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2009 Outstanding Alumnus

2009 Recipients: David Cook & Keena Arbuthnot

In 2009, the UCM Alumni Association honored two graduates as Outstanding Recent Alumni. The first award was given to 2006 alumnus and American Idol winner David Cook when he performed on campus April 28. The second was presented during May commencement ceremonies to Louisiana State University Assistant Professor Keena Arbuthnot, establishing an international reputation in the field of educational psychometrics. Read about both of the 2009 recipients.

David Cook with Margaret Herron and Becky Klein

After a sellout performance that rocked a multi-generational audience, David Cook received the University of Central Missouri Outstanding Recent Alumni Award from Margaret Herron, president of the UCM Alumni Association, and Becky Klein, association vice president. His visit to UCM in April was part of a nationwide tour that took him to college and university campuses across the U.S.

This award recognizes Cook’s outstanding achievement since receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in 2006 in graphic arts technology management, an academic program in UCM’s College of Science and Technology. For many years, he performed in bands locally and in communities near his hometown of Blue Springs before his musical journey took him to the nationally televised American Idol stage. In winning the competition in 2008, he set a record for most public votes for an Idol contestant.

His successful entry into the national music scene at age 25 led to a record-breaking 14 debuts on Billboard’s Hot Digital Songs survey. Eleven of his songs also made the Hot 100 list, the highest number of new entries ever, and the second-highest number of simultaneous hits since the Beatles in 1964. His song, Time of My Life, entered the Hot 100 at No. 3, became the highest debuting title of 2008 and went platinum in 2009.

Keena Arbuthnot with UCM President Aaron Podolefsky

Keena Arbuthnot is confronting education in American. She is highly sought after nationally and internationally for her work in gender and racial differences in measurement and standardized testing. Arbuthnot graduated from UCM in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematic and took a job as a math teacher at a predominately black high school in Atlanta, GA, where she first became interested in studying standardized testing. She left the classroom after two years of teaching to pursue a master’s and doctoral degree in educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

After Arbuthnot graduated from UIUC, she accepted a dual appointment as a lecturer on education and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. There she conducted research on issues such as achievement gap among minority and majority groups, differential item functioning, test fairness, mathematical achievement and the psychological effects of testing.

Currently she is an assistant professor in the College of Education at Louisiana State University. Along with her teaching, Arbuthnot continues to do research and consulting in the field of education. In the past, she has consulted for the African-American Distributed Multiple Learning Styles Systems where her team developed a video game that used hip-hop music to teach algebra.

In fall 2007, because of her background in standardized testing and measurement, Arbuthnot was invited by Her Excellency Sheikah Ahmed Al Mahmoud, Minister of Education and Secretary General of the Supreme Education Council of Qatar, to visit the country and assess its educational reform programs. There she worked as a senior consultant to the country’s top education officials and gave recommendations on their educational reform efforts.

“All of the experiences I have had thus far have been shaped by my time at UCM,” she says. “When people ask me about my educational background I am always honored to tell them about my alma mater. No matter what I do in life, I will always remember my time at UCM. I am sincerely grateful to be nominated for such a prestigious award.”