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Atara MacNamara and Michael Threapleton receive Exceptional Faculty Award
Posted: 5/2/2014 Two Centralia College faculty members, Dr. Atara MacNamara, associate professor of psychology, and Michael Threapleton, associate professor of physics and engineering, received the prestigious Exceptional Faculty Award for 2014. The award recognizes instructors who bring an extraordinary level of commitment, excellence and innovation to the college.

"Through this award we recognize the value of members of our faculty. We honor them for their contributions to our students, our college, and our community," Dr. Jim Walton, college president, said. "This college's faculty has a long tradition of excellence and students have benefited greatly from this quality. The faculty members reflect the high standard we have among the teaching ranks."

Atara MacNamara

Atara MacNamara
Understanding human behavior can be considered essential for success in so many areas of life and Atara MacNamara, Centralia College associate professor of psychology, has a reputation for opening the doors to an understanding of behavior.

"There is so much to learn about how the brain functions," MacNamara said. "We are just beginning to understand brain activity." The desire to understand how the mind works and how it benefits us is why she is a psychologist; the enjoyment she experiences as students explore and understand the complexities of psychology is why she teaches.

She believes that the study of psychology is on the verge of exciting discoveries as science strives to understand personality and behavior. That understanding can help people fit better in society, enhance relationships, and go a long way toward reducing our dependence on mood-altering medications.

“An exciting part of teaching is sharing knowledge and being part of the process that increases student awareness. There is always something new in psychology and learning about it is important,” she said. “I very much enjoy that part of what I do.”

MacNamara began at Centralia College in 2008 and has taught psychology continuously. She is now expanding to teach upper division-level (bachelor degree-level) courses in leadership and organizational behavior in the college’s bachelor degree program. “I love teaching. It’s the only career I have ever experienced where I have felt that I am doing what I want to do. This is what I should be doing and this is where I want to be doing it,” she said. “This is who I am.”

“I work with a very talented faculty and to receive this award is an honor,” MacNamara said. She is, what many might consider, a late bloomer. She was 58 when she earned her doctorate. “When I started back in school I knew I would go into psychology but I didn’t know where it would take me,” she said. Fortunately, her path led her to Centralia College.

Michael Threapleton

Michael Threapleton
Threapleton teaches physics and engineering, two subjects that might be foreign to many but the two are exciting fields as far as he’s concerned. At the turn of the last century, he said, there were many who thought that just about everything had been figured out.

"Many believe that we knew just about all there was to know about physics," Threapleton said. Albert Einstein introduced new theories and, "Then there was an explosion of new information that told us how little we really knew."

With the discovery of dark matter and dark energy, "We are now looking at another explosion that tells us again how much we have to learn. We’ve been studying about five percent of what’s out there. We’ve got a whole new universe to figure out," he said.

The quest for that understanding drives him and passing on that passion for learning is why he teaches. His peers who nominated him for the Exceptional Faculty Award have recognized that passion.

"I enjoy teaching. Physics is hard and not a lot of students choose to study physics, but it is rewarding to hear from our graduates who say that they leave here well prepared to succeed,” Threapleton said.

He is also high on Centralia College. "I’m very proud to work here. This college is at the top of the heap of the state’s college system. We have impressive facilities and I work with very amazing colleagues. I believe that we do a lot of great work here," Threapleton said. Part of that work is reflected in the fact that all of his transfer engineering students have gone on to complete their bachelor’s degree. He has also worked with teams of students who entered the human powered paper vehicle contest. The teams constructed a tricycle, roller-skates, and a wagon entirely out of paper and competed in speed trials. The Centralia College teams placed third and received an honorable mention for innovation in design.



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