Month: September 2019

From the Desk of the Dean

Dear CMS Alumni and Friends,

Greetings from the Dean’s Office. I hope you had a great summer.

We have completed a successful academic year. Thanks to the efforts of our faculty and staff, we produced another large group of graduates for the much-needed STEM Workforce in Oklahoma and in the country.

We started our 2019-2020 academic year last month. The faculty and staff are excited about and look forward to our new year as we will continue our tradition of providing an excellent learning environment for our students.

Of course, I would like to brag about our faculty and staff. Their accomplishments are so amazing and so numerous, but I can provide only a few examples within a limited space.

1. Dr. Beth Allan of the Department of Biology was elected as the President-Elect for the National Science Teachers Association, the largest professional organization promoting excellence in science teaching and learning.

2. Dr. Wayne Lord of FSI and the Department of Biology received the 2019 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching Award, the highest college teaching award in Oklahoma.

3. Dr. Morshed Khandaker of the Department of Engineering and Physics was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and is taking a sabbatical to conduct research at Uludag University, Turkey, for the 2019-2020 academic year.

4. Dr. Kristi Karber of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics received the Oklahoma/Arkansas Mathematical Association of America Section 2019 Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

5. Dr. Jim Bidlack of the Department of Biology was recognized by Multimedia Educational Resource for Online Teaching (MERLOT) for his contributions to the organization’s Biology Editorial Board with the MERLOT House Cup.

6. Dr. Leann Laubach of the Department of Nursing was elected as a National Council on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) Councilor.

7. Dr. Eric Eitrheim of the Department of Chemistry was selected for the first cohort of IONiC VIPER fellows, which is a grant-funded program to help faculty become better teachers and develop new teaching resources for Inorganic Chemistry.

8. Dr. John Fritch of the Department of Funeral Service served as President of the University Mortuary Science Education Association.

9. Dr. Tom Turner of the Department of Computer Science served as a Commissioner for the ABET Computing Accreditation Commission.

Our faculty also won many accolades at UCO during the Convocation last month including:
Two recipients of the Neely Excellence in Teaching Award: Dr. Britt Bannish of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Professor Nelda Fister of the Department of Nursing. That is a record in the history of the Neely Excellence in Teaching Award – both Neely Awards given to faculty in the same college.

Two recipients of the Faculty Merit Credit Award in the area of Research: Dr. Robi Hossan and Dr. Morshed Khandaker, both from the Department of Engineering and Physics.

Dr. Britt Bannish of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics also received the CMS Vanderford Teaching Award.

We also have a recipient of the Exceptional Performance Award: Tara Simmons, the Director of Development at the UCO Foundation and CMS. She has done a great job in raising over $1.2 M for our college last year.

I would like to ask you to join me to celebrate and congratulate these and many other not-mentioned faculty and staff for their achievements. I cannot be prouder to work everyday with such wonderful colleagues in our college.

I would like to let you know that our new, 57,000 square-foot, Donald Betz STEM Research and Learning Center opened its doors last November. The faculty and students thoroughly enjoy the interdisciplinary teaching and research facility. I myself now have a new research lab space in this building so that I enjoy some “stolen moments” from my busy schedule to work in the lab. If you have not visited our new STEM Building, please do so. It has quickly become a landmark in UCO and Edmond.

Looking forward, we are still facing challenges. Working with the department chairs, we have set up our priorities for the next several years:
Increase recruitment, retention, and graduation
Enhance capacity through fundraising

With the efforts of all faculty and staff in these critical areas, we are confident that we will prevail and succeed to fulfill our mission as the only Oklahoma Metropolitan University and become the STEM powerhouse for Oklahoma.

On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students, I would like to thank you all for your continued confidence in and support of our college. I would like to let you know that we are doing our best to make all our alumni, friends, and supporters proud!

Wei R. Chen, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Mathematics and Science

CHEM Updates

Like many departments across campus, the Chemistry Department has a long history of faculty who take pride in and devote a great amount of time to their work with students in the classroom. Over the past year, a number of faculty in the Department spent time learning how to improve their teaching through book groups, workshops, and other learning opportunities. Eric Eitrheim was named a VIPEr Fellow in an innovative National Science Foundation-funded study to develop, test, and refine a flexible, foundation-level inorganic chemistry course. As one of the first twenty faculty selected for this ground-breaking project, Eric Eitrheim joins other inorganic chemists from across the country in a community of practice dedicated to improving student learning. A number of faculty from the Department participated in events sponsored by UCO’s Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching & Learning 21st Century Pedagogy Institute (CETTL 21CPI). 21CPI exposes faculty to ideas related to course design, active learning strategies, learning assessment, learning environment, and academic professionalism. In addition, faculty can learn about and begin projects in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Through participation in activities, evidence of adopting practices, and reflections on the impact of these new practices, faculty can earn various levels of recognition. Four Chemistry faculty members (Dallas New, Sanjeewa Gamagedara, Shawna Ellis, and Stephanie Skiles) were recognized as SoTL Research Participants. Two Chemistry faculty members (Luis Montes and Shawna Ellis) were recognized as 2019 Teacher-Scholars, and four Chemistry faculty members (Amanda Waters, Eric Eitrheim, Sanjeewa Gamagedara, and Stephanie Skiles) were recognized as 2019 Distinguished Teacher-Scholars. In addition to these recognitions, two Chemistry faculty members (Cheryl Frech and Luis Montes) who have previously been recognized with UCO’s Neely Excellence in Teaching awards, were invited to contribute to a book with reflections by Neely award winners. Cheryl’s reflection “A Long and Winding Road: A Teaching Journey”, and Luis’ reflection “Take the Next Step: Opportunities for Growth”, are now included in the book Inspired Learning: 50 Insights from Personal Transformative Learning Journeys.

