Dr. David Bass

Dr. David Bass

Winner of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Regional University/Community College

Dr. David Bass, the recipient of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Regional University/Community College, is a professor of biology and curator of invertebrates at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. A leading expert in aquatic invertebrates, Bass teaches courses ranging from beginning biology and ecology to invertebrate zoology and aquatic entomology. He also coaches UCO’s competitive sailing team.

“Even though Bass has been a professor at UCO for 35 years, he still works as if he were a green Ph.D. starting his first semester of teaching,” said Dr. Wei Chen, dean of the UCO College of Mathematics and Science. “He treats each class as a new adventure, constantly revising lecture notes, adding new contents and experimenting with new delivery approaches.”

Bass’s courses combine dynamic, well-organized lectures with lab work. He utilizes numerous strategies to accommodate different learning styles, including discussion, data analysis, writing, drawing, field work and problem-solving. “As I prepare for class, I imagine myself as a student in the course to better understand their situation,” Bass said. “I focus on the most important concepts and how they apply to the real world or use examples to which students relate.”

Most courses Bass teaches involve field studies where students make observations in nature. Bass instructs students to “get out of their human skin” and imagine they are the organisms being studied to gain a greater understanding of organisms and their environment.

Colleague Gloria Caddell has accompanied Bass and his students on weekend field trips to explore Oklahoma field biology. “David patiently gives each student individual attention and when they find an invertebrate, his excitement makes it seem like he is seeing it for the first time,” Caddell says. “He has never lost that joy of discovery, and his passion and curiosity are contagious.”

Because of Bass’s engaging teaching style and love for his subject, many non-majors have changed their major to become biologists. He mentors and encourages students to become involved in research and curation activities. At least 15 of his publications are co-authored by students.

“David taught me what is necessary to take a scientific project from idea generation to the final published project,” said Kinsey Tedford, a former nursing major turned biology grad, who is now a coastal ecologist and doctoral student at the University of Virginia.