2018 Teacher Scholar-Awards
College of Communication Arts and Sciences
Saleem Alhabash is an unusually gifted scholar and teacher. His background as co-founder of a nonprofit organization aimed at empowering at-risk youth through psychosocial support and media production programs shaped his service-based learning approach geared toward empowering students and communities, particularly through communication and media.
Alhabash's research is fueled by the idea that media and communication, particularly social media, can help individuals to better their own lives, from their personal health to the risks they face online. His research explores why and how people use social media as well as its persuasive effects. In one study, he documented the powerful associations between social media engagement with alcohol-related content on individuals' own drinking and their estimation of drinking norms among other social groups. His research also examined the effects of alcohol advertising via social media on alcohol use intentions and behaviors. One study showed that participants exposed to beer ads on Facebook were more likely to select a gift card for a bar over a coffee shop than their counterparts exposed to bottled water ads. Alhabash's research has resulted in 25 referenced journal articles, eight book chapters, 18 conference proceedings, white papers and invited articles, along with awards for several of these publications.
As a teacher, Alhabash is motivated to improve students' lives and future careers by creating a space where they can think creatively and critically while working to solve serious research challenges. For example, he had students doing their own research and invoking their own creative solutions on a project aimed at helping the MSU Office of Sustainability promote sustainable behaviors on campus.
Alhabash is dedicated to mentoring undergraduate and graduate students both inside and outside the classroom, as evidenced in his service on more than 24 graduate committees and inclusion of nine undergraduate students in his research projects.
For his ability to integrate scholarship, teaching and creativity in all that he does and his commitment to mentoring students to become citizens of the world, Saleem Alhabash is richly deserving of the Michigan State University Teacher-Scholar Award.
M. Danny Caballero
College of Natural Science
M. Danny Caballero’s research concerns how students learn to practice science, that is, how they engage in and eventually develop expertise in the practices of modern scientists and engineers. Toward this understanding, he is passionate and practical in developing innovative learning environments and then studying their effect on student learning. He is particularly well known for his research on introducing computational tools and methods into physics courses, an expertise he has leveraged and expanded into several different classroom environments. The experimental methods include introducing new paradigms for introductory physics courses, transforming introductory physics laboratories and implementing new learning environments in junior and senior level courses.
Caballero is the founder of the Physics Education Research Laboratory, or PERL, at MSU, which has grown rapidly to include three other faculty, numerous postdoctoral fellows and graduate and undergraduate students. Through a prolific output of high profile research publications, PERL has helped establish MSU as a national and international center of excellence in physics education research, so much so that faculty throughout the world are interested in applying his teaching methods. The University of Oslo has even appointed Caballero as an affiliated professor to assist them in quantifying the effects of transformation of their curricula to include computational tools and methods.
Caballero’s focus on excellent teaching extends beyond research. Both his undergraduate and graduate students are quick to praise his classroom methods as instrumental to their mastering physics concepts. In a non-majors physics class, for example, Caballero had students solve complex problems by applying physics concepts in small groups. In another class, he helped students grasp physics concepts by emphasizing conceptual understanding rather than rote calculations, which had the added bonus of student appreciation for the subject.
The impact of Caballero’s work on physics courses at MSU has been transformative throughout the department, with the introduction of evidence-based practices in many courses, the development of new graduate and undergraduate teaching assistant training programs and the mentoring of many new faculty in evidence-based teaching practices.
For his outstanding research, broad mentoring and leadership roles, transformative impact on teaching in the physics and astronomy department and, most importantly, achieving very high learning gains and appreciation from diverse student populations, M. Danny Caballero is truly deserving of the Michigan State University Teacher-Scholar Award.
