Physical therapy alum retraces her path to success

CBNewgentMore than a decade after leaving campus, University of Indianapolis Krannert School of Physical Therapy alumna Christa Buell Newgent retraces her path to success and how her alma mater helped on that journey.

Newgent, who earned a bachelor’s in psychology from UIndy in 2000 and a master’s in physical therapy in 2002, is now the corporate director of rehabilitation at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in the Florida panhandle.

From clinic to management

After graduation from physical therapy school, Newgent moved to a small town, where her husband Matt ’99 (history), ’01 (MBA), was a college baseball coach. She worked in a rural hospital, caring for inpatients, outpatients and residents at a local nursing home.

“That initial setting really exposed me to all aspects of patient care,” Newgent said. “We were only one of two therapy providers within a two-hour drive, so I had to problem solve and maximize the resources around me to ensure patient outcomes.”

From there, the Newgents moved to Oklahoma City, where Christa worked at Integris Health’s Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation treating outpatients with orthopedic and neurologic conditions, as well as pediatric patients. During her 13 years in Oklahoma, she had the opportunity to move from a lead PT position to management at Jim Thorpe, a role that she says gave her greater insights into clinic operations.

Eventually, she transitioned into managing multiple clinics within Integris Health’s Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation and was involved with the construction and opening of an outpatient cancer clinic. Her role included building a cancer rehab program and helping clinicians earn their STAR Program® Certifications, a designation of superior oncology rehabilitation specialists.

In 2015, the Newgents relocated to Florida, where Christa moved into a management role at the Andrews Institute. After a few years of successfully managing one of Andrews’ outpatient clinics, she took on her current role as corporate director of rehabilitation in the summer of 2018.

Newgent manages the operations of four acute care settings, eight outpatient clinics, three disciplines (including physical therapy) and over 20 specialties.

“I’m grateful every day to have the opportunity to work with some of the greatest orthopedic surgeons, nurses, physician assistants and therapists in the country,” Newgent said. “While I’m not providing direct patient care, I enjoy having an impact on the successful operations of our system to positively improve the lives of the patients around us.”

Thoughts on UIndy and PT

“UIndy did a wonderful job of selecting professors at the topic of their chosen specialty who were passionate about the profession,” said Newgent, who was also a UIndy soccer player.

“What I recall very clearly is that all the professors were still practicing therapists, so they would inject a real-life approach into how they taught patient care. I feel confident that this made me ready to step into the workforce and be successful.”

As for what she would tell someone interested in studying physical therapy, Newgent encourages an open mind.

“Don’t settle on one specialty during your training,” she said. “I thought I only wanted to work in outpatient orthopedics, but along the way, I found passion in pediatrics, geriatrics, neuro, and oncology as well. I came back to orthopedics, but my career was enriched by those other experiences.”

Learn more about the Krannert School of Physical Therapy

University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community awarded $500,000 in Tennessee Civil Monetary Penalty funds

The University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community has been awarded nearly $500,000 in Civil Monetary Penalty funding by the Tennessee Department of Health and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement a statewide system of Regional Healthcare Quality Improvement Collaboratives to improve the quality of long-term care in nursing facilities statewide.

As CAC’s first contract in Tennessee, five Regional Collaboratives will be developed across Tennessee to implement process improvement projects statewide. The Collaboratives will recruit long-term care facilities and support expansion of Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement (QAPI) plans for individual buildings, and facilitate two group process improvement projects.

An Advisory Group will be formed to develop and enhance state-level partnerships that will support the work of the Collaboratives. CAC will provide the overall support, structure, and technical assistance needed to create and sustain these Collaboratives.

The Tennessee Regional Collaboratives project will begin in March 2019 and will continue for two years.

CAC’s efforts in Tennessee are modeled after a similar approach the Center has implemented in partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health since 2015.  The Indiana Regional Collaboratives project has reported the following quality improvement outcomes:

  • Reduction of antipsychotic medications by 43 percent.
  • Reduction of rates of falls by 30 percent.
  • Reduction of hospitalizations by 38 percent.
  • Reduction of rates of UTIs by an average of 43 percent across five Collaborative (24-57 percent reductions).
  • Reduction in CNA turnover by 16 percent.
  • More than $3 million in calculated savings.

“Qsource is pleased to be a partner in this initiative. It directly aligns with our efforts to make healthcare better in long-term care settings across Tennessee,” said Beth Hercher, Quality Improvement Advisor for Qsource.

