Dr. Rahmona Thompson will receive the East Central University 2023 Distinguished Former Faculty award on Friday, May 5 at ECU’s Evening of Honors and Recognition.
Thompson began as a professor at ECU in 1991 and retired as professor emeritus in 2017.
“She has exemplified science research and teaching starting with her undergraduate degree in Botany,” a nominator said. “As a faculty member, she made herself very available to her students and fellow faculty members, as well as to science teachers in the area.”
“This award validates my hopes and wishes that my efforts have a positive impact on my students, science teachers and Oklahoma science education,” Thompson said.
Her love for research and biology began in junior high. Thompson’s ninth grade general science teacher assigned a science fair project.
“This assignment caused me tremendous angst,” Thompson said. “Not only did I have to develop a hypothesis worthy of exploration, but I also had to communicate that idea to my teacher.”
Despite a spilled beverage on her fair poster board, Thompson completed the assignment, presented it to the school fair judges, and advanced to the East Central Regional Science Fair and on to the state science fair.
“I designed an experiment and conducted it, loving every minute of the data collection,” Thompson said. “This event was a defining period of my life. It showed me that doing science was the best way to learn science.”
Thompson pursued scientific research and began instructing at ECU, where she was asked to manage summer elementary science teacher workshops. Each summer, 30-45 teachers learned grade-specific, hands-on inquiry style content. Thompson then developed a summer workshop for seventh to 12th grade teachers that integrated reading and forensic science.
“My hope was that science would be seen as something the trained teachers’ students could love,” Thompson said.
After taking over directing the East Central Regional Science Fair and the Oklahoma Science and Engineering Fair, Thompson witnessed regional and state students grow and develop as they researched their ideas and communicated their findings to judges and the public, just as she did many years before.
“My hope was these efforts allowed Oklahoma students to excel in science understanding and communication,” Thompson said.
As her career advanced at ECU, she realized not all biology seniors understood the basics of research, so she found a solution by incorporating a low-tech, fast-paced, seed germination research project in her classes. It required hypothesis development, data collection, simple statical analysis and results communication – a science project.
“My students did not always appreciate documenting events in seed germination and measuring immature roots of 225 sunflower seeds,” Thompson said, “but they were doing science as a way of understanding how science works.”
As her students’ confidence and understanding grew, Thompson watched her students grow and succeed. Although at the time they may not have enjoyed documenting immature roots of all those sunflower seeds, students indeed remember Thompson fondly.
“Rahmona empowered students to be engaged and active in their learning experiences,” one of several nominators said. “She encouraged her students to experience botany both in the classroom and in nature.
“Now that I have my own research career and work in academia,” the nominator continued, “I often find myself reflecting on the personal investment and growth Dr. Thompson provided me. Through her teachings, I aspire to do the same for my learners and trainees.”
“She always took an interest in her students and was eager to encourage, mentor and support other people’s interest, learning and success in science and science education,” yet another nominator said, reflecting on Thompson’s willingness to mentor high school students attending ECU concurrently, in addition to her ECU students.
Thompson also worked with alumni to ensure success.
“Dr. Thompson would go out of her way to help former students in any endeavor that she could,” a fourth nominator said. “While working at ECU, she made it a priority to ensure students and future educators were prepared to enter the workforce they were about to enter.”
“Dr. Thompson was my first research mentor while I was in high school,” a former student said. “She fostered critical thinking, creativity and attentive observation. Her labs were engaging and covered a large range of topics. She was patient and firm with her guidance.
“I am grateful for the time I had her as a teacher and mentor,” the nominator concluded.
“Her legacy of science education and love of science continues in the form of the men and women she has influenced in her tenure at ECU,” the nominator continued. “I could not think of a better candidate for the Distinguished Former Faculty award.”
“Dr. Thompson exemplifies what it means to be an intelligent, strong, female scientist,” the first mentioned nominator said. “She is truly deserving of the Distinguished Former Faculty award.”
“Reflection on past events highlights the events that shaped you,” Thompson said. “Nominations require reflections and the fact my past actions improved someone else’s science understanding enough that they would nominate me for this award, means I passed on what was given to me; that means I had a rich career at ECU.”
The Evening of Honors and Recognition will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, May 5, at the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center at ECU.
For more information, contact the Office of Alumni Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 580-559-5561 or visit ecok.edu/2023EOH.