Baker plans to strengthen student skills in data literacy and artificial intelligence as fourth Pelson chair

Joe Baker standing in server room
Joseph Baker, chemistry professor. Photo: Lauren Adams

Given the ever-increasing pace of technological transformations in our data-driven society, TCNJ chemistry professor Joseph Baker intends to engage and educate the campus community in the areas of data literacy, computation, and artificial intelligence as the fourth recipient of the Barbara Meyers Pelson ’59 Chair in Faculty-Student Engagement.

“Students need to be able to successfully navigate this rapidly changing landscape — not just as information and technology consumers, but as active creators and problem-solvers,” Baker says.

To accomplish this, he says, students need fluency in skills like data literacy, data analysis and visualization, coding, and the principles of artificial intelligence — skills he’s helped student researchers in his chemistry lab hone over the past 10 years.

Baker will build on the recent TCNJ Artificial Intelligence Task Force report, which recommended developing collegewide AI/computational literacy support for students, faculty, staff, and administration. In particular, there is a great need for professional development like workshops, guest speakers, and training programs to help foster an environment of continuous learning and innovation in these areas.

In partnership with the TCNJ Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Baker will establish learning communities centered around these ideas so that faculty can learn from each other about best practices for engaging students in their classrooms, labs, creative spaces, and other formal and informal learning spaces. He will also invite external workshop leaders and speakers to provide their perspectives on how they integrate data literacy, computation, and AI across the undergraduate curriculum at their own institutions.

“Our students deserve a curriculum that doesn’t just teach them about the world, but allows them to acquire the tools to analyze it, interpret it, and shape it through computation and data literacy. The work I am proposing to engage in as the Barbara Meyers Pelson ‘59 Chair in Faculty-Student Engagement will help our campus achieve that goal,” Baker says.

Baker will serve a three-year term beginning July 1, 2024.

The Barbara Meyers Pelson ’59 Chair in Faculty-Student Engagement recognizes and supports faculty members who have a distinguished record of faculty-student collaborative scholarship and teaching, and are exemplars of the teacher-scholar model. The activities of the chair are expected to involve collaborative research, scholarship, or creative activity with students; campuswide activities that enhance the college’s capacity for faculty-student engagement; and the organization of the annual Barbara Meyers Pelson Lecture.

Emily W. Dodd ’03