Cody Wilkerson, Nursing Graduate Student

Cody Wilkerson graduated from UCO with his bachelor’s in nursing in May 2017. During that time he served as a tutor for the department. He states “I developed a passion for pediatrics very early on in nursing school so I took a full time job on the Pediatric Surgical Unit at The Children’s Hospital after graduation and have worked there since.”

Cody returned to UCO and was accepted into the Master’s of Nursing program to pursue his passion for nursing education in Fall 2018. He is scheduled to graduate in May 2020. Currently, Cody works as an adjunct in the nursing department in pediatric clinical as well as Foundation lab/clinical. “I’m so excited to start teaching for UCO as adjunct clinical faculty and I hope I can make an impact on the future of nursing through education!”

Recently Cody received accolades from the Safe Sleep Work Group for the Oklahoma Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative for the OKC/Tulsa area for his work on his safe sleep project that has been implemented at Children’s Hospital.
Welcome Cody! We are proud of you!

Joel Erickson, Computer Science Undergraduate Researcher

Joel Erickson is a recent graduate of UCO with a computer science major. During his undergraduate studies, Joel became interested in applying his computer science knowledge to financial trading. He created a trading infrastructure on his own, which incorporated a number of algorithmic and parameterized trading strategies.

In the summer and fall 2019 semesters, Joel started a project that used machine learning (ML) techniques to enhance trading strategies, with Dr. Gang Qian serving as his advisor. In the research project, Joel compared the effectiveness of various features derived from the price series of trading. His system also considered the uniqueness of financial data, which have distinctive characteristics such as time-dependencies compared to those of a typical machine learning application.

The result of his research showed that, by appropriately incorporating ML techniques, it was possible for a computerized trading system to maintain consistent profitability even in a declining market. The research also shows that the application of ML algorithms and techniques to financial trading is a promising direction in ML research due to its uniqueness. His results were presented as a research poster at the 2019 Oklahoma Research Day.

Department of Funeral Service Welcomes New Professor

The Department of Funeral Service is excited to introduce our newest faculty member, Eric Kroier, JD/MBA. Eric is a licensed funeral director/embalmer, and graduate of the UCO Funeral Service department. After finishing his funeral service degree, he continued his education at the University of Oklahoma earning both a JD and MBA. In addition to his academic and legal accomplishments, Eric has experience as a funeral home owner and manager. He brings a diverse background that will translate into a very effective member of our faculty. We are excited that Eric returned to campus this fall as a full-time professor. Welcome aboard!

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Leann Laubach

Dr. Leann Laubach graduated with a BS, Nursing degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1987. After obtaining her nursing license she worked as a staff nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit for 14 years. In 2005 she began teaching full-time at UCO after finishing her Master of Science with an emphasis in Nursing Education at Southern Nazarene University. She completed her PhD in 2015 from Oklahoma City University.

While at UCO Leann has primarily taught Pediatric Nursing, Introduction to Nursing, Nursing Research and Evidence Based Practice, and several other courses. Dr. Laubach also teaches Advanced Nursing Research in the MS, Nursing program, and has taught in the RN to BS program at UCO. Outside of her teaching responsibilities, Dr. Laubach created and manages the UCO Nursing website, assigns students to the nursing connection groups, and has acted as the Career Advancement Coordinator from 2014-2017 and the Assistant Chairperson from 2017-2019. Currently Dr. Laubach serves as the Baccalaureate Program Coordinator. In addition to this work, she has participated in the faculty mentor program since its inception. She is also working with the Inter-Professional Practice/ Inter-Professional Education Committee which has a goal to create student education experiences between disciplines and across departments and colleges.

In the classroom Dr. Laubach prefers to use a transformative teaching style and her research interests focus around methods to improve student learning in the classroom and in the clinical setting. Her greatest interests include teaching using simulation. Her dissertation topic was on student learning based on instructor engagement in design, although Dr. Laubach also admits she can turn almost anything into a research question.

As a member of the Council on Undergraduate Research, Dr. Laubach was elected to be a Councilor for the Health Sciences Division for 2018-2021. After serving in this capacity for a year, she was elected chair of the division. In spring 2018 she was thrilled to have 6 students present at the National Council on Undergraduate Research Conference held at UCO. In spring 2019, 11 students representing the nursing department presented at the research conference held at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. At this same conference, Dr. Laubach and Dr. Barbara Arnold presented on teaching in the classroom using published research articles. Dr. Laubach’s article on the same topic was published in the Journal For Nursing Education in April of 2019.

As a member of the community, Leann volunteers as a Registered Nurse for the UCO Chi Alpha group at the yearly college retreat, and volunteers at the annual Thanksfest, serving Thanksgiving Dinner to the UCO community. She has also served on the March of Dimes committee for Nurse of the Year, and in fall of 2018 was elected March of Dimes Nurse of the Year for the category of Nursing Education. As a service to the nursing community, Dr. Laubach also serves on the Board of Directors for the Sigma Theta Tau International Beta Delta Chapter at Large as the webmaster.

Dr. Laubach and her husband Steve have a son, a daughter, and a son-in-law, and recently celebrated 35 years of marriage. To celebrate, this summer they traveled to Germany where they visited 6 of the 8 exchange students who lived with them during their 10-month exchange experiences.