Meet Rachel

Rachel Watson is a pluriverse scholar! In addition to directing the Learning Actively Mentoring Program (LAMP), Rachel teaches in 5 different colleges across the University of Wyoming campus. Rachel teaches courses in Biological Chemistry, and Pedagogy but she thrives most when teaching transdisciplinary courses in which she partners with students to seek solutions to the World’s greatest problems.

Rachel’s research centers on active, inclusive learning modalities and she is part of an international research team that studies learner self-assessment. Utilizing a knowledge survey called the Science Literacy Concept Inventory, this team has collected more than 25,000 measures of learner’s competence (knowledge) and self-assessed competence (confidence). This research has disproved the long-held hypothesis, called the Dunning-Kruger effect, that posited that most people are overconfident as compared to their actual competence. Rachel was lead author on a recent publication in this series which, in addition to further supporting the merit of learner self-assessment, utilized self-assessment measures to enable better understanding of privilege.

Rachel embeds social and environmental justice into every class she teaches. This is particularly poignant in her Transdisciplinary Capstone course called Rebel Science. Over 9 years, more than 80 students have collaborated with a range of partners from free downtown public clinics to state public health and environmental labs. In 2020, we partnered with the Wyoming Public Health Labs (WPHL) to use computational, epidemiological approaches to study the regionally disparate and inequitable impacts of COVID-19. This semester of 2022, we are partnering with Metabolic Studio to study Owen’s lakebed photo development as a unique form of art capable of asking scientific questions. The work of my students, their posters, grant proposals and videos speak the most strikingly about the work that we do in this problem-based course.

In her twenty years of teaching at UW, Rachel has received nearly fifty teaching awards including the University of Wyoming’s highest teaching honor called the John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award. She is also the recipient of the Shepard Symposium on Social Justice Faculty Award and the Own It: Women in Science Committee Choice Award.

Rachel knits together her love of science educational development with her social justice passion as the PI for Wyoming’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Inclusive Excellence Challenge (the HHMI IE3). Wyoming is fortunate to be one of only fifteen institutional teams nationwide to be part of a national learning community re-envisioning inclusive collaborations between 2-year and 4-year institutions.

For twenty-four years, Rachel has been the volunteer co-coach of the University of Wyoming Men’s and Women’s Nordic Ski Teams. In that time, the team has skied to thirteen United States Collegiate Championship team titles, twenty-three individual titles and boasts 100 Academic All-Americans. In 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021 Rachel was named head coach for Team USA at the World University Games in Turkey, Italy, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Switzerland. In synergy with these abroad experiences, Rachel has designed, developed and assessed action learning courses including Skiing and Climate Change, Environmental Assessment of an International Athletic Event, The Body as Planet, The Planet as a Body and Dysbiosis to Pluriversebiosis. In 2019, Rachel co-designed the UW-Shanghai University of Sport Nordic Ski Training Program. Through this program, 20 student athletes from Shanghai have become teammates with the UW skiers. They learn to Nordic ski at an elite level, and evolve their coaching skills and pedagogy through a course that Rachel co-developed called The Art and Science of Nordic Ski Racing.