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MU Professor Awarded 2013 Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence

April 10th, 2013

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton and Commerce Bank Chairman Jim Schatz of Commerce Bank today awarded one of the 2013 William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence to Angela Speck, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the MU College of Arts and Science.

Middleton, Schatz and a group of professors, administrators and staff surprised Speck by honoring her with the Fellowship, which includes a $10,000 check. Kemper Fellowships are awarded to five outstanding teachers at the University of Missouri each year.

The William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence were established in 1991 with a $500,000 gift. Kemper, a 1926 MU graduate, was a well-known civic leader in Kansas City until his death in 1989. His 52-year career in banking included top positions at banks in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Commerce Bank manages the trust fund.

ATTACHED : Speck Bio

Angela Speck

Angela Speck has been a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the MU College of Arts and Science since 2011 and has taught at MU since 2002. From improving scientific literacy among the public to ensuring that the next generation of scientists is well-trained, Speck focuses on education as the thread that binds her research, teaching and service responsibilities. Her students and colleagues say Speck has distinguished herself by her accessibility, her love of teaching, and her wide-ranging knowledge of astronomy.

“Professor Speck is a shining star in her field,” wrote Caleb Wheeler, a former student who participated in undergraduate research with Speck for three years before enrolling in an astrophysics doctoral program at Arizona State University. “The work that she presents is as cogent as it is brilliant. She is one of the few scientists I have met who understands the importance of showing the relevance of their work to anyone who cares to ask. She is a model for how a scientist can be hardworking, meticulous, family-oriented and still be an outgoing, social person with a warm, strong personality.”

Speck says engaging students using learner-centered and peer instruction techniques is a core part of her teaching philosophy. She was instrumental in the development of a new course that aims to provide science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduate students with the tools they need to make their own classrooms accessible to students with physical and learning disabilities. She also reworked the introductory astronomy courses and created a computer-based laboratory course to improve student learning among non-scientists.

“Dr. Speck is genuinely interested in exploring ways to help students reach their highest level of understanding based on their learning styles,” wrote Lanika Ruzhiskaya, a Mizzou Advantage post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “As a result of this interest and her vision, together we wrote and received a National Science Foundation grant to develop a 3-D environment to help undergraduate non-science majors learn a number of topics in astronomy using a motivational three-dimensional representation of the Jupiter system.”

In addition to teaching and mentoring a significant number of students as an adviser, Speck is an active member of her department’s curriculum committee and leads efforts to expand educational offerings and career opportunities in the astronomy program. She also is a leader in the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning, a resource funded by the National Science Foundation that uses graduate education to develop STEM faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse student audiences.

“In the eight years I have known Angela, I have come to view her as a strong advocate for quality education, high standards and innovation ,” said Deborah Hanuscin, an associate professor at the MU Science Education Center. “I cannot think of another colleague who more firmly embodies the qualities of an outstanding educator—not one who merely imparts information, but who opens doors and possibilities to others through her teaching.”

Speck received a bachelor’s degree from Queen Mary, University of London in astrophysics and a doctorate from University College London in astronomy. She completed postdoctoral work at the University of Illinois and University College London.