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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.


Winners of the Learning to a Greater Degree Award

Mathew Martinez Earns Learning to a Greater Degree Award

Martinez was presented the Learning to a Greater Degree award for his dedication to improving society.


Sophomore Economics major Mathew Martinez is determined to make a positive change in the world. An honors student and campus leader, Martinez plays an active role in many activities on campus that help the community and raise awareness for important causes. Because of this, Martinez was recognized with the fall 2015 Learning to a Greater Degree student award.

Martinez' list of activities is extensive. He serves as the floor leader for the Student Government Association, and is the student coordinator for the American Democracy Project. Passionate about societal issues including diversity and gender equality, Martinez is a leader on campus for the national It's On Us campaign, a cause dedicated toward ending campus sexual assault.

Martinez' nomination described this passion, explaining that he "stepped onto the UCM campus on fire, [ready] to make a difference in the lives of others."

Martinez encourages students to take advantage of opportunities to serve on campus. "College is a time to make connections and make a difference in the world around you," says Martinez. "It's important for students to recognize what they are capable of and use it to build a brighter future."

Upon graduation, Martinez plans to continue advocating societal improvement by lobbying for causes he believes in.

By harnessing his passions to change the world, Martinez is 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.


Adriatik Likcani Receives Learning to a Greater Degree Award for Dedication to Future-Focused Academics

Adriatik Likcani (center) received the Learning to a Greater Degree award for his commitment to the professional success of his students.


Adriatik Likcani, assistant professor of Child and Family Development, is well-known for providing real-world experiences for his students and connecting them with industry professionals. This spring, he was recognized for his dedication to his students' future professional success.

"I was blessed with great educational opportunities and mentors throughout my schooling," says Likcani. "I see teaching as an opportunity to give back."

His students regularly benefit from on-campus conferences and off-campus trips to see professionals in the child and family development field at work. He recently took his Family Policy and Advocacy students to Jefferson City to meet with David Pearce, Denny Hoskins, and their staffers, to see policymakers in action.

Likcani says his students are eager to learn and take advantage of educational opportunities.

"Professionals in the field are always amazed at the level of maturity and know-how that our students have," he says. "That's why UCM is developing a big name for itself not only in the state, but internationally, as an outstanding educational institution."

Likcani has also worked in Warrensburg as a counselor and a marriage and family therapist. The student who nominated him for the award noted how valuable his professional experience was to bringing real-world examples into the classroom.

Likcani's future-focused classes ensure his students experience learning to a greater degree.


Jonathan Ellis Earns Learning to a Greater Degree Award for Leadership in Aviation Program

Jonathan Ellis (center) was presented the Learning to a Greater Degree award for his leadership in the UCM Department of Aviation.


For Jonathan Ellis, it's all about making the most of your time in college. For this reason, Ellis was recognized with the Learning to a Greater Degree Award this spring.

Ellis is earning his MBA in Ethical Strategic Leadership and is the graduate assistant for the Department of Aviation. Having been in the program for six years, Ellis has focused much of his graduate work on bringing all aspects of UCM Aviation together into one culture.

Ellis' nomination highlighted many of his contributions, including improving the aviation program's newsletter and teaching students about the importance of core values. Ellis also surveyed more than 200 aviation students, faculty and staff to improve the program's sense of community.

Although Ellis' schedule is full with many projects, his mentors, Tony Monetti, Fred Schieszer and Steve Quick inspire him.

"Watching my mentors and seeing what they are capable of, motivates me to keep pushing forward," says Ellis.

Ellis strives to improve the student experience and display the importance of service and communication every day.

"For me, learning to a greater degree is thinking outside the box and using the time you have to serve others," says Ellis. "It's about improving yourself and learning from everyone."

By dedicating his time to creating a culture of service, Ellis exemplifies learning to a greater degree.


Jennifer Carson Receives Learning to a Greater Degree Award for Commitment to Criminal Justice, The Honors College

Jennifer Carson (left), assistant professor of Criminal Justice helps a student with a hands-on learning assignment.


Jennifer Carson, assistant professor of Criminal Justice and coordinator of undergraduate research and external scholarships, says the best part of her job is mentoring students on their research and creative projects. This fall, she was recognized for her passion and dedication with the Learning to a Greater Degree Award.

In Carson's nomination, her student, Brooke Cooley, highlighted Carson's engagement in leading international experiences for UCM students, her dedication to students, and her interest in researching terrorism, policy evaluation and comparative criminology.

"This is an incredible honor," says Carson. "I am deeply humbled by receiving the award given all of the amazing talent and commitment to education I see on campus."

Carson is affiliated with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism, a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence. Her work has been published in numerous journals, and Carson has presented her research at international conferences.

