Roxana Moreno, associate professor in the College of Education, died Saturday, July 24 in Albuquerque after a long illness. Moreno, who was a brilliant scientist, teacher and faculty member who passionately practiced what she espoused, taught educational psychology at UNM since 2000. A memorial reception will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14 in Simpson Hall Room 135 from 3 to 6 p.m. The UNM community is invited to attend.
Moreno's research interests revolved around human memory, learning, and higher-order cognition with special interest in applying cognitive theories to educational technology and individual differences in learning. Her courses at UNM included Learning and the Classroom, Principles of Classroom Learning and a seminar class on Human Development.
Friends and colleagues recently recalled some of their memories of Moreno.
UNM College of Education Dean Richard Howell said, "The loss of Dr. Roxana Moreno was both a surprise and a shock to all of the members of the College of Education. Roxana exemplified the dynamic, engaged faculty member who seemed invulnerable and fearless. She worked tirelessly at her craft and achieved the highest honors that a young faculty member could aspire to, being heralded across the country as one of the bright stars of the future.
"She cared deeply for her students, her friends, and her bunnies, that she saved from abuse. She was a passionate person who never did anything halfway, in fact she never did anything 100 percent – it was always past that marker. There is a deep hole in our hearts that she occupied and it will take the College many years to recover from her loss. She was, quite simply, the best of us."
Interim Chair in the CoE's Department of Individual, Family and Community Education and Associate Professor of Educational Psychology Jay Parkes remembered Moreno's zeal for life.
"Roxana brought passion, fire and a single-minded focus to all that she did, which is evident from her many professional accomplishments. But it's also evident from the fact that she spoke five languages including English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French); competed in motocross motorcycle extreme sports; and was a foster mother to abused bunny rabbits, some of whom would occasionally attend faculty meetings.
"The field of Educational Psychology has lost an influential luminary much too soon, and we all can only wonder at all she would have achieved with a longer life. But we here in the College of Education have also lost a friend and colleague. We, too, will miss her passion, her laughter, and her drive and determination. We have definitely lost her much too soon," Parkes said.
Moreno's mentor, Dr. Richard Mayer, professor of Psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara said, "'Cool moist air moves over a warmer surface and becomes heated...' so begins the multimedia lesson on lightning formation that Roxana Moreno developed for our first major study on multimedia learning, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology in 1998."
The article is based on work she started in her first years of graduate study with Mayer at UCSB in 1995-96. Since then, the lightning passage has been used in more than a dozen published experiments conducted at UCSB and around the world.
"Like a lightning strike, Roxana burst onto the scene with a significant contribution to cognitive theories of how people learn from words and pictures."
The article was the first of what would become a string of nine research articles the two published together in the Journal of Educational Psychology. Within three years of receiving her Ph.D. in 1999, she was already recognized as one of the top 20 most productive educational psychologists in the world for 1991-2002 in Contemporary Educational Psychology.
UNM Assistant Professor Scott Marley, who first met Moreno during a job interview in 2005 said, "In a very short period of time, Roxana had become a giant in educational psychology. Her research agenda and productivity were astonishing. Her knowledge base was second to none. In academia she was one of a kind. Most important of all, she was a great person, wonderful colleague and friend who took time to contribute to the lives of others in positive ways. She was beautiful, caring, energetic and full of life.
"I am shocked that she was taken from us all at such a young age. I have found myself wondering what other exciting things she would have accomplished if she had been given more years in this world. I console myself with the thought that she accomplished more in her short life than most will ever accomplish given a longer life. I also count my blessings that I was among the many that were fortunate enough to know her for a brief period of time."
UNM Associate Professor in Educational Psychology Terri Flowerday, who first heard about Moreno's research as a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska, recalled her colleague.
"When I interviewed at the University of New Mexico, for me, breakfast with Roxana sealed the deal, said Flowerday. "In person, she was funny and energetic beyond belief. As a colleague she was an amazing artist and researcher. Having an office down the hall from Roxana was like working near a tornado. Her enthusiasm for teaching and passion for research helped create an environment that made coming to work a joy. The day to day interactions will be missed the most. Her work will continue to influence the field of educational psychology for years to come. Her smile and laughter will be in my heart always," she added.
Truly a world-class scholar, Moreno was the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, which earned her an invitation to the White House; the American Psychological Association Division 15 Richard E. Snow Award for Early Contributions; and twice a UNM Regent's Lecturer. She was ranked several times as one of the 20 most prolific individual scholars conducting educational psychology research. This past spring, Moreno was named a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association.
Some of her recent research centered around interactive multimedia learning and virtual reality environments for science learning. Moreno's challenge in the interactive multimedia learning environment was to create a computer-based environment that learners would interpret as involving a social-agency relationship with the computer. The central feature of the social agency environment is an animated pedagogical agent--a likable cartoon figure who talks to the learner and who responds to the learner's input.
In the virtual reality environments for science learning research, Moreno, in collaboration with Mayer, applied learning principles developed by cognitive and educational psychologists to study how humans learn in virtual environments and how to design virtual environments that maximize learning potential.
Before accepting a teaching position at the University of New Mexico in 2000, Moreno was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Technology Education by the National Science Foundation to investigate the interaction of rich experiential and reflective interactions mediated by software pedagogical agents in virtual reality environments. Her investigations involved undergraduate students as well as elementary students from local schools who are culturally and linguistically diverse.
During her academic career, Moreno authored more than 50 refereed articles and proceedings, two books including Educational psychology: Preparing teachers for the diverse needs in the classroom and Cognitive load: Theory and application, and numerous book chapters.
Moreno earned her Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in cognitive science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Moreno also earned her juris doctorate in law from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In memory of Moreno, donations may be made to the UNM Foundation in her name to help support students in the College of Education.
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