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New Kids on the Faculty Block: Au Sable Welcomes New Professors for 2015

Jan 16, 2015

The Au Sable Institute has long been blessed with exceptional faculty in all of its college courses, as well as with exceptional faculty loyalty. Professors who teach here often like it so much they never want to leave, which results in low turnover. This year, however, Au Sable is pleased to welcome two new faculty filling critical roles in its summer studies at the Great Lakes Campus, Michigan, Rick Hammer and Andrew Sensenig.

Dr. Rick Hammer, Assistant Professor of Biology at Hardin-Simmons University (Texas), will be starting his first year of an alternate year appointment in Au Sable’s Summer Session II offering,  Restoration Ecology. An expert in plant ecology and taxonomy, Rick’s studies have been published in such journals as Molecular Endocrinology, Journal of Biological Chemistry, and Southwestern Naturalist. His current research on endangered plants in Texas is funded by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. At Hardin-Simmons, Rick has taught courses in, among other things, General Ecology, General Botany, Field Systematic Botany and Tropical Ecology (in Costa Rica). Known not only for his command of subject matter and professional expertise, Rick is admired by students and faculty alike for his relentless care for and interest in the success of each student. As one colleague put it, Rick “demonstrates genuine interest in the ultimate career success of students. He acts as a mentor and sponsors Tri-Beta, Delta-Psi Chapter, and The Environmental Service Club.”

A Christian who takes the importance of Christian witness seriously, Rick has been active in the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) Environmental Justice Section and has been a  leading voice to establish, a Scientists Speakers Bureau for Outreach to Faith Communities within the ESA. A recipient of Hardin-Simmons University’s Provost Award for Outstanding Service to the Community, Rick serves as a Deacon in his home church in Abilene as well as a local leader in the Boy Scouts of America in his community.He has also recently accepted a position on the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas where he will serve on the Creation Care Commission of the Baptist World Alliance.  Rick is uniquely qualified and motivated to serve at Au Sable.

Dr. Andrew Sensenig, Assistant Professor of Biology at Tabor College (Kansas), will be leading the Institute’s Research Methods I class in Summer Session I, a course required of all students in Au Sable’s undergraduate research program. An accomplished researcher who is exceptionally qualified to mentor undergraduate students, Andrew’s studies (primarily on spiders and insects) have been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Journal of Zoology, and Zoology, where his study on the mechanical properties of spider dragline silk was honored as the cover article in a 2009 issue. An expert in multiple aspects of quantitative biology including biomechanics, sampling design, and biostatistical analysis, Andrew is superbly qualified to guide and mentor Au Sable’s research students during their first five weeks of beginning their research efforts at Au Sable. 

A vibrant Christian with a passion for working with youth, Andrew serves as a pre-school Sunday School teacher, children’s storyteller and youth sponsor in his home church in Hillsboro, Kansas. His love of God’s creation complements his love for people. His pastor observes that Andrew sees “the earth as a precious and intriguing gift…stirring within us all a love and joy and awe of the beauty, complexity, and responsibility of living on earth.” Although he has never taught at Au Sable before, Andrew declares that he wants to come because of Au Sable’s reputation as a premier Christian environmental research center. Andrew Sensenig is certain to be an important force in moving Au Sable’s research program forward, and moving students toward becoming serious scientists themselves in the process.

Of both new professors, Fred Van Dyke, Au Sable’s Executive Director, noted, “I thank God that He has blessed us in the coming year with such extraordinarily talented and qualified people who so perfectly fit the roles and needs that face us this year. Rick and Andrew will make major contributions to a great summer of learning here at our Great Lakes Campus in 2015.”

Au Sable welcomes Rick Hammer and Andrew Sensenig to its ever-growing community of Earthkeepers. See you soon in Michigan!