2017 Creative Teaching Awards Announced

The Office of Instruction announces four faculty receiving a 2017 Creative Teaching Award. Trisha Branan (Pharmacy) and Jason Cantarella (Mathematics) both received the award, along with Julie Luft (Mathematics and Science Education) and Kristen Miller (Biological Sciences) who received a joint award. The four faculty were notified in person with a surprise visit from Vice President Rahul Shrivastav and associate vice presidents Naomi Norman and William Vencill.

The Creative Teaching Awards recognize UGA faculty for excellence in developing and implementing creative teaching methods to improve student learning. These awards are presented annually on behalf of the Office of Instruction, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Office of the Provost to faculty who have demonstrated either the use of innovative technology or pedagogy that extends learning beyond the traditional classroom, or creative implementation of subject matter that has significantly improved student learning outcomes in their courses.

Trisha Branan, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy, transformed the Critical Care Pharmacy course PHRM 5370. Branan worked with course co-coordinator Anthony Hawkins and instructional designer Russ Palmer to create a virtual intensive care unit patient room that allowed students to interact with various healthcare disciplines and patient families. She uses pre-formed dialogue, replicated vital sign monitors, and access to laboratory data to mimic clinical practice. Her innovative efforts provided a set of immersive and interactive learning tools that allowed students to think critically and communicate effectively to make clinical decisions in scenarios that are reflective of real-world critical care pharmacy problems.

Jason Cantarella, professor of mathematics, designed a revolutionary learning experience in the level one calculus course. With funding from the NSF, he created “Robot Calculus.” Through the incorporation of progressive calculus tools, his students experienced firsthand the direct impact of mathematics on robotic programming and how these concepts may be applied to other predictive reasoning. The National Science Foundation reviewed the project, citing that “students in the [robot calculus] sections were better equipped to approach and solve the applications questions.” The predicted impact of this course on STEM disciplines is substantial, particularly for engineering. Cantarella’s work sets a high bar for designing courses that engage students and promote thoughtful decision making processes, while upholding the rigorous standards of his discipline.

Julie Luft, Athletic Association Professor of Mathematics and Science Education, and Kristen Miller, Director of Biological Sciences, collaborated on a course that prepares undergraduate students to be Peer Learning Assistants (PLA’s). Although other faculty have used PLA’s in the past, they created an innovative course to give advanced students the pedagogical training needed to better help other students succeed in challenging math and science classes. The PLA’s provide support and individualized attention to their students. In addition, their course provides a means for the PLA students to master course content, put learning into action and vital communication skills. Their vital assistance to the class also allows the faculty more time to focus on teaching and improving student outcomes.

Learn more about the criteria for the Creative Teaching Awards and past recipients.


From left: Pharmacy Dean Svein Oie, Trisha Branan, VP for Instruction Rahul Shrivastav, Assoc. Dean Bradley Phillips, Instructional Designer Russ Palmer, and Anthony Hawkins (on Facetime).

From left: VP for Instruction Rahul Shrivastav, Jason Cantarella and Bill Graham (Mathematics Department Head).

From left: VP for Instruction Rahul Shrivastav, Julie Luft (Mathematics and Science Education), Kristen Miller (Biological Sciences), Barbara Crawford (Mathematics and Science Education Department Head), and Norris Armstrong (Genetics).