Academic Excellence: Celebrating Innovation and Creativity

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Spring has become one of my favorite seasons—it’s a time when we celebrate the successes of our faculty and staff who have worked hard to improve the lives of our students. Specifically, for the Office of Instruction, spring is when we recognize the innovative teaching and guidance of our faculty and advisors. Now becoming an annual tradition, Associate Vice Presidents for Instruction Naomi Norman and Bill Vencill and I made surprise visits—coordinated through their deans and academic offices—to our 2017 Creative Teaching Awardand 2017 Outstanding Academic Advisor Award recipients.

The Creative Teaching Award recognizes faculty who work to promote student success through innovation and their significant impact at the University of Georgia. This year we chose four individuals who took teaching beyond the confines of a traditional classroom and made learning more accessible and meaningful for their students.

Trisha Branan (Pharmacy) transformed her Critical Care Pharmacy course to create a virtual intensive care unit patient room that allowed students to interact with various healthcare disciplines and patient families. Jason Cantarella (Mathematics) designed a revolutionary learning experience in his level one calculus course through “Robot Calculus,” where students experienced the direct impact of mathematics on robotic programming. Julie Luft(Mathematics and Science Education) and Kristen Miller (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, while also putting the PLA’s learning into action.

Our Outstanding Academic Advising Award recognizes staff members for excellence in advising undergraduate students. Exploratory Center advisor Cindy Schulman is noted for her tireless efforts in helping intended business majors and transfer students find the right career path. From using Skype to communicate with students to helping them work through conflict and learn how to solve problems diplomatically, her compassion for her advisees extends beyond the normal role of advisor. New advisor Jessie Daniels provides exemplary service to non-traditional and online BBA students, many of whom have put their education on hold for several years, providing them with a much-needed connection in transitioning back to college and UGA.

The passion for helping students achieve is evident in each of these faculty and staff. They are the heart of this university and motivate our students to not only succeed but to excel.

On April 17, we’ll have the opportunity to publicly present our Creative Teaching Awards to these four outstanding faculty in front of their peers at the Faculty Recognition Banquet. And our outstanding advisors will be recognized at the spring Academic Advising Coordinating Council meeting. Stay tuned for the next issue of Engage when we will recognize the faculty receiving our First-Year Odyssey Seminar Teaching Awards, as well as the Outstanding and Excellence in Teaching Awards for graduate students.

Please join me in congratulating our winners and be thinking about what you can do to be more innovative. If you are working on innovative teaching strategies in your classroom, please let me know! I’d love to hear what you’re doing.


Rahul Shrivastav
Vice President for Instruction