McDonald to be honored by Texas A&M Center for Teaching Excellence

Award recognizes Texas A&M faculty members who exemplify transformational learning
March 17, 2020

Regents Professor Thomas McDonald, PhD, in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, was selected as one of six Texas A&M faculty members who exemplify transformational learning by the Center for Teaching Excellence.

The award acknowledges outstanding Texas A&M instructors and faculty members who, through their dedication to transformational teaching practices, have made significant impact on their students.

McDonald, who is also a top researcher in the School of Public Health, was nominated for the award by Jillian Barthelemy, a senior public health major. In her nomination letter, Barthelemy cited the impact McDonald has had on her academic career, future endeavors and her approach to learning.

“I was a student in his undergrad environmental health class my sophomore year, and the way that he structured the class was intriguing. He made all the topics relevant,” she wrote. “He gave us public health information from the news at the beginning of each class and tied it to the topic of the lecture.”

Sharing current news articles about relevant public health problems was inspiring to Barthelemy because it made the course work seem so real for her.

“In some classes it is easy to wonder what the point is, but in Dr. McDonald’s class he makes it clear and shows how it relates to real life,” Barthelemy said. “Dr. McDonald challenged us to think in new ways by presenting us with public health problems and making us pick apart potential results and hazardous outcomes.”

McDonald joined the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in 2005 and has served as Department Head and as Interdisciplinary Faculty of Toxicology. He currently leads the Research Translation Core of the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center composed of scientists from across campus conducting four environmental research projects funded by a $10 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Established in 1987, the NIEHS Superfund Research Program is a highly competitive grant-based program that funds a network of 16 university-based multidisciplinary research teams that study human health and environmental issues related to hazardous chemicals, with a goal of understanding the link between exposure and disease.

McDonald was named a Regents Professor in 2018 by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents for his stellar contributions to the university and the people of Texas.

“He has transformed the educational experience by finding ways to bring together course work from various disciplines to show students how they relate,” Barthelemy wrote in her nomination letter. “He often would be explaining chemical contaminants and would say, ‘Remember when you learned this in chemistry and thought it was useless? Well here is a real-world application.’”

“He brought other course materials together and gave students a better understanding of how they applied to public health. I think his class was transformational because it makes you realize how all of your other required classes tie together.”

The award comes with $1,500 to help McDonald continue his development of transformational teaching as well as a $500 scholarship for Barthelemy.

— Tim Schnettler

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