The Tennessee Department of Health facilitates the redistribution of collected nursing home civil monetary penalties through a Request for Application process to improve the quality of life and quality of care of nursing home residents. Learn more.

“We are excited to bring our proven expertise in leading wide-scale quality improvement in long-term care projects to Tennessee,” said Ellen Burton, senior project director. “We have every expectation that the Tennessee Regional Collaborative project will mean significant benefit and improved care to nursing home residents in the Volunteer state.”

Any nursing home interested in participating in the Tennessee Regional Collaborative project should contact Ellen Burton at

Caitlynn Richardson ’16 honored with Charlotte Boener Award

Caitlynn RichardsonCaitlynn Richardson ’16 is receiving the Charlotte Boener Award for Innovative Middle School Science Teaching at the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. conference in February 2019. Richardson is a graduate of the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows Program, now known as Teach (STEM)³ at the University of Indianapolis.  

Richardson graduated from Indiana University in 2015 with two bachelor’s degrees in biology and political science, as well as minors in animal behavior and education. Serving as an advocate for teachers, she recently testified at the Indiana State Legislature on issues related to teacher compensation.

We caught up with Richardson to learn more about her recent achievements.

Q: Where have you worked since graduating from UIndy?

A: During the program, I received an offer to work at Chapel Hill 7th & 8th Grade Center in the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township and I have worked there ever since. I teach seventh and eighth-grade science, depending on what year it is.

Q: How does it feel to have your work recognized with the Charlotte Boener award?

A: I’m very appreciative of the recognition! My mentor from my Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program nominated me this year after seeing a few project-based learning units I had designed. I am thankful that she took the time to share my work with other educators.

Q: How did UIndy’s School of Education program prepare you for your career?

A: The program gave me tools and resources that were vital to a first-year teacher, including frequent meetings with my mentor, numerous lesson plans and materials ready to implement in my classroom, plus digital resources I could use to change things up. As a new teacher, accumulating as many resources as possible really helps balance out the stress of everything else you’re trying to learn. The information presented in my classes was able to be used directly in my practice, and I can’t be more thankful to UIndy for all I learned at my time there.

Q: Was there anyone at UIndy who helped you along the way?

A: I could easily list all of my professors in the program! Every single one helped me in some way. I’m especially thankful for Deb Sachs, Jean Lee and Carol Chen. Deb and Jean put their hearts into the program and make sure each of their students is as successful as possible. They are able to see the best in you and push you to the best of your abilities, even when you doubt yourself. Carol was my mentor teacher during the program and she has been one of my biggest supporters throughout the program and in the first years of my teaching career. I also should give a big shout out to my husband, Todd, because he is the reason I applied to the MAT program in the first place. I was pretty lost as to what I wanted to do my senior year of college, and he helped me realize that teaching was the path for me.

Q: You recently testified on behalf of teacher compensation and other issues during a House Education Committee meeting at the Indiana legislature – why did you decide to get involved?

A: My superintendent sent out e-mails about a program called the Teach Plus Policy Fellowship, which is a program devoted to empowering teachers to take leadership over policies that will directly affect students. I applied last year and was accepted into the year-long fellowship this school year. I have a background in political science, and I was very interested in the opportunity to learn more about how education policies are designed. I also wanted to have a more active role in making these decisions as a professional in my field.

Q: What would you like lawmakers and the general public to understand about the issues teachers face and how that affects children’s education?

A: Before I became a teacher, I was unaware of the small, but important, things that can completely change a classroom as well as a child’s experience in public school. Through my work with Teach Plus, I have been able to share my experience with teacher preparation with legislators in regards to HB 1009. This bill proposes to have a one-year residency for teacher prep programs, similar to what I experienced at UIndy. I encourage lawmakers and the general public to reach out to teachers and ask them questions. I love our profession, and I know most teachers do as well. We would be more than willing to share our stories to help foster understanding of best practices in education and what would improve the field.

Q: How did your program at UIndy prepare or encourage you to advocate for teachers?

