On Tuesday, April 18 at the 2023 Graduate School Honors Luncheon*, we will celebrate and honor recipients of the 2023 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.
Institute for Women’s Studies and Romance Languages, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
Vera Bulla will graduate in May 2023 with a PhD in Romance Languages. Her research of contemporary novels of Brazilian Literature focuses on the interconnection between novels of formation and environmental disasters. During her doctoral study, she was a teaching assistant for the Portuguese Program and for the Institute for Women’s Studies. This past year she was a Future Faculty Fellow with the Center for Teaching and Learning. She connects Literature and Art in her classes, and, because of that, she developed an interest in creative writing and illustration. Her talents also led her to publish short stories and poetry.
Marketing, Terry College of Business
Rachel Ramey is a PhD candidate in Marketing at the Terry College of Business. Her research examines using marketing strategy to positively impact the world. She ran a large-scale randomized controlled trial in Malawi to increase financial inclusion for women. She also researches what can be learned from the role of marketing in the opioid epidemic.
She has been a TA and taught as an Instructor of Record in the Marketing Department. She was a Future Faculty Fellow for the Center for Teaching and Learning in 2022. In her classroom, she helps students develop a global perspective and understand the role of data and technology in marketing. She is passionate about teaching the next generation of business leaders how to make the world a better place.
Plant Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
Derek Denney is a PhD candidate in Plant Biology whose research investigates the link between plant performance and physiology under contemporary and future climate conditions and examines the genetic basis of local adaptation.
Prior to attending UGA, Derek was a teaching assistant at Washington State University where he helped develop an inquiry-based curriculum for organismal biology labs. While at UGA, Derek has been a graduate lab assistant, teaching assistant, and co-instructor for Biology and Plant Biology courses. Most recently, Derek taught Plant Taxonomy and redesigned the course to include a course-based research experience. This project provided students with hands-on experience preparing herbarium specimens and digital collections through an online citizen science repository. He was a participant in the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Future Faculty Fellow Program in 2022.
Derek enjoys mentoring and helping undergraduates pursue their interests in research. He also enjoys teaching and strives to create a classroom that values diversity of thought and inclusion. He hopes to become a faculty member at a university where he can continue to research and teach the next generation of scientists.
Mathematics Education, Mary Frances Early College of Education
Anne Waswa is a doctoral candidate in Mathematics Education in the Department of Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies Education. Her research focuses on investigating and supporting pre-service teachers’ mathematical creativity. Anne’s outstanding contributions at UGA are in teaching, research, and service. She took a lead role in conducting COVID-19-related research in Kenya in collaboration with researchers from the United States and South Korea. In this research, her team developed quantitative data representations that aid citizens in understanding and assessing pandemic information and risks. They developed a tool that was featured in the New York Times and other news channels. Additionally, Anne has supervised pre-service math teachers towards their certification, served as treasurer for a student organization, editor for a student-run journal, and was a founding member of the African Graduate Students Forum at UGA. Her awards include the outstanding teaching assistant award, top research presentation award at the 14th annual KESSA (Kenya Studies and Scholars Association) conference, and more.
English, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
Savannah Jensen is a PhD candidate in the English Department where she teaches first-year and British literature to 1700 students.
Savannah co-authored an activity with Emily Beckwith that is included in Michal Reznizki and David T. Coad’s Dynamic Activities for First Year Composition, which was published in March 2023. She is a member of UGA’s Center for Teaching and Learning Future Faculty Fellowship 2022 cohort. UGA’s Center for Teaching and Learning granted her the Emerging SoTL Scholar Award for her work examining her students’ experience of learning in a gamified composition class. Savannah was also a memeber of the National Humanities Center’s Virtual Graduate Summer Residency program.
Her experiences have informed her teaching practice, which emphasizes connection and creativity in the classroom. She believes that students should be able to make course content their own and have opportunities to share their learning with their peers.
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.
Excellence in Research – Professional and Applied Studies
Dr. Manjyot Kaur Chug
Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
Dr. Manjyot Kaur Chug is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Handa Biomaterials Lab at the College of Engineering, UGA. She graduated with a doctorate from UGA College of Engineering and is the first person to earn her Ph.D. in the new Biomedical Engineering program in 2022, where she was mentored by Dr. Elizabeth Brisbois. Her doctoral research focused on developing antibacterial and antifouling medical device interfaces. To date, Manjyot’s research has resulted in several peer-reviewed publications in some of the top journals in the field. Her innovative thinking and excellent scientific aptitude have also resulted in her becoming an inventor on two patent applications filed to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). For her contributions, she received the UGA Graduate School Summer Research Grant 2022, Nano-Bio REU Excellence in Mentorship Award, an ORC Doctoral Fellowship (which supported her first year of Ph.D.), Graduate Student Travel Award at SFB, UCF, UGA Graduate Presentation Fellowship, and a travel grant from the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Manjyot won two prestigious teaching awards for her excellence in teaching from the UGA College of Engineering and the Outstanding Teaching Award from the UGA Graduate School. Through these experiences, Manjyot has developed skills to collaborate with a wide range of translational researchers from basic scientists to clinicians, with the goal of working together and solving biomedical technology challenges of the future. She is currently continuing her work in developing smart antibacterial materials that can be tuned for their applications depending on the severity of the situation.
