Colleen “Birdie” Champ, a doctoral student in the College of Education, was awarded the 2010 Joseph L. Boscov Scholarship by the UMass Amherst Graduate School. The scholarship is awarded annually to a current or incoming female graduate student whose work will “equip her for increased service to the needs of people and/or the environment.”
Champ, who received her M.Ed. in Learning, Media and Technology at COE, is an award-winning scientific illustrator who holds a B.S. in cytogenics, has 12 years of experience working in a diagnostic genetics lab, and is certified to teach basic science to middle school students.
Champ said that her career goal is to improve the nation’s health literacy by developing interactive, educational, 3D, virtual learning environments. She plans to accomplish her goal by creating patient-centered learning environments where people can interact, play games, and learn to make decisions about their health while situated in safe, virtual environments.
She stated as an example of such an environment, a “game” in which a patient, who had been given instructions by a doctor to reduce her cholesterol, would virtually “walk’ through veins to see how cholesterol blocks blood flow with the result being a data-based decision to improve her diet. Champ notes that “these online environments will be education prescribed by doctors, and accessible from both the doctors’ waiting rooms and personal computers.”
Champ said that she could not believe that she had been chosen as the Boscov Scholarship recipient. “I was so surprised to get the news! Initially, my advisor, Dr. Florence Sullivan, suggested that I apply. When I found out that the College of Education had chosen me to represent the school I was honored. When I found out later that I had won, I didn't believe it!”
"My goals as a doctoral candidate are lofty but attainable with effort," she added. "In my scholarship application, I discussed creating a team that crosses domains, working with other schools here at the university. To paraphrase Dr. Weibo Gong, a computer engineering professor here, the university is like a forest of old growth domains, and problems within each domain can be similar. I believe we can be more creative in our problem solving when we collaborate across these domains. The Boscov Scholarship will help me to create a gestalt greater than anything I had imagined, and hopefully, healthier and happier people because of it.”
Champ said that she looks forward to becoming “Dr. Champ” someday, and showing her children “what hard work can accomplish, and giving something back to a world that has been so abundantly generous to me.”