Melanie M. Cooper was installed as the first Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Chemistry at an investiture ceremony held yesterday in the Christman Lounge at MSU’s Wharton Center for the Performing Arts. MSU Acting Provost, June Youatt; College of Natural Science (CNS) Dean, R. James Kirkpatrick; Department of Chemistry Chairperson, Rob Maleczka; and CREATE for STEM Director, Joe Krajcik, were all present for the ceremony.
“Today’s investiture underscores the importance of endowed funds and endowed faculty members to the university,” Youatt said. “The Lappan-Phillips Professorship in Science Education was created to continue MSU’s commitment to improving science and mathematics education through research and development. We are extremely pleased to welcome Professor Cooper to MSU.”
Cooper comes to MSU from Clemson University, where she was an Alumni Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. She is jointly appointed in the departments of chemistry and teacher education, and in the CREATE for STEM Institute. Cooper received her B.S, M.S. and Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Manchester, England. She carried out postdoctoral work in organic chemistry before turning to chemical education as her area of research, where her focus is on improving teaching and learning in large enrollment general and organic chemistry courses. An outgrowth of this research is the development and assessment of evidence-driven, research-based curricula.
Cooper said that the professorship will serve to advance her work and provide a significant boost to the discipline-based education research (DBER) field.
“The recognition that comes with the Lappan-Phillips professorship means a lot to me, both as a researcher and for what it will add to the field as a whole,” she said. “The fact that a major research university has endowed a professorship with an emphasis on DBER means that this emerging field is being acknowledged as an important part of academic excellence and that it has a vital role to play in ensuring student success.”
Support for the professorship comes from the Connected Mathematics Project 2 (CMP2) Fund at MSU. The fund was created with royalties received from the Connected Mathematics 2 textbook, the single most widely used mathematics textbook in America for students in grades 6-8, which was developed by MSU mathematics educators, Glenda Lappan and Elizabeth Phillips. Lappan and Phillips gifted their portion of the royalties to establish the fund.
“These Connected Math funds are an extraordinary and special resource for MSU,” CNS Dean Kirkpatrick said. “I know of no other university that has these kinds of resources to spend on math and science education. This professorship is a perfect example of how we can leverage these funds to improve the education of our own students, education at the K-12 level and research on STEM education within disciplines. We are most grateful to Glenda and Betty for helping to make this professorship possible.”
“It is exciting to have our first endowed professorship in the department and to have been able to recruit a nationally recognized scholar such as Melanie to occupy it,” added Chemistry Department Chairperson Maleczka. “The ability to offer endowed professorships is among the most important benefits that a university can provide to its leadership. Although MSU offers superb opportunities for someone to pursue their science, being able to couple an endowed position with what the university has to offer makes it even more attractive. We’re looking forward to great things.”