A: Part of the program was learning and implementing research-based best practices. Knowing the research behind the practices helps me push for resources and policies that support teachers as they try to provide the best education possible for their students. For instance, research shows that project-based learning helps students develop a deeper understanding of knowledge while simultaneously learning necessary 21st-century skills like collaboration and critical thinking.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: I encourage anyone who is considering education as a major to reach out and speak with the professors in UIndy’s School of Education. They are experts in their field, and they will help in any way they can. Sometimes there is a lot of negativity surrounding the teaching field, but it is an absolutely rewarding and meaningful career that I truly enjoy doing. Watching students engage, understand, and enjoy content has no parallel! I am thankful to have the opportunity to share my love of science with young minds, and it is my hope that they begin to love it too before they leave my class.

Department of Music brings home prestigious awards

The University of Indianapolis Department of Music continues to set standards of excellence that receive national and regional recognition.

Department of Music 2019 NafME awardsBrenda Clark, assistant dean of the Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences, Jacqueline Wiernicki ‘19 (instrumental/ general music education), and Anna Miller ‘20 (choral/ general music education) received National Association for Music Educators (NAfME) awards at the annual Indiana Music Educators Association (IMEA) conference in Fort Wayne.

Clark, associate professor of music and director of music education programs, received the Outstanding Collegiate Educator of the Year Award. She is the only educator to receive this honor twice.

Wiernicki and Miller were named Outstanding Future Music Educators. This is the 11th consecutive year the award has gone to a UIndy student, for a total of 16 individual awards since 2009.

“It was humbling to receive an award that recognized the hard work I’ve been putting in over the last three years,” said Miller. “It was an honor to represent UIndy and our music education program.”

“It felt very gratifying to receive the Outstanding Future Music Educator Award,” added Wiernicki, who is the president of UIndy’s chapter of NAfME. “My experiences at the University of Indianapolis have prepared me through many experiences in public schools, beginning freshman year up through my current student teaching placement. The wonderful music professors guided, encouraged and led me by their example.”

Both award recipients pointed to the music department’s emphasis on fieldwork that begins early in the program.

“Aside from studying privately and taking classes in theory, we are out in schools observing and learning from active music educators from year one. This gives us the opportunity to get our feet wet and see what the profession is all about firsthand,” said Miller.

FB_IMG_1548109605612Other UIndy honorees at the conference include alumni Shaina Liv Lescano ‘18, who won the New Teacher Award granted by the Indiana American String Teachers Association, and Mick Bridgwater ‘73, who received the Outstanding Hoosier Musician Award.

“The achievements of the students, alumni and faculty truly exemplify the mission and goals of the department, college and university,” Clark said. “We strive to be servant leaders in every capacity of our profession and it’s gratifying to see those efforts recognized on such a significant level.”

Congratulations to Greyhound faculty, students, and alumni!

Incoming freshman overcomes obstacles, named MVP for Colts’ game

Alec DeuelIncoming University of Indianapolis freshman Alec Deuel knows about overcoming obstacles. He was diagnosed with autism in grade school and struggled academically.

In eighth grade, he enrolled at Damar Charter Academy and the story changed: By day three, he tested out of algebra, earning his first high school credit. Recently, he scored 30 on the ACT, well over the 22.6 average for 2017 test takers in Indiana, according to Prep Scholar.

“Damar has been a tremendous help for him and allowed him to work at his pace and at his level,” Jennifer Atkinson, Alec’s mom, said.

Another obstacle he and his mom have overcome is homelessness. Atkinson credits the Salvation Army for providing transitional housing, and Damar for working with staff at the Salvation Army to provide modifications for a guest with autism.

Alec is now on the path to becoming valedictorian of his high school graduating class and was awarded the Senator Richard G Lugar Award of Academic Distinction through the University of Indianapolis. Alec’s goal is to become a professor of paleontology, something he’s been talking about since he was six years old.

This Christmas, he’s not asking for dinosaurs, though. He wants a Jack Doyle jersey. Alec met the Colts tight end when he visited Damar shortly after joining the team. Alec has been a fan ever since.

On Sunday, Dec. 16, he’ll be on the field to watch the team warm up before he takes his MVP seats for the game with his mom, grandmother and step-grandfather. He’s been named the Damar MVP for the game as part of the Colts’ partnership with Damar Services to reward students for their achievements.

We look forward to welcoming Alec and the entire Class of 2023 to campus next fall!

UIndy Speech and Debate Team is tournament champion at Muskingum University

speechanddebate800The University of Indianapolis Speech and Debate Team earned a big win recently at Muskingum University’s Tournament in New Concord, Ohio. Overall, the team placed first, earning the title of tournament champions. In addition, two students earned top marks and were named tournament champions in individual events.

