Alderson Broaddus University Faculty Receive National Credential in Teaching Excellence

Faculty honored during campus-wide celebration for their commitment to student success

Twenty-four faculty members at Alderson Broaddus University earned a nationally recognized teaching credential co-endorsed by the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) and the American Council on Education (ACE) during a pinning ceremony on April 13. Faculty demonstrated their commitment to student success by completing a year-long “Effective Teaching Practices” course to equip them with the instructional skills shown to promote student motivation, learning, and persistence.

“Congratulations to our faculty and administrators, whose dedication to this intense curriculum alongside existing responsibilities is impressive,” said Dr. Tim Barry, president of Alderson Broaddus University. “It speaks to their commitment to strengthening teaching and learning as we strive to enhance our students’ success. ACUE continues to be a great partner in AB’s mission of providing a high-quality education to our all of our students who will be prepared to fulfill their roles in a diverse society as well-rounded and responsible citizens.”

The credentialed faculty members span across four colleges and the University’s Academic Center for Educational Success. The following faculty and staff found the recommended practices from ACUE’s course relevant to their teaching:

College of Business
Phil Fetty

College of Education and Music
Phil Bowers
Erin Brumbaugh
Val Huffman
Matt Swallow

College of Health, Science, Technology, and Mathematics
Mary Fanning
Kelley Flaherty
Brandi Gaertner
Jacob Hill
Rebecka Knotts
Matt McKinney
Jacob Steele
Will Wiggins

College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Andrea Bucklew
John Davies
James Dunbar
Nathan Fortney
Kayla McKinney
James Owston
Daniel Propst
Kari Sisk
Jonathan Wolf
Shannon Wolfe

Academic Center for Educational Success
Amy Mason

To earn their Certificate in Effective Instruction, faculty members completed an evidence-based, 25-module course that requires them to learn about and implement new teaching practices in their courses and reflect on the experience. Aligned with the latest research in cognition and adult learning, ACUE’s courses address over 200 evidence-based teaching practices, covering how to design an effective course, establish a productive learning environment, use active learning techniques, promote higher-order thinking, and utilize assessments to inform instruction and promote learning.

Faculty will continue to learn about pedagogy and receive career-long support through ACUE’s Community of Professional Practice, which provides access to member forums, expert webinars, biweekly newsletters, the ‘Q’ blog, and “office hours” with leading scholars in college instruction.

“It is a great honor to participate in this program,” said Dr. Andrea Bucklew, associate provost of Alderson Broaddus University. “At AB, we are dedicated to providing continuing support to our faculty to sustain their use of evidence-based teaching practices. To be selected for this opportunity reflects AB’s commitment and the value we place on our teaching faculty. Through this training, we can better equip our graduates to become the next generation of leaders and problem solvers.”

About Alderson Broaddus University
Alderson Broaddus (AB) University is a private, four-year institution of higher education located on a historic hilltop in Barbour County in Philippi, West Virginia. Since its founding in 1871, AB has been a leader and innovator in higher education, with accolades in the health and natural sciences.

AB stands out as one of the most innovative health education providers in Appalachia, pioneering the nation’s first baccalaureate physician assistant program of its kind in 1968, the first post-baccalaureate physician assistant master’s degree program in 1990, and West Virginia’s first four-year nursing program in 1945. For more information, visit

About ACUE: The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) believes that all college students deserve an extraordinary education and that faculty members play a critical role in their success. In partnership with institutions of higher education nationwide, ACUE supports and credentials faculty members in the use of evidence-based teaching practices that drive student engagement, retention, and learning. Faculty members who complete ACUE courses earn certificates in effective college instruction endorsed by the American Council on Education. ACUE’s Community of Professional Practice connects college educators from across the country through member forums, podcasts, and updates on the latest developments in the scholarship of teaching and learning. To learn more, visit


AB Student’s Research Project Hits Close to Home

Forty-five minutes from Brendan Wilson’s hometown, the Toledo water crisis of 2014 still affects the residents of Wauseon, Ohio. Wilson enrolled at Alderson Broaddus University to further his education and play football, and to hopefully take home a remedy to the problem plaguing the Lake Erie area: a toxic algae bloom wreaking havoc on water quality for residents and wildlife.

In preparation for his senior research project, Wilson is investigating how nutrient concentration of phosphorus, nitrogen, and the concentration of suspended solids are impacted by grass filter strips in the Lake Erie Basin.

“The title of my research is The Efficacy of Nutrient Filtration in Water by Grass Filter Strips,” explains Wilson. “Currently in Lake Erie, algae blooms, caused by an excess of nutrients in the water, are deteriorating the quality of the water and are forming dead zones. Those same algae have affected the quality of the water for the city of Toledo and have caused the city to shut the water off due to the danger of the quality.”

