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Newest Meigs Professors reflect UGA’s commitment to excellence in teaching

Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship honors six faculty members for commitment to teaching

Six exceptional faculty members have been honored with the University of Georgia’s highest award for teaching, the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship.

The Meigs Professorship reflects the university’s commitment to excellence in teaching, the value placed on student learning experiences and the central role instruction plays in the university’s mission.

The 2023-2024 Meigs Professors are:

  • Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, professor in the department of language and literacy education, Mary Frances Early College of Education;
  • Tina Carpenter, professor in the J.M. Tull School of Accounting, Terry College of Business;
  • Erin Dolan, professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Keith Dougherty, professor in the department of political science, School of Public and International Affairs;
  • Leslie Gordon Simons, professor in the department of sociology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; and
  • Julie Stanton, associate professor in the department of cellular biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“This year’s Meigs Professors demonstrate exceptional creativity and a deep and sustained commitment to students at the University of Georgia,” said S. Jack Hu, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Their innovative instruction and inspiring mentorship are among the many reasons UGA is recognized as one of the nation’s best public universities.”

Melisa (Misha) Cahnmann-Taylor is a 2024 recipient of the Meigs Teaching Award. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith/UGA)

Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor

Cahnmann-Taylor brings a passion for language education and creativity to her classes. Through her teaching, research and writing, she helps future educators learn how to incorporate poetry, art and theatre into their instruction.

Among the courses Cahnmann-Taylor teaches is a poetry workshop for aspiring educators. In this class, students gain a basic understanding of poetic craft in English and apply that knowledge to educational practice with first and second language learners. Another course focuses on arts-based research and how it fits into the wider scope of qualitative research methods.

A member of the language and literacy education faculty since 2002, Cahnmann-Taylor is a five-time winner of the Mary Frances Early College of Education’s most prestigious awards for instruction and distinguished accomplishment. Additionally, she has been recognized by the university, the state of Georgia, the U.S. Embassy and private foundations for teaching excellence. These honors include the 2018 First Year Odyssey Teaching Award and induction into the UGA Teaching Academy. In 2015 she received the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman award for “Professors Who Inspire,” a national honor recognizing teachers who have motivated their former students to make a significant contribution to society.

“Dr. Cahnmann-Taylor exhibits teaching excellence at the University of Georgia and around the world,” said Allison Nealy, head of the department of language and literacy education. “She has contributed to the overall quality of interdisciplinary, multilingual and transnational education on campus.”

In addition to serving on the language and literacy education faculty, Cahnmann-Taylor is an affiliate faculty member in the department of art education and in the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute. She also serves on the advisory board of the UGA Arts Collaborative and is a member of the UGA Arts Council.

Tina Carpenter is a 2024 recipient of the Meigs Teaching Award. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith/UGA)

Tina Carpenter

Recognized as a global expert and leading researcher in the field of auditing and fraud identification, Carpenter has transformed the study of accounting into memorable, hands-on learning experiences for her students.

“Not only is Dr. Carpenter an extraordinary teacher when it comes to explaining difficult concepts, sparking interest in the course material, and connecting classroom content to practice, but she also fosters a kind and collaborative learning environment that reflects how much she cares for her students,” said Shannon Chen, a former student now serving as an assistant professor of accounting at the University of Arizona.

In one course, Carpenter engages students through a fraud simulation exercise that’s framed as a whodunit involving a baseball organization. Working in teams, students experience what it’s like to be forensic accountants by using documents and other evidence to uncover the source of fraud.

Carpenter built on the success of this team-based exercise by creating a fraud simulation that combines evidence-based instructional practices with cutting-edge technology including artificial intelligence. Students navigate the investigation by conducting “live” interviews with avatars, collecting evidence, analyzing data and building data analytics. Launched in fall 2022, the fraud simulation has already been adopted by several other universities.

In 2023, Carpenter received national recognition for her innovative instruction, winning the EY Academic Resource Center Curriculum Innovation Award. At UGA, she has been a Lilly Teaching Fellow, a Teaching Academy Fellow, a Senior Teaching Fellow and is a 2021 Creative Teaching Award recipient.

Erin Dolan is a 2024 recipient of the Meigs Teaching Award. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

Erin Dolan

Dolan believes that the best way to learn science is to think like a scientist. “I ask my students whether they can learn to play a sport by watching someone else play it, which in my view is similar to listening to a lecture about someone else’s thinking,” she said.

In her introductory courses, Dolan guides students through case studies and problem-based learning. Her students learn to work with the messiness and complexity of science and gain an understanding of its relevance outside of the classroom.

Dolan has worked to expand access to undergraduate research at UGA and nationally through Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs), a form of experiential learning designed to engage every student in making discoveries that matter outside the classroom.

