A national body has recognized a University of Missouri faculty member for her efforts in helping prepare educators to teach English to speakers of other languages (TESOL).

The TESOL International Association selected Nikki Ashcraft PhD for her contributions to shaping the future of both the association and the TESOL profession.

Nikki Ashcraft

Ashcraft is the primary instructor in the online TESOL program offered by the MU College of Education’s Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum.

"I enjoy teaching online since it allows me to work with TESOL students all over the world,” Ashcraft said. “Our online program is truly international in scope."

Ashcraft has worked for 24 years in the field, teaching English and training ESL/EFL teachers in Chile, Kuwait, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. She has provided TESOL methods training to Fulbright English Teaching Assistants assigned to the Middle East and North Africa.

Ashcraft formerly served as chair of the TESOL International Association’s Teacher Education Interest Section. Her books include “Teaching Listening: Voices from the Field” (2010) and “Lesson Planning” (2014), both published by TESOL Press.

Ashcraft and other recipients will receive their honors at the TESOL 2016 International Convention and English Language Expo, April 5–8 in Baltimore.

“This is an amazing accomplishment, and it recognizes Dr. Ashcraft's talent, commitment and amazing work ethic in TESOL,” said Rachel Pinnow PhD, associate professor and coordinator of the TESOL program.

Ashcraft has been with MU for five years. She and her colleagues in the TESOL program help scholars and practitioners use theory and research to enhance their work.

“Everyone at the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum is proud of — but not necessarily surprised by — Dr. Ashcraft's achievement,” Pinnow said. “It is further testimony to our department’s tradition of excellence in addressing pressing issues for English language learners and the teachers who work with them.”

Graduates of the department go on to become some of the most sought-after, successful and best-prepared classroom teachers within Missouri, nationwide and around the globe.

The TESOL program at MU offers three options for students who want to pursue a career teaching English as a second language: a master’s degree (M Ed), a graduate certificate, and a certification preparation track for teachers seeking Missouri ESOL certification.

All three programs are completely online — no campus visits are required. And students pay in-state tuition, regardless of where they live and study.

Are you looking for advanced education in ESL/EFL teaching and learning? Or are you a certified K-12 educator seeking ESOL certification? Learn more about MU’s online TESOL program today.

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When you choose the University of Missouri, whether online or on campus, you get access to the Mizzou Advantage — the unmatched expertise of MU faculty and a long-standing culture of collaboration.

You can see this interchange of ideas at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, where MU faculty from diverse fields are launching an employment readiness program to assist adults with autism.

Karen OConnor
Jena Randolph

Led by assistant research professors Jena Randolph and Karen O’Connor, the Self-Determined Transition Readiness through Individual Vocational Experiences (STRIVE) will help participants gain experience and skills so they can obtain and maintain competitive employment.

“One of the barriers to employment for adults with autism is limited work experience,” Randolph says. “STRIVE will have a direct impact on the participants by giving them volunteer and work experience in different positions across campus.”

Read the full story here: Neurodiversity Champions

In addition to their work at the Thompson Center and on campus, Randolph and O’Connor also teach courses in MU’s online master’s degree program in autism education.

This 30-hour online graduate degree program covers the methods of teaching individuals with autism spectrum disorders, social competency and applied behavior analysis, learning theory, instructional leadership, instructional technology and research.

Want to help young children and youth with autism or related conditions? Learn more about MU’s online master’s in autism education.

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Taking discoveries from the lab to the marketplace requires business savvy. But scientists and researchers often lack know-how when it comes to pitching investors and creating business plans.

To help close this skills gap, the University of Missouri is now offering an online graduate certificate in life science innovation and entrepreneurship.

Students can complete the four-class career development program completely online in just one year.

The program is the result of collaboration among faculty in the MU School of Medicine, College of Engineering and the Trulaske College of Business.

“As scientists, we’re very good at testing hypotheses and producing scholarship,” said Jerry Parker, associate dean for research in the MU School of Medicine. “But, increasingly, we are understanding the importance of finding commercial applications for our discoveries and delivering them where they’re needed. We also want to help others acquire these important skills.”

