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MU Professor Awarded 2011 Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence

April 4th, 2011

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217, hurstn@missouri.edu

By Brad Fischer

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton and Commerce Bank Chairman Jim Schatz of Commerce Bank today awarded one of the 2011 William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence to Bethany Stone, an assistant teaching professor in the Division of Biological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science.

Deaton, Schatz and a group of professors, administrators and staff surprised Stone by honoring her with the Fellowship, which includes a $10,000 award. Fellowships are awarded to five outstanding teachers at the University of Missouri each year.

The William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence were established in 1991 with a $500,000 gift. Kemper, a 1926 MU graduate, was a well-known civic leader in Kansas City until his death in 1989. His 52-year career in banking included top positions at banks in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Commerce Bank manages the trust fund.

Bethany Stone

Bethany Stone, assistant teaching professor in the Division of Biological Sciences since 2004, hopes to inspire and engage students with science. She educates students on science topics that are relevant to their lives and helps students develop life skills.

“Bethany is energetic, excited and clearly understands her students and wants them to do well and reach their full potential,” said John David, director of the Division of Biological Sciences. “Bethany is quite simply the kind of teacher that we all want to be and that every student dreams of having at least once in his or her career.”

Stone teaches introductory biology courses and courses focusing on botany, infectious diseases and genetic diseases. Stone applies research techniques to improve her teaching. Each semester, she surveys students on difficult-to-understand topics, such as DNA. Then she takes the data and works to improve the way she teaches the topic. Using feedback from the survey concerning DNA, she created a digital animation that increased student understanding by 27 percent compared to traditional teaching methods.

Stone aims to do more than merely give students facts and definitions to memorize. Her teaching centers on making a topic feared by many students into a topic they feel comfortable discussing with others. Stone invites students to come to her office hours where students make deeper connections with her and gain better understanding of science.

“Not only were we welcomed into her office and encouraged to talk freely about our hometowns and our interests, but we were also encouraged to visit her office again at any point in the semester,” said Kathleen Heermann, an MU alumna and current physical therapy graduate student. “Most important to me, I felt that I had made a connection at MU. I had a personal, first-name relationship with a professor- the kind of relationship that had always motivated me in high school.”

Previously, Stone has received the Provost Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching Award.

Stone earned a bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University and a doctoral degree from the University of Missouri.

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