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Three faculty named recipients of Russell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Three UGA faculty have been named recipients of the Richard B. Russell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

The 2011 Russell Award winners are Wesley Allen, an associate professor in the chemistry department of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; John Maerz, an associate professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources; and Kaye Sweetser, an associate professor of public relations in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The announcement was made by Provost Jere Morehead, whose office administers the awards program.

The Russell Awards recognize excellence in undergraduate instruction by faculty members in their early academic careers. Three awards are made each year, with each awardee receiving $5,000 from the Richard B. Russell Foundation.

The awards presentations are usually made at the annual Faculty Recognition Banquet in April, but Sweetser received her award at a small ceremony on March 9. Sweetser, a Navy Reservist, has been mobilized as an Individual Augmentee to Afghanistan.

Sweetser joined the UGA faculty in 2006 and teaches courses in public relations research methods, social media and public relations campaigns. She advised the Grady College team that won the 2010 national championship in the PRSSA Bateman Case Study Competition. She also has published papers with undergraduates in top public relations journals and co-authored papers with undergraduates that were presented at major conferences.

Maerz came to UGA in 2005 and teaches undergraduate courses in herpetology and animal behavior, as well as an Honors Gateway Seminar for Natural Sciences Research. A member of the inaugural Writing Fellows program at UGA, he provides students many opportunities to write in his classes and is also committed to student-led problem solving using a variety of techniques in both large and small classes. He actively involves undergraduates in his research program and has been recognized with a mentor award by UGA’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

Like the other recipients, Allen successfully combines teaching, research and service. He came to UGA as a senior research scientist with the Center for Computational Chemistry and became an adjunct and then associate professor in the chemistry department, where he receives stellar student evaluations for the large freshman chemistry courses he teaches using innovative technology and encouraging student interaction. A 2009 recipient of UGA’s Creative Research Medal, he also was recognized in 2010 by the Northeast Georgia Section of the American Chemical Society for outstanding undergraduate teaching.

The Russell Awards, named for the long-serving senator from Georgia, were established by the Russell Foundation and first presented in 1991.