2007 DaVinci Fellows

Dr. Joseph Byrnes, Oklahoma State University

Dr. Joseph Byrnes has for years taught and researched the big dramas of church and state in Europe with creative concern for the relevance of religion and politics for Oklahoma.  In his research and teaching, Dr. Byrnes has highlighted these issues in his courses and seminars in such a way that students learn not only what the textbooks say but how his scholarly projects enrich a broad historical question.  Currently, Dr. Byrnes is creating an electronic encyclopedia of international interest on the church/state relationship in France during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras.  The project, centered at OSU, involves the cataloguing and coding of more than 40,000 priests of the Revolutionary era.  Not only is Dr. Byrnes bringing together the competencies of the OSU Webmaster but an international team of scholars who have already written outstanding texts in this era.  This team will meet in Paris in June to work out strategies for this collaborative project.  Both in Dr. Byrnes’ teaching and scholarship as well as the current project witness to and provide a creative way of showing the importance of international scholarship to current events in Oklahoma.

Dr. Xiao-Bing Li, University of Central Oklahoma

Dr. Xiaobing Li exemplifies the DaVinci ideal of an energetic academic who uses his creativity and industry to improve his community and even to influence relations between his birth country, China, and his adopted nation, the United States.  Dr. Li’s efforts to improve communication and a sense of fellowship between the American and Chinese peoples are noteworthy.  In 2004, his expertise concerning Taiwan led to his being chosen as a member of the official U.S. delegation, led by Henry Kissinger, to oversee the Taiwanese presidential elections. Since 2000, he has served as host to numerous Chinese delegations which came to study a variety of topics from Oklahoma’s health system to agriculture.  Dr. Li’s latest book, A History of the Modern Chinese Army, which will be issued soon by the University of Kentucky Press, is the first in-depth analysis of the Chinese military written for a western audience.  This study will become a standard work for students, scholars, and the America diplomatic corps.  It is the latest in a long list of Dr. Li’s works concerning China, the Korean War, and American-Chinese diplomatic relations and Chinese immigration to the United States.  In scholarship, outreach and service, Dr. Li is a phenomenal creative resource for his university, community and nation.

Dr. Carol Moder, Oklahoma State University

Throughout her career, Dr. Carol Moder, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of English at Oklahoma State University, has endeavored to conduct research at the cutting edge of linguistic approaches to real language use in real contexts and to apply these theoretical insights to practical applications in applied linguistics and language testing. Dr. Moder’s work consistently moves outside the realm of the typical to explore new and innovative ways of combining and applying knowledge from a variety of research disciplines.  One example is her recent work regarding the spoken English of international air traffic controllers.  In response to language proficiency of aviation professionals worldwide, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) put in place more stringent language requirements, which member nations would have to meet by 2008.  This political mandate for improved English among pilots and air traffic controllers calls for extraordinary and creative approaches to the teaching of English.  Dr. Moder led a team of researchers who drew together theoretical findings in linguistics and second language acquisition to develop a completely new curriculum that is now available to agencies worldwide.  This curriculum specifically targets language and functions most relevant to the air traffic situation and that is flexible enough to be adapted to a variety of teaching and learning styles.  Currently, Dr. Moder is applying similar cross-disciplinary investigations to develop a computer administered and scored test of aviation English proficiency.  Through her leadership, she strives to reach beyond assumed limitations in computer testing to move the testing paradigm to a new level of innovation.

Dr. Martha Parrott, Northeastern State University

Dr. Martha Parrott has taught mathematics for the last six years in the College of Science and Health Professions at Northeastern State University.  In this position she teaches upper level mathematics content for preservice elementary teachers.  Her challenge has been to change traditionally textbook-driven, lecture-oriented mathematics courses to more student-centered courses which deepen the students’ understanding of fundamental concepts.  Because most pre-service teachers enter mathematics courses with high levels of anxiety and very low levels of efficacy, this issue becomes even more complex because teachers who do not like mathematics and who do not feel successful as mathematics learners are, in fact, those who will spend the least amount of time teaching math to their own students.  Dr. Parrott emphasizes the use of hands-on-materials and multiple representations of mathematical concepts and ideas.  Striving always to find ways which will be helpful in solving real world problems, her methodologies involve many aspects of creativity.  She has transitioned her geometry and measurement, numeration and operation, and real numbers and statistics courses in the College of Science and Health Professions to be more student-centered.  Through her creative teaching she provides opportunities to nurture a true understanding of mathematics and not just a regurgitation of memorized rules and procedures. Her students write about their personal transformation, their empowerment as future teachers and their increased efficacy as mathematics learners.  Since Northeastern is the largest producers of elementary teachers in the state, Dr. Parrott’s influence is significant.

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