College of Music
Michael Dease is the preeminent jazz trombonist of his generation, a musician who combines intense creativity and artistry with incredible technical skill and one of a new vanguard of trombonists reshaping the world’s understanding of the instrument’s possibilities. His innovative techniques in trombone slide execution and articulation have greatly extended the speed, clarity, musicality and versatility of subsequent generations of trombonists in the genres of jazz, world, folk and popular music. Dease's latest recording, “All These Hands,” traces the musical roots of his African-American and Caribbean ancestry from Barbados to New Orleans, Louisiana and throughout the cultural expansion of the Great Migration northward in the United States. DownBeat, jazz's leading peer-review publication, awarded it a sought-after four-star rating, calling it a “soulful, swinging tour of African-American styles” while observing that “the authority of Dease's playing resounds across the album, firing on all cylinders and an entertaining study in blues permutations.”
Professor Dease's recent recordings, “Coming Home,” “Decisions,” “Father Figure” and “All These Hands,” were all critical successes and enjoyed a plethora of radio play. “Coming Home” reached number two on the JazzWeek radio charts, which tracks the airplay of nationally released jazz recordings. “Relentless,” his first big band release, demonstrated his composition and arranging abilities and was named an “Editor's Pick” in the July 2014 issue of DownBeat.
Dease is a member of several prominent jazz ensembles and most notably, the GRAMMY-Award winning Christian McBride Big Band. Other collaborations have led to performances at prestigious venues around the world, including the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, the Tokyo Blue Note in Japan, Tchaikovsky Hall in Russia, The Village Vanguard in New York and the White House.
As a teacher, Dease has established one of the top collegiate jazz trombone studios in the country; indeed, the MSU Jazz Trombone ensemble, under his leadership, recently won the jazz trombone ensemble competition sponsored by the International Trombone Association. Under his directorship, MSU's Jazz Orchestra Three has grown into a highly skilled, musically compelling student group, rivalling top jazz ensembles in peer programs. Dease’s students have won significant honors and found welcoming audiences among jazz fans across the country.
For his exceptional and sustained level of excellence as a teacher and performing artist, Michael Dease is most deserving of the Michigan State University Teacher-Scholar Award.
College of Education
Christine Greenhow is a leading expert on the nature of learning in technology-mediated spaces and how those practices align or fail to align with competencies valued in formal education. She applies her findings toward designing innovative learning environments and illuminating learning and design theories. Greenhow’s work on new forms of digital scholarship represents a model for future education: technologically savvy, publically engaged and impactful on research and practice.
One aspect of Greenhow’s research focuses on the study and design of social media enabled spaces for learning. Most recently, one of her research projects enabled the design of interactive social supports in the form of an open source Facebook application, “College Connect,” for high school students in the college search and choice process. This work builds on her previous studies, which found that online social networking among high school students from low-income families is associated with improving adolescents’ online social supports for college access. Further, her research on learning with social media has shown that young people’s online social networking consists of identity work, new literacy practices and enhanced social capital — all findings that can be applied in the classroom.
As a teacher, Greenhow applies an evidence-based approach to her pedagogy, knowing that to design meaningful, technology-enhanced learning environments for students, particularly doctoral students, requires an understanding of emerging scholars’ needs and practices. Her courses use a customized WordPress website as a portal for students to the various technologies she uses to enhance their interactions and build community. She was among the first educators to experiment with robot technologies to increase students’ sense of social presence, or their feeling of being together even when not meeting in a classroom but online. Students praise her “creative uses of technology” that fosters participation via multiple channels and her ability to push them toward new insights through challenging readings, regularly naming her class as the “best ever” in evaluations.
In addition to her outstanding teaching, Greenhow is a sought-after adviser. She provides opportunities for collaborating on research and authorship with all her students; in 2017 alone, her team produced nine journal articles and twelve conference papers and presentations.
For significant contributions to teaching, research and outreach, Christine Greenhow is a most deserving recipient of the Michigan State University Teacher-Scholar Award.
College of Natural Science
Kristin N. Parent is a prolific scholar who brings an extraordinary level of passion to her exploration of how viruses act; specifically, she studies the structure and function of medically significant viruses. After joining MSU in 2013, Parent initiated a highly productive program to study the relationships between the structure of viruses, as visualized using cryo-electron microscopy, and the process of infection. Viruses infect their respective hosts through a regulated process of recognizing highly specific cell receptors and subsequently transferring genetic material across cell membranes.