Dolan’s dedication to exemplary instruction extends far beyond her own classroom. She leads workshops across campus and across the nation on topics including how to design and teach CUREs, how to mentor early career researchers and how to design effective undergraduate research programs. Additionally, she serves on the department of biochemistry and molecular biology’s executive committee and on UGA’s Active Learning Advisory Committee.

“No one at UGA has done more to help our community define excellent and effective teaching than Erin,” said Naomi J. Norman, director of the Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program in the McBee Institute of Higher Education.

Keith Dougherty is a 2024 recipient of the Meigs Teaching Award. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

Keith Dougherty

A competition drawn from the popular reality television show “Survivor” is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the creative teaching methods Dougherty uses in his American politics and game theory courses.

Through experiments, debates, simulations, group work and other active learning strategies, Dougherty brings energy to the classroom. He even developed a website that provides a suite of innovative classroom materials for instructors across the nation who want to use these ideas in their own classes.

“His courses typically introduce formal analytics, which include mathematical structures that can be intimidating to students, but his passion for the subject matter and his innovative teaching methods engage and stimulate students,” said Matthew R. Auer, dean of the School of Public and International Affairs.

A leading scholar in early American politics and social choice, Dougherty has earned several accolades for his teaching at UGA. He received a Creative Teaching Award, the Lothar Tresp Outstanding Professor Award, was inducted into the prestigious UGA Teaching Academy and was selected to serve as a Senior Teaching Fellow.

Expanding his impact outside the classroom, Dougherty founded the annual Constitution Day Lecture that brings world-renowned scholars to UGA to interact with students. He also created the American Founding Group to provide a forum for undergraduates, graduate students and faculty from across campus to discuss the origins of the American republic and early American political thought.

Leslie Gordon Simons is a 2024 recipient of the Meigs Teaching Award. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Leslie Gordon Simons

“For Dr. Simons, teaching is a calling,” said Daniel J. Boches, a former student now serving as an assistant professor of sociology at McDaniel College in Maryland. “She is always innovating, never static in the pursuit of trying to find the most effective strategies for helping students reach their fullest potential.”

An early adopter of active learning, Simons continually seeks out inventive teaching strategies, encourages robust discussion and challenges the way students analyze class topics. One of the latest examples of Simons’ creative teaching is a gamified simulation she is testing in her Science of Happiness course. Incorporating generative artificial intelligence, the simulation is designed to help students learn about building happier lives and communities.

“Family sociology requires a student to go beyond their ‘normal’ ways of thinking and expand their worldviews,” said Sara Edwards, a 2022 UGA graduate now studying law at Tulane University. “I believe this class would be incomplete without the unique experiences and perspectives that I was able to hear from my fellow classmates whose backgrounds differ from mine.”

Simons’ peers have recognized the impact of the creativity and vision she brings to teaching. She was inducted into the UGA Teaching Academy and received a First-Year Odyssey Teaching Excellence Award, the Sandy Beaver Professorship, the Graduate School’s Outstanding Mentor Award and the Creative Teaching Award.

Simons is an internationally recognized family sociologist who has been principal or co-investigator on more than $20 million in federal funding. She has mentored numerous graduate students, including publication of over 60 peer-reviewed articles with graduate student co-authors, thus exemplifying the model of a true teacher-scholar.

Julie Stanton is a 2024 recipient of the Meigs Teaching Award. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Julie Stanton

Stanton’s colleagues say she possesses an exceptional ability to challenge students to think critically about science while fostering their joy of learning.

From the first moment students walk into her weekly cell biology breakout sessions, Stanton greets each one by name. UGA graduate Daisha Strobridge, now a student in the Morehouse School of Medicine, calls these breakout sessions “nothing short of transformative.” Strobridge says the sessions provide students practice in critical thinking while working as a team, a key skill they need for their careers.

During her tenure at UGA, Stanton has transformed the cell biology course, a challenging senior-level class required for all life science majors. She has created, tested, revised and retested 17 lessons in the style of process-oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL), an evidence-based approach to collaborative problem-solving. Additionally, she has mentored 11 colleagues and more than a dozen graduate teaching assistants to teach their own POGIL-style breakout sessions. Stanton’s dedication to instruction has been recognized with the Sandy Beaver Teaching Award, the Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award and induction into the UGA Teaching Academy.

Beyond the classroom, Stanton seeks to include students in all aspects of research. She has mentored 31 UGA undergraduate researchers in her lab, 25 of whom are co-authors on peer-reviewed papers.

“An important aspect of Dr. Stanton’s interactions with students is how much she believes in and pushes them,” said Me’Shae Johnson, a former student. “There were times I didn’t believe in myself, but her unwavering support and reassurance allowed me to accomplish goals I felt unattainable.”

The Meigs Professorship, sponsored by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, includes a permanent salary increase of $6,000 and a one-time discretionary fund of $1,000. Meigs Professors are nominated by their school or college and chosen by a committee consisting of 12 faculty members, two undergraduate students and one graduate student.

More information about the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorships is at