Classes cover obtaining patents, intellectual property, determining commercial viability, market assessment, competitive landscape and life science research tools.

The life science innovation and entrepreneurship program is designed to serve researchers, doctors and veterinarians as well as engineering and business professionals. The certificate will prepare graduates to lead their own biomedical companies or work as investment specialists for venture capital firms.

"This program gets scientists, engineers and business people all on the same page," said Anandhi Upendran, director of biomedical innovation in the MU Institute for Clinical and Translational Science. “We show them how to better understand unmet clinical needs, so they can innovate together to build products to meet those needs and bring those products to the market.”

Classes begin in August and applications are now being accepted. GRE scores are not required.

Students in this program — and in all Mizzou’s online graduate degree and certificate programs — pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of their state of residency.

To learn more about the online graduate certificate in life science innovation and entrepreneurship, or to apply to the program, visit online.missouri.edu/lifescience.

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University of Missouri faculty excel in their fields, bringing discoveries and creative achievements into the classroom as well as publishing in prestigious journals.

Rui Yao

One such faculty member is Rui Yao, an associate professor of personal financial planning in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences, who has identified key factors that cause people to make common investment mistakes.

The recent stock market decline is concerning for many investors who are affected by short-term market trends. However, experts say now is an important time for investors to remember that many mistakes can be made in this economic environment


Yao’s study, published in the Journal of Personal Finance, identifies several risk factors for people who are more likely to make investment mistakes during a down market. “During a down market, every mistake an investor makes is magnified,” Yao said. “If financial planners can identify those who are more at risk to make these mistakes, they can more effectively work with the investors beforehand to help prevent them from making such mistakes.”

Read the full story here: Overconfidence, loss aversion are key predictors for investment mistakes

Yao is the director of graduate studies in the Department of Personal Financial Planning and teaches courses in the online master’s and online graduate certificate programs.

The master’s is 36 credit hours and has no thesis component, but requires a practicum and capstone course that focuses on case studies.

The graduate certificate program is 18 credit hours and focuses on employee benefits and retirement planning, estate planning, and case analysis.

Want to help individuals and families make informed and effective decisions so they can achieve their financial goals and grow stronger? Learn more about MU’s online master’s and online graduate certificate in personal financial planning.

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Graduate certificate in education improvement is first of its kind in the U.S.

The University of Missouri’s College of Education is now accepting applications for a new online graduate certificate in education improvement. The 100 percent online program helps professionals working at all levels of education gain experience in quality management.

The 12-credit-hour graduate certificate in education improvement is the first of its kind nationally and is designed to allow students to continue working in leadership roles while taking classes.

Blake Naughton
Executive Director of the Hook Center for Educational Renewal
University of Missouri College of Education

“When you enroll, you get a solid foundation in data-driven educational improvement,” said Blake Naughton, coordinator of the education improvement program and Executive Director of the Hook Center for Educational Renewal. “You will also create, as part of your course work, a real project that you can actually put to work to help improve your school district’s performance.”


The education improvement graduate certificate is aligned with the NIST Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, a data-driven approach to strategic planning and knowledge management that is being adopted by a growing number of school districts in Missouri and across the country.

“We seek constantly to help improve outcomes for schools, their teachers and their students,” said Kathryn Chval, acting dean of the College of Education. “Our hope ultimately is to help students make the most of their education experience.”

Like all graduate distance programs offered by MU, the education improvement graduate certificate program is available to students everywhere at in-state tuition rates.


The College of Education is accepting admissions to the program on a rolling basis and no GRE scores are required. The first course begins this March. Prospective students can submit an application for post-baccalaureate admission (graduate) to enroll for the first semester and then formally apply to the program.

Learn more information about the online graduate certificate in education improvement at online.missouri.edu/eduimprovement.

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John Scanlan discovered his lifelong passion for photography as a teen, leafing through photos of photos from the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War in Life and Look magazines.

Five decades later, Scanlan has enjoyed a rewarding career as a photojournalist. Recently retired, he took the time to apply his experience in earning an online master’s degree from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

“I didn’t go into this with a tremendous amount of confidence,” Scanlan said. “I didn’t know whether I had what it took.”

