28.01.11 14:33 Age: 5 yrs

Dr. Lori Loseth


Dr. Lori Loseth successfully defends doctoral dissertation at University of Idaho

On December 7, 2010 Lori Loseth, tenured Biology instructor at the Clarkston campus of Walla Walla Community College successfully defended her dissertation and earned her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Idaho, Moscow campus. Lori grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, in a home where science and medicine were daily topics as her father was a physician and her mother a nurse. She was headed towards a career in medicine earning her B.S. in Biology from Nebraska Wesleyan University. However, her love of science took her to Baylor University in Waco, Texas.  In addition to the appeal of a warm climate and quality biology department, she chose Baylor because it was one of the few Masters programs at that time that allowed graduate students access to the electron microscope.

Lori received a graduate assistantship at Baylor and began her research on liver physiology. Liver is one of the few human organs capable of regenerating itself. Lori’s impressive study investigated the ability of liver tissue to function properly in response to alcohol after regeneration. She found that regenerative tissue was even more susceptible to the damaging effects of alcohol than the adult liver from which it came. If alcohol intake was eliminated prior to irreversible liver damage, the regenerated liver tissue was able to sustain well.  However, if alcohol was re-introduced at high levels the regenerated liver tissue deteriorated more quickly than the original liver tissue.

She completed her M.S. in Biology at Baylor (1985) and joined WWCC as an adjunct science faculty member and science lab assistant in 1989.  She was hired as the sole full-time Clarkston science instructor in 1999; and until a part-time lab assistant job was added in 2001, she was the Clarkston science department in its entirety.   She was tenured in 2001.  In 2004, Lori began her doctoral studies at the University of Idaho. She chose to do her doctoral studies in Education in order to broaden her understanding of how adult learners acquire and maintain knowledge. This interest was developed after collaborating with Dr. Ted Richerzhagen in his work with the Title V grant and with Gillies Malnarich at the Washington Center for Learning. Lori’s interest in how community colleges can foster a greater sense of belonging and community for students with learning challenges led her to be a catalyst in developing the Tutoring and Learning Center at the Clarkston campus in 2006. Prior to the implementation of the TLC at Clarkston, tutoring had been conducted on a more or less ad hoc basis. Typically the more assertive students received this kind of tutoring support, but with the establishment of the TLC, tutoring became more widely available.

Lori’s dissertation is entitled, “Efficacy of Peer Assisted Tutoring in a Drop-in Science and Mathematics Learning for Community College Students.” Her study began in 2005 as she collected data from the Tutoring and Learning Center at the Walla Walla campus and in 2006 from the Clarkston campus. She found that students benefit significantly when they have access, support, and mentoring in their math and science courses. This is especially true when the access and mentoring involves a learning community of peers.  Vincent Tinto (an expert in the field of learning communities) says that “learning communities share knowledge, share knowing, and share responsibility”. Learning centers capture this spirit which is in marked contrast to more traditional science and mathematics education models which foster competition and individualistic effort. Lori’s study found that learning in community made a difference for underrepresented students in mathematics and science. Lori was aware that the community college mission is based on an open door policy but she wanted to focus on those students who were “slipping out the back door” without having access to the support and benefit of tutoring and mentoring in a learning community setting.

Even with her busy schedule of raising a family and teaching science courses at WWCC, Lori has made time to volunteer in the community.  One favorite example is an after school program for elementary school students from the greater Clarkston valley. Every Thursday afternoon, from 4:00-5:00 Lori brings science lessons to young 4th graders from Grantham Elementary School. She begins by helping them with their homework assignments and then introduces an interesting science presentation. She has done a variety of science lessons, but one of the children’s favorites was when she brought live cockroaches into the classroom for the children to observe, study, and even to race!  In addition, children who make the honor roll at Asotin Elementary School during the school year are invited to the Community College for a “Science Expo”. This field trip is one that the children anticipate and has been a huge success, both from the standpoint of the excitement that it generates in the 5th and 6th graders, but also for Lori’s college biology students who set up the different science stations for the children to observe and to actively participate with their college “science lab partners”. 

Another innovative teaching method, this time within the College community, is a learning cooperative set up by Lori and Ginny McConnell, the English instructor at WWCC (Clarkston). The two instructors put together a learning community pairing English 102 and General Biology students. The English students serve as peer experts and editors for a mini research paper (3-5 pages) using APA citations written by the Biology students.  This has allowed students to make connections with other students they might not normally cross paths with.

Walla Walla Community College is extremely proud to have faculty as exceptional and dedicated as Dr. Lori Loseth. Her commitment to student success is inspiring and it is an honor to put the Faculty Spotlight on Dr. Loseth this month.