CSUF teacher advocating for a ‘culture of science’ is honored – Orange County Register

Cal State Fullerton biological science professor Merri Lynn Casem, center, received a standing ovation from her peers, including President Mildred García and Emily Bonney, chair of CSUF’s Academic Senate. (Photo courtesy of Cal State Fullerton)

Merri Lynn Casem was adamant she was not going to follow her mother and aunts into teaching. But when she was a Cal State Fullerton undergrad, a professor suggested she help out with a course. She was hooked.

She went on to get her doctorate and returned to her alma mater in 2000, where she is a professor of biological science and director of non-majors biology education.

On May 11, Casem received the Carol Barnes Excellence in Teaching Award, which honors faculty members who demonstrate academic rigor in teaching.

“She turns the classroom into a safe place to rehearse ideas and grasp complex concepts, rather than a routine lecture covering what was already covered in the text,” said CSUF alum Ellie Herrera, now adjunct professor of biology at Los Angeles Valley College. Herrera collaborated with Casem in research on spiders.

“She taught me to never give up on a student who tries because, like me, they may just need a little encouragement to reach higher than they thought they could,” added Herrera.

Casem believes in continually revisiting and improving her courses. She instituted Connect, Synthesize, Understand Fridays — CSUFridays — to introduce her students to “culture of science” through activities based on data derived from scientific literature.  She is also active in the Chancellor’s Office initiative to redesign introductory courses and has supported two major curriculum redesign efforts within her department.

“Merri Lynn’s approach to designing courses and curriculum includes a strong inquiry-based component involving research experiences and an emphasis on scientific literacy and constant assessment to understand how and what students are learning,” said Sean Walker, chair and…

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