The UIndy Speech and Debate Team is a nationally ranked learning community that competes in speaking events to enhance students’ communication, research and public speaking skills. Stephanie Wideman, assistant professor, serves as the team director.

“Coming in to my second year as the director of the team makes this win even more special. It displays our continued growth and commitment to excellence,” Wideman said.

Shayla Cabalan ’20 (Communication and English) earned first place in the event of Radio Broadcasting. Of her experience with the team she noted, “Speech and Debate, in my opinion, is one of the most honorable ways a student can represent the university. As a whole, speech and debate involves speaking on important topics, starting crucial conversations, and creating a dialogue for change.”

Sierra Roberts ’21 (History and Social Studies Education) earned first place in the event of After Dinner Speaking. “Being a part of the team has taught me several valuable lessons, most notably it plays a vital role in preparing me for my future. As a future educator I will use many of the skills I have learned through teaching in my own classroom,” she explained.

In addition to Cabalan and Roberts’ success, the entire team turned in strong ranks. See the full results below:

Festival Storytelling
Kaylee – 3rd

Landon – 4th
Taylor – 5th

India – 2nd
Shayla – 3rd
Kaylee – 4th

Sierra – 1st

Broadcast Journalism
Shayla – 1st

Dramatic Interpretation
Landon – 2nd

Craig – 5th

Craig – 3rd

India – 2nd

Taylor – 2nd
Shayla – 3rd
Craig – 5th

Kay 4th
Mel 3rd

Visual problem-solving for the 21st-century: Chris Sickels’ whimsical 3D art  

Photo courtesy Chris Sickels

Photo courtesy Chris Sickels

In a world where the fast pace of technology constantly demands attention, the 3D work of artist Chris Sickels makes audiences stop and look. Sickels, who is the mastermind of Greenfield-based Red Nose Studio, creates characters and imagery from found objects and a variety of materials to build 3D dioramas that he photographs. The result is whimsical art that offers food for thought for adults and children alike.

Sickels’ artwork will be on display during “Curiouser and Curiouser: Chris Sickels” at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center Gallery from Nov. 19 through Dec. 14, 2018, with an opening reception Nov. 19 from 4 to 6 p.m. and lecture from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. The exhibition will feature a selection of photographic illustrations of original dioramas, sculptures and his signature stop-motion animated films.

Sickels calls his commissioned work a type of visual problem-solving, typically done in collaboration with an art director, as he determines how to distill content down to a single image to sculpt and photograph. His extensive portfolio includes books, short stories and ad campaigns, and his work has been recognized by American Illustration, Communication Arts, HOW and The Society of Illustrators.

“As an illustrator, my job is to create an image that hopefully makes a viewer or reader stop and pursue content further, whether that’s a book cover or an image in a magazine,” Sickels explained.

In many cases, Sickels’ end goal is to produce a photograph of an original sculpture or diorama. He said he enjoys the creative process, whether he’s creating a single photo like the “Hero of Five Points” or a more elaborate animation like “Secret Subway.”

The popularity of stop-motion animation hits in the mid-90s like “Wallace and Gromit” or “The Nightmare before Christmas” were early inspirations for Sickels, who quickly realized that some of his favorites  – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer among them – had been around for much longer. Turning that fascination into paid commissions was key.

“A few years out of school, I was able to find a way to integrate what I loved about stop motion and fabrication and fold that into what I loved about illustration,” he explained.

As digital platforms proliferated in recent years, Sickels found more outlets to share his art, and more clients willing to experiment. He said the possibilities for artists continue to grow.

“Now illustration can be on several different platforms and on different scales. It’s just a matter of finding a right place for that content. It’s so much more accessible,” Sickels said.

Sickels grew up on a small family farm where things had to always be fixed with what was available. That experience continues to inform his work at his studio in Greenfield, Indiana, as he melds the creative process with the practical pressures of deadlines.

“With the method and techniques I use, you don’t always have exactly what you need but you have to find things that work. Sometimes when you’re forced to use found objects you have on hand, you get a surprise. It might not be exactly how you envisioned it at the beginning, but there’s a balance that happens,” Sickels said.

Learn more about the exhibition.

Follow Chris Sickels on Twitter and Instagram.

Written by Sara Galer, Communications Manager, University of Indianapolis. Contact with your campus news.

