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More January Features:

U of M cadet giving military a boost
U of M website redesign launched Gov. Haslam's budget proposal
  includes Community Health Building

Team at U of M works to benefit

Cook, Sable win first-ever Lupfer Teaching Award
Profile: Dr. Maurice Mendel
Bingham awarded honor by NMCS
U of M holiday card contest winners
Names in the news


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Cook, Sable win first-ever Lupfer Teaching Award

by Ann Brock

Drs. Melloni Cook, associate professor of psychology, and Helen Sable assistant professor of psychology, each won the first ever Lupfer Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. The award is generously funded by an endowment provided by retired Department of Psychology faculty members Drs. Michael B. and Shirley L. Lupfer and will be given at four-year intervals.

Recipients of the award must be full-time members of psychology who teach undergraduate courses, model scholarly teaching methods, demonstrate creativity in class activities and assignments, provide undergraduate mentorship and consistently achieve outstanding student ratings.

Cook, who joined the department in 2003, has been given two other awards: the College of Arts and Sciences Award for Excellence (2009) and the W. Russell Smith Award for Teaching Excellence, the highest teaching award for the College (2012). Both awards were based on student nominations.

Left to right: Drs. Michael B. Lupfer, Melloni Cook, Helen Sable and Shirley L. Lupfer.
Left to right: Drs. Michael B. Lupfer, Melloni Cook, Helen Sable and Shirley L. Lupfer.

Additionally, Cook is the adviser of the Psychology Honors Program, a role that gives her the opportunity to guide students as they complete the program. She has also served as an evaluator in the Works in Progress Symposium and in the Student Research Forum.

In the classroom Cook uses creative ways to promote learning. She sometimes sings an appropriate song to help students make an application of the material she is teaching. She says, “There’s a song for just about everything.” She may sing “Always Something There to Remind Me” to help students with concepts about conditioning effects or “Blame it on the Alcohol” to cement the effects of alcohol on memory (alcohol-related blackouts).

Even though Cook may sing to her classes or use a game to help her students review for an exam, she is known as being tough in the classroom. One of her nominators said, “She sets the bar high and provides the tools necessary to reach it.”

Cook received her PhD in bio-behavioral health from The Pennsylvania State University.

Sable became a member of the faculty in the Department of Psychology in 2008. As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, she began forming ideas about what a good teacher should do. She had both good and bad teachers, and she started thinking about how she would do things differently if she had a chance. Now she does.

Sable observed that students taking statistics courses often get so lost they can’t even formulate a question. Her innovative, proactive approach to this problem was to apply for a grant so that she could buy “clickers.” Students use them in class to answer questions about course content. The associated software provides immediate feedback on a screen, which allows Sable to assess students’ understanding and the students to gauge their level of understanding compared to the rest of the class while remaining anonymous.

Sable also makes classroom material relevant to a student’s interest. In answer to a student’s grumblings that he would never use what he learned in research methods and statistics once he left the classroom, Sable addressed his interest, which was NASCAR. Together, Sable and the student analyzed lap times to determine if there was a significant difference in lap times based on the make of the vehicle. The student never complained about relevance again.

In addition to Sable’s creative, scholarly teaching she serves as a member of the department’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee, the College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and the University Undergraduate Council.

Sable received her PhD in behavioral neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin.

Cook and Sable received an engraved plaque and a cash award.

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Last Updated: 1/25/13