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University of Central Missouri
Administration 302
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
Fax: 660-543-4943


Student Research, Faculty Presentations Highlight MoBio Legislative Benchmarking Tour

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Sept. 29, 2014) – Surrounded by a small group of Missouri legislators, Michael Godard, chair of the University of Central Missouri Department of Nutrition and Kinesiology, talks about the value of getting students involved in real-life experiences they are going to encounter in the workplace. Such opportunities, he insists are key to students’ success in college.

“If we engage students in hands-on experiences, we know they are going to persist through the program and graduate from UCM,” Godard said as he stood in the Human Performance Lab at the Department of Nutrition and Kinesiology, where visitors watched two students setting up a research demonstration on high-tech equipment that monitors certain heart and lung functions. “That’s something we obviously strive for with all our students, to get them engaged in this type of environment. We are extremely fortunate to have state-of-the-art equipment here, and we have been able to build upon that.”

Joined by Alice Greife, dean of the College of Science and Technology, Godard’s department was the first stop at UCM by legislators and their spouses participating on the Missouri Biotechnology Association’s 2014 MoBio Legislative Benchmarking Tour.  The tour began Sunday, Sept. 21 in St. Louis and was scheduled to conclude Friday, Sept. 26 with a final stop in St. Joseph.

“We’re taking legislators on a week-long journey across the state of Missouri to see some of the 40 strongest science-based assets in the state,” said MoBio President Kelly Gillespie, also noting that this wasn’t the tour’s first stop at UCM since the event was established in 2007.

“We’ve been here three or four times. We think it’s important to understand aspects of science education, and aspects of undergraduate research,” he noted.

The tour is a non-partisan fact-finding effort that has four goals:

Gillespie said about 90 Missouri legislators have completed the tour since its establishment. This includes Sen. David Pearce, who accompanied the group on its visit to UCM. Local legislator, Rep. Denny Hoskins, also is a former participant in the MoBio program. Other legislators who visited UCM were Rep. David Wood, a UCM alumnus from District 58; Rep. Warren Love, District 125; and Senator Brian Munzlinger, District 18.

MoBio tour 2014

University of Central Missouri President Charles Ambrose, left speaks to participants in the Missouri Biotechnology Association’s 2014 MOBIO Legislative Benchmarking Tour during a visit to a renovated chemistry lab at UCM. Joining him, from left, are Alice Greife, dean of the College of Science and Technology; Leigh Ann Blunt, chair of the School of Environmental, Physical and Applied Science; faculty member Chen Zhou, chemistry; Tony Dunavent, MMBIO; faculty member Innocent Pumure, chemistry; Jessica Grove, MOBIO: Rep. Warren Love, District 125, and his wife, Marla Love; Kelly Gillespie, MOBIO president; Rep. David Wood, District 58; and Sen. Brian Munzlinger, District 18.

Gillespie stressed the value of legislators seeing what the state has to offer in the sciences first-hand.

“If they take a look at it, they realize they can learn a lot in one week, much more so that they can at committee hearings and things like that in the state capitol. It’s a great way for a legislator to look beyond their district and realize what they can do to help the entire state of Missouri get stronger,” he said.

Greife served as the group’s guide and host, and numerous faculty members made presentations. This gave legislators an opportunity to learn of the impact renovated facilities can have on improving student learning and college completion in addition to hearing about the challenges facing higher education. Faculty members stressed ways technology and the renovation of learning space is improving the learning experience and success rate of students.

At the W.C. Morris Building, for example, Phoebe McLaughlin, professor of mathematics, discussed how the university now accommodates more students with fewer faculty members and still improves learning outcomes through the Intermediate Algebra Redesign Program. Scott Lankford, associate professor of biology and agriculture, talked about renovation of the anatomy laboratory and a redesign of how the anatomy course is taught in order to reduce the overall cost to educate students and improve student learning, which is also true of the intermediate algebra course.  Leigh Ann Blunt, chair of the School of Environmental, Physical and Applied Sciences, and school faculty members, Jason Holland, Innocent Pamure, Jay Steinkruger and Chen Zhou, conducted a tour of two recently renovated chemistry labs. They also showed legislators two labs that are in need of updating. Faculty members discussed why the science building needs major renovation in order to create an environment that maximizes student learning.

UCM President Charles Ambrose joined the group at the Intermediate Algebra Lab, where he referred to the facility as “ground zero” in terms of its importance in helping the university to achieve its student success goals.

“We have three clear and basic objectives,” Ambrose said, “and that’s to have more students access college, have them complete their degree in four years, and make sure their degree equips them to be workforce ready in a really dynamic and changing economy. That’s our mission in applied science and technology.”

Shortly after arriving on campus, the group headed to the Department of  Nutrition and Kinesiology where they met faculty members and students in the Human Performance Lab. Aided by undergraduate student Montana Seymour and graduate student Toby Chambers, they watched how the TrueOne Parvomedics Metabolic Cart was being used in a study about exercise-induced asthma. UCM is working on the study in cooperation with the University of Kansas Medical Center and Kansas State University. Together, they hope to test 1,000 athletes, according to Steve Burns, associate professor of kinesiology. Data will be used to help validate the United States Olympic Center’s screening process for exercise-induced asthma.

“Exercise-induced asthma has been undiagnosed for years,” Burns told the group. “The normal pulmonary response in exercise is to have your lungs expand so you are able to exchange more air over time. If you have exercise-induced asthma, it tends to constrict and you can’t exchange the bad air for the good air to come in. So, we’re looking for a normal response or an abnormal response, post exercise.”

Such a study, he said, can be useful in helping to identify athletes who have exercise-induced asthma, so they can get treatment that will allow them to perform at a higher level.

Gillespie said the opportunity to witness such a demonstration is valuable for legislators on the tour. “A lot of tomorrow’s health care is from wellness, personalized medicine,” he remarked. “That entire spectrum has to be covered, so we are thrilled today to get to see programs like this. A student has an opportunity to do research here. An opportunity to participate in a strong program like this hopefully leads to a more engaged student, a student who has life balance, and hopefully doing well in classes and graduating.”

University members who participated in the tour believe legislators left with an understanding of the needs that exist on campus, and the commitment to student success despite challenges.

As Greife put it, “We turn out great students with excellent faculty. We do this in spite of a 40-year-old science building designed for outdated teaching methods. In those areas, however, like the human performance laboratory, intermediate algebra classroom and anatomy laboratory, courses can be redesigned to provide cost savings and significant improvements made in student learning, retention and graduation.”