Camarillo, Calif., June 4, 2013 – Blake Gillespie, Associate Professor of Chemistry at CSU Channel Islands (CI), recently earned the 2013 President’s Award for Innovations in Teaching and Learning. The award recognizes an individual who has made unique and significant contributions to the teaching mission of the University.

A CI faculty member since 2003, Gillespie has a well-deserved reputation as an innovator. He makes chemistry appealing and accessible to science and non-science majors alike by creating courses such as CHEM 335: “Chemistry of the Kitchen,” which places students in a kitchen laboratory for hands-on exposure to the chemistry, biology and physics behind the ingredients and preparation of food. His popular, original CHEM 490 class, “Beer, Wine and Spirits: The Art and Science of Fermentation,” allows advanced chemistry students to learn about practical applications of their analytical wet-lab skills. Gillespie collaborates with other CI faculty to design and teach innovative interdisciplinary courses, such as a field course on blue whale migration that combines chemistry, English and biology, and a “Chemistry of Ceramics” course, merging art and science.

An early adopter of the “flipped classroom,” Gillespie requires biochemistry students to view his videotaped lectures online on their own time, freeing them to use class time for discussion, projects and problem-solving. He shares the benefits of this learning model with colleagues in CI’s Blended Learning Preparation Program and at regional and national conferences.

“To understand science, students must do science,” Gillespie said. “Science is most
definitely not cookbook lab exercises with predetermined outcomes; science is questions, struggles, and hopefully, an answer or two, followed by more questions. It is a process of questions and answers that leads to a more complete knowledge of self and world.”

That hands-on philosophy guides Gillespie to run outreach and mentoring programs for underrepresented high school and community college students, exposing them to scientific research and career paths. He’s also personally mentored dozens of CI students in undergraduate research, inspiring many to pursue advanced scientific degrees.

“Dr. Gillespie truly embodies the CI spirit of innovation and dedication to student success,” said President Richard R. Rush. “He brings remarkable passion and creativity to teaching, designing curriculum, and engaging students to become the owners and orchestrators of their own educations.”

Rush presented Gillespie with the President’s Award during CI’s 2013 Honors Convocation, Saturday, May 11, at the John Spoor Broome Library. Reviewers from outside CI selected Gillespie based on his impact on and involvement with students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education, community and profession; and support from colleagues and students.

A number of enthusiastic students and colleagues nominated Gillespie for the award.

“I personally owe my advanced understanding of biochemistry and science to his unique
courses and dedication to his students,” said Kevin Eden, a former student now working as a biochemist for a major pharmaceutical company and entering a biochemistry Ph.D. program. “I believe that if more scientific courses were conducted with this type of multidimensional teaching, both science and non-science students would find the sciences more approachable, interesting and fun.”

“Without his support and belief in me, I probably would not have pursued graduate research,” said Claudina Cammack, a former student. “His dedication to his work and students surpasses that of any other professor I have ever met.”

In addition to the President’s Award, Gillespie will be nominated by CI for the Carnegie Foundation’s U.S. Professors of the Year Award, which honors those who excel as educators and influence the lives and careers of their students. Sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, it is the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

“I am truly honored to receive this award,” said Gillespie. “The most important work I do with students and for students is ensuring they are not receptacles for facts but are instead independent creators of ideas.”

Contact Dr. Gillespie at blake.gillespie@csuci.edu or 805-437-2796.

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About California State University Channel Islands
CSU Channel Islands (CI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI's strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master's degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more about CI by visiting CI's Social Media.