Chemistry faculty member named Professor of the Year
Posted on April 26, 2018
Deborah Herrington has been named one of the top educators in the State of Michigan by the Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU) – the coordinating board for Michigan’s 15 public universities.
Herrington, professor of chemistry and interim Chemistry Department chair, was one of three collegiate educators to receive the Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year Award during a ceremony on April 20 in Lansing. The award recognizes exceptional contributions and dedication toward educating undergraduate students.
“To be chosen as GVSU’s nominee from among hundreds of my colleagues who are equally committed to quality undergraduate education is very humbling,” said Herrington. “I was somewhat surprised and deeply honored.”
Herrington said she strives to help her students understand the worldly applicability of chemistry concepts.
“Chemistry is not just a collection of facts; it is a systematic way of examining and explaining the world around us,” said Herrington. “In my classes, we focus on really understanding chemistry concepts and using them to explain things, such as why we need to use sunscreen to protect us from UV radiation or why fruit farmers spray their fruit crops with water to protect them from frost.”
While Herrington has received support from a number of people throughout her career, she said the majority of her gratitude goes to her students.
“I am constantly looking for new approaches that will better help my students understand difficult chemistry concepts and ways to support students outside of the classroom,” said Herrington. “But, to understand how different strategies are affecting students, I need to constantly collect data from them. Without my students and their hard work and feedback, I couldn’t be a great teacher.”
Herrington is also the co-founder and current director of Target Inquiry, a program that contributes toward improving the professional development of middle and high school science teachers while helping them create student-centered and inquiry-based classroom environments. The various classroom materials developed by Target Inquiry have been downloaded by hundreds of teachers in more than 40 countries. Herrington and her students take this work and other science-based teaching opportunities to local schools, afterschool programs and public spaces.
She also leads the Retaining and Inspiring Students in Science and Engineering program (RISE), which seeks to financially help low-income undergraduate students seeking an education in science or engineering. RISE is creating a set of progressively increasing four-year scholarships for at least 50 Grand Valley students who may not otherwise be able to afford a college education.
The program came to fruition after Herrington and her team received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program in December. Since beginning her time at Grand Valley in 2003, Herrington has obtained $2.7 million in external funding to support programs focused on improving science education.
Throughout her time at Grand Valley, Herrington has been the recipient of multiple awards recognizing her teaching, scholarship and service, including the Glenn A. Niemeyer Award in 2014, which is the highest faculty honor at Grand Valley.
Herrington earned a bachelor’s degree in Honours Chemistry from Wilfrid Laurier University, a bachelor’s degree in education in secondary science and mathematics from Brock University, a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Waterloo, and a doctorate in chemistry with an education emphasis from Purdue University.