As it turns out, he did. Scanlan received his master’s from the University of Missouri in December, 42 years after he first enrolled at MU.

As a young man, Scanlan had earned a bachelor’s degree in literature before enlisting in the Army, where he served as a photographer. In 1972, he left the military and planned to attend grad school.

A commercial photographer recommended he try MU. “He told me it was the best school in the country for photojournalism,” Scanlan said. “It was the best advice I could have received.”

At MU Scanlan studied under Angus McDougall, who instilled an intensity and passion for photojournalism in his students.

“He let us know that if we cared about the profession, we were going to have to fight and argue and proselytize others in the industry to prove that we knew what we were doing so that our voices would be heard,” Scanlan said.

Before he could finish his master’s project, however, Scanlan found work as a photojournalist through MU alumni at The Coffeyville (Kansas) Journal. He went on to become photo editor at The Greeley (Colorado) Tribune before accepting an offer in 1986 to become a picture editor at The Hartford (Connecticut) Courant and, eventually, director of photography.

At every step of his career, Scanlan found classmates from Mizzou and other alumni who also had studied under McDougall. “We shared the same values and trusted each others’ judgment,” Scanlan said.

Over the years those alumni, and McDougall himself, encouraged Scanlan to finish his master’s degree. So when Scanlan retired in 2011, he enrolled in the online master’s program from the MU School of Journalism.

Despite his abundant experience, Scanlan was apprehensive. But MU staff and faculty gave him the support he needed. “Being able to talk to someone or email someone and have them answer your questions makes you think, ‘Gee, I can really do this,’” Scanlan said.

In his master’s project, Scanlan examined how digital media can boost or hinder narrative. His research focused on long-form digital storytelling best embodied by The New York Times’ story “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” by John Branch.

Scanlan dedicated the project to his MU mentor. “McDougall wanted you to give your all to the profession because he thought that’s what it would take to be successful.”

McDougall’s passion continues to influence and inspire new generations of MU journalism students, Scanlan said. “It’s still there, whether you get it online or on campus.”

Upon the recommendation of his master’s committee, Scanlan wants to turn his master’s project into a university course in visual narrative.

If you’re a working journalist and want to update your knowledge while expanding your professional network, consider an online degree from the University of Missouri. Earn your master’s in health communication, interactive media, strategic communication or media management.

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Photography by Kyle Spradley

The University of Missouri has pushed the frontiers of research and scholarship for nearly two centuries. Faculty inventors and creators — including online educators — share discoveries with students and link Missouri industry, agriculture, emerging businesses and innovative ideas.

One such effort involving distance-learning faculty is the biomass boiler at MU’s power plant. The 100 percent biomass-fueled boiler went on line in 2013, joining an older, conventional plant in generating heat and power for the MU campus. Up to 40 percent of the plant’s total fuel is expected to come from sustainably sourced biomass.

In expanding their use of renewable fuels, power plant staff sought the assistance of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources to help develop sustainable biomass resources.

Researchers in the college and at the MU Center for Agroforestry established research plots to test various species of trees as energy crops, while developing guidelines to protect the sustainability and health of the forests.

Read the full story here: Wood chips and CAFNR

Many of the researchers working on the MU power plant biofuel project also teach courses in the online master's degree program in agroforestry.

The first such degree program in the nation, the online master’s in agroforestry prepares professionals to advise landowners on how to diversify farm income; improve soil, water and air quality; sequester carbon; and increase biodiversity.

If you want to work with industry-leading researchers and broaden your career opportunities in forestry, agriculture or resource management, explore MU’s 100-percent online master’s in agroforestry.

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When you enroll in a distance learning program or course from the University of Missouri, you gain the opportunity to study under some of the best scholars in your chosen field.

Two such academic leaders from MU’s College of Engineering recently were elected fellows by the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for 2015.

Dong Xu and Yuwen Zhang were among 347 fellows in this year’s class.