One of her lab’s main projects involves exploring the assembly and host-recognition mechanisms in the double-stranded DNA-containing Podoviridae bacteriophage family, such as the Sf6 bacteriophage which infect the bacterium Shigella flexneri. Understanding how the Sf6 bacteriophage infects Shigella, an important human pathogen, can provide a model for a large family of viruses to reveal how viruses infect humans and to fight viral and bacterial at causes of human disease.
Recently, Parent’s research team mapped one of the world’s largest viruses, the giant Samba virus. These efforts earned her the 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science for Women in the Chemical Sciences Award and the 2017 Young Investigator Award from the American Society of Microbiology.
Parent is known as an innovative and gifted teacher, willing to explore new methods of teaching to revealing the invisible of world of biology to help all of her students understand and become involved in science. Toward this end, she has been instrumental in revamping the “Biological Sciences 161: Cell and Molecular Biology” curriculum. With colleagues, she applied evidence from education research to the development of new instructional materials centered on student engagement and active learning. She has also incorporated highly innovative modeling exercises at introductory class levels to allow students to work collaboratively.
Parent’s commitment to science education has even spread to the community, where she has devoted time to outreach programs involving middle and high school students interested in learning how to isolate viruses from the environment.
Parent’s enthusiasm for science is evident in how she mentors and collaborates, the thought and energy she puts into her teaching and her work to share her research outside the university. For her commitment to research, MSU and community students’ education and her contagious enthusiasm for science, Kristin N. Parent is a most deserving recipient of the Michigan State University Teacher-Scholar Award.
College of Natural Science
Vashti Sawtelle is a physics education scholar whose primary interest lies in supporting diverse groups of students in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, learning environments through an improved understanding of interdisciplinary learning, focused on the role active learning, modeling and interdisciplinary classrooms (e.g., physics for biologists) plays in creating supportive learning environments.
Sawtelle led the Lyman Briggs College’s, or LBC, physics group in a complete curricular transformation to Studio Physics, an integrated and innovative laboratory/lecture approach that supports students in building a strong conceptual and experimental basis for understanding physics concepts. One of the components of this approach in LBS ties the course content explicitly to biology and chemistry concepts to enhance its relevance to LBC students’ interests. She further redesigned LBCs’ physics curriculum to encourage reasoning and conceptual analysis, which involved a complete renovation and remodeling of the teaching space to promote active learning and investigations with modern measurement and data acquisition technologies.
In the classroom, Sawtelle clearly states the course’s objectives, both large and small, and then aligns these goals with backwards-designed, problem-solving activities, laboratory experiments and in-class and homework assignments. During her classes, she walks throughout the studio room, interacting with student groups, probing their thoughts about the problems or experiments with which they are grappling, and then leads them to finding flaws in their understanding (when necessary) by posing challenging questions on the topic and their observations, instead of simply dispensing answers. Her physics teaching and course design excellence was recognized in 2016-2017 with a MSU Gateway STEM Fellowship.
Sawtelle has published numerous articles and conference proceedings’ papers and has co-authored a chapter on bridging knowledge analysis and interaction analysis in the book
“Knowledge and Interaction: A Synthetic Agenda for the Learning Sciences.” Her seminal proceedings paper from the 2016 Physics Education Research Conference systematically investigates the student mindset in physics, which is strongly linked to academic performance. Sawtelle has also edited a special issue on physics education research for the journal Physical Review.
Sawtelle has demonstrated excellence in both teaching and research, establishing a strong footprint of active service among her wider discipline. For her experimental, innovative and ambitious pedagogical work in physics that informs her teaching, and teaching that informs her research, Vashti Sawtelle is a most deserving recipient of the Michigan State University Teacher-Scholar Award.