Carson's passion for international travel has led her to visit more than 20 countries. She's led two study abroad opportunities in London and Paris, and Turkey through the Department of Criminal Justice. Carson also participated in the Consortium for Transatlantic Studies and Scholarship program, where she taught a course that included visits to Spanish police, courts and corrections.

By giving her students a worldly perspective, Carson demonstrates learning to a greater degree.


April Roller Earns Learning to a Greater Degree Award for Dedication to Suicide Prevention

April Roller (center) was presented the Learning to a Greater Degree Award for her dedication to suicide prevention and outstanding volunteer work.


Following the loss of her husband, April Roller had a choice to make - become consumed by grief, or rise above and make a difference. This fall, Roller was awarded the Learning to a Greater Degree Award for choosing to make a difference.

In Roller's nomination, she was described as the epitome of living a culture of service. She holds numerous leadership positions and memberships in organizations. Roller believes in volunteering and helping others understand that seeking treatment for depression or anxiety saves lives.

Roller is actively involved with the Warrensburg Out of Darkness Community Walk, is certified through the Ask. Listen. Refer. Suicide Intervention Program, and she started the UCM student chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

"I want to help others, like me, who have lost a loved one to suicide," says Roller. "Raising awareness and helping people learn the warning signs is one step closer to saving a life."

In addition to her volunteerism, Roller is passionate about learning. A Criminal Justice and Psychology major, she is actively involved in the classroom and recently became a McNair Scholar.

"I'm excited to work with the amazing McNair faculty to prepare for my doctoral studies," says Roller.

Through her leadership positions, hands-on learning and dedication to helping others, Roller embodies learning to a greater degree.


Future Teacher Recognized with Learning to a Greater Degree Award

Kelsey Kidd (center) was presented the Learning to a Greater Degree Award for broadening her perspective through travel and volunteerism.

Growing up volunteering and being active in her church, senior Elementary and Early Childhood Education major Kelsey Kidd knew the world was much bigger than her community. This spring, Kidd was recognized as a recipient of the Learning to a Greater Degree Award.

In the nominations Kidd received for the award, the nominators highlighted her service, listing her numerous leadership positions and memberships in organizations on and off campus. Kidd believes in volunteering, because it not only benefits the organization, but it also helps her to learn about herself.

Kidd broadened her perspective and gave back during her Jamaican study tour. She went to Petersville, Jamaica with six fellow UCM students and associate professor of educational foundations and literacy Karen Foster to teach the community children about other countries. At night, they went on staff outings and participated in activities with local residents.

"We saw the difference between living in Jamaica and being a tourist," Kidd says. "We interacted with the locals and saw the local culture."

Kidd took advantage of the traveling abroad opportunities offered at UCM through her major. She went to Sweden with her World Diversity class to learn about its education structure. "I want to take more than a trip. I want to actually live the culture," Kidd says.

Through her volunteerism, practical hands-on learning and travel, Kidd is learning to a greater degree.


Tony Monetti Receives Learning to a Greater Degree Award for Commitment to Aviation Department

Tony Monetti (center) earned the Learning to a Greater Degree Award for his genuine passion for his students and the Department of Aviation.

Tony Monetti was hired as the assistant dean of aviation in August 2012. The first thing he did was create six foundational core values for the department, hired field-expert faculty members and began fostering relationships on and off campus.

"The key to success is helping others succeed," says Monetti. "It's not about you. It's about the students and your team."

It's Monetti's genuine personality and passion for the department that has led to its success and the success of its students. He leads by example and has inspired students to step up as program leaders as well.

"He truly cares about every student, and he is always at the service of others to make sure he's doing everything he can to create a culture that reflects his service and that of the department's," says John Ellis, the graduate assistant in the Department of Aviation.

Monetti uses every possible resource to help the department achieve its full potential. By using expertise gained from his experiences as a private pilot, local business owner and B2 bomber in the U.S. Air Force, he teaches students what skills are most important when looking for employment.

By inspiring and encouraging others through his enthusiasm for UCM aviation, Monetti, his students and his team are learning to a greater degree.


Learning to a Greater Degree Award Winner Combines Passions to Change Lives

A future teacher, Samantha Behlman (center) received the Learning to a Greater Degree Award for her work to end bullying in schools.

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.


Powerful Approach to Service Learning Recognized with Learning to a Greater Degree Award

Professor Wendy Geiger (center) received the Learning to a Greater Degree Award for her high-impact, service-oriented approach to teaching.

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.


Student Leader Recognized with Learning to a Greater Degree Award

Daniel Bender's leadership and engagement earned him the Learning to a Greater Degree Award.

In his second semester at UCM, senior Daniel Bender learned that some projects stretch beyond the classroom and affect more people than the students in the course.

Last fall, the Management of Organizations class put on a dance and raised more than $1,000 for a local charity, Music in Motion. The event was held for local men and women with Down syndrome and UCM students.

