COSAM Faculty Focus: Dr. Cissy Ballen Researches Reducing Barriers in the Classroom to Promote Student Success
Dr. Cissy Ballen grew up outside of Chicago, IL. She spent her childhood exploring the local ravine with her sister, catching frogs and developing a relentless love for nature.
While an undergraduate in wildlife and biology at the University of Minnesota, she volunteered at a wildlife rehabilitation center, a raptor rehabilitation center, and was eventually offered teaching assistantships in botany, zoology, and finally the evolution and biology of sex. The ‘sex class’ was taught by Dr. Sehoya Cotner, now an associate professor in biology. Together, they conducted research on a range of questions related to the effectiveness of science teaching.
She began her doctorate degree in 2010 more than 9,000 miles south at the University of Sydney in Australia, studying mechanisms that underlie the development of coloration in reptiles. She maintains strong interests in reptile physiology and behavior, living in Auburn with her seven-foot boa constrictor named David Boa.
Her first postdoctoral position was at Cornell University in 2014 where she spent two years applying the empirical approaches she learned during her doctoral studies to questions related to how to best serve underrepresented students in science. She studied the impact of support programs, teaching methods, and classroom culture on student performance under the mentorship of Dr. Kelly Zamudio (also a herpetologist). Her second postdoc was at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she honed her skills with larger samples of undergraduates, reunited under the mentorship of Dr. Sehoya Cotner.
Why did Dr. Ballen decide to join the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM)? Dr. Ballen is passionate about Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER). Her decision to join the faculty provides the opportunity to ask more in-depth questions about student learning across collaborative networks within and outside of the college.
In August 2018, Dr. Ballen began as an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. “I am excited to be part of an inter-disciplinary team that will help shape the student learning experience at Auburn University.”
She is an avid runner and loves to explore new areas on foot. Moreover, Dr. Ballen has a passion for natural history. A pair of binoculars, a flashlight and a snake hook accompany her on her travels. In the evening, look for her “spotlighting” for amphibians and reptiles.
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