Published: June 28, 2021
picture of Mckenzie in a white top

Mckenzie Dice is a 3rd year PhD student studying Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Her research focuses on the Antarctic atmospheric boundary layer. In the future she is interested in working in government to help address climate change. Mckenzie was recently awarded a Teaching Excellence Award based on her teaching philosophy and dedication to her students. We asked Mckenzie a few questions to learn more about her as a teacher and get to know her better. Read more below!

What is your favorite part about teaching?

My favorite part about teaching is getting to know the students and seeing them grow throughout the semester. The "lightbulb" moments are always the best.

Please tell us a bit about your pedagogical philosophy.

My pedagogical philsophy centers around the fact that students in the ATOC labs are from all different majors, and maybe have not taken a science lab in a long time. Because of this I knew I could not simply teach science as science, but I had to teach science as art, history, math, English, and every other major that my students represented. I made personal connections with each of my 40+ students per semester by learning about their interests, asking them what they did on the weekend, and where they got that sticker on their laptop. These personal connections help them to be more comfortable asking the "dumb questions" that they might otherwise be a little timid to ask. This also made them more open to discussing the lab with their classmates both in and out of class, as well as coming to office hours. I also think a vital part of the learning process is being interested in what you are learning and having fun while in class. By being passionate and animated in my classes I captured the attention of my students, and got them excited to come to a class that they might have been dreading. Rather than teach a general education science lab as just that, a general, boring class, I aimed to make my labs fun and interesting, and by doing this I saw students become confident in their scientific abilities and knowledge and enjoy walking into lab each week.

What is a favorite teaching resource you would like to share with other graduate teachers?

It's pretty popular, but I used Khan academy quite a lot to point my students to things when they might need some extra help beyond class and office hours. For myself, I learn a lot when I can watch videos that walk me through a specific topic. It is slightly different than just going to office hours- you can watch the video as many times as you need to, pause it, rewind, etc. I think informative video channels on the internet like that are just great. It is super helpful. It also is good for us as teachers to use, if we need a refresher on a topic before presenting it to class!

What are your recommendations for continuing or increasing student advocacy and engagement?

Coming from a small liberal arts college (1600 undergrads- yep, that's it!) in rural Minnesota, it was difficult to not be included in student advocacy and engaged with the campus and community. While CU Boulder is a little different, it is still possible to find a club or service opportunity that you can be passionate about. This might take some time because there are SO many options, but I find that passion is what often guides me, so finding something that you love is really important. Thus, I think knowing your options is imporant, and knowing what is going on in the campus community is important. When I was an undergrad, I saw a lot of problems associated with tuition increases, and so I applied to represent my school on the Board of Regents. For two years I sat on the Board and worked on student advocacy, especially with regards to tuition. Something as simple as not wanting your tuition to increase, and knowing who to talk to about it, can be a starting point for student advocacy and engagement with your campus, univeristy system, community, and even the state legislature.

Tell us a fun fact about you that is not related to your teaching and research.

I have two cats, named Mocha and Doja, and a dog named Nellie. They love to travel, and they go just about everywhere with us!

What is a good book you have read recently and why did you enjoy it?

I have recently read (several times) "Superlife" by Daren Olien. This book is all about good nutrition (NOT "dieting") and how to best serve your body. I have been a vegetarian for almost 7 years now, and I am always interested in learning more about nutrition and how to best fuel myself for success. If you are interested in trying new foods, learning about how your body uses nutrients, and what foods you can eat to get all those nutrients, this is a great book!

If you could have dinner with anyone (living or dead), who would it be and why?

If I could have dinner with anyone, I think it would be Elie Wiesel. I have read his book "Night" more times than I can count. His honest, raw, and heartwrenching story of surviving the holocaust is courageous and inspirational.