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McGuire, leader in student education, wins national chemical award

McGuire, leader in student education, wins national chemical award

For more than 46 years, Saundra Yancy McGuire, PhD. has been helping students realize their academic potential. A nationally recognized chemical educator, author and lecturer, she has travelled the globe promoting sure-fire strategies to help students, including those underrepresented in science and math professions, to be successful in their coursework and careers. In recognition of her work and the thousands of students she has impacted, McGuire has been awarded the 2017 American Chemical Society, or ACS, Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences, sponsored by the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

“I’m very humbled to be the recipient of the ACS Dreyfus Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences. I gratefully accept this honor on behalf of all of the individuals who made it possible. They include my nominator, LSU Professor Isiah Warner, and all of the colleagues and students who supported the nomination,” said McGuire, director emerita of LSU’s Center for Academic Success and retired assistant vice chancellor and professor of chemistry. “When I look at the previous winners of this award, I am very honored to join this distinguished group, and I am even more determined to ensure that all students, especially disadvantaged students, are encouraged to pursue and reach their dreams.”

As a chemistry major at Southern University and A&M College, McGuire learned early on that the right support can make the difference between failure and success. She enrolled at Southern University with plans to major in chemistry despite the fact that she had not taken chemistry in high school (she skipped her senior year).

“I was successful because of wonderful faculty members and supportive peers who helped me overcome the gaps in my preparation and excel,” said McGuire.

Later in graduate school, McGuire decided to give extra support to the students in the introductory chemistry course for which she was a teaching assistant during her first year at Cornell University.

“I knew that these underprepared students were capable of success, but I doubted they would excel without someone working with them to help them learn how to understand the concepts and develop effective problem solving strategies,” said McGuire.

McGuire is the author of “Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation.” She spent 11 years at Cornell University, where she received the coveted Clark Distinguished Teaching Award. She joined LSU in 1999, and has delivered her widely acclaimed faculty-development workshops on teaching students how to learn at more than 250 institutions in 43 states and eight countries.

“My effectiveness with students increased exponentially while at LSU. I learned so much from Sarah Baird and other learning strategists at the Center for Academic Success, and I developed what we now refer to as the metacognitive approach to learning,” McGuire said.

Metacognition allows students to analyze their own learning and take control of their study behaviors. This approach has proved to be a remarkably successful way of helping students make the transition from being memorizers who regurgitate information to being critical thinkers who can solve novel problems. 

“I’ve always found student transformation intoxicating, and I love celebrating student success,” said McGuire. “My inspiration comes from the reactions of students when they see that they can succeed and that they don’t have to give up their dreams.”

McGuire earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry, magna cum laude, from Southern University in 1970, and her master’s degree in chemical education from Cornell University in 1971. She earned her PhD in chemical education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1983. Her many other honors and awards include the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers and the 2002 Dr. Henry C. McBay Outstanding Chemical Educator Award from the same organization. In January, she was awarded the Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS.

McGuire has been very active in the ACS for over 40 years beginning as a member of the ACS student organization during her senior year at Southern University. She was named an ACS Fellow in 2010, chaired the ACS Committee on Minority Affairs from 2002-2004 and was a member of the committee from 1999 to 2004.

McGuire will be honored at the awards ceremony on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 in conjunction with the 253rd ACS National Meeting in San Francisco.

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