Yuwen Zhang

The AAAS selects fellows for their contributions in 24 different disciplines. Zhang was selected for engineering, while Xu was selected in the biological sciences category for his work in the bioinformatics field.

Read more about the fellowship here: Two professors earn prestigious fellowships from AAAS

At Mizzou, Zhang chairs the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, one of six departments contributing to MU’s online graduate certificate in energy efficiency.

Energy management is an important concern nationally. From natural resource extraction to automobile manufacturing to home building, the challenge is to use our resources efficiently.

MU’s online graduate certificate in energy efficiency helps engineers create and implement energy-efficient technology, advocate for the use of sustainable practices and craft sustainability plans.

If you want to advance your career in engineering, manufacturing, design, construction, energy policy or energy management, you owe it to yourself to look into this 100-percent online program from MU.

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A study by researchers at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing (SSON) may help make nursing homes safer for elderly residents.

Associate Professor Amy Vogelsmeier led a team that investigated the role of nurses in identifying medication errors that could pose safety risks to nursing home residents.

Nearly 66 percent of all adverse events experienced by nursing home residents, such as falls, delirium and hallucinations, could be prevented, in part, by monitoring medication more closely.

“Nursing home work is hard,” Vogelsmeier said. “The ability to manage patients’ care and keep them stable is a clinical challenge that requires highly educated, clinically savvy nurses.”

Read more about the study here: RNs more likely to identify high-risk medication discrepancies.

Vogelsmeier is the John A. Hartford Foundation Claire M. Fagin Fellow at SSON, where she also coordinates the nursing leadership and health care systems area of study.

U.S. News & World Report ranked the SSON online program as a Top 50 program for graduate education in 2015. CollegeAtlas.org calls SSON the best nursing school program in the nation in terms of affordability, academic quality, accessibility and board exam pass rates. GetEducated.com ranks MU’s online nursing master's programs as "Best Buys."

Want to advance your career in nursing and learn from acclaimed researchers like Vogelsmeier? Join us online Jan. 14 for a live presentation on the Sinclair School of Nursing's DNP program. Program director Dr. Robin Harris will share information on the curriculum and answer your questions. Register today!

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Integral to the mission of the University of Missouri is a commitment to public service — the obligation to produce and disseminate knowledge that will improve the quality of life in the state, the nation and the world.

This weekend MU will host commencement exercises to celebrate a diverse group of graduates who have taken up that challenge. Among them are more than 300 scholars who are receiving degrees they earned online, often while working full time.

Carlos Blanco is one of them. A veteran educator, he holds a PhD in reading and critical thinking and a master's in higher education, both from the University of Arizona. He currently chairs the English and reading program at St. Louis Community College, where he has taught for 17 years.

Blanco's latest achievement is an educational specialist degree in educational, school and counseling psychology with an emphasis in mental health practices in schools. He earned the degree online through the MU College of Education.

"I believe I have the duty to seek out experiences that will help me develop my skills in the service of students, specifically with respect to the understanding of positive mental well-being practices for students," Blanco said.

Blanco wanted to continue his professional development with a distance-learning program that would allow him to continue working full time.

"I chose MU because of its affordability, and because the campus is in close proximity to my home," Blanco said. "This has permitted me to visit the campus multiple times to conduct school business and likewise meet with various professors throughout my studies.

"Educators need to foster positive mental health in classrooms, in addition to encouraging students' academic skills preparation," he said.

Blanco says his course work, particularly his 12 credit hours in multicultural education, will help both him and his students.

"My campus is diverse, representing varied underrepresented groups, including the LGBT community, diverse religious groups, etc.," Blanco said. "It is imperative that I continue to develop my knowledge and skills related to the teaching of diverse groups and their unique circumstances."

For Blanco, studying online offered not only convenience but also interaction between peers and instructors. "An important factor is the requirement for students to engage with one another through discussion boards, which are part of every course," he said.

Blanco recommends the program to other educators and emphasizes that the multicultural education graduate certificate would also benefit professionals in counseling and human services.

"I trust this degree will contribute to my students' positive mental health, and to my professional development as teacher," he said.

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