The lack of communication training in STEM graduate education fundamentally results in uni-dimensional researchers who are less attracted by non-academic sectors due to the inability to translate their research to practical problems (Walker, 2005; Brown et al., 2010; Moser, 2010; Mitchell and Weiler, 2011). Further, it contributes to the public not fully understanding the climate issue (Francis et al., 1993; Leiserowitz, 2008) leading to a large fraction who (~33%) are dismissive, doubtful, or disengaged about the reality of climate change (Pew Research Center, 2008; Leiserowitz et. al., 2010; Leiserowitz and Smith, 2010; Leiserowitz, et al., 2012). As such, researchers are increasingly recognizing the need to train STEM graduate students in applied sectors (Walker, 2002; Walker, 2005) to become more skilled at engaging public stakeholders in the scientific process and communicating their scientific findings in clear, understandable terms where uncertainties and risks are specifically addressed in ways that help a variety of stakeholders make informed decisions (Nisbet, 2009; Nisbet and Kothcer, 2009).
This course will train graduate students in understanding the foundations of climate science and the affective, cognitive and behavioral challenges to climate literacy within the public domain and multiple stakeholder groups. It will provide students a unique and scaffolded opportunity to apply effective messaging strategies through real-world experiences engaging with and developing climate products for the public.
Although, there is an on-going split-level Climate Communication course offering in the Department of Communication, this course is unique as it provides students a coupled experience which includes theory related to the learning barriers to climate change and provides practical experience to better address these barriers among a variety of stakeholders.
Additionally, this course is a requirement for the proposed on-line Climate Change and Society Certificate program. As such, this class is tailored towards the goals and learning objectives of that program and it is anticipated that, at minimum, half of the course will be reserved for Climate Change and Society certificate program students, leaving some spaces for STEM/science education/other graduate enrollees. However, after just the first offering with little to no advertising the course had 11 enrolled and successfully completed graduate students. Likely, with additional advertising and the launching of the certificate program, there will be more demand than the course can handle. As such, the parallel offering in the Dept. of Communication may be attractive for many students not enrolled in the Certificate Program and/or who would prefer to take a face to face offering.