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Learning to a Greater Degree Award Winners

Congratulations to Ashley Wellman and Mathew Martinez, the fall 2015 recipients of the Learning to a Greater Degree Award.

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UCM Feature Stories

UCM Student Gains Valuable Experience as Producer, Director of Mainstage Production

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Dane Schnake on the set of 'Avenue Q' with his puppet friend, Princeton, one of the main characters of the production.


Dane Schnake's goal of teaching secondary speech and theatre is within reach as he prepares to graduate from UCM in May 2017. His academic experience at UCM has provided him with excellent instruction and mentorship, but he wanted the hands-on experience of producing and directing a mainstage production to complete his academic experience.

Dane proposed his project-producing, casting and directing a mainstage production in UCM's Highlander Theatre-as his honors project in The Honors College. Working with mentors Julie Rae Mollenkamp and John Wilson, professors of theatre, he applied for and received grant funding from the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri, along with a High Impact Learning Grant from the UCM College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

The grant funds have assisted Dane in becoming the first UCM undergraduate to produce and direct a UCM mainstage production. The musical "Avenue Q" opened Aug. 20, and performances are scheduled for Aug. 25, 26 and 27 at 7:30 in the Highlander Theatre.

"This has been a wonderful opportunity," Dane said. "As a future educator, it has been great to experience what it is really like to fully realize a full musical production. I can't learn in a classroom what I've experienced here in this theatre."

Dane Schnake's opportunity to experience hands-on, engaged learning exemplifies learning to a greater degree.

Brooks Receives Spring 2016 Learning to a Greater Degree Award

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Brittany Brooks, right, received the spring 2016 Learning to a Greater Degree Award from UCM President Chuck Ambrose


Creating social change requires dedication, knowledge and passion. UCM student Brittany Brooks brought these qualities and more to the table as she tackled the task of changing attitudes and educating the UCM campus about sexual assault and domestic violence.

Brittany was honored by the UCM Board of Governors with the spring 2016 Learning to a Greater Degree Award in recognition of her tireless efforts.

She engaged with faculty, staff and students, focusing on the issues surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault. She interacted with advocates at Whiteman Air Force Base to create a hotline, and created an advocacy program that has gained momentum during the past year.

The social work major traveled to Washington, D.C., to present her research on rape myths to the American Society of Criminology. At UCM, she partnered with another student in forming MoMen, a group of male students dedicated to ending gender-based violence.

But perhaps her greatest impact was created by the Sexual Assault Awareness Fair she coordinated during spring 2016. Gathering resources and experts from across the campus, she created an event that impacted the campus community.

"The advocacy program allowed me to leave a lasting impression at UCM while practicing the social work skills I learned in class," Brittany said. "Many people do not know that social work also is about advocating for vulnerable populations and working to create a society wide change."

For her commitment to engaged learning and service to the campus community, Brittany Brooks exemplifies learning to a greater degree.

Thomas Recognized For Engaging Campus, Community in Literacy Awareness

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Matt Thomas, right, receives the Spring 2016 Learning to a Greater Degree Award from UCM President Chuck Ambrose.


Matt Thomas brings a passion for learning and teaching to the classroom as a professor of reading and Literacy Program coordinator. That passion is contagious, and his students leave his classroom with the desire to make positive changes in the world.

As the spring 2016 recipient of UCM's Learning to a Greater Degree Award, Thomas was recognized for his dedication to literacy. In January 2015 he introduced the Keen Reading pogram following 10 years of research conducted in collaboration with his colleagues. The mission of Keen Reading is to broaden and deepen the literacy skills and reading habits of all readers, regardless of age or location.

Keen Reading recently partnered with KMOS-TV, UCM's public broadcasting station, and UCM Enactus, a student entrepreneurial organization, and the UCM Office of Sponsored Programs to receive a PBS Kids Local Book Distribution grant to provide free books to a targeted group of children from low-income families.

"At its core, it is simply my effort at research dissemination--getting our published, scholarly ideas off the shelf and into the daily lives of people who can hopefully benefit from it,â€쳌 Thomas said.

For his commitment to the engaged learning that makes a difference in the lives of his students, inspiring them to become advocates for literacy throughout society, Matt Thomas embraces learning to a greater degree.

Fashion and Merchandising Students help conduct fashion show for Gordmans

Students in the Fashion and Merchandising program pose for a photo after pulling off a successful fashion show for Gordmans.


Last fall, students in the Fashion and Merchandising program at UCM teamed up with midwestern department store, Gordmans, for a fashion show. Students volunteered as models, model assistants, back stage assistants, photographers and music coordinators, for a sneak peek into the fashion industry.

With help from their professors, students were fully engaged in the planning of the fashion show that took place Nov. 7, 2015 at Gordmans in Blue Springs, Missouri. Students in Lynn Alkire's Professional Image Management course were in charge of fitting and styling models in complete outfits for the runway.

"It takes team effort, organization and detailed planning for a fashion show to be successful," says Alkire, professor of Textiles and Clothing in Business. "That's what our students learned from this experience."

Many students were key show production assistants by managing show essentials behind stage. Quinn Ahrens, a freshman in Fashion Merchandising, served as a liaison between the announcers and the back stage crew.

"The fashion show helped prepare me for future jobs running fashion shows, coordinating outfits for models and other behind the scenes jobs," says Ahrens.

By gaining hands-on experience at a fashion show, these students are learning to a greater degree.

Ashley Wellman Receives Learning to a Greater Degree Award for Commitment to Engaging Students

Ashley Wellman (center), assistant professor of Criminal Justice accepts the Learning to a Greater Degree.


For Ashley Wellman, being an educator is more than just a job. Her infectious passion for teaching, learning and service led her to receive the Learning to a Greater Degree award for fall 2015.

"Observing my students engage in the learning process, gain personal confidence and refine their own career goals gives me energy," says Wellman.

As an assistant professor in Criminal Justice, Wellman is known for giving students opportunities to succeed inside and outside the classroom. Last fall, students in her Honors Colloquium Victim Advocacy course experienced service learning by partnering with local non-profits to plan and facilitate multiple projects.

"My goal is for my students to leave my classroom with a love of learning, greater self-worth, awareness, compassion and the ability to adapt their interests and knowledge to a career that is fulfilling," says Wellman.

Wellman also exemplifies a culture of by service by serving as a sexual assault victim advocate, student group advisor, community educator, and partner with local survivor agencies. Her research on cold case homicide survivors continues to guide her mentorships, community service partnerships and scholarship goals.

In Wellman's nomination, a student highlighted her commitment to serving others and teaching has touched minds and hearts on a personal level.

By inspiring her students to embrace a life-long commitment to service, Wellman embodies learning to a greater degree.

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