Two University of Georgia faculty members who are leading efforts to educate the next generation of scientists have been honored for innovative teaching and mentorship with awards from the University System of Georgia.
Tessa Andrews, assistant professor of genetics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, is one of two faculty members in the system to receive a Regents’ Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award. In addition, James E. “Jeb” Byers, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Odum School of Ecology, has been named the sole research and comprehensive university recipient of the Felton Jenkins Jr. Hall of Fame Faculty Award, which recognizes a faculty member with a strong commitment to teaching and student success.
“The University of Georgia congratulates Dr. Andrews and Dr. Byers on these well-deserved awards,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “They are exemplary faculty members who reflect UGA’s increasing role as a national leader in STEM education and our commitment to student learning and success in all disciplines.”
Andrews and Byers received their awards at the Regents’ Scholarship Gala earlier this month. Both awards come with a $5,000 prize.
Andrews is a nationally recognized STEM education researcher who has established evidence-based strategies to engage her students and promote scientific thinking skills. She has redesigned introductory biology courses to make the course material more relevant to students by focusing on real-world problems such as antibiotic resistance and climate change. She uses small-group learning and other innovative teaching strategies to help students develop deep understanding.
Andrews, who joined the UGA faculty in 2013, has worked as a senior advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is a member of the steering committee of the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research. She has been a Center for Teaching and Learning Innovative Teaching Fellow, a Lilly Teaching Fellow and was a founding member of the Scientists Engaged in Education Research Center. Andrews also is part of a team of more than 100 UGA faculty who are engaged in a five-year, $3 million National Science Foundation grant-funded project that seeks to transform STEM education on campus and serve as a model for research universities across the nation.
Byers is an internationally recognized ecologist whose courses include immersion strategies and role playing, and his engagement goes beyond the classroom to include mentoring students participating in research and field work. His dedication to exemplary instruction has earned him the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship, the university’s highest teaching honor, as well as the Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the inaugural First-Year Odyssey Teaching Award and a Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award.
In addition to supporting students, Byers has worked to inspire and engage fellow faculty members in active learning strategies as an inductee to the UGA Teaching Academy and a frequent participant in Center for Teaching and Learning programs. He co-facilitated a CTL Faculty Learning Community called “Nexus Classroom: Where Teaching and Research Coalesce” and has presented best teaching practices at UGA’s New Faculty Orientation for the past three years. He also serves as associate dean for administration and research in the Odum School of Ecology.
“Dr. Andrews and Dr. Byers are the kind of professors who transform the learning experiences and lives of students,” said Libby V. Morris, interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “They exemplify the quality of instruction that students and their families have come to expect from the University of Georgia.”