Five UGA faculty have been named Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professors, the university’s highest recognition for superior instruction at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The professorships are named for the man who in 1801 became the second president-and sole professor-of Georgia’s fledgling state university.
The 2011 Meigs Professors are:
• Christy Desmet, a professor in the English department and director of First-Year Composition;
• Jody Clay-Warner, associate professor of sociology and director of the Criminal Justice Studies Program;
• Sybilla Beckmann Kazez, a professor in the department of mathematics and author of the widely used textbook Mathematics for Elementary Teachers;
• Karen Cornell, a professor in the department of small animal medicine and surgery in the College of Veterinary Medicine; and
• Wan-I Oliver Li, associate professor in the department of physiology and pharmacology in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
The announcement was made by Jere Morehead, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, whose office administers the awards program. Morehead is himself a Meigs Professor, having received the award in 2001.
“I applaud these faculty members for the significant contributions they have made to undergraduate and graduate instruction at UGA,” Morehead said. “I also want to thank the committee of faculty and students who selected this year’s awards winners from the nominations submitted.”
Desmet, a Shakespeare scholar, came to the university in 1984 and since 1998 has served as director of First-Year Composition, which each year introduces more than 7,000 undergraduates to the demands of college-level writing. She has been a pioneer in the adaptation of technology to effective writing instruction, according to Douglas Anderson, head of the English department. One of her recent published articles, “Teaching Shakespeare with YouTube,” provides “a vivid illustration of the extraordinary appetite she has displayed throughout her teaching career for employing the newest tools in the service of her deepest intellectual passions,” he said.
Clay-Warner, who came to UGA in 1998, became director of the Criminal Justice Studies Program last July after serving as graduate coordinator in the sociology department for five years. She also is an affiliate faculty member of the Institute for Women’s Studies.
During her tenure as graduate coordinator, she created a job market seminar that has had notable success in placing Ph.D. students in tenure-track positions. She also was instrumental in establishing the Laboratory for the Study of Social Interaction that provides research opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students. William Finlay, sociology department head, in his nomination letter, cited her “exceptional ability to make difficult material comprehensible without sacrificing rigor or complexity.”
Beckmann Kazez came to UGA in 1988 and has been active both nationally and locally in mathematics education reform. She has served on advisory panels of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Research Council and the Common Core State Standards Initiative to develop national standards for mathematics teaching. In addition to teaching “teacher prep” courses for pre-service teachers at UGA, she works directly with teachers and students in local schools, where one principal noted she “started a math revolution.” She is the author of Mathematics for Elementary Teachers, which is considered the leading textbook for teachers of elementary and middle school grades in the U.S.
Cornell joined the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1998 and teaches courses across all four years of the curriculum, which includes three years of classroom and lab instruction and a final year of experiential learning in the teaching hospital. For the classroom, she developed a popular communications skills course for veterinarians, as well as videos and computerized animations to help students learn complex concepts related to surgery. She is a two-time recipient of the college’s highest award for teaching and a six-time recipient of a faculty recognition award given annually by each vet school class to the faculty member who has contributed the most to their education.
Li joined the department of physiology and pharmacology in the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1988. He revitalized the department’s undergraduate general physiology course that enrolls students from many departments on campus, taking it from an enrollment of 10 students in 2000 to a course now offered in both fall and spring that is fully subscribed at 500 students per year. Dean Sheila Allen notes that the course “puts the vet school on the map” for students across campus, who are enthusiastic in their praise of his engaging teaching style. The students he has mentored from that class include Rhodes Scholar Deep Shah, now in his second year at Harvard Medical School.
The Meigs Awards were presented for the first time in 1982 and honored two professors every year through 1988. The awards program was expanded and enhanced in 1989 to recognize up to five faculty annually. The award was changed to a professorship in 2004 to provide continuing recognition for faculty who receive the honor and convey the university’s commitment to classroom instruction and the value placed on the student learning experience.