JUNE 28, 2006

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Professors named 2006 DaVinci Fellows

From left, Audrey Schmitz, Northern Oklahoma College; Dr. George Acquaah, Langston University; and Dr. Kippi D. Wyatt, Northeastern State University, share the spotlight during a recent banquet where they were recognized by the DaVinci Institute of Oklahoma as 2006 DaVinci Scholars. At far right, University of Central Oklahoma professor Dr. Ron Miller stands in for UCO colleague Dr. Wei R. Chen, who was also named a DaVinci Fellow but was unable to attend the banquet and receive his award.

The DaVinci Institute of Oklahoma has recognized some well-deserving college professors for their outstanding accomplishments.

Dr. George Acquaah, Langston University; Dr. Wei R. Chen, University of Central Oklahoma; Audrey Schmitz, Northern Oklahoma College; and Dr. Kippi Wyatt, Northeastern State University have been named the state's first DaVinci Fellows.

Acquaah, professor of agriculture and applied sciences, was selected for his creative use of leadership and scholarship to implement a comprehensive, integrated and sustainable mechanism for enhancing the participation of minorities in agricultural education and related professions. Under his leadership, the Langston Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources has been transformed and recognized both nationally and internationally.

The author of seven textbooks, one of which has been translated into Chinese, Acquaah holds a Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics from Michigan State University.

Chen is professor of biomedical engineering at UCO. He has worked for more than a decade on research in pursuit of a solution to the treatment of metastatic melanoma.

Through a combination of drug and laser treatments, focusing specifically on using a 25-watt near-infrared laser that produces a beam of heat not visible to the naked eye, Chen and his research partner have achieved complete remission in two out of three patients treated thus far.

Chen’s expertise was instrumental in helping the UCO Department of Physics and Engineering establish the first and only Biomedical Engineering undergraduate program in Oklahoma in 2001, of which he serves as director. He also continues to teach in the classroom and has directed dozens of UCO undergraduate students in research, many of whom have helped Chen co-author his research publications.

Chen earned his bachelor’s degree from Shandong University in China, and his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Oregon, all in physics.

Schmitz, a full-time instructor of ceramics, sculpture and art history and director of the Eleanor Hays Art Gallery, has developed and/or coordinated more than 55 exhibits to bring national and local artists to Northern and surrounding communities since the opening of the gallery in 1997. Exhibitions include “Meet the Artist” gallery talks to educate patrons and students. These diverse exhibits and related programs appeal to all ages with content ranging from themes of cultural heritage to faith and spirituality, outsider art and humor.

Schmitz considers the gallery as an alternative learning space and utilizes it as an extension of the classroom for students in Appreciation of Art, Art History and studio art courses, creating class assignments that focus on the gallery experience and reinforce learning objectives. Through this venue she has expanded curriculum, increased enrollment in the Art Department, widened the audience for the visual arts and impacted the lives of Oklahomans in a manner rarely accessible to a rural community.

In addition to her responsibilities at NOC, Schmitz pursues a professional career, specializing in ceramics, sculpture and fine art photography.

Wyatt is a member of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians and the American Optometric Association. She has served as a consultant item writer for the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. She has also received the Oklahoma Higher Education Conference Excellence in Teaching Award for NSU, and the Outstanding Professor Award from the first-year optometry class.

In the classroom, Wyatt has made her courses more student-centered, so she can facilitate learning for her students. One program she has instituted is the keypad response system, which allows students to type answers to questions asked in class. She has also introduced software animations of physiological principles, extensively uses digital images, and promotes group research projects - a favorite project of students in her classes.

Wyatt has also sponsored research projects, such as the “Reading Comprehension of Text Presented at a Distance of 6 Meters Compared to 40 Centimeters,” and “Designing an Educational Program for Estimating Cup/Disc Ratios using the Direct Ophthalmoscope.”

The DaVinci Institute aims to nurture the arts, sciences, humanities and education in Oklahoma as these fields undergo transformations in the 21st Century. Through academic and community partnerships, programming and public awareness, the institute encourages critical thinking and creativity and promotes collaboration with other organizations to support its programming and further its vision. The DaVinci Institute vision is to improve the quality of education in Oklahoma and, by doing so, to help Oklahomans carry their creative talents to the world.

Contacts: Chyla Rucker, LU, 1.405.466.3201; Charlie Johnson, UCO, 1.405.974.2315; Marjilea Smithheisler, NOC, 1.580.628.6444; and Nancy Garber, NSU, 1.918.456.5511, ext. 2885