"The dynamic of the event was unexpectedly incredible," Bender says. He served as the project manager for the class.

On Friday, Bender was recognized for his embodiment of UCM's engaged learning and culture of service as the student recipient of the Learning to a Greater Degree Award.

"He was a leader and motivator in a class project where he had very little power base," professor Mary McCord wrote in her nomination. "Without formal authority, Daniel moved the class toward their goal and the event was a success."

About 200 people attended the event; half of them were UCM students who paid $5 to attend. Additionally, the class sold bracelets to benefit the local group.

"This project definitely had an impact on me and others because it was such a unique concept of the classroom," Bender says. "We were able to touch and see the impact."

By being a student leader in a class project to benefit a local charity, Bender is learning to a greater degree.


Nordyke Honored by Learning to a Greater Degree Award

Alan Nordyke goes above and beyond, which earned him the Learning to a Greater Degree Award.

Alan Nordyke, director of residence and Greek life, goes above and beyond the call of duty outlined in his job description.

In addition to his assigned duties at work, Nordyke is the coordinator of the University of Central Missouri's Special Housing Interest Programs, is a member of the Student Success Committee, recruits graduate assistants for several departments and teaches on campus. "Being a part of professional organizations is great, I've enjoyed serving my field in that way," Nordyke says.

He is also established in the Warrensburg community as an active member within the local school district and his church.

Patrick Bradley, director of housing and dining services, nominated Nordyke, saying, "He performs his duties because he truly cares about students succeeding after they leave UCM, not for the personal accolades."

Nordyke has worked at UCM for more than 25 years. He came to UCM as he was looking for his first job and was able to grow within the university throughout the years.

Nordyke says, "I am very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to help others through my work here. I believe in what we're doing at the university, and that makes it easy to do my job."

By believing in students and providing his time and talent to UCM, Nordyke exemplifies learning to a greater degree.


First Student Presented with the Learning to a Greater Degree Award

President of the UCM Board of Governors "Bunky Wright" (left) and UCM President Chuck Ambrose (right) present Lacy Stephens (center) with the Learning to a Greater Degree Award.

Lacy Stephens has been selected as the University of Central Missouri's first Learning to a Greater Degree student award recipient for her involvement in engaged learning and service throughout the Kansas City area.

Stephens, a senior nutrition and dietetics major, has a very busy schedule. Between classes and preparing for graduation, she finds time to organize events for the Student Dietetics Association as its current secretary.

"This semester has been a little stressful, but receiving this award reminded me of the bigger picture," Stephens says. "I was very flattered and surprised!"

Some of the volunteer organizations Stephens is involved in include Cultivate Kansas City, Serve Kansas City and Society of St. Andrew West. She received the 2011 Volunteer of the Year award for her work with "Eating from the Garden" through Cultivate Kansas City. Although Stephens is very passionate about all of her volunteering endeavors, she is especially fond of this program.

In her work with "Eating from the Garden," Stephens had the privilege to work with fourth graders in an urban youth center. She recalls watching them "pull things straight from the garden and seeing them love their vegetables," as one of the most memorable moments in all of her volunteer work.

UCM's reasons to believe are exemplified through Stephens' positive outlook and drive to teach others about sustainability and nutrition in urban areas.

"Learning to a greater degree means stepping outside of the classroom and figuring out how you can take the pieces you are learning and use them in the real world," Stephens says.

Do you know someone who demonstrates UCM's reasons to believe? Nominate them to be the next Learning to a Greater Degree Award recipient.


Stockton Honored with Learning to a Greater Degree Award

Susan Stockton's passion and engagement earned her the Learning to a Greater Degree Award.

The nomination for UCM's first faculty recipient of the Learning to a Greater Degree Award opened with the statement, "Susan Stockton exudes a genuineness that motivates her to provide students with experiences that go beyond the classroom."

When talking to Stockton, a health education instructor and two-time UCM alumna, her genuineness is immediately apparent, as is her passion for teaching.

One of the many notable ways that Stockton helps to provide her students with engaged learning opportunities is by giving them access to a software program she obtained through an in-house grant. This program allows students to monitor their heart rate and understand how it affects their health, resiliency, creativity and problem-solving abilities.

"Because their world to me is so exuberant with color and action, the more you can engage the whole person, the more they will remember," Stockton says.

Stockton also gets students involved beyond health education, taking advantage of the "creative trust" of UCM faculty and staff who bring speakers and events to campus on a regular basis.

This semester, she had the American Democracy Project group come into her classes to help register students to vote, and for a service-learning experience, she took her students to help clean up Warrensburg's Blind Boone Park.

Stockton's passion and involvement in and outside the classroom demonstrates what learning to a greater degree means.