Exceptional Faculty Receive College 2017 Teaching Excellence Awards

In recognition of their exceptional teaching, Ashley Bryan, Nishi Bryska and Ian Marriott have received the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ Excellence in Teaching Awards for 2017.

Bryan, a faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies, has received the Outstanding Teaching by a Part-Time Faculty Member Award. Bryska, a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences, has received the Outstanding Teaching by a Full-Time Lecturer Award. Marriott, a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences, has received the Integration of Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award.

They, along with finalists for the teaching awards, were honored at a college reception on April 24. Dean Nancy A. Gutierrez and the awards committee chairs commended the honorees for their innovation, creativity and focus on engaging students in scholarship and research.

The finalists for the Outstanding Teaching by a Part-Time Faculty Member Award were Valerie Bright of English and Jeanne-Marie Linker of Mathematics & Statistics.

The finalists for the Outstanding Teaching by a Full-Time Lecturer Award were Hannah Peach of Psychological Sciences and Wafaa Shaban of Mathematics & Statistics.

The finalists for the Integration of Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award were Jennifer Munroe of English and Stephanie Norander of Communication Studies.

The Winners Are:

Ashley Bryan
Ashley Bryan is a part-time faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies. After graduating from Temple University with a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in religion and philosophy in a global context, she worked at a small business in Charlotte in the technology sector. She credits her liberal arts degree and her knowledge of international cultures as the reasons for gaining this employment. Later, Bryan entered the master’s degree program in religious studies at UNC Charlotte, where she was a graduate teaching assistant. She joined the faculty at UNC Charlotte in 2013.

“All of my classes are designed so that students can truly be self-directed learners within the parameters set forth in the class,” Bryan says. “Even though I give students very instructive advice related to proven methods that can help structure their own success, I recognize that each student is an individual with their own study methods, external obligations, internal struggles, and personal preferences.”

Bryan has developed innovative courses in Religious Studies, and students return to study with her repeatedly. Her teaching evaluations from students demonstrate that she is a faculty member who is thoughtful, challenging, and interested in the intellectual well-being of students at the university.

“Though many former students liken me to a mentor, I firmly maintain that I am only a supporting actor; it is the curiosity and imagination contained within the students themselves and the liberal arts ethos of ongoing self-driven education that enables students to effect change in their lives and the world around them,” she says.

Nishi Bryska
As a senior lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences, Nishi Bryska has contributed to the human anatomy and physiology lecture and laboratory instruction offered by both Biological Sciences and, at one period of time, Kinesiology. She has also helped develop the curriculum for the Animal Physiology Laboratory and two new liberal studies courses. She advises biology majors and students seeking professional degrees in allied health fields.

Her teaching philosophy is focused on promoting positive learning experiences, sparking an enthusiasm for learning, and providing strong foundations for lifelong learning.

“I think learning should be stimulating and exciting,” Bryska says. “I try to have the students think of a difficult concept as if it is a mystery novel. There is a beginning and an ending. I want them to be excited about arriving at the end.”

Over the years, Bryska has used different methods of teaching, and she finds it exhilarating to actively involve students in learning.

Her course material is presented in a variety of ways that include lectures, demonstrations, in-class problem solving sessions, group work, and even role playing where she has selected students pretend to be amino acid units in order to demonstrate how a protein structure forms or the molecular structure of muscles.   A former student states that she is a “really excellent professor who taught professionally and uses a variety of methods to help students understand.”

Her future plans are to incorporate inquiry-based learning in her courses, by which students would practice problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to arrive at the appropriate conclusions.

Ian Marriott
Ian Marriott, professor of biological sciences, is a prolific researcher in immunology and biotechnology, and he has an extensive record of both integrating undergraduate students in his own scholarly research and integrating undergraduates’ research into his classroom and research practices.

He has co-authored eight peer-reviewed articles and numerous conference presentations with undergraduates, including some in which the student was the first author. He routinely designs classroom activities that facilitate student designed-and-conducted research.

In addition to an impressive record of funded research of his own, Marriott is the co-principal investigator on a $70,000 award from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center that funded the purchase of new equipment to support two practical, hands-on, undergraduate courses that focus on the application of current biotechnology and immunological techniques. He developed these courses with colleague Kenneth Bost.

In his research-intensive classes, he integrates material from his federally funded biomedical research program. “Undergraduate students in these courses are encouraged to actively participate in the design, performance, and interpretation of the results, of such experiments,” he says. “It is only in this setting that students can begin to appreciate the complexity of the interaction between our bodies and bacterial and viral pathogens and, importantly, recognize the limits of our current understanding of disease processes.”

