A lengthy list of staggering characteristics was the only way CSUâ€™s Dr. Richard Israel could describe health and exercise science professor Matt Hickey.
â€œIntegrity, honesty, quality, excellence, strong work ethic,â€ said Israel, department head for health and exercise science.
Such qualities recently earned Hickey, who has been at CSU for more than 10 years, the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.
The award, which will be presented to Hickey this weekend in San Francisco, recognizes a human and exercise science faculty member who has shown outstanding achievement with regards to undergraduate research mentoring.
â€œThe beauty of the award is how it deals with encouraging undergrad students into a mentored research setting,â€ Hickey said. â€œThe students have to have some of their own â€˜get up and goâ€™ attitude, but we (professors) have to be approachable.â€
Although the number of nominated professors considered for the award is unknown, with nearly 220 universities across the nation involved with the APLU, such a distinguished achievement was not flippantly awarded, Israel said.
â€œOne can easily see from his resume how engaged he was in not only academics, but also service to the school and community,â€ he said. â€œThey couldnâ€™t have done better no matter what the competition was.â€
As department head, Israel sifts through thousands of student course surveys; none of Hickeyâ€™s, he said, have ever been negative. According to Israel, students know when theyâ€™re in the presence of something important, and many name Hickey as â€œthe best professor theyâ€™ve encountered at CSU.â€
â€œHe is laid back, funny and his classes are genuinely enjoyable,â€ said Rachael Cooper, a senior health and exercise science major. â€œBut he also makes some of the hardest tests Iâ€™ve taken.â€
In a single 50-minute lecture, students and teachers may run into â€œsterileâ€ moments, according to Hickey, when the professor finds himself or herself merely talking at the students. While he canâ€™t elude the typically rigid lecture structure entirely, he said he consciously strives to make classes more â€œconversational,â€ many times pushing tentative exam dates back if the class wishes to expand on one particular topic.
â€œA 16-week conversation is much better than a 16-week monologue,â€ Hickey said. â€œMy syllabus may frustrate some, but the flexibility works for me.â€
This type of student engagement is a priority for Hickey, as reflected in the way he conducts class. Rather than lecturing with slides while students take notes, he consistently breaks classes up into small groups for discussion and, to illustrate his points better, will even tell stories.
â€œHe is incredible at relating what we are doing to real-life situations,â€ Cooper said. â€œStory illustrations are always really helpful when youâ€™re talking scientifically.â€
Hickey wishes to eliminate stagnant memorization, an element present in some college courses, and replace it with critical application. According to him, thatâ€™s what â€œintegrative physiologyâ€ is all about.
â€œAs a department, we like to emphasize the â€˜integrativeâ€™ element to science,â€ he said. â€œI want students to be able to connect the dots; my tests will never be all Scantron.â€
Such a teaching style has not only won the respect and admiration of his students, but professors across campus in departments ranging from math to philosophy also look to Hickey as a model professor.
â€œHe is incredibly bright â€“â€“ one of the brightest at CSU,â€ said philosophy professor Bernard Rollin, who is one of CSUâ€™s 31 distinguished professors. â€œHeâ€™s unbelievably qualified, knows how to communicate with students, and the university is lucky to have him.â€
Hickey feels â€œblessed and fortunate to have such talented colleaguesâ€ and students who highly respect him, but Israel believes Hickey is simply â€œthe full professor.â€
Collegian writer Colleen Canty can be reached at email@example.com.