Cultivating learning communities

I am committed to enhancing diversity in the sciences. I provide a supportive classroom environment where students and I work together to discover new ideas and different ways to view or address a challenge.

Student diversity and retention are crucial to my approach to designing a course, or specific exercises.

My outreach experiences have shaped my approach to teaching and mentoring undergraduate, master’s, and PhD students. My approach integrates three key principles:

(1) combining core concepts with practical application to current events

(2) guided active learning - where students and I work together. I also make sure to emphasize the practical skills we gain from working in groups; successful group work is an essential skillset not just for the classroom but also for the job market (and life in general).

(3) critical thinking as “optimistic skeptics” using quantitative reasoning and theory as guideposts

I believe this integrative approach helps to foster a higher level of understanding, critical thinking, empowerment, enthusiasm for learning (and metacognitive skills), and engaged citizens.

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Big picture goals

I connect lessons in the classroom to real-world current issues to help simplify abstract ideas and make them more tangible and applicable for students.

In both the classroom and the lab, I cultivate a supportive, engaging, and interactive learning community where students not only become comfortable asking questions but we also help each other discover answers and ways to address challenging questions.

NSF’s ARISE program and working with UNL’s Center for Transformative Teaching and Innovative Design was an essential milestone for me in learning the next-generation of pedagogy approaches and philosophy. I can not recommend these programs enough!

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Engaging the broader community & general public

Outreach is an essential component that strongly informs my approach to teaching and research (and vice versa).

Since 2014, I have been working with the local Audubon Chapter (Sassafras Audubon Society) where I helped develop a conservation and outreach program 'Swifts in the City' — a collaborative project focused on improving the plight of the chimney swift (a "near-threatened" bird species).

Chimney swift ('the dolphins of the sky') populations appear to be declining quite drastically (i.e., IUCN “near threatened” in the US, COSEWIC “federally threatened” in Canada). While the causes of these declines are multifaceted, a major issue is the loss of breeding habitat (old hollow tree snags, and industrial and residential chimneys).

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Art + Science (STEAM)

Through collaborations involving numerous community partners (e.g., local and national Audubon Chapters, community artists, schools, WonderLab museum of science, health, and technology, and numerous funding agencies), we designed, built, and installed eight new breeding habitats "functional sculptures" that mimic freestanding chimneys and provide additional breeding and roosting habitat for this endangered bird.

We also led numerous outreach projects to increase awareness and appreciation of this amazing bird and their role in the global food web by combining art and science.

Please visit my outreach page: swifts in the city