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Sylvia Hutchinson works for the love of learning

Kristen B. Morales

May 30, 2019

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In retirement, Sylvia Hutchinson continues to hold her finger to the pulse of UGA. And if education were the continuous path of her orbit, teaching is the center of that universe.

"It's just fun to me. I can't imagine not teaching," says Hutchinson (B.S.Ed. '61, M.Ed. '62, Ph.D. '76) during a conversation with College of Education professor Janette Hill during a visit with NPR's StoryCorps in December.

Hutchinson, professor emerita of higher education, was the child who came home from school and sat her younger siblings down for her own classroom sessions. As a student at UGA, where she earned her bachelor's and master's in elementary education and, later, her doctorate in reading education, she continued to pursue her dream of teaching and learning.

A close second to teaching, though, is her love of the University of Georgia.

Which is why, after a short stint teaching at Southwest Texas State University, Hutchinson returned to UGA as an assistant professor and, since then, has stayed involved in university life as an associate dean of the College of Education, coordinator of several faculty support and development programs across the university, and as a professor of higher education and a member of the Institute of Higher Education.

But this involvement with university life continued even after her official "retirement." She worked with Emeriti Scholars—volunteers who helped recipients of the Coca-Cola Foundation's First Generation Scholarship program navigate the university system. She also served on a number of advisory boards, including UGA's Graduate Development program, the Education and Law Consortium, the Athens Tutorial Program, and Georgia Voyager magazine. She was also coordinator of the peer consultation team in the Center for Teaching and Learning and a faculty liaison.

"Every day I step foot on this campus has been a reward for me," says Hutchinson, who now keeps an office in the College's Department of Language and Literacy Education and teaches classes, without compensation, in both the College and across the university. For example, one class she recently taught helped pre-medical students learn about medical literacy, aiming to bridge the gap between the practitioner and the patient. She also serves as a faculty liaison for student veterans in the College of Education and continues to coach graduate students who are teaching assistants.

"People say, 'You teach without any compensation?'" she says. "But what I receive from teaching is far beyond any compensation."

Earlier this year, Hutchinson received the President's Medal for her contributions—another indication of her dedication and contributions to the University community. Hutchinson credits her mother, as well as the strong women she has met in her life and at the College, for continuing to do what she does. "If I can be that kind of influence for just one student, I'll be happy," she says