Dr. William Caire, University of Central Oklahoma
2016 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Regional University/Community CollegeA 40-year teaching veteran, Dr. William Caire, professor of biology at the University of Central Oklahoma, is the recipient of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Regional University/Community College. Whether he is teaching biology for non-majors or a mammalogy lab for upper classmen, Caire’s objective is to leave students transformed.
“I want to ‘epigenetically’ pass my curiosity down to my students so they will be lifelong learners,” he said. Caire uses inquiry-based learning and hands-on research to help students critically question and evaluate what they see and hear. Through small-group research projects, for example, his students recently compared the brain volumes of male and female bats, studied the diversity of road-killed animals on urban vs. rural roads, and studied differences in male and female gopher burrow systems. Many of Caire’s students have shared their discoveries as co-authors of scientific journal articles.
Affectionately known as “Batman,” Caire is a leading authority on Oklahoma’s bat populations and has led students on legendary field trips to the Selman bat caves of northwestern Oklahoma. “The students net, measure and band bats. They collect data and learn how to ask relevant questions. They get cold, wet and dirty – and they love it!” said colleague Jenna Hellack.
Because of Dr. Caire’s love and stewardship of the bat caves, the Selman family donated the caves and 320 surrounding acres in 1998 to help establish the Selman Learning Lab. Caire, who served as lab director till 2013, pursued grant funding and oversaw the construction of classrooms, lodging and an observatory. The facility has benefited students and community groups of all ages and helped preserve the fragile ecosystem for thousands of bats.
“It is fair to say the Selman Living Lab will have a far-reaching impact on students and the community for years to come,” said Wei Chen, interim dean of the UCO College of Mathematics and Science.
Former student Monte Thies, a biology professor at Sam Houston State University, said Dr. Caire has influenced his own teaching and made him who he is today. “I learned a great deal from him about what it really means to be a scientist, a biologist and a person who simply never wanted to stop learning and asking questions.”