Graduate School Honors Award Recipients

On April 19 at the annual Graduate School Honors Luncheon, we honored recipients of the 2022 awards for Excellence in Teaching and Research by Graduate Students, Outstanding Graduate Mentoring,  and the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate Education.

Please join us in celebrating these amazing students, faculty and staff for their contributions to excellence in graduate education at UGA.

Excellence In Teaching Award

The Excellence in Teaching Award was established by the Graduate School to recognize those students who have demonstrated superior teaching skills and have contributed to teaching beyond their own classroom responsibilities, making a significant contribution to the instructional mission of the University.


Stephanie Eldridge
Graduate Student, Department of Mathematics, Science and Social Studies Education


Elise Robinson
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Theatre and Film Studies


Michael Starling
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Philosophy


Gabrielle Grace Stecher
Ph.D. candidate, Department of English


Carol Yang
Graduate Student, Odum School of Ecology

Excellence in Research Award

Graduate Student Excellence-in-Research Awards were initiated in 1999 to recognize the quality and significance of graduate-student scholarship, these awards may be given in five areas: Fine Arts, Humanities and Letters, Life Sciences, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Applied Studies.

 Malissa Alinor
Ph.D. in Sociology
Franklin College of Arts and Sciences


Martin Douglass
Ph.D Infectious Diseases
College of Veterinary Medicine


Megan Douglass
Ph.D. Engineering – Biomedical Engineering Emphasis
College of Engineering


Anna Carleton Forrester
Ph.D. in English
Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Hoang Luong
Ph.D. Physics
Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Read more about our amazing students here.

Dean’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate Education

Dr. Shavannor M. Smith
Associate Professor & Graduate Coordinator
Department of Plant Pathology
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Shavannor Smith is the Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator in the Department of Plant Pathology. Throughout her time at UGA, she has documented an unwavering commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. During the second year as an Assistant Professor, she began taking URM high school students from the CAES (College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences) Young Scholars Summer Research Internship program (YSP) into her laboratory. Training the next generation of scholars, and graduate student advocacy and professional development, she uses her lab as a classroom to provide underrepresented minorities with research opportunities that they otherwise might not have. In fall 2022, she will launch a new initiative to foster long-time relationships with Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs) plant science departments to increase diversity in the department. Giving everything to make the student journey a success, Shavannor is an innovative, dedicated, and compassionate graduate coordinator.

Dana Barnhart
Graduate Program Administrator, Graduate Coordinator Assistant
Department of Kinesiology
Mary Frances Early College of Education
Read more.

Dana Barnhart is a Graduate Program Administrator for the Department of Kinesiology in the Mary Frances Early College of Education. Her excellent communication skills and outreach have contributed to the dramatic growth in applications to the Sport Management (MSNT) program over the past three years increasing the application pool from 75 in 2019 to 157 in 2021.  She actively engages in graduate student recruitment efforts, fostered by her success in receiving Recruitment Enhancement funds through the Graduate School’s office of Recruitment & Diversity Initiatives Office. Not only does she go above and beyond the job description to advocate for her students. Dana is an excellent bridge between students and faculty who often seek her out for guidance.

In 2021, Dana served on the MFECOE Graduate Student Professional Development and Support Working group. “Dana Barnhart advocates on behalf of graduate students and graduate education. She brings nothing but solutions, innovation, and meaningful impact to UGA’s MFECOE.”

Outstanding Graduate Mentoring

The Graduate School Outstanding Mentoring Award recognizes excellence in a variety of mentoring functions. This award encourages and rewards innovation and effectiveness in mentoring graduate students during their educational experience.

Dr. Cesar L. Escalante
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Cesar Escalante is a Professor of Agriculture and Applied Economics. Regarded by his students as the finest, dedicated, passionate mentor who selflessly cares for his students, Cesar goes the extra mile so that they will succeed in many areas. While co-producing journal publications with his students, he guides them to explore other research areas that grow students beyond what they thought was imaginable for themselves. He is a father figure and friend to all. Cesar leads his students to find their niches and passions and always encourages independent and creative thinking. As one student noted, “He always made time to meet with me and never made me feel like I was wasting his time.” But Cesar’s dedication doesn’t stop at the walls of UGA; his support runs beyond graduation to continue collaborations and identify jobs for former students. There is no doubt his students are a top priority.

Dr. Leslie Gordon Simmons
Department of Sociology
Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Leslie Gordon Simmons is a Sociology Professor for Human Development and Family Sciences. She was nominated by her mentees for her outstanding time, effort, and effectiveness as a mentor. Helping guide her students in research and publication of their theses, she is thorough and thoughtful. Both inside and outside of the school setting Leslie is supportive. Making herself available to support students at 11:45 on a Saturday night, Leslie goes above and beyond to see her students succeed. She encourages her students to nominate themselves at awards, present at conferences, and pursue publications because she recognizes these things will ensure job market success. Whether she is co-authoring manuscript publications, or practicing job talks and interviewing skills she works to connect the lines for students between academia and industry, a difficult cross for many students and sought-after guidance by any. She is constantly going out of her way to support her students in their goals and endeavors.


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