- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Ullman, a UC Davis professor of entomology is the associate dean for undergraduate academic programs, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.
She will receive the award at the 98th annual PBESA meeting, set for April 6-9 at the Marriott University Park, Tucson, Ariz. PBESA is comprised of 11 western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming), parts of Canada and Mexico, and seven U.S. territories.
Pacific Branch will now advance her as its candidate for the ESA's international Distinguished Teaching Award. ESA will select the recipient from one of six branches—Pacific, Eastern, North Central, Southeastern, Southwestern and International—and present the award at its Nov. 16-19 meeting in Portland, Ore.
“Dr. Ullman is a world-renowned and highly respected teacher, but she is an outstanding mentor, researcher and administrator who combines innovation, energy, talent and dedication to help students learn, retain that knowledge, and succeed in class, college and life. They cannot praise her enough, and neither can we,” the team of nominators wrote.
Ullman excels at developing new courses, programs and teaching methods, using traditional and non-traditional means. She employs a unique multidisciplinary approach to teaching. A key example is her Art/Science Fusion Program (which has drawn national and international attention, including a TEDx talk, ESA and AAAS presentations, and scores of speaking invitations all over the world. One of her 2013 presentations was to Lleida University, Spain, where she guided them in setting up an art/science fusion program.
The Art/Science Fusion Program, developed initially in the Department of Entomology and Nematology, is an innovative teaching program that crosses college boundaries and uses experiental learning to enhance scientific literary for students from all disciplines. Her program promotes environmental literacy with three undergraduate courses, a robust community outreach program, and sponsorship of the Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous (LASERs).
For example, her Entomology 001 students researched honey bees, learned and crafted mosaic ceramics, and then installed the project in the department's honey bee garden. Her ENT 001 and her freshman seminar on Plants in Art and Science led to 12 permanently installed public art projects and one exhibition at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. These projects illustrating student learning at UC Davis, have attracted national attention, including a 16-page article in the November 2013 edition of Works and Conversations.
The Art/Science Fusion Program drew praise for its robust collaboration with the UC Davis Arboretum and its work with the GATEways (Gardens, Art and the Environment) Project, a campuswide project aimed at increased accessibility to UC Davis and its academic enterprise. One of her most visible and “wow!” projects is the 2,500 pound mosaic art, Nature's Gallery, showcasing the interaction of insects and plants. A product of her ENT 001 class and community outreach, it was displayed at the U.S. Botanical Garden in Washington D.C. and at the California State Fair and is now permanently installed in the UC Davis Arboretum.
Ullman's nominators singled her out for special praise:
1. Her teaching methods and influence are not just in the classroom. As the associate dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (student population 6000), Ullman leads curriculum and program development, student recruitment and outreach; administrates all undergraduate academic policies ranging from orientation of incoming students; advises and assists students in academic difficulty; and develops campuswide policies with a wide range of academic committees, taskforces and councils at college and campus levels, including the Council of Associate Deans, Undergraduate Dean's Council, and Undergraduate Advising Council.
2. Career Discovery Group. Ullman co-founded the Career Discovery Group Program (180-380 freshmen/year since 2006). This program, essential in training mentors, and obtaining college and private funding for program support and expansion, helps students explore career possibilities, select majors and tailor their academic program to enhance their success. Recently, her leadership resulted in garnering college and private funding for expansion of the program to Educational Opportunity Program students (first in their family to attend college, under-represented minorities) and she contributes throughout the academic year to training and managing the mentors for this program. Undergraduates participating in the program have a faster time to degree, higher GPAs and are less likely to be in academic difficulty.
3. National Online Class. In 2013, Ullman co-directed development and teaching of a national online class on scientific mentoring (Thrips-Tospovirus Educational Network or TTEN) to students and postdoctoral scholars at seven institutions. This effort involved developing an Adobe Connect virtual classroom, a Google Plus site for sharing materials, videos and resources and preparation of curriculum. In addition to this formal teaching, she also trains undergraduates and graduate students to do research in her laboratory. As a researcher, she is best known for translating advances in understanding insect vector-plant virus relationships into novel strategies for preventing vector population growth and epidemics of insect transmitted pathogens. Her success let to a $3.75 million grant; she is the principal investigator.
4. New Techniques and Strategies. Ullman invests a great deal of energy in delivering content and exploring innovative strategies for teaching. In 2012, she revised her strategy for teaching ENT 001, using more online resources, collaborative learning techniques and in-class testing strategies that allowed her to “flip” the classroom and increase discussion, questions and interactive activities in a highly successful project. She continues to innovate and integrate art and science in her teaching, stressing visual literacy and creative confidence.
Unsolicited and anonymous comments from students include:
- “Professor Ullman is wonderful! She is extremely enthusiastic about what she is teaching.”
- “Great professor. She is passionate about what she does and very enthusiastic about insects.”
Professor Jean VanderGheynst, associate dean for Research and Graduate Study, UC Davis College of Engineering and a professor of biological and agricultural engineering, describes Ullman as “the most passionate professor and undergraduate advocate I have encountered. She has worked tirelessly on issues facing undergraduate students. Her teaching acumen and excellence extends far beyond entomology students and have literally reached every student on the Davis campus.”
Highly honored for her work, Ullman was named a fellow of ESA in 2011. She received the UC Davis Chancellor's Achievement Award for Diversity and Community in 2008; the USDA Higher Education Western Regional Award for Excellence in College and University Teaching in 1993; and the Hawaiian Entomology Society Entomologist of the Year Award in 1992, among her many awards.
Ullman joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now Entomology and Nematology) in 1995. She served as the department's vice chair from 2001 to 2004, and as the 2004-05 chair. Ullman obtained her bachelor's degree in horticulture from the University of Arizona, Tucson, in 1997 and her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1985.