Karen Dodson, assistant professor of English at the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Gainesville Campus, has been recognized as one of the highest-rated university professors in the country on RateMyProfessors.com.
Dodson is involved in several initiatives outside her work as a professor that she credits with giving her broader insight into connecting with her students. One of those initiatives is her work since 2001 with YouthReach International, an organization that assists orphans and at-risk children in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
"For five summers, I have served as a teacher and mentor to the oldest group of kids at a camp outside Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia," Dodson said. "These children face tremendous hardship when they leave the orphanage because they are ill-prepared for independence in their society. We equip them educationally and spiritually for what lies ahead. The time I spent in Russia with these wonderful people profoundly changed my perception of the world and the human condition. Certainly, I am a better professor here at home because of my time there. I am currently working on a way to return and follow up with the many friends I have in Novosibirsk."
Dodson is also on the board of directors for The Adonijah Foundation, which raises funds for at-risk students in Gwinnett County, and is the faculty advisor for the Chestatee Review — UNG's literary and art magazine.
"Advising the Chestatee Review enables me to work with some of UNG's most creative students, and I am always amazed at the talent and enthusiasm of our staff and contributors," Dodson said. "In 2014, the magazine won first place at the Southern Literary Festival, which comprises more than twenty colleges in our region. Dr. Donna Gessell, professor of English, and her students have greatly helped our magazine staff merge with students and faculty on the Dahlonega Campus, and we formed a unified group. With the help of Jennifer Graff in the Department of Visual Arts, we have included visual art students in unique and innovative interdisciplinary projects. We look forward to another great magazine launch in spring."
Dodson earned her bachelor's degree in English from Piedmont College in 2005, and her master's degree in literature from Western Carolina University in 2008. She is currently pursuing a doctorate from Georgia State University. She has written several pieces of literature that have been published in The Woven Word, Nomad and the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review.
"Words can't describe how much Prof. Dodson has changed my perspective on literature," wrote one student on Dodson's ratings page. "If I could describe her in one word, it would be lovable. I had her for two courses. She walks into class with a smile on her face almost every day, and I wouldn't want anyone else but her."
Another student wrote that Dodson is the best English professor the student has ever taken, and that she keeps everything interesting and is extremely helpful in teaching writing.
Dodson was rated the 23rd best university professor in the nation in the 2014-15 Highest Rated University Professors list. More than 1.4 million professors from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have ratings on the site, which was built to help students network about finding the best professors for their classes.