The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) is pleased to present Rachel L. Vollmer, Ph.D., RD with the SNEB Higher Education Division Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Nutrition in Higher Education Award during the 2020 SNEB Annual Conference presented virtually on July 20 – 24. Dr. Vollmer is an Assistant Professor of Dietetics in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Bradley University.
Dr. Vollmer’s teaching philosophy includes four objectives: 1) learning opportunities should be intentionally designed, 2) students should be empowered to take responsibility for learning, 3) students should understand that issues in nutrition and dietetics are not black and white and they are interconnected with other disciplines, and 4) education and learning should be all-inclusive. Dr. Vollmer encourages active learning and understands that students learn in a variety of ways.
Dr. Vollmer has taught 18 different courses, six at the graduate level and 12 at the undergraduate level. These classes have varied in a content ranging from metabolism, research methods, introductory nutrition, life cycle nutrition, community nutrition, and food science. Dr. Teresa Drake writes, “Dr. Vollmer has high standards for her teaching practice and continually strives to not just meet those expectations, but to reach for excellence.”
At the start of each semester, Dr. Vollmer examines her courses from a backward design approach. She does this by mapping the learning objectives of the course with formative assessment, summative assessment, and the learning strategies used in class. Dr. Vollmer is a proponent for students to become life-long learners. She teaches all of her classes in a flipped format, in which they watch videos, read, and complete preparation activities before coming to class. While in class they spend time applying their knowledge.
By educating students on the context of controversial issues, she hopes that they become better problem solvers and critical thinkers. She does this by using debates, book clubs, questions that may not have one right answer. Dr. Vollmer understands and appreciates that classroom discussion is stimulating only when different opinions or viewpoints are expressed. Diversity in the classroom brings fresh ideas. She always seeks out differing viewpoints to show students through scholarly articles, videos, or periodical publications. She strives to provide a classroom environment that makes students feel safe to voice their opinions to enhance learning for all students.
In a letter in support of her nomination, ten of her students wrote, “Dr. Vollmer utilizes group work in a way many of us had never experienced before. While group work is often dreaded by students, Dr. Vollmer’s class provided us with the foundation to learn from not only her but from one another. She emphasizes the importance of collaboration, especially in the healthcare field. This pushed all of us to challenge ourselves and become successful in working effectively on our own and in teams with the shared goal of providing quality patient care.”
Active in the SNEB Nutrition Education for Children and Higher Education Divisions, she volunteers as an abstract reviewer and a judge for the Children’s Division student poster competition. During the 2020 SNEB Conference, Dr. Vollmer is on a panel on teaching the SNEB Nutrition Educator Competencies and ways to assess these competencies.
In addition to this recognition from SNEB, Dr. Vollmer has won two university teaching awards and one college teaching award at Bradley University. The First Year Faculty Award is determined by student and peer evaluations, as well as course innovation and instructional talent and all new faculty are eligible. Dr. Vollmer most recently won the Caterpillar, Inc. Faculty Achievement Award for Teaching.