MED’s Fadie Coleman a 2021 Metcalf Award Winner
Provides path to STEM degrees for underrepresented and working students
Teaching her first class last fall at the School of Medicine, postdoctoral associate Marianne Collard naturally had beginner’s jitters. But in Fadie Coleman, Collard found a mentor who’d taught students from college to middle and high school—and was only too happy to teach a fellow teacher.
“I met with Dr. Coleman weekly, where she helped me refine my syllabus, plan class lessons, and evaluate students’ learning,” providing guidance that was “exceptional,” Collard wrote in a letter nominating Coleman (CAS’97, MED’16), a MED assistant professor of medical sciences and education, for a 2021 Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, one of Boston University’s highest teaching honors.
“Perhaps Dr. Coleman’s most admirable quality,” Collard wrote, “is her advocacy for diversity and equality. As a person of color herself, Dr. Coleman understands and empathizes with struggles minority students face, which comprise the majority of the BLCS program.”
BLCS is the Biomedical Laboratory & Clinical Sciences Program, a collaboration between MED and Metropolitan College, which offers evening classes for working students seeking bachelor’s degrees in biotechnology. It’s a gateway to STEM education—perhaps the only one—for underrepresented minorities and nontraditional students.
That’s a point of pride for Coleman, who became the program’s director on joining MED in 2017 and knows firsthand the value of such gateways. Growing up in New Jersey without professional role models, she says that “picturing myself as a scientist did not become a reality until I met encouraging mentors, who treated me like a scientist from the very first day” at BU. A University summer internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital exposed her to medical research.
Senior year, she completed a career counseling survey “out of pure curiosity” and discovered a second passion: teaching. On graduating, she taught science in several Boston-area communities—chemistry and physical science in middle school, biology, physical science, and laboratory research in high school—and those years inform her University instruction.
“My experiences working with younger students help me to quickly assess where students are,” Coleman says, “and develop effective teaching strategies for introducing new material, reinforcing content knowledge, and encouraging critical thought at appropriate levels.” She learned another valuable lesson: “to reassure my students with great confidence that they can do the work. I love engaging with the range of students that I work with because it keeps me from forgetting what it was like to be in their shoes.”
During her directorship, the BLCS has awarded 59 bachelor of science degrees, with another 21 anticipated for this year.
“Dr. Coleman redesigned the BLCS curriculum by integrating updated laboratory techniques, scientific writings, and streamlining the internship programs,” her department chair, Hee-Young Park, a MED professor of medical sciences and education, wrote in her recommendation letter to the University’s Teaching Awards Committee. “The redesigned curriculum was well received by the students and she received positive evaluations from the students.”
Oh, and she taught four BLCS courses herself in each semester this academic year.
In addition to her BU degrees, Coleman earned a master’s from Harvard.
A gift from the late Arthur G. B. Metcalf (Wheelock’35, Hon.’74), a BU Board of Trustees chair emeritus and former professor, funds the Metcalf Cup and Prize and the Metcalf Awards for Excellence in Teaching, created in 1973 as the University’s highest teaching awards. The Cup and Prize winner receives $10,000; the Award winners, $5,000 each. A University committee selects winners based on statements of nominees’ teaching philosophy, supporting letters from colleagues and students, and classroom observations of the nominees.
This year’s Metcalf Cup and Prize winner is Steve Ramirez (CAS’10), a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences. The other Metcalf Award winner is David Sullivan, a CAS master lecturer in computer science. The Metcalfs will be presented at the University’s 148th Commencement on May 16.