Education Redefined: Professor awarded for propelling students toward a lifelong love of learning

Biomedical Sciences Assistant Professor Tod Clapp riding his Onewheel on campus.
Tod Clapp jets around campus on his Onewheel. In his spare time, Clapp likes to get outside whenever he can—whether it’s mountain biking, playing and coaching fastpitch softball or wakesurfing with his family.

Within moments of entering the lecture hall on the first day of her anatomy course with Tod Clapp, student Katie Brown knew she was in for an unforgettable experience. “I could tell by the way the room grew silent as soon he began speaking that he commanded a lot of respect,” said Brown, a Biomedical Sciences junior. “He approaches teaching with passion, respect, honesty, and with such a firm belief in his students’ capabilities that he instantly motivates them to succeed.”

Tod Clapp, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, was presented with the 2017-2018 Board of Governors Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award at the Celebrate Colorado State reception on April 11. This prestigious university honor is given annually to one standout faculty member who possesses a unique passion and talent for engaging students.

Clapp teaches human anatomy and neuroanatomy, oversees the human anatomy curriculum, directs the Biomedical Sciences Master of Science program, and is head of the anatomy outreach program that engages K-12 youth in science and health education. His teaching philosophy is based on the belief that learning should be student-driven and experience-based and he is motivated by watching his students become superior scientists, problem solvers and lifelong learners.

“Dr. Clapp forever changed my perspective, not only on education, but on life in general,” said Erin Chavet, a 2016 honors graduate of the Biomedical Sciences program who is now thriving in dental school. “His teaching methods essentially changed my critical thinking process and allowed me to make better decisions, become more confident, build and maintain successful professional relationships, and truly understand how fun and rewarding education can be.”

Inspiring the pursuit of success

Through captivating lectures, contagious enthusiasm for the material he teaches, and the high expectations he holds for his students, Clapp encourages his students to take responsibility for their education and to apply what they learn.

Tod Clapp, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences in lab of the Human Virtual Reality Project.
Tod Clapp in the lab of his team’s Human Virtual Reality Project, a groundbreaking, first-of-its kind program with the power to revolutionize medical education.

“When I look back on my career, I wish that I would have had the opportunity to learn teaching from someone like Tod Clapp,” said Colin Clay, head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences. “He understands that teaching is a partnership that, at its best, respects and elevates both the student and the teacher. This partnership lies at the very core of what CSU is—an academic institution that fully celebrates discovery, dissemination, and learning.”

Clapp’s primary passion is teaching neuroanatomy and helping students understand the “why” behind complicated systems. Students and colleagues alike praise Clapp’s ability to make learning meaningful while also encouraging his students to develop the important life skill of being able to solve a novel, real-world problem.

“From the very first day of class we were encouraged learn for the love of learning, rather than just trying to get a good grade,” Brown said. “We were inspired to dig deeper, ask questions, and push our limits. Taking anatomy redefined the way I solve problems and enhanced my ability to think critically.”

Aside from consistently being rated in the “superior” range for all teaching categories in all of his classes, Clapp is also committed to quality outreach and program development. In 2016, he oversaw the creation of a successful annual summer Anatomy Camp program for high school students. Clapp was also instrumental in securing funding for the new Health Education Outreach Center, which, in addition to providing new and improved space for human anatomy and neuroanatomy education, will house his team’s groundbreaking Human Virtual Reality Project.

“This is an award for everybody and I’m very proud to receive it on behalf of the students, the department and college, and university leadership,” Clapp said. “This award represents a culmination of the efforts of so many people and I’m happy to be representing all of them.”

Clapp’s previous honors include the Water Pik and CSU Athletic Department Excellence in Education Award, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science’s Outstanding Academic Advising Award in Graduate Education, the Lisa Marie Craft Memorial Graduate Scholarship for exhibiting career promise in teaching and the CSU Alumni Association’s Best Teacher Award.