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Two faculty members receive 2018 First-Year Odyssey Teaching Awards

Kathryn Kao

April 11, 2018

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Two UGA College of Education faculty members have received the 2018 First-Year Odyssey Teaching Award in recognition of their success as innovative teachers in the First-Year Odyssey Seminar (FYOS) program.

Administered by the Office of the Vice President for Instruction, the FYO Teaching Award recognizes outstanding instructors who have demonstrated creativity or innovation in instruction, connection of seminar content to the instructor's research and incorporation of FYOS program goals into the seminar.

This year, UGA honored two College of Education faculty members:

Kevin Burke

  • Kevin Burke: An associate professor of language and literary education, Burke uses his background in ethnography in his "Schooling Masculinities" seminar to explore with his students how masculinity and gender directly and indirectly influence everyday life. As part of the course, Burke requires students to do several activities that contribute to their acclimation to the university: 1) conduct observational research as a means of engaging with their campus and seeing experiences through a different lens; 2) make an appointment with him outside of class to become accustomed to interacting with a teacher one-on-one as part of the academic culture at UGA; and 3) select their own readings and write a response on a deadline of their choosing to teach them to think and plan independently.

Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor

  • Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor: A professor of TESOL and world language education, Cahnmann-Taylor immerses students in improvisational theatre games and embodied approaches to creative conflict resolution in her seminar "Theatre for Embodied Personal and Social Change." Her students rehearse personal and social change and prepare for an interactive improv event with youth at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, as well as co-lead an interactive theatre event for families. They explore how theatre tools can help them practice skills and then apply them to act in ways that bring about increased understanding and positive, productive change for global citizenship. The performance-based techniques that students practice in the course push them out of their comfort zones by applying improvisation to problems many first-year students face. Most of the assignments are geared to an individual understanding, as well as tied to campus and community experience.

"The best part of the First-Year Odyssey program lies in reconnecting with the early undergraduate experience in the ways in which the students bring their intense curiosity, thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit to the situation of the classroom," said Burke. "I can't help but learn how to be a better teacher and researcher in the midst of their thinking through issues related to gender, sexuality and education."

UGA seminars help introduce students to the academic culture at the University through participation in a variety of lectures, campus performances and success workshops. FYO Teaching Award recipients fully engage with their students, provide them with a strong connection to the university through their research and tie their curriculum directly to FYOS program goals.

"Through my own scholarship and FYO instruction, I emphasize the importance of learning and academics that cross borders between disciplines on campus; between campus and community; between mind and body; between first and second languages; and between science and art," said Cahnmann-Taylor. "I introduce students to a changing academic culture, one that encourages hybridity, interdisciplinarity, global citizenship and service learning."

Burke and Cahnmann-Taylor will be honored on April 12 at the fifth annual First-Year Odyssey Seminar reception thanking all FYOS faculty.