Wilson went on to explain the direct impact this type of pollution had on his own family, stating that his grandmother lived in Toledo where bottled water had to be hauled to her home. The algae bloom left residents with contaminated water that wasn’t safe for drinking or bathing. The freshwater wildlife could not even survive the bloom. Seeing this firsthand, Wilson understood the problem and was determined to get his hands dirty to find a solution.

“My research plan to explore the possibility of using grass filter strips on the edge of agricultural fields will hopefully improve the quality of the water that flows through the Lake Erie Basin to the lake itself,” said Wilson. “I chose agricultural fields because agriculture has been targeted as a key contributor to the issue and also because agriculture dominates the landscape of the Lake Erie Basin.”

The idea of the grass filter came from his recent internship last summer with the USDA in Fulton County, Ohio, just a few minutes from his home. During his placement, grass filter strips were being used to guard against soil erosion, trapping runoff containing sediment, pesticides, and other pollutants.

“The concept behind the filter strips is the same concept of a riparian buffer where shrubs, trees, and grass filter water naturally so that when it hits the watershed, the water is the quality it should be,” said Wilson. “Where I live in Ohio, there’s a big issue of runoff from commercial and agricultural sources. It’s appealing to see the concept of grass to help filter water. Many times, grass is used to hinder soil erosion, but I want to look at it to see if it can act as a riparian buffer to absorb some of the nutrients so that the toxins aren’t hitting lake Erie, causing more and more algae blooms.”

Professors at AB encouraged Wilson to apply for the internship to help him hone his interests and prepare for concentrated studies in a master’s program. He called the Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District office and inquired about any possible opportunities. He landed an intern spot in the EQIP program, part of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service program. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) helps agricultural producers confront their unique set of challenges while conserving natural resources like soil, water, and air. This program invests in solutions that conserve natural resources for the future while also improving agricultural operations.

“I’ve grown up around farmlands and love being outside,” said Wilson. “It’s the reason I chose to study environmental science at Alderson Broaddus University, and in doing so, I see all the diversity and opportunities in this field.”

While his hometown environment helped shape his interest in environmental science, Wilson admits that his parents were a huge influence as well. “My dad is a pharmaceutical chemist, and my mom taught math for years. Math and science came to me naturally; it runs in the family.”

“I like to play in the dirt. I like being outside and solving problems. Preparing for this research project has given me the opportunity to have my foot in both worlds: solving the problem by using the nature that is already there.”

Wilson plans to conduct his research over two summers and then present his project in his senior year. His goal is to gain another internship with the USDA this summer.


AB professor featured in top-selling genealogy book

An Alderson Broaddus University professor contributed to a recent top-selling book release on the use of DNA analysis for family history research.

Dr. James M. Owston, an AB mass communication professor and administrator, participated as one of 14 authors of Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies­, which became available for purchase last weekend.

“It was quite an honor to be asked to participate in this project,” Owston said. “The book’s other authors are the crème de la crème of the genetic genealogy community; I am probably the least known contributor.”

As more people turn to DNA analysis in genealogy, Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies­ allows the intermediate genealogist to move to the next level by applying advanced analysis techniques and genealogical standards in answering family research questions.

While several chapters deal with a variety of genetic genealogy topics, eight chapters provide examples of actual families and the tools, methods and techniques used in solving specific research problems. Owston’s chapter, “Y-DNA Analysis for a Family Study,” explored how he used advanced Y-DNA testing to answer questions regarding his own surname lineage.

“I was always interested in learning more about my unusual surname—its origin and how and when my line came to North America,” Owston said. “There are only 600 or so people in the world who bear our name, which has two variations; genealogical research and DNA analysis has confirmed that we are all related.” 

Owston began his interest in genealogy because of an eighth-grade assignment that required him to create a family tree. When his great-grandparents’ family bible surfaced 10 years later, it inspired him to dig deeper into his roots. For over 40 years, he has concentrated on his surname lineage, which can be traced to Peter Owston of Yorkshire who died in 1568; the surname appears to have originated in the 1400s as a byname. Owston took his first DNA test in 2007; since then, he has inspired over 60 people in his extended family to test their DNA.

Edited by Debbie Parker Wayne, Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies­ is currently the number one selling book in both the genealogy and research categories at Amazon.


Alderson Broaddus student aims to empower women through research

One Alderson Broaddus University junior satisfied her curiosity for research by interning through the WV-INBRE program, a federally funded opportunity available to students enrolled at WV-INBRE partner institutions interested in biomedical research with an emphasis on chronic diseases.

