Since the University of North Georgia (UNG) presented more than 80 grants to encourage professional development and innovation in teaching this past fall, faculty members have been working on research, conferences and publications to further expertise in their respective fields and enhance students' academic experience.
UNG President Bonita Jacobs made a strategic budget allocation of $200,000 this year to support the grants, which were presented in three categories: Presidential Professional Engagement Awards, Presidential Summer Scholar Awards, and the Presidential Academic Innovation Awards. Awards ranged from $1,000 to $10,000.
Fifty Presidential Academic Innovation Awards were granted to further work by the university's faculty members in research to advance teaching and learning, resulting in projects ranging from watching the legislative process first-hand to using a 3-D printer to make adaptive devices for children with impairments.
"I am pleased with the level of creativity and innovation demonstrated in the Presidential Academic Innovation Awards," Jacobs said. "These faculty members are focused on academic innovations and partnerships that promote institutional practices and student success. Their work is on the cutting-edge of pioneering methods of teaching and learning, and we want to advocate and encourage them in their efforts."
Ten of those projects received up to $5,000, and 40 got up to $1,000.
One of the projects receiving a $5,000 award involves an ongoing partnership between the university's physical therapy and visual arts departments. Dr. Jon Mehlferber, associate professor of art, has partnered with Dr. Terrie Millard, associate professor of physical therapy, and Alison Alhedeff, assistant professor of physical therapy, to lead a graduate research project that uses 3-D printing to create cost-efficient devices designed to help children with disabilities assimilate into more activities.
"Currently, the significant variance in the level of disability makes creating individualized products time consuming and very expensive. This is only worsened by the fact that children can quickly outgrow the devices," Millard said.
Mehlferber added that 3-D printing makes it possible to design and produce customized, one-of-a-kind objects at a low cost.
Other projects include gathering oral histories to enhance student learning, traveling to India to learn about human trafficking, teaching music electronically, developing bilingual games to hone Chinese language skills, and studying the long-term effects of prescription stimulants on teens.
Six faculty members were awarded Presidential Summer Scholar Awards worth up to $10,000 to support meaningful research, scholarship and creative activities. Two UNG history professors, Drs. Johanna Luthman and Tim May, are writing books, while a third, Dr. Victoria Hightower, is conducting research. Andy David, head of the music department, and his David Brothers Jazz Trio are making a studio-quality recording of a live performance.
In a timely area of research during a busy election year, political scientist Glen Smith is researching "Effects of Partisan Cable News Outlets on Public Attitudes Toward Political Leaders," while Dr. Chris Dockery, associate professor of art, is researching Appalachian education.
"This project combines historical research, storytelling and art-making to capture the cultural contributions of a little-known farm school that came to impact three generations of residents in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee," Dockery said. "This project uses an ethnographic, arts-based research methodology to consider the significance of the Lynn Bachman School to the mountain region … which has remained excluded in the conversation surrounding settlement schools and rural education in the Appalachian Mountains."
In the area of professional development, a number of faculty members have attended conferences and training, and many others have conferences scheduled for this summer and fall. UNG awarded 25 Presidential Professional Engagement Awards for $2,000 for faculty to persist as state-of-the-art in their disciplines.
In June, UNG theater instructor Terri Becker will be attending the Broadway Lighting Master Classes and Projection Master Classes, a four-day event in New York bringing together Broadway's top lighting and projection designers to discuss their craft.
"By passing the knowledge I gain from these classes to my fellow instructors, the theater department will be better able to provide programming, class structures and goals that engage and inspire students," Becker said.
Other conferences and training UNG faculty plan to take part in include those aimed at Asian studies, sociology, data analysis, literature, mathematics, modern languages, pediatric nursing, technology, and print-making.