Prof. Jeb Byers is one of five faculty members honored by the University of Georgia with its highest recognition for excellence in instruction, the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship.
The Meigs Professorship underscores the university’s commitment to excellence in teaching, the value placed on the learning experiences of students and the centrality of instruction to the university’s mission. The award includes a permanent salary increase of $6,000 and a one-year discretionary fund of $1,000.
“This year’s Meigs Professors create experiences both inside and outside of the classroom that challenge students to apply their knowledge to real-world situations,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten, whose office sponsors the award. “Their commitment to students helps make the University of Georgia one of the nation’s very best public universities.”
The 2017 Meigs Professors are:
• James “Jeb” Byers, professor and associate dean of administrative affairs and research in the Odum School of Ecology.
• Markus Crepaz, professor and head of the international affairs department in the School of Public and International Affairs.
• John Maerz, professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources,
• Annette Poulsen, Augustus H. “Billy” Sterne Professor of Banking and Finance in the Terry College of Business.
• Karen Miller Russell, associate professor of public relations in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Byers uses role-playing games and team problem-solving exercises to engage students in how to apply ecological concepts. He has revitalized several course offerings in the Odum School and initiated the creation of several new courses, including the popular “Ecosystems of the World.” He created a seminar course in cross-disciplinary ecology that has brought faculty members and graduate students together for intellectual engagement on cutting-edge material. He also immerses students in ecological research on the coast of Georgia.
Byers has been awarded the Odum School’s Outstanding Teacher Award, the University’s Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the First Year Odyssey Teaching Award and the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities’ Research Mentoring Award. He formerly served as the Odum School’s graduate coordinator and as the co-facilitator of a Faculty Learning Community, and he is a member of the UGA Teaching Academy.
Crepaz teaches students to approach research questions like a puzzle-solving project while engaging them in coursework that spurs discussion and critical thinking. He has been a leader in building experiential learning opportunities for students, including resurrecting a study abroad program in Italy and launching a new study abroad program in South Africa that includes a service-learning component. In his “Politics, Film and Literature” class, he uses the power of the artistic narrative to draw students into the story and help them understand international affairs in a visceral way. He is the author of European Democracies, a leading textbook in his field.
He is the 2007 recipient of SPIA’s Excellence in Teaching Award, winner of the Center for Teaching and Learning’s “Teacher of the Week” award, and a member of the UGA Teaching Academy.
Maerz uses active learning approaches such as simulations, mock journals, facilitated peer review and reflection, and service projects to engage students and help promote independent learning. He has studied and published on student confidence with scientific writing and attitudes on autonomous learning models. He chaired the revision of Warnell’s senior thesis program, which serves as a capstone course that fulfills the university’s experiential learning requirement, and he serves on curriculum committees for the Warnell School and University Council. He also teaches and mentors graduate students pursuing UGA’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in University Teaching. Maerz is a UGA Teaching Academy member and an inaugural Center for Teaching and Learning Writing Fellow. He has received the Herrick Superior Teaching Award, the Gamma Sigma Delta Junior Teaching Award, the CURO Research Mentoring Award and the Richard B. Russell Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award.
Poulsen helped develop a class that allows students to gain experience in financial investment by managing a $1.3 million fund for the UGA Foundation. She also has developed courses for the Terry College’s study abroad programs at Oxford and in China. She formerly served as head of the banking and finance department. Poulsen is a former member of the President’s Faculty Advisory Committee and currently chairs the Student Life Committee of University Council and represents the council on the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors. She is managing co-editor of the Journal of Corporate Finance, a member of the UGA Teaching Academy and a former Senior Teaching Fellow. She has received awards for scholarly writings and has received awards for service, research and teaching from Terry College.
Russell is an award-winning media historian who also uses 21st-century tools such as social media to prepare her public relations students for their careers. She developed a blog on teaching that became a resource for public relations students and faculty members around the globe. Russell has been hailed a “Top 40 Tweeter” by PRWeek, and her students have been commended by the Public Relations Student Society of America Bateman competition five times, winning a national championship in 2007. She created the popular campus-wide course “Online Reputation Management” and collaborated on the creation of an online continuing education social media certificate course. She is a recipient of top research awards in her field, including the Pathfinder Award from the Institute for Public Relations.
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 online.