• Educational Development

Denise Leonard, PhD

Associate Director for Graduate Student and Postdoc Programs

How Can I Help

I am excited to assist instructors at all levels in finding new and novel ways to embed student-centered and equity-minded approaches in their courses. I enjoy helping graduate students and postdoctoral appointees across all disciplines to prepare for their teaching and mentoring experiences. I believe in inclusive teaching approaches and evidence-based strategies that will specifically help underrepresented students reach their academic goals.


In May 2017, Denise was appointed Associate Director for Graduate-Student and Postdoc Programs at the Center for Teaching and Learning. Serving as Assistant Director of Educational Development since 2014, Denise came to Washington University in 2013 as the HHMI postdoctoral research scholar and fellow in science education, with a dual appointment in the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Department of Biology at Washington University.

As Associate Director, Denise is working with her colleagues at the Center for Teaching and Learning to develop, implement, and evaluate The Professional Development in Teaching Program for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. She works with our assistant directors to provide mentorship in teaching and professional development for graduate students and postdocs.

Denise develops and evaluates the STEM Pedagogies workshops–an advanced-level workshop series open to graduate students and postdocs in STEM. In these workshops, participants learn about current pedagogical methods in STEM teaching and learning, as well as relevant cognitive-science research on learning and memory. These workshops are an essential component of the WU-CIRTL program for future faculty.

Denise engages deeply with the CIRTL (the Center for Integrating Research, Teaching, and Learning) Network, whose goal is to improve undergraduate STEM education by training future faculty in evidence-based teaching. In addition to representing WashU with the CIRTL network, Denise also teaches and facilitates CIRTL cross-network offerings.

In addition, Denise has worked on faculty development programs including our summer Faculty Institutes on Teaching, such as IDEA FIT (Inclusion and Diversity to Engage All: Faculty Institute on Teaching) in 2017.

Denise consults with graduate students and postdocs on teaching and professional development in teaching, and she sometimes serves as the instructor of the Introduction to Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) seminar. Students in this seminar develop expertise in research methods that may be used to assess the effectiveness of specific teaching methods. The Introduction to SoTL course is an important component of upper-levels of the Professional Development in Teaching Program.

Denise enjoys building interdisciplinary connections with others who have a passion for teaching and learning, and she is most interested in innovative, student-centered methods of teaching that encourage and inspire non-traditional and underrepresented student groups to pursue STEM majors. In addition, she plays a leadership role on the team that is developing and implementing Catalysts for Change, an outreach program designed to encourage young women in St. Louis area high schools to pursue STEM degrees.

A graduate of Saint Louis University with a Ph.D. in Biology (2008), Denise completed a dissertation focused on behavioral enrichment for Mexican gray wolves and African wild dogs. She also completed a Graduate Certificate in University Teaching Skills at Saint Louis University’s Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning. She has extensive teaching experience, including—most recently—courses in Field Biology and Environmental Science, as well as laboratory courses in General Biology and Genetics at Benedictine University and Lewis University.