by Ann Brock
Drs. Melloni Cook, associate professor of psychology, and Helen Sable assistant professor
of psychology, each won the first ever Lupfer Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
Award. The award is generously funded by an endowment provided by retired Department
of Psychology faculty members Drs. Michael B. and Shirley L. Lupfer and will be given
at four-year intervals.
Recipients of the award must be full-time members of psychology who teach undergraduate
courses, model scholarly teaching methods, demonstrate creativity in class activities
and assignments, provide undergraduate mentorship and consistently achieve outstanding
Cook, who joined the department in 2003, has been given two other awards: the College
of Arts and Sciences Award for Excellence (2009) and the W. Russell Smith Award for
Teaching Excellence, the highest teaching award for the College (2012). Both awards
were based on student nominations.
Left to right: Drs. Michael B. Lupfer, Melloni Cook, Helen Sable and Shirley L. Lupfer.
Additionally, Cook is the adviser of the Psychology Honors Program, a role that gives
her the opportunity to guide students as they complete the program. She has also served
as an evaluator in the Works in Progress Symposium and in the Student Research Forum.
In the classroom Cook uses creative ways to promote learning. She sometimes sings
an appropriate song to help students make an application of the material she is teaching.
She says, “There’s a song for just about everything.” She may sing “Always Something
There to Remind Me” to help students with concepts about conditioning effects or “Blame
it on the Alcohol” to cement the effects of alcohol on memory (alcohol-related blackouts).
Even though Cook may sing to her classes or use a game to help her students review
for an exam, she is known as being tough in the classroom. One of her nominators said,
“She sets the bar high and provides the tools necessary to reach it.”
Cook received her PhD in bio-behavioral health from The Pennsylvania State University.
Sable became a member of the faculty in the Department of Psychology in 2008. As an
undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, she began forming ideas about what a
good teacher should do. She had both good and bad teachers, and she started thinking
about how she would do things differently if she had a chance. Now she does.
Sable observed that students taking statistics courses often get so lost they can’t
even formulate a question. Her innovative, proactive approach to this problem was
to apply for a grant so that she could buy “clickers.” Students use them in class
to answer questions about course content. The associated software provides immediate
feedback on a screen, which allows Sable to assess students’ understanding and the
students to gauge their level of understanding compared to the rest of the class while
Sable also makes classroom material relevant to a student’s interest. In answer to
a student’s grumblings that he would never use what he learned in research methods
and statistics once he left the classroom, Sable addressed his interest, which was
NASCAR. Together, Sable and the student analyzed lap times to determine if there was
a significant difference in lap times based on the make of the vehicle. The student
never complained about relevance again.
In addition to Sable’s creative, scholarly teaching she serves as a member of the
department’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee, the College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate
Curriculum Committee and the University Undergraduate Council.
Sable received her PhD in behavioral neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin.
Cook and Sable received an engraved plaque and a cash award.