Dean of Education John Kuykendall: Preparing teachers for classrooms of the future

John Kuykendall

John Kuykendall

Today’s K-12 classrooms are changing, and teacher education is evolving too. John Kuykendall, dean of the University of Indianapolis School of Education, said that means there’s an increasing need for innovation.

“We want to be transformational in our School of Education,” he said. “Teachers have to be prepared to teach more diverse students, in more technologically advanced classrooms.”

In addition to multi-tasking, Kuykendall said today’s teachers are working with students who may be experiencing trauma at home, so a modern curriculum may include counseling. Preparing student-teachers for these dynamic educational settings is a key goal for Kuykendall, who joined the University in June 2018.

“One of the things we do very well in the School of Education is getting our students into the classroom early with field experiences so they can get a sense of what it’s like to be a teacher. The idea is for them to learn, observe and interact with students and feel the environment of a classroom so they know what lies ahead,” Kuykendall explained.

Student-teachers are encouraged to process those observations starting in the first year of training – an element that Kuykendall says sets the school’s education programs apart.

“That’s been very powerful. We do a really good job here of designing lessons so that our students can reflect on what they’re experiencing in the classroom early,” he said.

In his own research, Kuykendall is interested in what drives student success, specifically among African-American student populations during the first year of college.

“For African-Americans, typically when they come to college, they are sometimes first generation, under-resourced to finance their education and they also have to make adjustments to a majority climate. All of those factors can contribute to whether they’re successful in their first year,” he explained. “It’s very important to know what resources they need on the front end so they can be supported through their college education.”

Forty percent of UIndy students are first-generation college students, and Kuykendall is applying his research to benefit student outcomes. He is collaborating with Jennifer Smith, director of student equity and success, to help students be more successful on campus in their freshman and sophomore years.

In his role as dean, Kuykendall is focused on expanding program offerings, as well as maximizing opportunities for faculty research. An early childhood education program aimed at adult learners will be introduced.

“We want to establish a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College to recruit students with associate degrees so they can smoothly transition into our program and complete their early childhood licensure,” Kuykendall said.

Another new program slated for fall 2019 is the special education director’s track. Long-term, Kuykendall says, the School of Education is looking at ways to establish a school partnership within the community, and to explore a doctoral program in leadership studies.

“We want to connect strongly with an elementary school in the area so students will have the opportunity to go into a school at their own time and pace and work with students in STEM education,” said Kuykendall, who also hopes to build a makerspace on campus for students to work with community members on creative educational solutions.

Another key focus for Kuykendall is faculty research. He’s looking at innovative solutions that will allow faculty to attend more conferences, conduct more research and consider new ways to partner with local schools are all part of that strategy.

“We really want to embrace the scholar practitioner model. If you’re out in the schools, you can support what your students do through solid research. In order to be a strong faculty member, you have to be able to have research in certain areas that can inform practice,” he explained.

Learn more about the UIndy School of Education


MICI-AHEC receives 5-year, $3M national grant

HCOP500The Metropolitan Indianapolis Central Indiana Area Health Education Center (MICI-AHEC) recently received a five-year, $3.2-million Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) grant award from the National HCOP Academies.

Hosted by the University of Indianapolis since 2014, the work of MICI-AHEC is to introduce people from underserved populations and geographic areas to health careers in an effort to return skilled health professionals to those areas. The Health Careers Opportunity Program is one way that MICI-AHEC achieves that goal.

MICI-AHEC Executive Director Erica Young explained the significance of the grant as well as how the organization’s ongoing partnership with UIndy has been beneficial to both organizations and to the students they serve.

“Working with faculty and programs already in place at UIndy allows us to not ‘reinvent the wheel,’” Young said. “We currently have six programs under our HCOP umbrella. Our partnership with UIndy means that we don’t have to run all of those programs ourselves, which allows our staff the time and energy to work on other initiatives.”

