Luther faculty Olga Rinco Michels awarded the Ashford Fellowship from the American Chemical Society’s Exam Institute

May 6, 2019

Olga Rinco Michels, Luther College professor of chemistry, was awarded the Ashford Fellowship from the American Chemical Society’s Exam Institute to collaborate on organic chemistry pedagogical projects during her 2019-20 sabbatical.

The Theodore Ashford fellowship is awarded to experienced researchers in assessment who are interested in working with the American Chemical Society’s Exams Institute during a sabbatical. The fellowship provides funding that most faculty members need to have a full-year sabbatical and is awarded by vote of the Board of Trustees of the institute. Michels has been awarded a fellowship for June 1-December 31, 2019. She is the fourth Ashford Fellow with the institute.

The American Chemical Society’s Examinations Institute produces nationally normed exams for many chemistry courses, from high school through the undergraduate chemistry curriculum. Many graduate programs use the exams to measure the content knowledge of students starting graduate school. The exams are created by committees of educators who teach the course for which the exam is intended. While the exams produced by the institute may be called standardized exams, they are the unique product of grass-roots efforts from teachers.

Michels has served on two exam committees for the yearlong organic chemistry exam, the 2018 exam and the 2020 exam. She has enjoyed working with colleagues from across the country to help shape current sophomore organic chemistry courses.

During her fellowship, Michels will collaborate with a writing team to re-write the ACS Organic Chemistry Exams-The Official Guide. Her research will focus on how questions in the exam could be used in smaller groups or alone and if the statistical norms of the results would be valid outside the realm of the full test.

The financial support of the fellowship enables Michels to work alongside Kristen Murphy, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and director of the Exams Institute; and Jeffrey Raker, a professor from the University of South Florida, who is the associate director. With fellowship funding, Michels will travel and attend conferences and meetings to present her research findings.

Michels earned her bachelor’s degree from McMaster University and her doctoral degree from the University of Victoria. She was a postdoctoral research associate with the National Research Council of Canada in 2002. Michels has also received research grants from the Iowa College Foundation, Monticello College Foundation and the Grow Iowa Values Fund. Since 2003, Michels has taught various courses at Luther College in organic chemistry and led a semester abroad in Malta.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,005, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college’s website: