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  • Biography

    Dan Ward earned his Bachelors in Biology at the University of Central Missouri. A high point of his experience there was investigating the relationship between the location of Antriadesmus sp. (a millipede) and bat guano density at Tumbling Creek Cave in Southern Missouri. He also earned his Masters in Biology at UCM where he investigated territorial defense in the bannertail kangaroo rat (Dipodomys spectabilis) in response to footdrumming and visual threats.

    Upon graduation, he obtained a position as the Biology Laboratory Supervisor at Indiana University-Kokomo where he cut his teeth on undergraduate biology education, prepping and teaching a variety of introductory biology courses and serving on several university committees.

    He left IUK for a position as a Biology Instructor at Waubonsee Community College in the far western suburbs of Chicago. While at WCC he served as Director of the Honors Program, coached the College Bowl team, and served as an advisor to several science oriented student organizations. He was instrumental in designing and launching the Skyway Conference’s annual STEM poster competition, and was inducted into the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Co-Curricular Hall of Fame in 2013 for his efforts (the only faculty member to be inducted at the time). In 2001, he pioneered the use of multimedia and Internet delivery as it applied to biology education in the state of Illinois, receiving an Illinois Community Colleges Online Grant to develop a hands-on, investigative online biology laboratory resulting in the first offering in the state that did not require students to come to a campus to conduct laboratory exercises. He has received an NSF grant to enhance biology laboratories at WCC and served as a field tester for the NABT/LTI “High Quality Biotechnology on a Shoestring” project. Throughout his tenure at WCC he was awarded various Instructional Learning Grants for developing laboratory exercises focused on fossil preparation and identification that could be used to demonstrate evolution in various biology and geology courses, revised Introduction to Biology, so the course could be offered through the Internet, investigated the possible uses of small-scale faculty authored multimedia projects in the instruction of biology, investigated the possible uses of the Internet in instruction of biology, and investigated the success of students who use computer based methods of instruction in the laboratory. He also participated in a European Faculty Exchange Program, hosting an instructor from Athlone Regional Technical College, Athlone, Republic of Ireland and then visiting RTC-Athlone the following semester. In 2015 he retired after 24 years at Waubonsee Community College, with the rank of Professor Emeritus.

    Dan has taught biology for over 30 years and has been actively engaged in undergraduate biology education efforts beyond the immediate scope of his institution by participating in the Summit on Community College Pathways to STEM Education and Careers in Washington, D.C., attending DryadLab Workshops at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center to create instructional materials, serving on the Public Policy Committee of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, serving on the Faculty Leadership Team for the Cyberlearning at Community Colleges project, and serving on the Understanding Evolution Teacher Advisory Board, a University of California Museum of Paleontology, American Institute of Biological Sciences, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center joint NSF funded project.

    He has been an active member of the National Association of Biology Teachers since 1992, serving on a variety of committees and leadership positions (i.e. Professional Development Committee, 2004-2009 & Chair 2007 -2009 and serving as President in 2011).  He also belongs to other professional organizations, including the Illinois Association of Community College Biologists (President 2007), the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium (Board of Directors 2015-2017), the Association of Biology Laboratory Educators and the National Science Teachers Association.

    Dan has been awarded multiple honors for teaching excellence, including a StudyWeb Academic Excellence Award in 2000 for his environmental biology Web site, a Most Inspirational Teacher Award from Western Illinois University in 2003 and the Two-Year College Teacher of the Year Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) in 2003. 

    Though retired, he continues to hone his reaching skills while teaching as an adjunct at several community colleges and universities on western Michigan.

    His current professional interests center on improving faculty scholarship and the teaching of science and biology at the undergraduate level, particularly within the community college system. His experiences with scholarship and improving undergraduate biology education has led him to recognize the importance of providing two-year biology faculty with opportunities to develop their scholarship as well as their teaching skills.  He currently serves as Director of the CC-BIOME Project at BioQUEST.

    Over the years, in a variety of settings, he has experienced first-hand the marginalization, and at times disrespect, exhibited by college and university faculty for the work performed by community college faculty. As one of several hundred invited participants in the Summit on Community College Pathways to STEM Education and Careers (2011) he was dismayed to discover that only a small percentage were actively engaged at the community college level.  Most were associated with 4-year institutions. He experienced similar situations at Project Kaleidoscope meetings focused on community college issues. It was almost as if the addition of community college faculty was an afterthought.

    While working with biology faculty from Northern Illinois University to cooperatively develop an articulation agreement, he was the repeated recipient of professional disrespect. NIU faculty routinely rejected out of hand input and suggestions with comments like community college faculty don’t understand higher education issues because all they do is teach and 4-year faculty have more knowledge about biology than 2-year faculty because they must keep current due to their research efforts so our teaching pedagogies area outdated and antiquated.

    Even leaders at many community colleges seem to agree with this mentality.  Their efforts regarding scholarship are primarily focused on teaching to the exclusion of the other three components of scholarship. When asked for release time to work on grants at Waubonsee he was told that it is a waste of time to allow that.  His job was to teach, not do research.  Even going to professional development meetings was problematic.  He was denied opportunities for professional development because in the eyes of administrators, there is nothing that can be learned from attending these meetings that can’t be provided from attending on campus workshops.

    Providing two-year faculty with opportunities to enhance their scholarship is an important step in breaking down these types barriers that exists for community college faculty and can result in a better undergraduates biology experience for the students we all serve. Dan was lucky to have had mentors during his career that encouraged him to participate in organizations such as NABT and BioQuest that focused on the development of the individual rather than the type of institution they came from.  If it were not for them, he would have become burned out and disillusioned with his profession/career.

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