Excellence in Research – Social Sciences
Dr. Emma Frank
Management, Terry College of Business
Emma Frank graduated with a PhD in Management (Organizational Behavior) in May 2022. Her research focuses on the implicit theories that people hold about their lives, work, and relationships. This focuses on the emotions that such beliefs trigger, the implications of chasing (or achieving) what people believe to be the trademarks of a “good” or “successful” life, and how general ideas about relationships and relationship expectations guide or disrupt workplace social dynamics.
Some of her current projects explore how employees develop implicit theories about what is expected of themselves and others, the effects of regulating emotions in the pursuit of those expectations, and the emotional and relational consequences triggered when
employees fail to “live up” to desired-self goals and others’ expectations. During her doctoral studies at the University of Georgia, she was a recipient of the Knox Scholarship. She now works as an assistant professor in the Department of Management at the University of New Hampshire.
Excellence in Research – Arts and Humanities
Dr. Bethany Bateman McDonald
Romance Languages / Hispanic Linguistics, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
Bethany Bateman McDonald graduated with a PhD in Romance Languages with an emphasis in Hispanic Linguistics in May 2022. Her dissertation research used novel methodological procedures to investigate variation in simple and compound past forms by speakers of Cusco Spanish. She operationalized semantic-pragmatic factors and collected natural speech data from monolingual and bilingual speakers of Cusco Spanish and/or Quechua in collaboration with a non-profit women’s health clinic, CerviCusco.
Her findings indicated that the Present Perfect in Cusco Spanish is developing along a process of subjectivization encoding speaker-oriented information. Specifically, Bethany’s work demonstrated that the Present Perfect can mark events that are emotionally relevant to the speaker, regardless of temporal distance. Funding for this research came from the Graduate School Dean’s Award, the Dolores Artau Scholarship Award, the Willson Center Graduate Research Award, and the Global Research Collaboration Grant.
During her graduate studies, Bethany taught various courses in Spanish and Linguistics, including upper-level courses like Spanish Linguistics and 1st & 2nd Language Acquisition. Additionally, she was the Quechua Instructor for the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute (LACSI) and developed a four-course sequence of curriculum materials for the Quechua program. Bethany was nominated for the Philanthropic Educational Organization Scholar Award in 2018 and received the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2019. She has also been recognized by various students in the UGA Thank-a-Teacher Program. Currently, Bethany is a Spanish Instructor for the Department of Romance Languages at UGA and is wildly devoted to her all-time greatest accomplishments, her two children.
Excellence in Research – Life Sciences
Dr. Ashley Rasys
Veterinary Medicine, UGA College of Veterinary Medicine
Dr. Ashley Rasys is a veterinarian clinician-scientist. She graduated with her doctorate degree from the College of Veterinary Medicine and received her Ph.D. from the department of Cellular Biology in 2022, where she was co-advised under Dr. James Lauderdale and Dr. Douglas Menke. Her research focused on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the development of the fovea of the eye, which is a pit-like structure that is critical for vision in the retina of humans and some vertebrates. Ashley investigated fovea development in the Brown anole lizard and pioneered the development of gene-editing technology in this species.
For her contributions, she received the International Society for Transgenic Technologies Young Investigator Award and the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Research Award for Graduate Veterinarians. She is also an ARCS Foundation Scholar and over the years, has received several fellowships and grants to support her research. She is currently continuing her work investigating fovea development in lizards as a postdoctoral fellow with the Hufnagel group at the National Eye Institute a part of the National Institutes of Health.
Excellence in Research – Medical and Physical Sciences
Dr. Alanna Koritzke
Chemistry, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
Alanna Koritzke graduated with a PhD in Chemistry in December 2022, where she was advised by Dr. Brandon Rotavera. Her dissertation research focus was on the chemical kinetics of biofuel combustion which is motivated by ongoing challenges in sustainable energy. She used a jet-stirred reactor coupled with advanced analytical diagnostics including gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, and absorption spectroscopy to probe chemical reactions of tetrahydrofuran, a promising next-generation biofuel.
She published her work on tetrahydrofuran in Combustion and Flame and presented her work at several conferences including the Eastern States Section of the Combustion Institute Meeting, the American Chemical Society National Meeting, and the International Symposium on Gas Kinetics and Related Phenomena. Alanna contributed significantly to method development within the Rotavera Group, which has a lasting impact on current and future projects. She has over 10 co-authored publications attributed to her contributions to other projects within the laboratory in collaboration with the Air Quality and Climate Research Laboratory at UGA, and with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories.
In recognition of her significant contributions to research and scholarly publishing in the Rotavera Group, Alanna has also received numerous awards and Fellowships, including the Chateaubriand Fellowship from the Embassy of France, the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship from the Department of Transportation, and the Beverly Hirsch Frank Graduate Fellowship from the UGA Graduate School, in addition to the 2019 Martin Reynolds Smith Award for from the Department of Chemistry.
