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President Jacobs awards research grants to faculty and staff

Dr. Gregory Feiden, assistant professor of astronomy at UNG, was invited to contribute a literature review on red dwarf stars for the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the most prestigious journal in astronomy and astrophysics. He was awarded a Presidential Incentive Award, which will allow him to spend a semester working on project.

"I was excited!" "It is incredible that this is happening." "I'm still in shock."

These were just a few of the responses from University of North Georgia (UNG) faculty and staff after learning they received a Presidential Incentive Award. UNG President Bonita Jacobs in January awarded 38 grants totaling more than $360,000 to faculty and staff members in support of academic excellence, scholarly activity and innovation.

"I initiated the Presidential Initiative Awards program as a way to invest in our faculty and staff whose research and scholarly work have a direct impact on enhanced educational experiences for our students and innovations that improve professional practices," Jacobs said.  “The resulting professional development and research projects have enriched our academic environment both in and out of the classroom."

Jacobs initiated the program in 2013 and has awarded more than $1.3 million since then.

The projects span academic units in all six colleges, the Lewis F. Rogers Institute of Environmental and Spatial Analysis, and Libraries. Other offices and departments were also allocated funds, including Dean of Students, Student Counseling, Public Safety, Human Resources, Alumni Relations, Residence Life, Student Disability Services, and Orientation and Transition Programs.

Dr. Jianjun Yang's project is centered on providing students with disabilities access to lab activities in the introductory computer science courses. The associate professor of computer science is developing a program for students with a visual impairment to see computer coding in a different format such as multimedia-based and visual logic block-based activities.

"For the past eight years as a professor, I've signed several waivers at the beginning of class from students who have disabilities," Yang said. "And I've seen them struggle."

Now, Yang is developing a way to help them overcome their struggles.

Students with disabilities will not be the only ones benefiting from the project. Yang said he will enlist undergraduate students from The Coding Warriors club at UNG’s Gainesville Campus to create the program.

Yang received two Presidential Incentive Awards — a Semester and an Innovation Award. The Semester award releases recipients from a full semester of teaching and service with funding support of up to $12,000. Innovation award projects receive up to $5,000 each to support full-time faculty and staff members in interdisciplinary and/or cross-functional collaborations or individual pursuits focused on innovations and partnerships to promote implementation of best practice models.

Yang was one of seven to receive the Semester award. Another was Dr. Gregory Feiden, assistant professor of astronomy at UNG. He was invited to contribute a literature review on red dwarf stars for the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the most prestigious journal in astronomy and astrophysics.

"The people who contribute to the journal are the people who have made it and are world-renowned experts in their field," Feiden said. "It's surreal to be considered among that population."

Feiden will compile all of the research on red dwarf stars for the journal. He will answer questions such as: What do we know about red dwarf stars? What don't we know about them? And what are the most pressing research questions for the next decade?

Rebecca Rose's project is focused on alerting students that UNG's Cumming Campus has a library there.

Rose, the interim assistant dean of libraries, and Teresa Nesbitt, reference services librarian, developed a pilot program in November 2018 to bring faculty and student art to the library. She said the event provided a way to introduce the campus and community to the library, which doesn't resemble the average library.

"If people look in here, they think it's a student activity area," Rose said, indicating the room has a rolling cart of books, a small magazine and news section, and research area. "We, the librarians, are here and can help with questions, research and other services."

With the innovation presidential award, Rose and co-recipients, Nesbitt and Allison Galloup, special collections and digital initiatives librarian, plan to expand the art exhibit scheduled for November 2019 to include scholarly activities. UNG students who participate will be encouraged to present their art project to the Annual Research Conference and Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference in 2020. Next, their art will be uploaded to the library depository. Third, high school students will be encouraged to enter the exhibit for civic engagement. Finally, Rose will survey students to determine the event's effectiveness and ways to expand awareness and use of the library.

Helping nursing students and their preceptors improve is the focus of Dr. Paige McCraney's project. Preceptors are practicing clinicians who agree to train students in real-world clinics.

Presently, advanced practice registered nurses go through an orientation program to become a preceptor at UNG. McCraney, assistant professor in the graduate nursing program, has proposed an online curriculum for preceptors to use to train graduate student nurses.

"It will be a self-paced interactive learning environment," she said, adding it will take six to eight months to develop. "It will provide practical boots on the ground guidance for preceptors out in the field."

The next step would be offering the program as a continuing education course with eight to 10 credit hours for the nurses. McCraney said this will incentivize nurses to become preceptors.

Dr. Jerry Allison and Dr. Katayoun Mobasher hope their Summer Award will pique students' interest in geology. Summer award projects receive up to $10,000 each to support focused and meaningful research, or scholarship and creative activities during the summer semester.

Allison and Mobasher's project will provide the first detailed investigation of the geology of the Elachee Nature Science Center through geochemical and petrographic analyses of rock outcrops.

"One goal of our project will be to determine the rock types in Elachee," said Mobasher, professor of geology at UNG. "And it will contribute to the larger picture of geology in Georgia."

It also will give students hands-on experience working in the field, using scientific equipment and analyzing results, said Allison, professor of chemistry at UNG.

Students participating in this research also will have the opportunity to present research at conferences and submit papers for publications, and the faculty hope this will interest students in further scholarly activities.

A full list of the Presidential Incentive Award winners for 2019 is available on the UNG website.

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