Dear CMS Alumni and Friends,
I am excited to be writing this letter in my new role as Dean of the College of Mathematics and Science. This past summer the “Interim” was removed from my title. Likewise, Dr. Bob Brennan, who served this past year in an interim role, is now the Associate Dean. We also recently welcomed two new members of our Dean’s Office team: Dr. John Walkup, our Director of Sponsored Programs, and Mary Matlock, our Development Officer. Dr. Walkup has a doctorate in Physics and has extensive grant-writing experience. Mary comes to us with years of leadership experience in development and annual giving at several higher ed institutions, where she had great success with fundraising.
When I wrote my letter last year at this time, I said that our challenge over this past year was to maintain a sense of normalcy as much as possible during the pandemic and maintain our values and our commitment to academic excellence, transformative learning, and student success. I used the analogy of a crater I had just hiked through on the Big Island of Hawaii to represent our challenging landscape, but I said that I was certain we were going to adapt, grow, succeed, and thrive, like the plants that are able to become established on the harsh lava and ash landscapes of the Big Island. As I reflect on the past year, I know I was right. The awards our outstanding faculty received at the August convocation demonstrate the many ways we contributed to academic excellence, transformative learning, and student success, and engaged with our community:
- Britney Hopkins from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics was a recipient of the Neely Excellence in Teaching Award. This is notable because this is the third year in a row that a mathematician has received this prestigious university-wide award!
- The Vanderford Award for Undergraduate Research went to Dr. Nikki Seagraves from the Department of Biology. It was two of Dr. Seagraves’ students who were selected to present their research at the CUR Posters on the Hill last year.
- The Vanderford Engagement Award went to Dr. Kathy Smith from the Department of Nursing, and the Citizens Bank Leadership and Civic Engagement Award went to Dr. Pam Rollins, also from the Department of Nursing. These awards recognized their engagement of nursing students in flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinics as well as their contributions to the community.
- The Masonic Endowment for Transformative Learning Award was given to Dr. Carrie Bentley from the Department of Biology for her work helping our pre-health professions students develop their cultural competency – to understand, respect, and better be able to help the diverse types of people they will encounter as a health professional.
- Robi Hossan from the Department of Engineering & Physics received a Merit Credit Award for Research.
- And at our CMS Back-to-School Meeting, Dr. Amanda Waters from the Department of Chemistry received the CMS Vanderford Teaching Award.
There were other noteworthy accomplishments last year. We responded to workforce needs by developing a new Computer Engineering program (a joint program between Engineering & Physics and Computer Science), an Environmental Chemistry degree, thirteen pathways for students to earn an accelerated professional science master’s degree in Computational Science, and a Fast Track in Nursing for students who have earned a B.S. in a non-nursing major. The Computer Science and Funeral Service departments added more interactive video courses to accommodate working and remote students. The Department of Chemistry received about $800,000 from the estate of Dr. von Minden for an Instrumentation Fund that will allow our students to be better prepared for the workforce, especially with skills for jobs in Quality Assurance/Quality Control. Our lab and field research continued, and our faculty and students produced many publications, gave many research presentations, and submitted 40 external grant proposals. We were able to hold some programs this past summer that were not held last year because of the pandemic. Several faculty-mentored incoming students in our Summer Bridge Program and the Department of Engineering & Physics held a STEM Summer Academy.
We contributed much service to our community and our professions. First and foremost, the Nursing faculty and students organized COVID-19 vaccine clinics for our community, and they are continuing to do so this fall. Our faculty held leadership positions in national organizations; one example is Dr. Beth Allan from the Department of Biology, who served as the President of the National Science Teachers Association. And although many events were canceled, we were able to host some events such as the Oklahoma Native Plant Society’s Wildflower Weekend at the Selman Living Lab this summer.
This year, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education is focusing on workforce development in Nursing and Engineering, and they have allocated funds provided by the legislature to support these initiatives at universities including UCO. The Engineering & Physics and Nursing departments are developing proposals for the use of these funds, which should increase recruitment, retention, and graduation in these areas. An interdisciplinary team of CMS faculty and staff is seeking funding for a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) van or bus to transport faculty, students, and materials and equipment to area schools to engage students in STEAM activities. We are offering our first Broncho Blueprint courses, which are first-year experiences that immerse students in their chosen discipline, introduce them to career opportunities, and help them develop professional skills. We have remained an energetic and innovative college despite the pandemic!
On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students, I thank you for your continued confidence in and support of our college.
Gloria Caddell, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Mathematics and Science