DEAN’S AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTIONS TO GRADUATE EDUCATION
The Dean’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate Education recognizes excellence in service and advocacy on behalf of graduate students and graduate education at the University of Georgia. It is presented to a Graduate Coordinator and a Graduate Coordinator Assistant who have demonstrated excellence in advising, supporting, and advocating for graduate students; developing innovative ways to promote graduate education; and, making significant efforts toward the recruitment, retention, and inclusion of students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Jessica Legge Muilenburg
Professor and the Assistant Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Assessment in the College of
Jessica Legge Muilenburg is a Professor and the Assistant Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Assessment in the College of Public Health. She has been the Graduate Coordinator of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior since 2012. Dr. Muilenburg credits her success in this position to the synergistic relationship she has with the UGA Graduate School. Dr. Muilenburg’s commitment to recruitment is unmistakable. She is a “high-touch” graduate coordinator and is committed to discussing educational opportunities with students, even if they are considering programs at other universities.
She sees her role as the Graduate Coordinator as not just managing a program, but engaging applicants, enrolled students, and graduates throughout the educational process. She is committed to recruiting and enrolling a diverse group of students, as illustrated by her relationship with the Office of Recruitment and Diversity Initiatives at the Graduate School. Her commitment to graduate education is evident in all that she does. She is an effective, dedicated, and compassionate Graduate Coordinator.
Graduate Coordinator Assistant
Graduate Coordinator Assistant for the Department of Psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
Elizabeth Davis has served as Graduate Coordinator Assistant for the department of Psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences since February 2008. During that time she has been recognized as an exemplary resource and advocate for doctoral students in three Psychology graduate programs, as well as an asset to faculty and staff in the department. Elizabeth manages hundreds of doctoral applications through admissions cycles each year, while providing exceptional support to current students in their degree completion. She is recognized by graduate students in her department for her exceptional dedication, empathy, attention to detail, and patience in supporting a diverse graduate program.
OUTSTANDING GRADUATE MENTOR AWARDS
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. In 2023, two awards are presented, one in Life and Physical Sciences and one in the Humanities and Fine Arts.
Humanities and Fine Arts
Dr. Margaret E. L. Renwick
Associate Professor of Linguistics
From the time of her initial appointment as an Assistant Professor in 2014, Dr. Renwick has been exceptionally active as a graduate student mentor. Her effectiveness in this role is demonstrated by the large number of students who work with her (including students from the Department of Romance Languages and the Institute of Artificial Intelligence) and the success of her advisee’s. A particularly notable aspect of this work is her promotion of students’ professional development, by encouraging them to present and publish their work.
Dr. Renwick regularly co-authors presentations and publications with her students, serving as an invaluable role model and teaching them how to present themselves professionally, to network at conferences, and to navigate the submission and revision process in academic publishing.
Dr. Renwick has mentored 41 graduate students, either as major professor or as a committee member. She has secured support from the National Science Foundation to provide steady funding for PhD and MA students, plus additional grants from UGA’s CTL for local research computing resources. With students, she has co-presented research at over 30 conferences, and has co-authored more than 10 publications. Her students have gone on to tenure-track jobs, the tech industry, positions at the CDC and UGA, or additional graduate work.
Dr. Renwick’s style is encouraging and supportive, showing great sensitivity to the individual student’s needs, while also holding them accountable. Dr. Renwick also contributes to the professional development of graduate students by organizing a weekly reading group in Phonetics and Phonology.
Life and Physical Sciences
Dr. Walter K. Schmidt
Professor and Associate Head of the Department
of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Dr. Walter K. Schmidt is a tenured faculty member of the department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology where he holds the titles of Professor and Associate Head. He joined the department as an Assistant Professor in October 2001. He maintains an active, federally funded, and internationally recognized research program that investigates the mechanism and biological relevance of protein prenylation – a modification occurring to proteins having key roles in cell signaling, cancer, and aging. Research in Dr. Schmidt’s lab actively engages both undergraduate and graduate students, and his reputation as a skilled mentor is reflected by various UGA awards – CURO Undergraduate Research Mentoring, SGA Outstanding Professor, among others.
His undergraduate and graduate students publish in high-quality peer-reviewed journals, and his past students continue productive scientific careers in academia, industry, government, and health-related fields. Additionally, Dr. Schmidt mentored additional graduate students by serving as the inaugural Graduate Coordinator of the Integrated Life Sciences program (ILS; 2010-2019), helping grow the program from six matriculating graduate students per year to over 65 students per year. Concurrently, he developed a new and ultimately very successful professional development course aimed at improving the transition of ILS students into graduate study.
Dr. Schmidt was born and raised in a small Texas border town, and is of mixed German and Mexican heritage, a first-generation college graduate, and an ardent supporter of diversifying the science workforce, which is exemplified by his role as faculty advisor for the UGA student group Graduate Research Assistants Diversifying STEM (GRADS).