Let me tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Arlene Courtney. I am in my 31st year of teaching chemistry at Western Oregon University, hold the rank of Professor and am Chair of the Department of Chemistry.
I began my academic career as an undergraduate at Grove City College, a small 2000 student school where I graduated with a B.S. degree in Chemistry. In addition to studying chemistry at GCC, I spent a lot of time on the athletic fields playing field hockey, volleyball and basketball and was a member of the marching and symphonic bands. My senior research project sparked an interest in learning more about chemistry so I decided to go on to graduate school. I earned a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry specializing in organometallic chemistry from Texas A&M University. During my five-year graduate school career, I worked on a number of different projects involving the synthesis of organometallic compounds of platinum, palladium, and lanthanide metals. I spent a lot of time working in the glove box as many of these compounds were air sensitive with some spontaneously burning on exposure to air! I also did computer molecular modeling (we programmed mainframes using punch cards and big reels of tape in those days!) and a lot of carbon-13 spectroscopy via a computer that took up a considerable amount of room real estate. My dissertation project explored the syntheses of macrocyclic polystannanes (organotin compounds) and the mechanisms by which lithium organostannanes react with organic halides to form these types of compounds. With degree in hand, I moved on to Colorado State University where I was a post-doctoral fellow in the group of Dr. John K. Stille. During my two years at CSU, my research work focused on the palladium-catalyzed reactions of organotin reagents with organic compounds.
I started my academic teaching career as an Assistant Professor at Murray State University in Kentucky where I taught chemistry majors’ general chemistry and graduate courses in organic, inorganic and organometallic chemistry. After six years, I jumped at the opportunity to return to the west joining the Western faculty in 1988 and attained my current rank of Professor in 1996. I became Head of the Department of Earth and Physical Sciences in 1992 serving in that capacity until becoming the Chairman of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in 1996, a position I held for six years. I have served as Chair of the Department of Chemistry since its inception in 1998. Over the years, I have taught a wide range of chemistry courses at WOU, and at this point in time, teach organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry of the environment, environmental chemistry, chemical literature, experimental chemistry, energy resources and the environment, the senior seminar and honors general science. I have also taught information technology and multimedia authoring workshops for teachers.
My research interests have been quite varied and have included the use of organozirconium reagents in organic synthesis, bioremediation of organics in the environment, applications of FT-IR in the instructional laboratory and the use of PCR in canine deafness studies. Most recently, I have been developing multimedia documentaries about energy resources for classroom use. These projects have taken me to a number of “exotic” locations such as Iceland, Nova Scotia, Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia. I’m currently studying the use of a project-based curriculum for teaching science to both science and non-science majors. We are in the tenth year of a project in which student generated video documentaries are used as the vehicle through which non-science majors learn about science. I also use other student generated content projects such as producing podcasts and writing e-texts in my courses. I teach my classes using the flipped classroom methodology and have spent the last six years studying the use of this method of teaching on the success and retention rates in the organic chemistry classroom.
In my educational technology work, I’m a “switcher”, not tied to a single computer platform. Although my classrooms and laboratories are equipped with Windows workstations, I do a lot of things using the MacOS and iOS environments. My toolbox includes a Windows desktop, Windows laptop, MacBook Pro, i-Mac, iPadPro, retina iPad mini, iPhone 7 Plus and even a 5th generation iPod Touch.
Away from the university, I have been actively involved in the sport of dog agility since 1991. I train my own dogs, instruct agility classes and judge North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC) trials. Dog agility has allowed me to travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada with my most exciting trip being to judge the Australian NADAC National. I also have trained and shown dogs in conformation, pointing dog field trials, hunting tests and obedience. I am a United Kennel Club (UKC) obedience and rally judge.
This is one of my former competition dogs, Trick, who earned several NADAC Championships, a feat that is not unusual in the world of dog agility but challenging for him as he was deaf! My current canine family consists of a Border Collie, two McNab-Border Collies and a Sheltie.
In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, kayaking, biking, genealogy and nature photography.