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Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2005

Gretchen Anderson

Herman Lieber Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence -- Founders Day 2005

Associate Professor of Chemistry
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Indiana University South Bend
Appointed to IU faculty, 1992
B.S., State University of New York at Albany, 1974
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1987

Gretchen Anderson

Print-Quality Photo

Chemistry. The mere thought of this notoriously difficult subject can weaken the knees of even the most industrious premed student. "The thought of molecules, the periodic table, and chemical reaction equations sent chills up my spine for most of my student life," recalls former student Alison Rosentreter. "Dr. Anderson changed all of that."

In her introductory and advanced chemistry courses, Gretchen Anderson not only gets students to no longer fear chemistry, but she also teaches them to love it.

As her students and colleagues note repeatedly in teaching evaluations, Anderson makes chemistry accessible and even fun by presenting it not as inscrutable formulas and arcane jargon but as an integral part of everyday life. For nursing students, Anderson goes out of her way to relate the course material to medical procedures that nurses are likely to encounter on the job.

Since joining the IU South Bend faculty, Anderson has viewed the classroom as a sort of second laboratory. Her courses, which have included Clinical Biotechnology, Biosynthesis and Physiology, and Chemistry of Food and Health, to name only a few, are constantly evolving to allow for developments in science and pedagogic technique.

Anderson's classroom innovations are all geared toward making chemistry accessible while challenging students to engage in the material at an advanced level. Weekly "pair and share" quizzes, for example, require students to work together on solving problems. Some classes begin with student-led review sessions, and throughout the semester students are required to find recently published papers relevant to the course material. These and other techniques have proven highly successful at getting students to move beyond rote memorization toward critical thinking. This is important, Anderson says, because it mirrors how science is done in the working world.

Anderson's passions for chemistry and teaching have inspired many students and colleagues. As one former student put it, "I had many great professors at IU South Bend, but Dr. Anderson had to be the best TEACHER that I had in my four years."

Anderson has won many honors, including an IU South Bend Teaching Award, two Trustees Teaching Awards, two Teaching Excellence Recognition Awards, as well as numerous grants for promoting innovative pedagogy. She was elected to the Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching in 1997.

Her greatest personal reward, however, has been encouraging undergraduate research. Each summer Anderson invites students to work in her lab, conducting experiments, keeping records, and applying for research grants. More than 20 of Anderson's undergraduates have given papers at chemistry conferences, and another 20 have received research grants. "It takes a special kind of person to take on this kind of teaching, year after year, and Dr. Anderson has not only successfully done it, she seeks it out," says Peter G. Bushnell, associate professor and chair of the IU South Bend Department of Biological Sciences.

Anderson's dedication to helping students is not limited to the classroom and lab. Countless students have taken advantage of her "open door" to receive help with graduate and medical school applications, job searches, and life in general. "Gretchen Anderson's achievements have defined a new level for excellence in teaching," says Lawrence Garber, IU South Bend professor of chemistry. "Gretchen Anderson has made a difference in the lives of so many students, says Alfred J. Guillaume Jr., IU South Bend vice chancellor for academic affairs.