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University of Missouri-Columbia professor receives President’s Award for Community Engagement

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Christian Basi

April 26, 2016

Award recognizes faculty who are involved in exemplary community engagement activities

GalenCOLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri System Chief of Staff Zora Mulligan today awarded the fifth of eight UM System President’s Awards to be presented to faculty in 2016 to Candace Galen, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Mulligan surprised Galen while she was teaching a senior capstone course with the President’s Award for Community Engagement, which includes a $5,000 prize. The award recognizes faculty who are involved in exemplary community engagement activities such as volunteerism, service-learning, educational programming and outreach.

Galen joined the MU Division of Biological Sciences as a faculty member in 1990 where her research has explored the mechanisms and processes of evolution in wild plant populations. Though, it was her work to bring scientific research directly into elementary school classrooms in the Columbia community that led to her nomination.

Through her two NSF-funded programs, Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology and Show Me Nature, Galen has partnered with Columbia Public Schools to bring together MU students and grade school classrooms to engage in hands-on science activities and experiments, facilitate discussions about science, and design and carry out authentic research projects. Since beginning in 2006, her work has benefited 18 schools and 47 classrooms, provided mentorships for 26 teachers, and enhanced the teaching, communication, outreach and leadership skills of more than 100 MU students.

“Prof. Galen has helped the district achieve the most important thing you can do for that age group — get kids excited about science,” wrote nominator Peter Stiepleman, superintendent of Columbia Public Schools. “She understands that teaching children to process information and think critically will yield superior results. She believes that higher education can play a significant role in K-12 education, and developing these types of partnerships are a model for the nation.”

Most recently, Galen partnered with the City of Columbia and the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture in 2013 to launch “BGREEN for CoMo,” an environmental education network that gives students the opportunity to initiate their own research, participating in projects ranging from digital field guides to mentorship programs. The program engages teachers, graduate students and children in the environmental issues unfolding in their own neighborhoods.

“Prof. Galen’s efforts highlight the difference between ‘outreach’ and ‘community engagement,’” wrote nominator John Walker, Curators Professor and director of biological sciences at MU. “While the former revolves primarily around making your science accessible to a broader audience, the latter is a collaborative process that involves a lot of different groups with shared interests…this engaged interaction runs through all of Prof. Galen’s efforts and sets her apart from other candidates for this award.”

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. Galen will be formally recognized by UM System Interim President Michael Middleton during an awards celebration to be held in June.