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University of Central Missouri
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Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
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Cole Named Recipient of Governor's Award for Excellence in Teaching

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (March 23, 2009) – Described by her UCM colleagues as a leader in reforming chemistry instruction for large classes, Renée S. Cole, Ph.D., , professor of chemistry, has been named the UCM recipient of the Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The formal announcement took place at a meeting of the university’s Board of Governors March 19. Cole joins other honorees from Missouri colleges and universities who will be recognized during a luncheon April 22 in Jefferson City.

"I am very honored to receive the Governor's Excellence in Teaching Award. It provides validation of my passion for education and the effort I put into creating an environment to engage students in learning,” Cole said. “The ultimate reward for excellence in teaching comes from my students, but recognition from my peers and the administration is very much appreciated.”

She was selected by the university’s Committee on Faculty Awards, based on nomination and letters of support from faculty members in the fall of 2008. Selection criteria included evidence of effective teaching and advising, innovation in course design and delivery, service to the college and university community, commitment to high standards of excellence, and success in nurturing student achievement. In their letters to the award committee, Cole’s colleagues in the Department of Biochemistry, Chemistry and Physics describe her as an outstanding, creative and versatile educator, who exemplifies the type of person for whom the award is intended.

“Dr. Cole’s list of accomplishments is long and distinguished…She has brought national, regional, and local recognition to our department, the College of Science and Technology, and to the University of Central Missouri,” noted Wayne Stalick, a professor and department chair.

Cole has been a faculty member at UCM for approximately nine years, with major teaching assignments in General Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and Chemistry for non-majors. Her colleagues praise her for innovative teaching techniques, which have made course content meaningful and interesting, contributed to increased retention rates for chemistry majors, and have stirred interest in the subject among non-majors. She has led efforts to reform general education chemistry in her department.

In addition to teaching university students, Cole has become nationally known as an expert onProcess-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL). This technique promotes a research-based environment for students in which they master course content and develop essential skills by working in self-managed teams that engage in inquiry activities. Cole conducts POGIL workshops around the country, and implements this learning technique in her own classes, some of them with large numbers of students.

“This is an amazing accomplishment considering the sections have more than 50 students and are taught without the aid of peer leaders,” Scott McKay, professor of chemistry, noted in his nomination letter.

A reflective practitioner, Cole constantly strives to improve her classes through course assessment data she collects throughout each semester. Her positive peer and student evaluations demonstrate the effectiveness of such efforts.

Cole is known as an outstanding mentor to students. She is one of two advisors for students pursing a Bachelor of Science in Education in Chemistry degree, and advises students who are considering graduate school.

Her work outside the classroom has included serving as advisor for the department’s student chapter of the American Chemical Society, which was recently selected to receive a national award from ACS. Within the last three years, she has served the university through her participation on numerous committees and councils dealing with topics such as university curriculum, assessment, academic planning, and teacher education.

UCM’s educational outreach efforts have been enhanced through Cole’s chemistry demonstrations at area elementary and middle schools and work with local Science Olympiad teams. She has also brought recognition to the university as a guest speaker for professional groups such as the ACS, through various workshops and seminars, and through her scholarly contributions to publications such as the Journal of Chemical Education and Journal of College Science Teaching. Her grant-writing activities have also benefited the department, providing funding for opportunities that have included online collaboration between UCM physical chemistry students and students from other universities.