COE fetes top efforts in ‘engaged scholarship’–novel research done for public good

posted Nov. 30, 2009

Since the early years of this decade, UF’s College of Education has maintained a deep commitment to the core principle of “engaged scholarship”— innovative research and academic activities pursued specifically to make a meaningful difference in education and people’s lives. Engagement requires building connections with schools, families, school districts, community groups and government agencies to lead for change in a world where transformation is essential.


November 30, 2009



posted Nov. 30, 2009

Since the early years of this decade, UF’s College of Education has maintained a deep commitment to the core principle of “engaged scholarship”— innovative research and academic activities pursued specifically to make a meaningful difference in education and people’s lives. Engagement requires building connections with schools, families, school districts, community groups and government agencies to lead for change in a world where transformation is essential.

Some of the year’s most noteworthy efforts in engaged scholarship by UF education faculty and graduate students were celebrated recently at the college’s 2009 Faculty Research and Engaged Scholarship Showcase:

Faculty Award—School of Teaching and Learning

Rose Pringle, associate professorRose Pringle holding test tube in science lab

Under a National Science Foundation grant, Pringle and co-researchers are finding ways to encourage more African-American schoolgirls into science, math and other technical fields. She’s also part of a university-public schools partnership working to prepare elementary school teachers for the state’s tough new science curriculum standards. Several Florida school districts are using the team’s findings to obtain national funding for extending the program to their schools. Pringle also volunteers in local high-needs elementary schools to help teachers improve their science content knowledge and class curriculum.

Faculty Award—Special Education

portrait of Diane RyndakDiane Ryndak, the B.O. Smith Research Professor

Working locally and globally, Ryndak has forged an impressive record of scholarship in her school-based research on the effects of inclusive education and the development of leadership and teacher preparation programs in the field. She has worked with school districts around the state to develop inclusive programs for students with severe disabilities, and helped to develop an evaluation and planning tool for educators and schools working to implement best practices in inclusive education. Internationally, a Fulbright Research Award has allowed Ryndak to assist Poland in advancing inclusive education services in its school system. Through her new endowed professorship appointment, she will investigate methods to improve educators’ decision-making in the curriculum and instruction for high school students with severe disabilities in inclusive general-education classes.

Faculty Award—Counselor Education

portrait of Cerecie West-OlatunjiCerecie West-Olatunji, associate professor

West-Olatunji’s research specialty is in multicultural counseling and the role of cultural identity in the psychological, emotional and educational development of socially marginalized students. She has worked with local school communities to improve supportive parenting practices among students in low-income African-American families, and has taken graduate counseling students to New Orleans to assist in post-Katrina disaster recovery efforts. Globally, she has organized national teams of counseling students, faculty and practitioners to travel to South Africa and Botswana for “community-based counseling” of HIV and AIDS patients. She is past president of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development and also has consulted with the Buraku Liberation Movement in Japan in anti-bias education for young children.

Graduate Student Award

portrait of Darby DelaneDarby Delane, School of Teaching and Learning

For three years, Delane has balanced her doctoral studies with her duties as coordinator of the college’s Professional Development Community (PDC) partnership effort with local elementary schools. The partnership promotes the learning of UF prospective teachers and the school- and university-based educators who work with them. Delane was instrumental in developing the PDC component of the Unified Elementary ProTeach program. She also teaches in elementary education and in Teacher Leadership for School Improvement. In her dissertation research, Delane is investigating how the supervision of prospective teachers at PDC schools directly impacts equity and social justice for K-5 students. She also collaborates with UF’s Center for School Improvement in studying exemplary middle-school practices and teacher leadership.

Graduate Student Award

Vicki Vescio, School of Teaching and Learning

During her four-year doctoral experience, Vescio has been is an integral cog in the Lastinger Center for Learning’s statewide school reform activities. She’s helped stage leadership institutes for partnering teachers and administrators and completed National School Reform Faculty coaching training to advance her leadership skills. She has helped high-poverty schools in Miami and Alachua County launch teacher inquiry programs and professional learning communities to boost teaching quality, and helps teach the internship semester for UF interns in high-need elementary schools in east Gainesville. Vescio has published a literature review documenting the impact professional learning communities can have on teaching practice and student learning—a critical part of the Lastinger Center’s early research efforts.

P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School Award

Mickey MacDonald, science instructor

Ninth-grade biology teacher Mickey MacDonald is an area facilitator of teacher inquiry, working closely with UF’s Center for School Improvement and the Northeast Florida Educational Consortium. She recently received a highly competitive $10,000 grant through the National Science Teachers Association to develop a student-run community garden and farmer’s market. Ninth-grade biology teachers at the UF lab school will guide their students from garden-planning to selling their food crops at the on-campus farmers’ market, with proceeds going to a local homeless shelter. Students will also visit the shelter, interview homeless guests and compile a book of essays—“Giving Voice to the Homeless.”

University Award

Lou Guillette Jr., distinguished professor of zoology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

While his renowned alligator studies have earned Guillette the nickname of “Gator Man,” he happens to be one of UF’s most illustrious teachers and scholars. His distinctions include honors such as Distinguished Alumni Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, an honor held by many Nobel Laureates. He’s also a former UF Teacher-Scholar of the Year and is an executi
ve committee member of UF’s innovative Science for Life program, created to boost undergraduate science education. His traits that most capture the spirit of engaged scholarship, though, are how Guillette presents his research in public venues to stress the importance of environmental issues, especially to schoolchildren, and his deep commitment to intensive research engagement with his students. Attracting the next generation of students into scientific fields will be critical for America to regain its competitive edge, and it’s difficult to imagine a better ambassador for this work than UF’s own Gator Man.

School District Award

Doug Levey, professor of zoology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Levy has compiled an impressive list of scholarly honors in his UF career, but his contributions go far beyond excellence in research and university teaching. Eight years ago, Levy worked with UF and Alachua County Public Schools to launch SPICE—Science Partners in Inquiry-based Collaborative Education. SPICE pairs graduate students from seven UF colleges (including Education) with science teachers in Gainesville’s most disadvantaged middle schools. The UF students—called SPICE Fellows—spend two days a week in the schools, serving as mentors and role models to disadvantaged youths and bringing their own research—and enthusiasm—directly from UF into the middle school classroom. SPICE also contributes school supplies, laptops and other technology to the classrooms. Over eight years, SPICE has matched some 60 UF graduate students with 25 middle school teachers, directly benefiting about 10,000 area middle school students. Levey continues to serve as director of SPICE.

Community Award

Kate Kemker, director of technology and learning innovation, Florida Department of Education

Kemker’s efforts as a policymaker and catalyst for school-based research on classroom technology integration have made a difference to thousands of Florida students. She spearheaded the development of the Florida Digital Educator program, a professional development series for Florida teachers promoting best practices and a common philosophy in the use of cutting-edge classroom technology. She also created the Master Digital Educator program, offering advanced training in technology use and leadership to qualified Florida educators. Both programs are believed to be the only ones of their type in the nation. Kemker belongs to a statewide council of education technology leaders from school districts around the state, and is active in the technology-planning for the P.K. Yonge laboratory school’s visionary “campus renewal” effort. Kemker has been instrumental in developing online data collection tools used by districts to document the impact of classroom technology and has made Florida a national model for effective educational technology integration.

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   Writer: Larry Lansford, Director, COE News & Publications, 352.273.4137;