Students and alumni say Marriott excels at creating a classroom environment where they feel safe and supported as they assume intellectual risks they find are key to scientific discovery and scholarly innovation.

Award Finalists Are:

Valerie Bright
Valerie Bright is a part-time faculty member in the Department of English. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in English from UNC Charlotte and regularly teaches two of the core liberal studies courses the English Department offers for the General Education Program as well as core courses in the area of children’s literature.

Bright says she believes that learning is an internal process and that students learn more when they are interested and engaged. When she approaches a course, her goal is to help students improve their active listening, develop critical thinking skills, appreciate and champion diversity, gain confidence, and import the idea that learning can be enjoyable.

She not only wants her students to leave the classroom with more information about the subject matter, but she also wants them to have grown as an individual. Students frequently comment on her high energy, her enthusiasm for the course material, and her creativity in the classroom. It is her hope that through connecting with her students and allowing them to explore their own ideas in writing, conversation, and assignments, they will be encouraged to pursue knowledge.

Jeanne-Marie Linker
Jeanne-Marie Linker is a part-time lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. She earned her master’s degree in pure mathematics from Texas State University, after receiving her undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry from UNC Charlotte.

She believes that every student of mathematics is entitled to instruction that is clear, accurate, and thorough. Her goal as an instructor is to instill in her students the joy she finds in mathematics and logical problem solving, with her classroom serving as a place for creativity, discovery, and growth.

“My firm belief that any student, even the most woefully underprepared, can improve their mathematical ability significantly over the course of a semester, is a powerful motivator for me as a teacher of mathematics,” she says. “I am enthusiastic not only about the subject matter, but also about the potential of my classes to have a real impact on student success.”

Hannah Peach
Hannah Peach has taught a variety of courses in the Department of Psychological Sciences, ranging from General Psychology to Research Methods I and II to the Undergraduate Teaching and Research Assistantship courses as well as co-instructor for a couple of doctoral level courses. She has also mentored numerous undergraduate research students.

Peach incorporates examples, demonstrations, and “learn by doing” assignments and activities into her lectures to help students deepen and apply the content knowledge of the course.

Peach says she values a classroom environment that is interactive and encourages critical thinking. Her approach encourages teamwork and exposes students to diverse perspectives, facilitating the building of relationships with peers from a variety of backgrounds.

Wafaa Shaban
Wafaa Shaban is a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Her teaching career began as an elementary school math teacher, and later moved o the middle school, high school, and college levels. She teaches a variety of mathematics and statistics courses in the department and also directs the Actuarial program, a program she established at UNC Charlotte. She advises the Math Club, the Pi Mu Epsilon Math Honors Club, and the Actuarial Science Club.

Shaban shows that she understands that a requirement for being a successful teacher is learning new material and then delivering that material effectively to students. Early in her career, her exposure to Actuarial Science was new. Along with six students, she worked to learn more about the field and to prepare the students for the Actuarial exams. Since then, she has immersed herself in the field and has passed the exams necessary to gain the “Associate” designation within the Society of Actuaries.

“Shaban works tirelessly to help her students get all the academic and career resources they need,” a former student says. “She makes every student feel like they are able to achieve so much more than they believe they can.”

Jennifer Munroe
Jennifer Munroe, associate professor of English, develops pioneering digital humanities tools to study Shakespeare and Early Modern English Literature. Munroe treats her undergraduate students as genuine collaborators.

Through both classroom activities and independent research, undergraduate students have been key contributors to several projects, including her edited volume Ecofeminist Approaches to Early Modernity, and her latest digital humanities project, the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC). This project digitizes centuries-old recipes and makes them widely available in a database.

Her students are also conducting original archival work that contributes to scholarly and public knowledge, and they are practicing concrete skills that they can use in graduate school or nonacademic careers.

Stephanie Norander
Stephanie Norander is associate professor of Communication Studies and executive director of the Communication Across the Curriculum program. She excels at incorporating original, applied research activities into her classes.

Her Advanced Topics in Organizational Communication class conducted a focus group study on the UNC Charlotte University Professional Internship Program, for example. Students conducted all aspects of the research, including applying to an external agency to fund the project.

These applied research projects let students directly practice the exact skills and processes that they will use in the field. Norander also mentors students outside the classroom, including independent research projects that have been accepted to professional conferences, and co-authored publication.

Pictured: Ian Marriott, Ashley Bryan, Nishi Bryska, Nancy Gutierrez

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