Campus News

2015 Russell Award recipients

Peter Jutras

Three UGA faculty members will receive Richard B. Russell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching April 13 at the 2015 Faculty Recognition Banquet at the Georgia Center. Russell Awards recognize outstanding teaching by faculty early in their academic careers. Award recipients receive $5,000. The Richard B. Russell Foundation in Atlanta supports the program.

Peter Jutras
Associate Professor of Music Piano Pedagogy and Class Piano Specialist
Hugh Hodgson School of Music
Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
By Jessica Luton

What makes a great music teacher is rooted in what happens beyond the classroom, said Peter Jutras, an associate professor of music and coordinator of undergraduate class piano and piano pedagogy instruction at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music.

“I am driven to help students teach themselves by thinking creatively, experimenting, exploring, questioning, debating and evaluating a range of ideas,” he said. “This challenges them to truly make the learning process transformative, and it is my hope that they will extend these transformations to their own students, long after they have left my classroom.”

Jutras arrived at UGA in 2006 as an assistant professor of music. Since then, he has worked to overhaul curriculum with a focus on broad skills-entrepreneurship, pedagogy and technology. In his nine years at the music school, Jutras has garnered over $100,000 in grants for new state-of-the-art instructional technology. Some of that technology includes software that allows students to practice at their own individual pace and advanced presentation technology for teaching assistants. Implementation of other teaching tools, such as video tutorials and submitting assignments via video, has further helped students learn in new ways.

Students praise his passion for teaching, which is exemplified by his participation in so many ways to help educate students. He serves as an adviser to undergraduate piano teachers in the Community Music School, is co-adviser of the UGA student chapter of the Music Teachers National Association, TONIC, and has worked as a service-learning fellow this past year to create a distance learning program that will give students an opportunity to teach music to an all-girls school in Kenya.

“Seeing the passion for his love of teaching not only makes me want to become more proficient at the instrument, but it encourages me every single class period that I am in the right degree program,” said David Kennedy Miller, a senior music education major. “If I can ever teach my students in the ways that he teaches us, then I know that success is in my future. He is an inspiration.”

“Through his high standards and achievement in the classroom, his dedication to innovation, his creative reinterpretation and imagining of the learning process, and his high profile as editor-in-chief of the only critical journal of piano pedagogy in the United States today, he casts a broad and influential shadow,” said Dale E. Monson, Hodgson professor and music school director. “Dr. Jutras’ love for practical application of theory into translated and useful technique has inspired his students, helped guide his fellow faculty members to reach for new goals and transformed the musical experience of the undergraduate students in the Hodgson School.”


Andrew Owsiak
Assistant Professor of International Affairs
School of Public and International Affairs
By Caroline Paczkowski

As Andrew Owsiak circles the classroom in his trademark red shoes, there is a powerful sense of engagement with his students. 

“As an instructor, my goal is to teach students how to think critically about the world around them so that they, as citizens, can positively contribute to our democratic society,” Owsiak said. “I am very proud to provide students with an experience that they find supportive, challenging, interesting and educational.”

Owsiak arrived at UGA in 2011 after receiving his doctorate in political science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In his three and half years at the School of Public and International Affairs, Owsiak has developed a teaching philosophy that emphasizes five core strengths: an innovative teaching style, mentorship, pedagogical research, performance development and passionate classroom instruction.

For Owsiak, the most memorable and educational moments occur outside the classroom, and he tries to create those moments for his students through what generally is considered mentorship.

“ ‘Mentoring’ is not even the right term,” said Markus Crepaz, head of the international affairs department. “He is socializing undergraduates into what it means to do research. He breathes a desire to learn into his students by exposing them to role-playing exercises, simulations and closely supervised research projects.”

As the adviser to the Model United Nations, Owsiak plays a passive, yet important, role. His approach allows the students to make their own decisions and experience the effects of those decisions, while also remaining present and available for consultation.

Additionally, Owsiak spends most of his mentoring time working through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. He often works with students for multiple semesters to introduce them to the academic research process, help them discover their own research interests and guide them through a process where they can research, write and present an independent project about a question that interests them. For his mentoring efforts, he was awarded the 2014 CURO Research Mentoring Award.

Inside the classroom, Owsiak takes a similar approach by engaging his students in active-learning exercises. Whether he asks the students to lead discussions or participate in policy debates, his goal is to teach them to analyze the questions, identify the critical components of an answer and obtain consensus among the group.

“The thing that makes Dr. Owsiak stand out as a mentor, professor and adviser is his ability to provide quiet leadership built upon a foundation of stability,” said former student Ashton Moss. “Professor Owsiak is an outstanding person and an exemplary professor who has made an enormous impact on my life.”


Jennifer L. Palmer
Assistant Professor of History
Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
By Alan Flurry

Eighteenth-century French salons created an intellectual community in which a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and interests debated critical questions with the goal of improving society.

Using the salons as a model, Jennifer Palmer teaches Enlightenment concepts and texts in a forum that encourages her students to collaborate with and challenge each other.

From upper-division seminars on “Women in Early Modern Europe” to introductory courses on Western society since 1500, Palmer uses the salon as a framework for her classroom even as she reimagines it for the digital age. According to history department head Claudio Saunt, Palmer falls into that elite group of professors truly engaged in reinventing the classroom.

“For her ‘Age of Enlightenment’ class … Dr. Palmer has her students conduct primary and secondary research in groups on a topic of their choice and then create videos, which they post on YouTube (the “France Enlightenment” channel),” Saunt said. “The videos are amusing, creative and informative-just the kind of work we strive to inspire in our undergraduates.”

Her colleague, Benjamin Ehlers, an associate professor of history, agrees.

“Dr. Palmer’s innovative techniques are redefining the possibilities of undergraduate instruction in European and Atlantic history,” he said.

Palmer arrived at UGA in 2011 after a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago. A recipient of numerous grants and fellowships including a Chateaubriand Fellowship from the French government, Palmer’s first book, which grew out of her doctoral dissertation, “Intimate Bonds: Family and Slavery in the French Atlantic,” is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

“The roots of our own society are in early modern Europe. To understand categories that affect us every day, such as race, gender and citizenship, we need to understand how they took shape,” Palmer said. “When students use social media to explore and share connections between past and present, they use classroom knowledge to engage with the world in a truly inspiring way.”

Palmer’s enthusiasm and ingenuity percolate through her teaching to students at every level. She demonstrates an infectious desire for learning that guides, empowers and inspires.

“In addition to contributing to the revitalization of my love for learning, Dr. Palmer is a kind and relatable person,” said freshman Jamie Radicioni. “She answers every question we have to the best of her ability but never pretends to know more than she does, and that down-to-earth quality allows us to be completely comfortable and speak freely in her class. She is the kind of professor everyone hopes for, and finding her so quickly is a gift I will not take for granted.”