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Faculty and staff's research and scholarly work to benefit community

March 24, 2021

University of North Georgia (UNG) faculty and staff members are constantly thinking of ways to help via scholarly work or research projects.

For example, Dr. Cathy Whiting wants to construct a histology lab to teach research techniques to her students. Daniela Martinez aims to help faculty members develop domestic study away programs. And Dr. Stanislaw Solnik and Dr. Andrzej Przybyla plan to develop a clinical diagnostic tool for physical therapists to use to help individuals with motor deficiencies.

These UNG faculty and staff members and others had their scholarly wishes granted. UNG President Bonita Jacobs awarded $192,000 to fund 27 research-related projects through the annual Presidential Incentive Awards program.

"Each was selected from a pool of strong applications based on the proposal's merit and strength," Jacobs said in an email to the winners. "The program is designed to encourage scholarly and creative work that supports faculty and staff excellence and enriches the student experience at UNG. I am pleased that the program continues to grow in participation and proposal quality."

Since Jacobs launched the program in 2013, the university has invested more than $2.18 million in faculty and staff research and scholarly work. This year’s awards fall into two categories of research and scholarly work: Presidential Incentive Awards for Innovation and Presidential Semester Incentive Award. 

Semester awards include a full semester release from teaching and provide funding support of up to $12,000 each. Innovation awards allocate up to $5,000 each to support interdisciplinary and/or cross-functional collaborations or individual pursuits focused on innovations and partnerships to promote implementation of best practice models.

Solnik and Przybyla, both associate professors of physical therapy, said research fuels their passion.

"This is the fun part of our work," Przybyla said. "We appreciate the opportunity to conduct this research and the support we received from every level, from our department heads and deans to the president."

Whiting, professor of biology, is excited about receiving a semester award for the first time.

"I struggle when I try to balance research and teaching," she said. "Now, I have a semester to make the histology lab happen for my students."

Dr. Carly Womack-Wynne was pleased to receive an innovation award. She aims to create podcasts and video clips to improve pre-service teachers' scores on the Georgia history portion of the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE) exam.

"We are at or above the state average in every other field, with Georgia history only slightly lower," said the professor of middle grades, secondary and science education. "This is a great opportunity to do something to improve that area."

Womack-Wynne and her co-applicant, Dr. Ben Wynne, plan to create 10 podcasts and video clips related to Georgia history. For example, the couple will film segments in Savannah to discuss the port city and its importance for trade.

"Anytime students can hear and see content, it becomes experiential as opposed to learning from a book," Womack-Wynne said.

Helping faculty create experiential learning opportunities for students is the purpose of Martinez's project. She hopes to replicate the success of a recent Center for Global Engagement initiative with a workshop series to assist faculty in the development of short-term domestic study programs outside of north Georgia.

"We have heard from faculty that there is a lot of interest in developing study away programs, but the process can seem daunting," said Martinez, associate director of the Center for Global Engagement. "This academy will give them an opportunity to develop a program and connect them with mentors to help guide them through the process."

For a full list of awards, visit the Presidential Incentive Award website.

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