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University of Missouri-Columbia professor awarded President’s Award for Innovative Teaching

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Christian Basi

April 15, 2015

Award recognizes outstanding faculty who employ novel and innovative teaching methods

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri System Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Steve Graham today awarded the fifth of ten UM System President’s Awards to be presented to faculty in 2015 to Michael F. Smith, Curators’ Teaching Professor of animal sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Graham — in front of faculty and students gathered for a graduate seminar — surprised Smith with the President’s Award for Innovative Teaching, which includes a $5,000 award. The award recognizes faculty who are outstanding teachers and who employ novel and innovative teaching methods to achieve success in student learning. The announcement came moments after Graham presented the President’s Award for Economic Development to David Patterson, a colleague who Smith nominated for the award and who arranged the surprise announcement for Patterson.

Smith joined the Division of Animal Sciences at MU in 1980 with the long-range goal of his research to increase reproductive efficiency in cattle. He and his graduate students are working toward a better understanding of the mechanisms regulating ovarian follicular maturation, ovulation, corpus luteum function, and the establishment and maintenance of pregnancy in cattle. He is nationally recognized as one of the leading scientists in the field of reproductive biology.

“Rarely does one have the benefit of not only having a renowned research scientist who is highly competitive in obtaining extramural funding for biological research, but a faculty member that also excels in teaching students in a difficult curriculum,” wrote one nominator.

Smith’s innovation in the classroom includes the use of a new, high-tech histology viewing systems that allows students to explore and interact over reproductive histology sections on a computer screen, compared to a microscope where only one student at a time can view a given slide. This allows students to work together to understand basic histology and Smith is able to incorporate case studies to engage in collective learning.

“Dr. Smith manages the courses he instructs as a partnership between him, as the educator, and we as the student, with each of us having set responsibilities and each having an invested interest in achieving success,” wrote a student-nominator.

To supplement course work, Smith developed websites that complement his courses and created learning modules for the NCBA Cattle Learning Center that are utilized nationwide. In his capstone class, he requires students to develop a detailed plan for improving reproductive efficiency in a beef heard over a five-year period. Students can then test the outcomes of their plan on a new, innovative web-based program Smith created that models the consequences of their decisions.

Beyond using technology in his teaching, Smith encourages students to self-learn through opportunities such as giving extra credit when students read a book from a recommended reading list and then demonstrate their understanding of the book during a 15-minute one-on-one conversation with him. Not only a successful teacher, Smith is also a mentor to many having advised 16 master’s students, seven doctoral students and five post-doctoral students.

Curators' Teaching Professor Michael F. Smith receives the President's Award for Innovative Teaching from Vice President Graham.

Curators' Teaching Professor Michael F. Smith receives the President's Award for Innovative Teaching from Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Steve Graham.

 

“An academic career is about learning and helping others learn. Therefore, I have never viewed research and teaching as separate career opportunities but as interdependent aspects of the same job — being a faculty member,” Smith said. “Research is a means of gaining knowledge and teaching is a means of sharing that knowledge and training others how to generate knowledge.”

Smith’s academic career has been recognized, most recently, with the Southeastern Conference’s Faculty Achievement Award. He has also earned the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the USDA Food and Agriculture Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award, and the American Society of Animal Science Distinguished Teaching Award, to name a few others. 

The UM System President’s Awards are presented annually to faculty members across the four campuses of the UM System who have made exceptional contributions in advancing the mission of the university. Smith will be formally recognized by UM System President Tim Wolfe during an awards celebration to be held June 25.