Campus News

Five faculty members named Meigs Professors for teaching excellence

Five faculty members at the University of Georgia have been awarded the institution’s highest teaching honor, the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship.

The 2020-2021 Meigs professors are:

  • Joseph Goetz, professor of financial planning in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences
  • John Mativo, associate professor of career and information studies in the Mary Frances Early College of Education
  • Lori A. Ringhand, J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law in the School of Law
  • Jo Smith, associate professor of small animal internal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Zachary Wood, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

“This year’s Meigs Professorship honorees are exemplary educators who engage students at all levels through innovative instruction and experiential learning,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “They are committed to positioning their students for success, not only in the classroom but throughout their lives.”

Joseph Goetz is a professor of financial planning in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Joseph Goetz

Goetz is widely recognized across the country as a pioneer in academic service-learning, problem-based learning and other forms of experiential learning in financial planning. Over the course of his career, he has created, developed and implemented a range of innovative clinics, centers, programs, courses, internships and companies to enhance student learning.

Goetz’s experience in financial planning consulting, namely through the wealth management firm he co-founded—Elwood & Goetz Wealth Advisory Group—has given him a valuable perspective and skillset, which has enhanced the educational experience of his students. He created a pro bono financial planning program and co-founded the UGA ASPIRE Clinic, a multidisciplinary teaching clinic for financial planning, family therapy and law students. He also co-founded the university’s master’s and doctoral program in financial planning and worked with the Graduate School to create a financial education program for graduate students.

He created the nation’s first financial planning clinical practicum course, the nation’s first course in financial therapy and is the co-founder of the college’s Schwab Financial Planning Center, which is designed to promote experiential learning. He also co-published his field’s first textbook on client communication to enhance students’ learning. Goetz has earned numerous honors, including the university’s Service-Learning Teaching Excellence Award, Creative Teaching Award and Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

John Mativo is an associate professor of career and information studies in the Mary Frances Early College of Education. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

John Mativo

Mativo regularly collaborates with industry leaders in developing solutions to real-life challenges that are then subsequently used as the inspiration for outstanding instruction to benefit his students. He developed a robotics laboratory at UGA where students learn kinematics in a simulated industrial setting. Within the College of Engineering, he established and leads the UGA student chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers, now known as UGA Motorsports. The group created the university’s first-ever student designed and built Formula SAE car, which has participated in collegiate competitions with 80 other U.S. and international institutions.

Mativo shares his expertise nationally and globally. As a member of the Research and Innovation in Learning group in the College of Education, he contributed to the development of a robotics curriculum for elementary students that been used in the U.S., China, Korea, Honduras and Tanzania. He currently serves as co-principal investigator on three federally funded grants to promote STEM education. One project promotes robotics education for secondary school students in Tanzania and has created study abroad opportunities for UGA students. The second project is developing a STEM education curriculum for a university in Côte d’Ivoire. The third introduces middle school students in the U.S. to artificial intelligence.

His additional honors include receiving the university’s Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Society of Automotive Engineers Outstanding Faculty Advisors Award, which is an international honor.

Lori Ringhand is the J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law in the School of Law. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Lori Ringhand

Ringhand, who is currently serving as interim director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center, is among the most highly regarded instructors in the School of Law. She inspires students to think critically and analytically in courses that include constitutional law, election law, and state and local government law. She has twice received the law school’s highest teaching honor, the C. Ronald Ellington Award for Excellence in Teaching, as well as the John C. O’Byrne Memorial Award for Significant Contributions Furthering Student-Faculty Relations.

Her teaching is complemented by her status as a preeminent constitutional law scholar. She was recently awarded a grant from the Stanton Foundation to develop and teach an undergraduate course titled “Democracy and the Constitution.” She is the co-author of “The Supreme Court Confirmation Process and Constitutional Change” and “Constitutional Law: A Context and Practices Casebook,” which is part of a series of casebooks dedicated to incorporating active teaching and learning methods into traditional law school casebooks. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she has worked to improve the student learning experience through several administrative roles. From 2015 to 2018, she served as associate dean for academic affairs, a role which included overseeing major curriculum changes in the law school, and also was instrumental in developing the law school’s student assessment plans.

Ringhand shares her expertise internationally as well, having served as a Fulbright Scotland Visiting Professor at the University of Aberdeen and a Faculty Member in Residence at the Georgia Law Oxford Semester program. She is widely cited in national and international media regarding U.S. constitutional and election law issues, and the Supreme Court confirmation process.

Jo Smith is an associate professor of small animal internal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Jo Smith

Smith, who directs the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Small Animal Internal Medicine Residency program, takes an all-encompassing approach to teaching. In addition to helping students and clinicians gain biomedical knowledge, she has developed professional skills training in the Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine curriculum. Areas include communication, ethics and jurisprudence, cultural competency, and the fostering of a diverse and inclusive environment. She promotes self-directed learning to underpin the commitment to lifelong learning in the Veterinarian’s Oath. Given the mental health issues faced by veterinary health care providers, Smith also identified well-being and resilience as priority areas for inclusion. Her efforts led to an ad hoc Wellbeing Committee, the creation of a CVM Wellbeing strategic plan for DVM students, and several student support programs.

Smith is committed to raising the quality of instruction for all students in the College of Veterinary Medicine. With support from the Center for Teaching and Learning, she co-launched a Faculty Learning Community for members of her department on peer observation of teaching that resulted in a detailed rubric to support the development of high-quality instruction. Smith is heavily involved in revising the DVM curriculum, and is part of a regional veterinary teaching consortium. She has received several instructional honors for her didactic and clinical teaching, including the CVM’s Zoetis Distinguished Teaching Award and David Tyler Award for Advances in Teaching.

Zachary Wood is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Zachary Wood

Wood, an American Cancer Society Research Scholar and Georgia Cancer Coalition Scholar, combines peer learning with hands-on experiences to engage students. He nurtures student engagement by participating in virtual study groups that are designed to overcome the logistical difficulties associated with in-person study groups. To further stimulate peer learning, while reducing costs for students, he is spearheading an effort to create a free online textbook for his introductory biochemistry course that is being authored by Honors students.

Wood is an internationally renowned researcher in the field of protein structure and function who provides undergraduate students with experiential learning opportunities in his lab. Since coming to UGA, nearly 60% of his journal articles have been co-authored by undergraduates, and he also developed a First-Year Odyssey Seminar course that introduces students to careers in scientific research.

Wood serves as the graduate coordinator for the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, home to 70 students. There, he established the Eriksson Lecture series, which celebrates a graduate student’s all-important first publication by inviting them to give a seminar featuring their work. His Ph.D. graduates have found success in postdoctoral and industry positions, and he has served on more than 30 dissertation committees. Wood has received several honors, including being recognized as an Outstanding Professor by the Student Government Association and receiving the university’s Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

The Meigs Professorship was established to underscore the university’s commitment to excellence in teaching, the value placed on the learning experiences of students and the centrality of instruction to the university’s mission. The award includes a permanent salary increase of $6,000 and a one-time discretionary fund of $1,000.

More information about the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorships is at