Associate Professor Melissa Gross joins five other University of Michigan faculty members who have been honored for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education as this year's recipients of Arthur F. Thurnau professorships. The appointment, approved by the Board of Regents, is a title she and her colleagues will retain throughout their careers at the university. Since the award's establishment in 1988, less than 10 percent of all professors at U-M hold this highest distinction.
Thurnau Professorships are named after Arthur F. Thurnau, a student at the University of Michigan from 1902 to 1904, and are supported by the Thurnau Charitable Trust to recognize and reward faculty for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. Gross' dynamic influence on the evolution of Kinesiology's Movement Science curriculum and her impact on the lives of individual students are why she is being honored with the professorship.
Dean Ron Zernicke said, "Dr. Gross has been engaged in innovative and pioneering educational activities as a faculty member for nearly two decades. These activities include teaching courses that enable students to actively immerse themselves in their learning environments. She is a gifted, energetic, and passionate educator. She also has an innate ability to recognize and encourage her students' interests, and we are truly grateful and honored to have her in the School of Kinesiology."
Gross began teaching in Kinesiology in 1992. At that time, there were no classroom laboratory facilities or GSIs to support undergraduate education in biomechanics in the Movement Science Program. She created a project-based laboratory experience for the required course Movement Science 330- Biomechanics of Human Movement that leveraged technology and computer facilities available in the New Media Lab on campus. Students worked in teams to conduct biomechanical analyses of movements of their choice. They used cutting-edge technology available in the 90s; checked out video cameras and recorded their movements outside of class time, digitized the videotapes using facilities in the New Media Lab, quantified and analyzed the biomechanics of their movements, and then published their findings as electronic posters on a website designed for the class.
She didn't stop the innovations there, coming up with another course, University Course 263-Stradivarius as Biologist: Cultivating Bel Canto through Sound and Vision. This course was created by Gross and faculty from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the Department of Otolaryngology, and the School of Music, Theater, and Dance to bring together acoustical engineering related to pitch perception and phonation, kinesiology of the vocal tract, and vocal medicine and vocal performance. This course uniquely bridged art, science, medicine, and engineering for students from a wide range of schools and colleges.
Building on the experiences and art/science of earlier interdisciplinary courses, Gross generated yet another exceptional course, Movement Science 437- Motion Capture and Animation for Biomechanics. It offered rich opportunities for engaged learning for Movement Science students and was structured to be a sustained and regularly offered course in the Kinesiology curriculum. In addition, current class Movement Science 230-Human Musculoskeletal Anatomy incorporates a host of active learning practices into lecture and laboratory sessions. In it, Gross encourages students to "see" anatomy outside of the classroom, even setting up a special collection of anatomy-related artworks in study cases at the University of Michigan Art Museum for students to critically evaluate depictions of human anatomy.
In recognition of her creativity, energy, and innovative leadership, in 2013, Gross was appointed the Director of Innovative Teaching and Learning for the School of Kinesiology. Nationally, she has been recognized as theComputerworld Smithsonian Award Program Laureate for her creative work enabling web-based student projects in the undergraduate biomechanics course.
In the School of Kinesiology, Gross joins fellow Associate Movement Science Professor Susan Brown who also was honored with an Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship in 2001.