Renae Brodie Awarded Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching
Renae Brodie is a recognized expert on the behaviors of crabs, tying modifications in these behaviors to climate change. She works closely with students, supervising their research and acting as a mentor, and many become published co-authors on her papers.
We are thrilled to award this year’s teaching prize to Biological Sciences Professor Renae Brodie. Renae is a shining star in the classroom, communicating complex biological ideas to her students in an interactive and exciting way, and her efforts are appreciated by her students. As one student wrote, “I wish all professors were as wonderful as her.” Renae, who finished her PhD at the University of Washington and did post-graduate work at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Florida and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, is a recognized expert on the behaviors of crabs, tying modifications in these behaviors to climate change. She works closely with students, supervising their research and acting as a mentor, and many become published co-authors on her papers.
Renae does not just teach Biology—she invites students to collaborate with her as fellow scientists. Her students report that they learn a great deal from her engaging, fair, organized, and passionate teaching. They appreciate that Renae is accommodating and understanding, ensuring that all students’ voices are heard. Renae is aware of different learning styles and patient with students who need various kinds of assistance. Students praise her compassion and enthusiasm, particularly during the height of the pandemic. All the while, she teaches her students what it is like to work as a real-world biologist, incorporating stories and examples from her research experiences into class discussions. In fact, students remark that they have never taken biology classes with so much discussion. She relays anecdotes about crabs and other animals, uses specimens from her own research, and uses play dough so students get a sense of hands-on experience. She can even make “photosynthesis fun,” as a student commented.
Renae has also devoted much energy to developing a class on Race and Biology, exploring the intersection of race and biological research from 1500 to today in Europe and the U.S. Students find this course “eye-opening,” and Renae effectively incorporates anti-racism curricula into all her classes. She creates an environment where students feel comfortable and safe addressing difficult topics.
Renae’s influence is not limited to her own classroom; she is a valued mentor and leader for her colleagues as well. She has participated in many TLI workshops and Faculty Learning Circles; she has experimented with innovative approaches to evaluating student work. Renae is known for her careful advising and mentoring of students at all stages of their studies, from meeting with students just expressing an interest in majoring in Biology to more intensive mentoring of majors, as well as advising dozens of Independent Study students. Moreover, she has extended her work outside of the Mount Holyoke community. She has served as Director of the Five College Coastal and Marine Sciences Program. Renae and her students also developed a science curriculum for the children of Sapelo Island (GA), where they do summer field work. She has contributed to the development of curricula for math courses at the Bard Microcollege at the Holyoke Care Center for mothers who have had their education interrupted. Renae complements her extensive teaching and mentoring with a considerable and continuing publication record. She has received almost 1 million dollars in grant funding during her career. For all of these reasons, please join me in honoring Renae Brody with the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching.