Denise Leonard Headshot
  • Educational Development

Denise Leonard

Associate Director, Educational Development

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 professional-development programs for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, including the WU-CIRTL program for future faculty in STEM, The Teaching Citation, and the Preparation in Pedagogy Program. In these programs, 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 leads the WU-CIRTL program with Gina Frey and Kathy Miller (Professor and Chair of Biology). This program has been developed in coordination with the 43-institution CIRTL network, with support from the National Science Foundation and the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation. The mission of CIRTL (the Center for Integrating Research, Teaching, and Learning) is to improve undergraduate STEM education by training future faculty in evidence-based teaching. In addition to her work developing the local WU-CIRTL program, Denise teaches and facilitates CIRTL cross-network offerings.

In addition, Denise works on faculty-development programs including our summer Faculty Institutes on Teaching, such as the upcoming IDEA FIT (Inclusion and Diversity to Engage All: Faculty Institute on Teaching).

Denise consults with graduate students and postdocs on teaching and professional development in teaching, and she is the lead instructor of the Introduction to Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), a 1-credit course for graduate students and postdocs. Students in this course 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 the WU-CIRTL 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.