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New dean named to lead honors college

A chemical ecologist passionate about engaging students in experiential learning will join The University of Toledo to lead the Jesup Scott Honors College.

Dr. Heidi Appel comes to UT from the University of Missouri, where she served as senior associate director of the Honors College. Her first day will be Monday, Aug. 15.

Appel

Appel

“Dr. Appel is an advocate for the role of a strong honors college at a research university that engages students in critical thinking and creates interdisciplinary relationships across the institution,” said Dr. Andrew Hsu, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Her decade of experience with honors colleges along with her enthusiasm for research and active, hands-on learning as part of the student educational experience matches our goals for the Jesup Scott Honors College and The University of Toledo.”

Hsu thanked Kelly Moore, who has served as interim dean of the college since August, for his leadership during the past year.

Appel joined the University of Missouri in 2007 as a senior research scientist and member of the graduate faculty, and also served as associate director of the Honors College. Prior to that, she was a member of the faculty at Pennsylvania State University, which she joined in 2000.

“An honors college has a special role on campus. It’s a place where students can develop their intellectual capacities, learn to think broadly, creatively and critically, and have intense discussions,” Appel said. “The Jesup Scott Honors College’s emphasis on experiential learning and undergraduate research, inclusive approach to admissions, and its talented faculty and staff make it a standout program. I look forward to working with the honors students, faculty and staff, my colleagues in other colleges, and with the broader Toledo community to build upon the strong program.”

Appel, who grew up in the metro Detroit area, has long been interested in the outdoors. Midway through her undergraduate studies of ancient history and music, she decided to make science her career. Since then, she has focused her research on the intersection of chemistry and ecology to explain ecological patterns and broaden our understanding about the relationship between plants and insects.

An accomplished researcher, she has received more than $2.5 million in external research funding and authored more than 45 publications. She made national headlines in 2014 with her research that showed plants can “hear,” meaning that they can identify vibrations caused by a caterpillar chewing and respond with increased chemical defense. The experience reinforced her interest in being sure that students not only get involved in research, but that they also have the opportunity to present it to a broader audience.

“Everyone has a responsibility to be able to communicate their interests and ideas effectively with other people. In higher education, we have a special need for that training for our students. Even if we’re working on a very esoteric topic, it is important to explain the basics of that to other people,” she said.

Among Appel’s goals for the Jesup Scott Honors College are to align the curriculum with student needs, increase interdisciplinary course offerings, get honors students actively engaged with campus as mentors and tutors, and deepen relationships with other colleges across campus.

“I’m excited to join The University of Toledo where there is so much support for the role of honors education in the mission of the University,” she said.

Appel has a bachelor’s degree in general studies from Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and a master’s degree in biology and PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Michigan.