Emily Rainey, a dual biology and chemistry major from Beckley, West Virginia, executed her research at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center of West Virginia University. Her project was completed under the guidance of Stanley Hileman, professor of physiology and pharmacology.

“One of the biggest things I wanted going into this was to really see what it’s like to do research,” Rainey said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to eventually do an MD or an MDPHD program, so I wanted to see what it was like.”

Rainey’s project studied the communication between NKB neurons, which deal with reproduction and puberty, and POMC neurons, which regulate nutrition, in order to better understand the onset of puberty in women. Tissue was taken from the hypothalamus of ewes to determine whether NK3R, a receptor of NKB, existed within POMC neurons. They then examined how estrogen and age influenced NK3R expression within these neurons.

“Women, especially in developed countries, are experiencing puberty onset at much younger ages,” Rainey said. “That has a lot of negative effects, but if we can understand why that’s happening and what’s affecting it, we can start to counteract negative things that happen when puberty onset is altered.”

Some of the adverse outcomes related to early puberty onset include obesity, osteoporosis, and eating disorders. Working on this research held personal significance for Rainey, as one of her primary goals is to help empower young women. However, Rainey explains that early puberty does not affect everyone negatively. In the agricultural world, this can produce the opposite effect.

“The earlier you can get ewes, lamb, and cattle at the age of maturity, the greater their lifetime productivity,” Rainey said.

Rainey showcased her research findings at the 2018 WV-INBRE Summer Research Symposium and recently at the Undergraduate Research Day at the State Capitol. She hopes to pursue additional research in the future, and has been invited back to Hileman’s lab to work on similar projects.

“I honestly enjoyed every second of it,” Rainey said. “The first-hand experience with research was incredible, but it’s also just amazing to have your own research that no one has ever done before.”


Photo Caption: Rainey studies the communication between NKB neurons, which deal with reproduction and puberty, and POMC neurons, which regulate nutrition, in order to better understand the onset of puberty in women.

AB Professor Publishes Article on Climate Change

Dr. Brandi Gaertner, assistant professor of environmental science at Alderson Broaddus University, has conducted research on the impact climate change has on evapotranspiration, leading to a published article in the Science of The Total Environment. The title of her article is “Climate, forest growing season, and evapotranspiration changes in the central Appalachian Mountains, U.S.A.” Gaertner has a longstanding history in researching the physical sciences.

The primary purpose of her study was to identify how climate change has impacted the length of the growing season, evapotranspiration, and surface flow of rivers which directly affects water resources in the central Appalachian region. This area is responsible for providing 30% of drinking water to downstream cities such as Washington D.C. Simply put, the higher the temperatures, the longer trees stay green, the more water trees use (evapotranspiration), and the less water available for rivers and drinking water.

Due to climate change, trees develop leaves earlier in the spring and stay green longer into the fall. The article finds that since 1982, the growing season has increased by an average of 22 days, which has led to a 0.5 mm increase in evapotranspiration. In turn, that makes less drinking water available for cities in the central Appalachian region.

Gaertner says that the next steps in her research would be to identify how different ecosystems in this specific region are affected by climate change, to understand what climatic variables drive evapotranspiration changes, and how it applies to ecosystem sensitivity and growing season length.

“Our preliminary data show that water vapor is important for evapotranspiration, which means that humid air leads to less evapotranspiration and likely less streamflow,” said Gaertner. “However, increased temperature combined with longer growing seasons can increase

evapotranspiration, and decrease streamflow.” Gaertner explained that this process is extremely complex and requires a detailed understanding of the process.

No stranger to studying the outdoors and the physical sciences, Gaertner completed her master’s research on the impact of fallen trees in streams on brook trout populations in northern Pennsylvania. Her interest in the physical sciences comes from her childhood spent outside with her brother and playing outdoor sports. “I love to do research that I can see in the real world, and that can possibly make a difference,” said Gaertner. “In fact, when I have completed personality tests, it identifies my personality as fitting well in ‘atmospheric sciences, hydrological, environmental science, and as a professor,’ so I guess I made the right decision!”

In the near future, Gaertner hopes to develop two new courses at AB: python coding in geographic information sciences (GIS) as well as watershed modeling in GIS. She plans to start a sustainability club with environmental science students with the intention of reversing the misconceptions behind climate change as well as teach students how to help stop climate change.

Dr. Gaertner, originally from York County, Pennsylvania, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. From there, she continued onto Clarion University of Pennsylvania to obtain a master’s degree in environmental biology. She also holds a doctorate in forestry and natural resource management from West Virginia University.

For more information about Gaertner’s research on climate change, contact her at or visit her website at