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UCM Feature Stories
Powerful Approach to Service Learning Recognized with Learning to a Greater Degree Award
Wendy Geiger believes she has one of the best jobs in the world — being a professor in the Department of Communication and Sociology at UCM. This semester, Geiger was recognized for her impactful approach to teaching with the Learning to a Greater Degree Award.
"I just really feel honored to be one of the faces of this award," says Geiger, who was recognized at the November 2013 Board of Governors meeting.
In the two nominations Geiger received for the award, her nominators enumerated the many ways she goes above and beyond for students, including her participation in The Vagina Monologues, producing a cross-disciplinary project with the Department of Theatre and Dance and her contemporary communication class, and running the Oxfam Hunger Banquet for the past six years with her persuasion class.
"I was looking for a high-impact, service-learning project," says Geiger. "The Oxfam Hunger Banquet is a microcosm of how the world eats. The students' role is to persuade people to come and persuade people that hunger is an issue."
This past year, Geiger partnered with Sodexo to increase the fundraising she and her students were able to do for Oxfam, resulting in nearly $10,000 donated to fight hunger locally and nationally.
By engaging in collaborative service-learning projects, Geiger’s students experience learning to a greater degree.
Learning to a Greater Degree Award Winner Combines Passions to Change Lives
As a future middle school teacher, Samantha Behlman is dedicated to raise awareness about bullying prevention and practice effective intervention methods. At the November 2013 Board of Governors meeting, Behlman was awarded the Learning to a Greater Degree Award.
Behlman's sister suffered from bullying in school. Because of this personal experience, she wanted to prevent bullying and promote positive school environments in her future work setting.
"It is my hope that through prevention, education and intervention we can end bullying, so no one has to experience what my sister did, at any age in their lives," says Behlman.
Behlman created two bullying prevention models, which will give future educators a resource to encourage intervention in a bullying situation.
Behlman tackles the issue at the elementary through college levels. Recently, she taught 75 middle school students the skills to intervene in safe and effective ways when dealing with a bully. At the college intervention level, she founded a student group called Encouraging Positive Interventions on Campus, which is known as the EPIC Educators.
By using her personal passion for bully prevention and incorporating it into her professional life, Behlman is learning to a greater degree.
University Play Therapy Room Offers Students Real-World Experience
After receiving an undergraduate degree from UCM in Criminal Justice, with a minor in Psychology, Tricia Theiss decided to return to school. UCM's master's program in Counselor Education was the route she chose to follow.
"I wanted to find a career in which I could help individuals on a more personal level," says Theiss. "I chose UCM because of the numerous opportunities and uniqueness of the counseling program."
One of these opportunities is UCM's play therapy room. The play therapy room is equipped with developmentally appropriate toys for children to use to communicate with the student counselor. This way, the counselor can gain insight into the child's world and determine where he or she may need help.
The play therapy room is available for children at the Foster Knox Child Care Center. This stimulation opportunity is provided at no additional cost to the family.
This experience has helped Theiss by providing her with real-world experience. She remembers her first time in UCM's play therapy room.
"I was nervous because I lacked experience," says Theiss. "Because I was able to practice the techniques we learned in class, I began to feel more comfortable and develop my own style in the play room."
By taking in-class theory and applying it to children in the Warrensburg community, Theiss is learning to a greater degree.
Professor and Student Receive Foundation Grant to Conduct Fresh Research
Scientists who want to study proteins need efficient methods to make them. Jay Steinkruger and Ashley Chapman are testing a hypothesis that aims to improve upon an existing method for making small protein segments here at the University of Central Missouri.
Steinkruger, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Chemistry and Physics, recently received funding for undergraduate research through a UCM Foundation Opportunity Grant. The funding is being used to purchase chemicals and consumable supplies needed for experiments he is conducting with Chapman, a senior chemistry student.
"For us here in the chemistry department, a major focus is trying to get undergraduate students involved in independent research projects," says Steinkruger. "We're putting the grant funding to good use to give students a taste of what doing experimental science for a living is like."
The independent research projects empower students to investigate questions beyond those that come up in their required science laboratory courses.
The project has provided some valuable opportunities for Chapman, including access to and use of brand new laboratory equipment purchased by the university. Upon graduation, Chapman says she would like to continue to do scientific research and is considering attending graduate school.
By receiving support from faculty and the UCM Foundation to conduct cutting-edge research, Chapman is experiencing learning to a greater degree.
UCM Students Compete for Social Justice
Emily Elfrink, a sophomore Biology major, excels in more than science. She is a finalist from this past spring's Social Justice Speech Competition, a supplemental program within UCM's public speaking classes.
Since the program's inception in fall 2012, public speaking instructor Carli Wrisinger believes the speeches have benefited students. The speeches have influenced more than 300 students with an average of 17 participating classes each semester.
"It's not about convincing the listeners to share your viewpoint," says Elfrink. "It's about giving them the necessary information to form their own opinion."
The competition consists of three rounds, spanning six weeks. The initial speech takes the place of the informative speech from the standard curriculum and top-performing students are elected from each class. During the second round, class representatives are assigned to groups and video speech submissions are judged. The top five students then present their speeches during the final round and can win monetary prizes based on their performance.
"I like seeing the enthusiasm some of the students have about their topics," says Wrisinger. "It is encouraging to think that students can move forward with that zeal to make a difference."
This semester’s final speeches will be presented at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 at the James C. Kirkpatrick Library Performance Corner.
By competing for more than a trophy, Elfrink experienced learning to a greater degree.