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Excellence in Teaching winner believes in building trust in students

After Lauren Pulliam graduated from Winston-Salem State University in 2013 with a degree in exercise physiology, she opened a gym called No Limits Training Center in Pfafftown, North Carolina. As the head trainer and strength coach, she develops personalized workout programs for her clients, drawing heavily from the principles she learned from WSSU associate professor Michael McKenzie.

“He’s an amazing instructor,” Pulliam said. “I can’t brag about him enough. He helped me to understand the physiology of the body a lot better, and I’m able to pay it forward. When my athletes ask me, ‘Why am I doing this?’ I’m able to explain in detail, ‘Here’s what you’re doing, and here’s why.’ I’m more confident when I teach.”

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors awarded McKenzie the 2015 Excellence in Teaching award for WSSU. Since 1993, the board has offered annual excellence in teaching awards, which come with a $12,500 stipend and a bronze medallion, to one professor at each of the 17 UNC institutions. The board intends the awards to encourage, support and reward good teaching, which members see as the primary responsibility of North Carolina’s public universities and the NC School of Science and Math, the country’s first public, residential high school for gifted students.

Raised outside of Niagara Falls, New York, McKenzie moved to Raleigh for high school. Growing up, he played sports — basketball, baseball and football — and in college at Appalachian State University, he worked as the student athletic trainer for the field hockey and track teams.

He received his bachelor’s degree in athletic training from App State in 1999, a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Florida in 2002 and a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2006.

In 2007, he joined the WSSU faculty, where he now teaches exercise physiology, training and performance, field experience and sports supplements. He enjoys working at the school because the college experience means so much to so many students.

“Being at a school where we have so many first-generation students, there’s a deep sense of appreciation when students make it,” McKenzie said. “For a lot of students, graduating from college is not just a life-changing event for them, but for their entire family. They really have the opportunity to lead the way.”

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