Ashley Morhardt, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience, has been elected to the Academy of Educators at Washington University School of Medicine. The Academy is a group of teaching professionals, dedicated to cultivating a community that values educational rigor and fosters innovative approaches to and advocacy in teaching and learning. The Academy institutes formalized subcommittees to achieve these goals by supporting educational development, connections between campuses, awards to recognize achievements and small grants to promote educational research. As she becomes involved in the Academy, Morhardt hopes “to continue to boost the opportunities on campus to pursue educational research and also train people to do educational research,” she says. “It’s exciting to be honored, but that’s just the first step.”
Morhardt has been on the faculty of the Department of Neuroscience since 2017, when she was offered a teaching position by then-chair of the department, Azad Bonni, MD, PhD, to continue the work she started as a postdoctoral teaching fellow. Among her teaching responsibilities, she works directly with first-year medical students who are engaging with human anatomy material for the first time.
“My enthusiasm for this topic spills over into what I do for my teaching, and so without really trying, it seems to be infectious,” Morhardt says. “When [the medical students are] engaging with anatomy at that level for the first time, their sense of wonder and excitement is inspiring and keeps it fresh for me year after year.”
Kari Allen, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and fellow member of the Academy of Educators, says Morhardt helps her students “revel in the magic of human anatomy,” as she has a talent for taking complicated concepts and distilling them down to an easily understandable message. Allen says this is a skill that Morhardt has cultivated through her myriad liaisons with the public, developing outreach materials for the St. Louis Science Center and greater St. Louis community.
As comparative anatomists, Allen and Morhardt stand out among the Academy members, who are mostly clinicians, and bring a unique perspective to the teaching of anatomy. In her research, Morhardt works to reconstruct and analyze the neuroanatomy of dinosaurs to better understand the historical context for the evolution of modern bird and crocodilian brains.
“It a prestigious honor to be elected to the Academy of Educators and it recognizes Dr. Morhardt’s contributions to the education mission of our department and the School of Medicine,” says Linda Richards, PhD, Edison Professor of Neuroscience and chair of the department.
Other faculty members from the Department of Neuroscience in the Academy of Educators are Amy Bauernfeind, PhD, Paul Bridgman, PhD, and Krikor Dikranian, MD, PhD.