The College of Science named senior lecturers Amy Pope, Meredith Burr and Christine Minor the inaugural recipients of its Dean’s Distinguished Lecturers Award.
The awards, presented during the College’s faculty meeting May 12, recognize teaching-focused faculty members who demonstrate significant positive impact on the classroom.
“Meredith, Chris and Amy are elevating the science learning experience. Their innovative approaches are increasing student learning and engagement said Cynthia Young, dean of the College of Science. “Their sustained excellence is advancing science forward at Clemson and beyond.”
Before Meredith Burr became coordinator of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences’ Math 1080 (Calculus II) course in Spring 2016, more than half of the students enrolled either withdrew from the class or received D’s or F’s. Annually, approximately 1,000 students take the course, taught by a mix of tenure track faculty, lecturers and graduate students.
After implementing several changes, such as a prerequisite skills quiz, coordinated online homework, and regular meetings to mentor graduate student instructors, the course’s DFW percentage fell to 25% in 2017, near the national average, without the loss of rigor. It has stayed in the 20s since.
In 2020, Burr created a master Canvas course that included all course content, pre-class quizzes and links to online homework. When in-person classes resumed, her Math 1080 Canvas course video lectures were made available to all students as a supplemental resource.
“The coordination job is a massive and complex management operation with very high stakes. The success of many science and engineering students depends on their success in this course, which is known to be the hardest in the calculus sequence,” wrote Felice Manganiello, associate professor in the School for Mathematical and Statistical Sciences and division lead for mathematics and statistics education, in his nomination letter.
Burr has developed several courses for SMSS. In addition, she created more than 100 instructional videos on Calculus I and Calculus II topics and shared them publicly on her YouTube channel. The videos have been viewed more than 550,000 times and impacted student learning at Clemson and other universities.
She has also conducted The Class of 1956 Academic Success Center’s “Jumpstart Your Success in Your College Math Classes” workshop before each academic year since 2017.
Burr joined the Clemson faculty in 2012. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Providence College and her master’s and Ph.D. from Tufts University.
As Introductory Biology coordinator for the Department of Biological Sciences, Christine Minor works to meet the needs of students in introductory biology — whether they are biology majors, allied majors or other majors — and the faculty that teach them.
That was never so evident as in the past two years.
She converted labs to an asynchronous online format when classes had to go virtual because of the pandemic. She transformed the labs to a synchronous online design for 2020-21 and then back to in-person instruction this fall.
“Throughout, she has been instrumental in making students, graduate teaching assistants and the faculty she mentors feel safe and supported throughout a very tumultuous time,” wrote Saara DeWalt, chair of the Department of Biological Services, in her nomination letter.
Her first love is for undergraduates, particularly first-year students who are transitioning to college. Minor believes her role is foremost to prepare them for future success as as students, members of the discipline and lifelong learners. To this mission, she worked with the Academic Success Center and other faculty to implement a peer-assisted learning pilot program for biology students enrolled in BIOL 1100. She plans to extend the program to all versions of introductory biology in the future. Minor also trains the graduate teaching assistants for the BIOL 1101 and BIOL 1111 labs. She focuses not only on content but also on the pedagogy and student-teacher relationships to develop graduate students into the teaching faculty of the future.
She is a group leader in a regional pilot Gateway STEM program between Tri-County Technical College and Clemson, supported by a grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Minor received the College of Science Excellence in Teaching Award in 2021.
She joined the Clemson faculty in 2004. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in biological sciences from Iowa State University.
Amy Pope believes physics is for everybody, including students who struggle with math and take the course only because it is required for their major or non-science majors needing a natural science course.
Pope developed a new general education course, “The Physics of Sports,” which introduces non-STEM students to complex concepts through simple words, personal experience and concrete illustrations of the science in action.
“Minute to Win It Physics Style” games, complete with a “Newtonian Know It All” trophy, allow students in her general physics course to view the world around them through the lens of science. Students cheer each other on with calls to increase the angle of the applied force or decrease the velocity during the games.
“She is committed to reaching as many students as possible with the message that the study of physics is relevant, doable and rewarding,” Department of Physics and Astronomy Chair Sean Brittain wrote in his nomination letter.
Pope has presented to the Clemson Think2 Faculty Institute, the University Teaching Forum, Clemson Graduate Teaching Institute and the Clemson Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation. She had mentored several lecturers across the College of Science and in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
She has been recognized locally and nationally for her teaching.
In 2017, Pope received the College of Science’s Outstanding Lecturer Award. A year later, Austin Spence, then a long snapper on the Clemson football team, nominated her as a guest professor for the P.A.W. Journey program. In 2020, Pope received the Jerry G. Gaff Outstanding Teacher Award from the Association of General and Liberal Studies, a national award focused on excellence in general education.
Pope received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in physics from Clemson.
Advancing student learning
Associate Dean Stephen Creager chaired the screening and selection committee. Other committee members were Associate Dean Calvin Williams; Department of Biological Sciences Alumni Professor Richard Blob; Hugo Sanabria, the College’s lead faculty senator; Londan Means Charley, director of academic advising for the Department of Biological Sciences; and Jennifer Van Dyken, senior lecturer in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.
“Our faculty’s dedication to advancing student learning is an inspiration to me and the members of the review committee. We are so happy that these three senior lecturers are being recognized for their passion and impactful work,” Creager said.
A similar program to recognize College of Science professors was launched in December. Professors Jeff Anker and Margaret Wiecek received Dean’s Distinguished Professor Awards. Feng Ding and Chris McMahan received Dean’s Associate Professorship Awards. Xian Lu and Matt Koski received Dean’s Assistant Professorship Awards.
Both awards are supported by unrestricted gifts to the College of Science.
The College of Science pursues excellence in scientific discovery, learning, and engagement that is both locally relevant and globally impactful. The life, physical, and mathematical sciences converge to tackle some of tomorrow’s scientific challenges, and our faculty are preparing the next generation of leading scientists. The College of Science offers high-impact transformational experiences such as research, internships, and study abroad to help prepare our graduates for top industries, graduate programs, and health professions. clemson.edu/science
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