Quyen Arana’s visit to whitehouse.gov two days after President Barack Obama’s inauguration landed him in front of a congressional panel last week.
Arana, 40, is associate director for industry partnerships at the University of Oklahoma’s K20 Center where he directs National Science Foundation grants in the Partnerships for Innovation program. He’s also involved in OU’s community engagement efforts and has been helping design a system that can track the number of hours students work in the community. That interest prompted him to read about the American Opportunity Tax Credit Act on the Web site. The bill would provide students a $4,000 tax credit in exchange for 100 hours of community service. Arana called one of the sponsors for more details on how the bill would work. "I asked how they intended on the universities keeping track of that,” he said. That question turned into a 30-minute conversation with a legislative assistant. Arana described what OU has been doing with its community engagement programs and his work to help develop a tracking system. One of the things he’s noticed through his efforts to connect industry to the K20’s educational programs is a huge problem with science communication. So the center is encouraging scientists to do more outreach. His comments were part of the service learning presentation to the congressional panel. If the bill passes, Arana hopes OU’s work will be the model for how universities can track time students spend on community engagement.