The six AHEC programs include:

  • College Prep Academy, which is open to high school students interested in careers in health. The 20-week program takes place at UIndy on Saturdays.
  • Hoosier Health Academy is open to high school students interested in health or STEM careers. The six-week program takes place at UIndy during June and July.
  • Undergraduate Summer Research Institute in which undergraduate students are paired with a UIndy faculty preceptor in a STEM or health-related field.
  • Pathways to Adult Learning is aimed at working adults who want to complete a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field.
  • Pre-Health Certificate Program, for students who have received or are close to finishing their bachelor’s degree, is an 18-credit hour program designed to increase a student’s competitiveness for applying to graduate health professions programs, such as physical or occupational therapy. UIndy biology professor Dr. John Langdon heads up this program as part of the Master of Science in Anatomical Sciences program.
  • Integrated Behavioral and Mental Health prepares undergraduate students and the existing community health workforce for graduate programs in social work or behavioral health with an emphasis on substance abuse and opioids addiction.

“The MICI-AHEC/UIndy partnership introduces motivated high school students to the university; provides value-added services and education to current UIndy students; and prepares students to be successful in graduate health programs – many of them right here at UIndy,” Young said.

Learn more about MICI-AHEC.

Debra Feakes brings fresh perspectives to campus

Debra Feakes, dean of the University of Indianapolis Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences

Debra Feakes, dean of the University of Indianapolis Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences

Amid the growing consensus about the importance of STEM education to tackle complex global issues, Debra Feakes, dean of the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Indianapolis, offers insight on the continuing significance of the liberal arts.

“General education outcomes like teamwork, communication, critical thinking and reasoning are equally important as getting that STEM education. Somebody who can combine the two of those and communicate well at all levels is a powerful graduate,” Feakes explained.

As dean of the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences, Feakes describes herself as an advocate of the general education core curriculum. Her perspective has evolved over more than two decades in higher education to embrace the idea that STEM skills are connected to the humanities in critical ways, which is a concept she champions in her role.

Emphasizing the relevance of the liberal arts and the value of a well-rounded education is a primary component of Feakes’ long-term strategy for the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences, comprised of 20 undergraduate and 9 graduate programs.

“Part of the task for colleges of arts and sciences across the nation is to recognize the contributions from these fields. We need to focus on making what we do meaningful to the public and demonstrate how this work has a broader positive impact,” Feakes said.

Feakes came to appreciate the humanities through her mother, whose interest in the arts acted as a counterweight to Feakes’ science-oriented academic career. Feakes earned a doctorate in chemistry from Utah State University in 1991, but the subject matter didn’t always come easy.

“I got average grades, but chemistry was a passion. I realized I could be challenged every single day as I took the career path,” Feakes said. “I truly believe that anybody can do what they want, as long as they’re passionate about it.”

An important component of her student experience that she draws from as an educator, including 24 years at Texas State University and now as dean at UIndy, is centered in helping students unravel layers of complexity.

There’s a perception from students that if you’re teaching chemistry, chemistry was easy for you. I understand how difficult it was to grasp, so I was able to use that to help develop my teaching skills, and how better to explain things and make it relevant to students,” Feakes said.

Feakes introduces the the Gala Opening Concert of the 2018-19 Faculty Artist Concert Series, featuring Maestro Raymond Leppard.

Feakes introduces the
the Gala Opening Concert of the 2018-19 Faculty Artist Concert Series, featuring Maestro Raymond Leppard.

Raising awareness among high school students and undeclared majors about potential careers is another goal for Feakes in her role as dean.

“When I went to school, I knew people who wanted to be an art historian or chemist. But nobody told me they wanted to be in experience design. I’d like to look at how we can bring the students in and show them potential careers that they might not have considered before,” Feakes explained.

Exploring the field to its full potential is a common theme in Feakes’ own career. As an inorganic chemist, she specializes in boron neutron capture therapy, a treatment designed to target tumor cells for patients with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. Her interest in chemical education research led her to the area of supplemental instruction, which she applied across the chemistry program as associate chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Texas State.

Under the supplemental instruction model, students who excelled in chemistry courses were invited back and paid to model good student behavior in class, such as taking notes or asking questions. Those former students also held study sessions to help current students learn study skills.

Supplemental instruction is one example of Feakes’ work as interim associate director of the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research at Texas State, which aims to improve access and opportunity for participation in STEM careers. High-impact practices also included first-year experience classes targeted for specific majors, early internship opportunities, undergraduate research and learning assistants.

“There are mechanisms to improve retention rates at UIndy and those are just some of the things that we can look at,” Feakes explained.

As the first female tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Texas State, Feakes says she appreciates the value of female, minority and disability role models in STEM fields.

“If we’re truly going to embrace diversity, we need all of those opinions,” she said.

Learn more about the Shaheen College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Indianapolis

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