Three UGA faculty members received a Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for 2023. Russell Awards recognize outstanding teaching by faculty early in their academic careers. The Richard B. Russell Foundation in Atlanta supports the program, and award recipients receive $10,000.
Department of Animal and Dairy Science
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Jillian Bohlen does what she can to kindle the flames of knowledge for her students.
“While my teaching methodologies are constantly adapting to match students and their needs, my philosophy surrounding teaching remains rooted in a simple phrase: ‘Just one little spark.’ In order to spark an active pursuit of the learning process, I just need a few, little sparks,” she said. “I must spark engagement, immersion and learning by doing. Together, this can light a fire of effective, purposeful and meaningful learning.”
To create that spark, Bohlen engages her students by fostering dynamic discussions and interactions, relating to them as individuals and demonstrating the meaningfulness of the information to their lives. She also facilitates active, purposeful learning and stays responsive to what her students need through regular evaluations. Additionally, she enhances the learning process through experiences that allow students to apply material, evaluate knowledge, problem solve and develop people skills. To that end, her students have attended more than 35 professional events under her mentorship.
All of those efforts ignite something in her students.
“Dr. Bohlen may not realize this, but creating an environment where we as students get to practice skills helps us feel more confident in our abilities, creates connections between the material as we complete labs and sparks our own inspiration and curiosity. She also helps us feel confident in the abilities and skills that we gained as we move forward with our careers, which is incredibly valuable in my opinion,” one former student wrote. “I feel lucky to have been taught by someone who I consider to be one of the best professors at the University of Georgia.”
Bohlen earned the UGA Creative Teaching Award and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Early Career Teaching Award in 2022. She served as a UGA Special Collections Library Fellow in 2021 and has also received the Hoard’s Dairyman Youth Development Award and has been named American Dairy Science Association National Outstanding Advisor.
In her time at UGA, Bohlen has mentored more than 30 undergraduate researchers, in addition to working on her own funded research. She has several publications and has served on numerous committees at the departmental, college and university levels. Within her industry, she also serves on state, regional and national committees.
Bohlen’s co-workers, too, recognize the work and dedication she puts into teaching.
“Her skills in the classroom in terms of getting information to the students in a way they can assimilate and empowering them to utilize the skills she has taught them in real-world applications are incredibly impressive. In the classroom, she is dynamic, engaging, fun, intense and respectful of all students,” one colleague wrote.
Odum School of Ecology
Krista Capps hopes her students leave her classroom with a better understanding of the world around them. A lifelong learner herself, she strives to instill a love of her field in her students, as well.
“My goal is to foster engaging and interactive learning experiences for students to enhance their understanding of the myriad ways their well-being and actions are connected to the environment,” she said. “My courses are designed to create supportive and inclusive learning environments that enhance critical thinking skills and generate excitement in environmental science.”
Capps generates those learning experiences by intentionally bringing a variety of voices into the classroom. She also finds ways to enhance data literacy, critical thinking and problem-solving skills through active learning activities, such as in-class response systems.
Service-learning opportunities allow Capps’ students to contribute to the well-being of others while applying and reflecting on course content in new ways. For example, in her urban ecology course, students were tasked to work with stakeholder groups in Atlanta to build the Watershed Learning Network, an online educational resource for people living in urban watersheds throughout the globe.
Her reach extends beyond the classroom. Capps has mentored 11 graduate students since 2016, including master’s and doctoral students from four different programs as well as 15 undergraduate students, in completing research projects and internships.
“Dr. Capps was an inspiration to me as an undergraduate student. Many of her goals aligned with mine, and many of her accomplishments were things I wanted to achieve myself. Her class made me feel like my studies could be used to exact actual change. Dr. Capps made me believe I could be a force of nature through her own example,” one former student wrote.
Capps has served as a Service-Learning Fellow and a Lilly Teaching Fellow and participated in the Active Learning Summer Institute, in addition to authoring 54 peer-reviewed publications and one textbook and participating in several committees at the industry, university and departmental level.
Additionally, Capps has received eight instructional or mentoring grants or fellowships. She is currently developing a ninth- to 12th-grade education and internship program in freshwater ecology, Water Dawgs, through her NSF CAREER grant.
Capps’ colleagues believe she should be recognized for “her creative and original teaching, effective mentoring, commitment to student success, service to her unit and to the discipline, and to the university. She is a wonderful collaborator, dedicated research mentor, innovative instructor, and is clearly at the forefront of her field.”
Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources
Gino D’Angelo sets an example for his students.
“Mentoring students has been one of the most enriching and important aspects of my career. I benefited from the advice of multiple people throughout my education, and as a young professional, I quickly realized that others needed the same guidance that I had received,” he said. “I try to act as an example to students by demonstrating ethics, compassion, professionalism and a link to the workforce.”
D’Angelo’s previous work as a practicing researcher and biologist gives him a unique perspective. He’s able to share invaluable real-world experience with his students, which in turn helps them gain the confidence to think independently and to communicate their thoughts with conviction.
Moreover, D’Angelo strives to provide a well-rounded education that promotes independent thinking, proficiency in written and oral communication, and contribution to society through responsible work. His instructional sessions are centered on establishing expectations for that session, stimulating thought, promoting participation and communication, and generating and maintaining respect for peers and the instructor. He works to build connections with each student so that they feel comfortable calling on him inside or outside of the classroom.
“During my time in the Warnell School, Dr. D’Angelo was an effective instructor and invaluable mentor to me. I can say with complete sincerity that I would not be in my position today without his guidance and encouragement,” one former student wrote. “Dr. D’Angelo truly cares for his students. He wants them to be successful, and he is willing to take the time to invest in their progress. I am truly grateful for his mentorship.”
D’Angelo is a graduate of the UGA Teaching Academy Early Career Fellows Program and earned an Early Career Teaching Award and Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching from the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. He’s supervised two undergraduate students in their research and is co-advisor of UGA’s student chapter of the Wildlife Society. Additionally, he’s developing four new courses, including a First-Year Odyssey seminar on wildlife-human interactions.
Since 2016, D’Angelo has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on 14 grants totaling nearly $5 million. That collective work has resulted in 18 peer-reviewed manuscripts, including two manuscripts with undergraduate students as the lead author.
In all of his work at the university, D’Angelo remains an ardent supporter of its students.
“Dr. D’Angelo has a genuine appreciation of our young people and enjoys pursuing new knowledge along with them. He has quickly distinguished himself as one of the most effective and influential undergraduate instructors among our faculty through his partnership with students in and out of the classroom. We are confident that his impact will only continue to grow in the years ahead,” two colleagues wrote.