Campus News

Two faculty members honored with UGA Award for Excellence in Teaching

Maganda, Wolf recognized for their outstanding instruction, dedication to students

Two University of Georgia faculty have been named recipients of the University of Georgia Award for Excellence in Teaching for their dedication and creativity in the classroom. The award recognizes teaching faculty who strengthen the university’s mission by offering exemplary instruction, promoting innovation and providing an engaging environment for student learning.

The 2023-2024 honorees are Dainess Maganda, senior lecturer in the department of comparative literature and intercultural studies in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and Montgomery Wolf, principal lecturer in the department of history, also in the Franklin College.

“Drs. Maganda and Wolf design courses that encourage student creativity and collaboration,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “They put into practice the core values of this award and promote teaching excellence among UGA faculty.”

Dainess Maganda has been named a recipient of the Excellence in Teaching award. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith/UGA)

Dainess Maganda

Whether bringing homemade chai and chapattis to her classes or developing a custom app to help her students practice Swahili, Maganda goes above and beyond to create a positive and engaging learning environment for her students. Her goal is to help students feel welcomed and valued as they expand their worldview through interactions with their classmates and the course material.

Students in Maganda’s Swahili and African language and culture courses enjoy a variety of hands-on experiences. In one course, she takes students to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to practice their Swahili by naming the flower colors. Maganda and her students have also offered Swahili lessons to the elderly at the Athens Council on Aging as a service-learning project. In addition to the app Maganda created, her students use tools such as Edpuzzle, Padlet and VoiceThread to practice their language skills.

“She taught me how to learn in a different way,” a student wrote in a course evaluation. “Her enthusiasm for the topic made me fall in love with this class and learning a new language.”

Maganda is always working to improve her teaching. She has been a Service-Learning Fellow, Online Teaching Fellow and an Active Learning Summer Institute Fellow. She also regularly applies for and uses funding from programs such as the Faculty/Student Enrichment Fund to facilitate out-of-classroom activities. Maganda has received several grants from the U.S. Department of Education to run programs in Tanzania, both for language intensive trips with UGA students and for curriculum enhancement programs with U.S. K-12 teachers and administrators.

Montgomery Wolf has been named a recipient of the Excellence in Teaching award. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

Montgomery Wolf

If you walk into one of Wolf’s classes, you might find yourself witnessing the debates of the 1787 Constitutional Convention or New Left strategy meetings in 1968. These are examples of Reacting to the Past, a special approach to teaching history in which students perform as characters in an immersive role-play of historical events. Within these scenarios, students develop their critical thinking and public speaking skills as they act out their roles in research-informed and innovative ways.

“Dr. Wolf designs her activities so that students are practitioners of history rather than passive recipients of content; they ask questions and look for evidence as historians would,” said Stephen Mihm, professor and head of the UGA department of history. “This mindset fosters an enduring curiosity about the present, understanding how historical forces shape contemporary life.”

Wolf’s innovation extends beyond Reacting to the Past courses. She took her students to UGA’s Hargrett Library to examine primary sources, redesigned her large survey classes to tie in popular culture themes and mixes short lectures with activities in a modified flipped structure.

Within the history department, Wolf is widely regarded as a pedagogical leader. She was in the inaugural cohort of the Active Learning Summer Institute and was one of the first UGA professors to incorporate an Open Educational Resource textbook into her courses. In 2023, she was appointed the director of the Franklin Residential College, UGA’s largest and oldest living-learning community. Beyond the UGA campus, she is a subject matter expert for the University System of Georgia’s eCore program, develops and scores Advanced Placement exams in U.S. history and has taught abroad in Benin, Austria and Tanzania.

Nominations for the UGA Award for Excellence are submitted by deans and considered by a committee of senior faculty members and undergraduate students. Full-time faculty members who have held a non-tenurable teaching position at UGA for at least 10 years are eligible for the honor, which includes a $7,500 cash award. To learn more about the award, see