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Learning to a Greater Degree Award Winners

Congratulations to Colin Comer and Emily Northen, the fall 2016 recipients of the Learning to a Greater Degree Award.


UCM Feature Stories

Veteran Actor Expands Horizons for UCM Theatre Students

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Kansas City-based actor Kip Niven, center, spent six days on the UCM campus as an artist-in residence, working with UCM theatre students.


UCM theatre students hone their craft with guidance from faculty. The opportunity to engage with a seasoned film, television and stage actor Kip Niven in a performance project has enhanced their UCM experience.

Niven, a Kansas City-based actor who has worked in New York and Hollywood, spent three days on campus in November and again in February as a Meridith Harmon Sauer Guest Artist Series artist in residence. In November he taught students the David Craig Technique in a master class and auditioned and cast a dozen young musical theatre performers for a February 2018 production.

Niven returned this past week to direct final rehearsals for "The GAP Project," a self-conceived cabaret production of the music of the Gershwins and Cole Porter in which the 12 members of the cast performed a dozen solos and a dozen duets.

"I've worked in musical theatre before," said Lexi Poindexter, a junior theatre major, "but this was a different experience. Kip was able to educate us on the cabaret genre and the Craig method, which expanded our ability to connect with the audience."

Tristan Jordan, a sophomore theatre major, found the opportunity also broadened his experience.

"It added a lot to my view of musical theatre," he said. "He taught us to look at a song as monologue at pitch."

UCM theatre students experienced engaged learning through their interaction with a veteran professional, adding to their opportunity for learning to a greater degree.

UCM Robotics Club Looking to the Future

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UCM junior Izzy Bonds displays some of his personal robotic creations.


UCM junior Izrael "Izzy" Bonds is a problem solver. He is double majoring in mechanical and industrial engineering technology, with two minors in CADD and manufacturing, satisfying his desire to find new ways to do things with technology, particularly robotics.

Among his many interests, Izzy wanted to enter a robotics competition, but discovered he couldn't enter as an individual, but had to enter with a group of students recognized by the university as a student organization.

Izzy solved that problem by reaching out to fellow students and creating the UCM Robotics Club with 12 to 15 interested students and applying to the Office of Student Activities for recognition as a student organization.

The next step was developing the resources to enter competition next fall. Gathering surplus resources made available by the Engineering Technology program, the club has begun preparing for the competition. The final step is raising the funds needed to develop an entry and compete. The competition will require the students to build a robot to specs they will receive only a month before the competition.

"We want to take what we're learning in class and apply it," Izzy said. Club members include computer science majors and a public relations major, with membership open to any student with an interest.

"Everyone has something to add," he said. "It's about collaborating to solve a problem."

For the members of the UCM Robotics Club, their commitment to future-focused academics and engaged learning provides opportunities for learning to a greater degree.

UCM Students Experience African Culture Through Museum Exhibition

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There are many ways to gain an understanding of other cultures without traveling the globe. For the UCM campus and the surrounding community, an exhibit currently on display in the Arthur F. McClure Archives and Museum provides an exciting glimpse into the history of the spiritual and ceremonial cultures of Africa.

"Sacred: The Ritual Arts of Africa," an exhibition of west- and central-African ceremonial ritual art, will be seen only at the McClure Archives and Museum. The exhibit will be open to the public through March 9.

UCM alumnus Brian Nickl, Kansas City, a renowned collector of the specific examples of ceremonial masks and apparel, prepares the exhibition only for his alma mater every other year, providing UCM and the surrounding community with a rare opportunity to learn about a native culture.

For UCM students, the exhibition also has become a part of the curriculum in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

"The exhibition has been incorporated into a variety of courses in music, art and anthropology," said Amber Clifford-Napoleone, director of the McClure Archives and Museum. "Brian is willing to make his collection available where students can see it close-up, and each exhibition includes different pieces of his extensive collection."

A rare glimpse at a specific aspect of African culture provides a worldly experience for UCM students, creating an opportunity for learning to a greater degree.

Opportunity to Serve Guides UCM Student's Career Decision

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UCM student Megan Fletcher assisted with the cleaning of a home in Houston following Hurricane Harvey.


Service to others comes naturally for Megan Fletcher, a UCM biology major with an emphasis in wildlife and natural resource conservation.

In addition to her work as the student coordinator for UCM's Office of Sustainability, her commitment to service and the environment was reinforced during Christmas break as she volunteered in Houston. She worked for three weeks with strangers who became close friends, assisting in the recovery from Hurricane Harvey.

Volunteering with the nonprofit organization All Hands and All Hearts, Megan witnessed the devastation and destruction of Harvey. She worked in a group assigned to assist with the cleaning of a home, first removing all damaged drywall and insulation, followed by scrubbing all wood surfaces seven times and vacuuming. The final phase was spraying all of the cleaned surfaces with a mold preventative.

She also worked on the cleaning of a church that housed a daycare and medical facility. At each location, residents expressed their appreciation. "I met some of the greatest people," Megan said. "I've never felt so welcome. I worked with volunteers from all walks of life and experienced the happiness of the homeowners as they unlocked their property so we could go to work."

The experience has left Megan with a true appreciation for the kindness of others and the true force of nature, reinforcing her decision to apply what she learns at UCM to a possible career in disaster relief. Her commitment to serving others and the environment adds to her experience of learning to a greater degree.

Commitment to Service Recognized with Learning to a Greater Degree Award

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Michelle Conrad received the Fall 2017 Learning to a Greater Degree Award from UCM President Chuck Ambrose during the Jan. 4 Learning Day luncheon.


Michelle Conrad, assistant professor in the Department of Middle, Secondary and Adult Education, was recognized for her commitment to service as the faculty recipient of the Fall 2017 Learning to a Greater Degree Award.

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Conrad serves the department as graduate coordinator, advising more than 85 graduate students in two of the four degree programs she coordinates. She teaches in other departments when requested and leads by example by serving on departmental and college committees, including the search committee for the dean of the College of Education during her first year on campus. In addition, she serves as advisor for a UCM sorority.

Conrad also provides support for secondary and postsecondary career and technical education teachers as they transition from the industry roles into teaching and has served state and national professional organizations as a principal investigator in both funded and non-funded grants that have brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to UCM.

Reaching beyond the UCM classroom, Conrad serves as a liaison between local school districts and higher education, sharing her expertise in college and career readiness, new teacher mentoring, student development and best practices in career and technical education. She serves also serves the Association for Career and Technical Education as a professional presenter.

Michelle Conrad exemplifies Learning to a Greater Degree through her commitment serving her students, colleagues and stakeholders.

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