Physics professor honored with Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award for supporting student STEM success

Contact: Deanne Puca

Dr. Charles Henderson

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University’s Dr. Charles Henderson is being recognized for his exceptional work to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning for undergraduates. He will be presented with the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award during the Fall Awards Celebration on Friday, Sept. 29.

Faculty chosen for the award are honored on the basis of outstanding artistic, literary, philosophical, historical, technical or scientific achievement, bringing wide recognition from the academic community beyond Western’s campus.

“This award recognizes Dr. Henderson’s exceptional contributions he’s poured into the field of physics over the years and highlights his dedication to bringing more credibility to his work in the industry,” says Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Congratulations to Dr. Henderson.”

A professor of physics and science education, Henderson joined Western’s faculty in 2002 and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Physics and the Mallinson Institute for Science Education at Western. He currently serves as director of the institute and also is the co-founder and co-director of the WMU Center for Research on Instructional Change in Postsecondary Education.

In spring 2010, he was a Fulbright Scholar with the Finnish Institute for Educational Research at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. He earned his Ph.D. and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree from Macalester College.

His accomplishments include publishing 91 peer-reviewed publications and obtaining external funding of more than $10.5 million as principal investigator or co-principal investigator.

Henderson has established an international reputation as a “global thought leader and expert in physics as well as STEM education research, leading numerous projects intended to improve teaching and learning in undergraduate STEM,” writes Dr. Carla Koretsky, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, in her nomination.

With pressing global environmental issues and rapidly changing energy and technology needs, Koretsky adds that adopting best practices for teaching STEM disciplines to undergraduates is crucial to maintaining a potential pool of talented scientists for the future.

“Dr. Henderson’s research seeks to understand how change strategies can be effectively developed and deployed, to enhance more widespread adoption of best practices that would support the success of undergraduate students studying STEM disciplines,” she writes in the nomination.

Henderson is a physics educator, however, he is collaborative and has made contributions to work which covers all fields incorporated under the banner of STEM, according to Dr. Shirley M. Malcom, senior advisor and director of the STEM Equity Achievement Change Institute for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“We value Dr. Henderson as a colleague, as a leader, as a thinker and as a contributor to the national discussion on systemic change in undergraduate STEM education and the need for such change to support DEI in STEM. We cite his work and seek his counsel,” she writes in the nomination. “Western Michigan University is fortunate to have a scholar of his caliber within its community.”

A longtime colleague characterizes Henderson as “one of the superstars in the country in STEM education.”

Dr. Jose P. Mestre, professor emeritus of physics and educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, writes, “No one else in this country is better at articulating the landscape of educational reform in undergraduate STEM courses than Prof. Henderson.”

Also receiving awards at Fall Awards Celebration are recipients of other prestigious campuswide honors: Distinguished Service, Distinguished Teaching, Emerging Scholar, Excellence in Diversity and annual Make a Difference awards. The event begins at 11 a.m. in the Kirsch Auditorium of the Fetzer Center with a luncheon to follow and concludes at 1:30 p.m.

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