Responds to Increased Demand for Improvisation-Based Science Communication Training

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Alda Center Conducts International Workshops and Expands Capacity with New Faculty and Staff

Faculty and staff of the Alda Center

The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University is responding to an ever-growing global demand for improvisation-based science communication training by building its instructional team and research capacity to serve more scientists via the Alda Method™. Since 2009, the Alda Center has served nearly 10,000 scientists and medical professionals in its workshops worldwide, with additional graduate students and faculty trained in courses and workshops on campus at Stony Brook University.

Among more than 70 traveling workshops conducted for nearly 1,800 scientists from January 2017 to present were visits to: National Parks Service in Alaska, NASA Glenn Research Center in Ohio, Rita Allen Foundation in New Jersey, Arecibo National Observatory in Puerto Rico, University of Dundee in Scotland, Dublin College in Ireland and University of Oslo in Norway. This summer, the Alda Center also celebrated a new partnership with the State University of New York under former Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher and pledged to prepare faculty to train STEM doctoral students in the highly acclaimed Alda Method™ at up to four additional SUNY campuses.

“At the core of our work at the Alda Center is a deep commitment to making science part of people’s lives and cultures,”said Alda Center Director Laura Lindenfeld. “Clearly, the desire to communicate science more effectively is a phenomenon that expands beyond the United States. When we bring our work to international contexts, it enables us to spread an approach to science communication that is grounded in genuine connections and empathy.”

To meet demand and prepare to scale up, the Alda Center welcomed full-time improvisation instructors Lydia Franco-Hodges and Elizabeth Bojsza to the team this fall. Both women were long-time members of the Department of Theatre Arts at Stony Brook and have taught independently for the Alda Center. Another Theatre Department recruit, Nancee Moes, will support outreach programs such as The Flame Challenge and Science Unplugged while also applying her teaching experience in the on-campus courses. Finally, Dina Brennan was recruited from a long-standing appointment on the University’s admissions team to lend her event planning expertise to the implementation of the Alda Center’s many traveling workshops.

The Center also expanded its research efforts by recruiting Brenda MacArthur, George Mason University; Todd Newman, American University; and Nicole Leavey, Stony Brook University, to examine when, why and how science communication can be most effective. The team will advance science communication research while helping to evaluate the quantitative and qualitative impacts of Alda Method™. This will support the Alda Center’s commitment to continuous improvement and expand its curriculum in the areas of health communication, climate change, gender in STEM fields and other topic-specific areas.

“We can see clearly from years of experience that the Alda Method™ is effective in helping scientists and medical professionals to communicate clearly and vividly about their technical work. It’s exciting for us to explore research studies that will confirm these experiences with real data. Our research and that of our partners will also contribute to an ever-growing knowledge base related to best practices for science communication worldwide,” said Dr. Lindenfeld.

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