Campus News

Three faculty members receive 2019 Russell Awards

From left: Vera Lee-Schoenfeld, Amy Pollard and Sarah Shannon have been named recipients of the 2019 Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Three University of Georgia faculty members have been named recipients of the Richard B. Russell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the university’s highest early career teaching honor.

“The 2019 Russell Award recipients engage students with innovative instruction while maintaining the kind of personalized support that defines a University of Georgia education,” said Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Libby V. Morris. “These exemplary faculty members are respected by their colleagues and committed to the success of their students.”

This year’s winners, all of whom are faculty members in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, are Vera Lee-Schoenfeld, associate professor of linguistics; Amy Pollard, associate professor of music; and Sarah Shannon, assistant professor of sociology.

Lee-Schoenfeld uses an inductive approach to her introductory and advanced syntax courses that guides students to collaboratively explore and analyze data, questioning conclusions they may have taken for granted. Through strategies developed as part of the Online Learning Fellows program, she revised the online introductory course in linguistics to incorporate new video lectures and interactive projects that engage students in the material. Lee-Schoenfeld played a significant role in revising the linguistics curricula for undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, her research collaboration with a professor at the University of Hannover in Germany has resulted in a number of opportunities for students, including a recently established exchange program offered to undergraduate students at both universities.

Lee-Schoenfeld, who joined the faculty in 2010, also serves as an adjunct professor in the Germanic and Slavic studies department. She received the Franklin College’s Sandy Beaver Excellence in Education Award and has participated in the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Sarah Moss Fellowship and Lilly Teaching Fellowship.

Pollard engages students in goal-setting, peer-review and discussion, and her success has spurred growth in enrollment in the bassoon studio. Her use of technology to maximize student learning and provide performance feedback has become a model for music educators across Georgia. Pollard’s First-Year Odyssey Seminar course “The Art of Performing,” which focuses on physical health and dealing with anxiety in auditions and performances, has spurred an emphasis on wellness issues for musicians throughout the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. She co-created a career-building course that is now a requirement of all undergraduate music majors and championed X-Week, an experience where instrumentalists and vocalists trade teachers for a week to learn from other mentors on campus.

Pollard, who joined the UGA faculty in 2009, serves as performance coordinator for the Hodgson School and is the principal bassoon of the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra. She has been recognized twice by the UGA Career Center and is a 2018 recipient of the Hodgson School’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

Shannon offers an experiential learning course called “Inside-Out,” part of a national program that brings together college students with people who are incarcerated at the Athens-Clarke County Jail in a shared learning environment. The course has been the highest rated in the sociology department every semester that Shannon has taught it. In addition, she engages students in her criminology courses with weekly interactive assignments to extend class discussions using a variety of media, including online data tools, podcasts and articles.

Shannon, who joined UGA’s faculty in 2013, serves as an affiliate faculty member in the criminal justice studies program, Institute for Women’s Studies and Owens Institute for Behavioral Research. She is a previous recipient of the Sandy Beaver Excellence in Teaching Award, and she serves on the 2018-2019 Teaching Committee for the American Society of Criminology. In 2018, she was named an Outstanding Professor by the Student Government Association and received the Research Mentoring Award from the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

The Russell Foundation established the Russell Awards during the 1991-1992 academic year to honor the late U.S. Sen. Richard B. Russell. The awards include a $10,000 cash award, and recipients are honored at the Faculty Recognition Banquet during UGA Honors Week.

Nominations for the Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching are submitted by deans and considered by a committee of senior faculty members and undergraduate students.

Tenure-track faculty members who have worked at UGA for at least three years and no more than 10 years are eligible for the award.

To learn more about the Russell Awards and for a list of past winners, see