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Rebekka Darner Gougis
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Gougis To Present on WIU Campus Wednesday

December 7, 2015

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MACOMB, IL - Illinois State University Assistant Professor Rebekka "Bekky" Darner Gougis, Ph.D., a Western Illinois University alumna (B.S., biology: zoology major; chemistry/environmental science minor, 2000), will return to her alma mater Wednesday, Dec. 9 to give several presentations and meet with current students, faculty and staff on campus.

Gougis, who works in ISU's School of Biological Sciences, conducts research with a goal of improving the quality of K-16 science education. Her general areas of research are motivation, conceptual change and scientific argumentation.

"I am a science educator who conducts research to examine how students develop the motivation and the knowledge to be science-informed active citizens," said Gougis. "I also investigate ways to help pre-service elementary teachers become motivated and confident about being exceptional science teachers. My overarching goal as an educator is to compel students to challenge implicit assumptions, realize their full potential, and sharpen their ability to use sound judgement in our diverse society."

WIU Women's Center director Janine Cavicchia invited Gougis speak as part of the Women's Center's REAL Women: Women as Researchers, Educators, Activists and Leaders presentation series. In her presentation, which ties in with the 2015-16 University Theme, "Environment: A Foundation for Social Responsibility," Gougis will discuss her dissertation research addressing environmental motivation and how it can be fostered or undermined in science coursework. The presentation will be held from 3-3:45 p.m. in the Multicultural Center Multipurpose Room and is open free to the public.

"As part of our Women's Center's 30th anniversary celebration, we're bringing several alumnae back to campus to speak throughout the 2015-16 academic year," Cavicchia said. "Bekky was an exceptional student worker in the Women's Center and a member of the Feminist Action Alliance (FAA) for three years (1997-2000) when she was an undergrad at WIU, and I knew she would be an outstanding alumna to bring back this year."

Cavicchia said she contacted the academic departments from which some of her former students earned their degrees at Western to discuss opportunities for co-sponsorship and collaboration.

"When I contacted the department chairs of biological sciences, Dr. Charles Lydeard, and chemistry, Dr. Rose McConnell, seeking their support, they both agreed this would be a great collaborative opportunity," said Cavicchia.

According to Cavicchia, McConnell suggested having Gougis present a Women in Science (WIS) career seminar where the speaker meets with members of the WIS student organization and tells her success story to encourage students in career decisions. The WIS Career Seminar will be held from noon-12:50 p.m. in the Multicultural Center Activity Room. Gougis' talk will be on "The Hidden Curriculum behind Applying to Graduate School in the Sciences."

Lunch will be provided for WIS and RISE (Research Inspiring Student Excellence) students, including members of the Biology Graduate Student Association.

Cavicchia worked with Associate Professor Andrea Porras-Alfaro, chair of the biology department's RISE seminar committee, who scheduled Gougis to give a RISE Seminar talk from 4-4:50 p.m. in Waggoner Hall, room 3. Gougis will present "I Feel Comfortable Teaching Evolution Because it's Just a Theory: Challenging Pre-service Teachers' Ideas about Evolution in Introductory Biology."

Gougis earned a Master of Science Degree in ecosystems biology in 2002 from Eastern Michigan University and a doctoral degree in mathematics and science education in 2007 from the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University. Prior to working at ISU, she was a lecturer in biology for five years at the University of Florida.

This fall, Gougis was instrumental in securing a five-year, $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups seeking a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degree and a secondary teaching credential at Illinois State University. The grant will fund 40 students with $20,000 scholarships, along with the opportunity for research and teaching internship funding.

"I am passionate about closing opportunity gaps that lead to the marginalization of some learners, particularly people-of-color and women in STEM disciplines," Gougis said.

For more information about the NSF grant, go to

Gougis will be available to meet with Women's Center staff and volunteers, members of FAA and other campus and community members from 1- 2:50 p.m. and 5-5:50 p.m. in the Women's Center Lounge on the first floor of the Multicultural Center.

"The WIU Women's Center was where seminal self-discovery happened for me, and I am very much looking forward to returning and contributing to the vibrant community that empowered me as an undergraduate student. I feel privileged that the Women's Center and the Departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences have collaborated to bring me for such an exciting day," Gougis said.

For more information about Gougis' visit, contact the Women's Center at (309) 298-2242 or

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