First-Year Experience
Georgia Southern University

First-Year Experience Awards

Press release: FYE announces winners of annual awards


Each year, First-Year Experience invites the University community to submit nominations for the following awards, which recognize excellence in the teaching and mentoring of first-year students at Georgia Southern University:

The Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the academic and/or personal lives of first-year students. For the past several years, FYE has recognized one full-time faculty member and one administrator or staff member. Individuals who hold faculty rank but are 12-month administrators are considered as administrators and not faculty for the purposes of this award.

The FYE Peer Leader of the Year award recognizes a peer leader who works in harmony with his or her FYE 1220 or FYE 1410 faculty member to provide a quality classroom experience while engaging students in the overall University community and serving as a positive role model.

The First-Year Experience Advisory Council selects the recipients, who receive a plaque and travel to an FYE or other professional conference (Outstanding Advocate winners) or $100 (Peer Leader). The awards are funded by First-Year Experience and Phi Eta Sigma, the first-year student honor society.

2016 Outstanding Advocate (Faculty): Dra. Leticia McGrath

The 2016 Faculty Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students for faculty is Dra. Leticia McGrath, assistant professor of Spanish.

One nominee wrote: “I remember walking into our FYE class on the first day of classes, my first day of classes as a college student, and feeling immediately less nervous than I had been all day. Dra. McGrath made me feel at ease[;] she was so nice and welcoming. . . . She helped me achieve the two most crucial things as a first year student: forming relationships with professors and getting involved on campus.” Another student wrote: “Every Monday and Wednesday, I roll out of bed at 7am. The only reason that I do so is Dra. McGrath[;] her class is so interesting and fun. . . . When I say something, it seems that she really listens to what I have to say. If someone says something that is controversial (which happens often in a Global Citizens class), she does not demean or dismiss that person. She will start a dialogue in the class on the issue and everyone will be included.” Still another nominee wrote: “She gave great knowledge to us students on how to use folio, to outstanding details of what Georgia Southern University offers, and she gave us the extra push to help us succeed. . . . [S]he has made an imprint on my life.”

Dra. McGrath has taught multiple sections of both First-Year Seminar and Global Citizens for the past several years for both honors and non-honors students. She has developed an alternative spring break trip to Costa Rica that develops material from her FYE theme, “Hispanic Culture through Film.” Last spring, Dra McGrath led a group of first-year students to a student conference in Virginia to present their work from her Global Citizens course. She also serves as a teaching mentor to new FYE faculty and has worked with FYE on several assessment and curriculum development projects.

Leti formal reduced

Dra. McGrath (center, with plaque) is pictured above with Dr. Diana Cone, interim provost, Dr. Chris Caplinger, director of First-Year Experience, and Dr. Eric Kartchner, chair of the Department of Foreign Languages. They made the presentation in Dra. McGrath’s honors Global Citizens course.


In 2016, students and colleagues nominated a total of twenty-two faculty members for the Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students award:

  • Dr. Anna Alexander (History)
  • Don Berecz (Accountancy)
  • John Brent (Criminal Justice & Criminology)
  • Dr. Dan Calhoun (Leadership, Technology & Human Development)
  • Cameron Clements (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Janet Dale (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Dr. Rachel Eike (Human Ecology)
  • Dr. Chris Geyerman (Communication Arts)
  • Dr. Debanjana Ghosh (Chemistry)
  • Dr. Catherine Howerter (Teaching & Learning)
  • Dr. Svitlana Larmolenko (Human Ecology)
  • Burney Marsh (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Dra. Leticia McGrath (Foreign Languages
  • Dr. Mike McGrath (Foreign Languages)
  • Dr. Bridget Melton (Health & Kinesiology)
  • Dr. Michael Moore (Curriculum, Foundations & Reading)
  • Sheila Nielsen (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Dr. Rebecca Kocerha (Chemistry)
  • Dr. Rebecca Ryan (Psychology)
  • Dr. Diana Sturges (Health & Kinesiology)
  • Dr. Michael Wiggins (Accountancy)
  • Dr. Pidi Zhang (Sociology & Anthropology)
2016 Outstanding Advocate (Staff/Administrator): Annise Richard

The 2016 Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students for administrators or staff members is Annise Richard, hall director in University Housing.

One student nominee wrote of Ms. Richard: “I believe she is an outstanding advocate for first year students because she helped me make a lot of decisions that have paid off for me in the long run. Her class challenged me to think beyond the surface/exterior of everything around me.” Another student wrote that when she needed “to talk to [Ms. Richard] about things that [were] going on outside of the classroom[,] she was there. She truly cares about the students in her class.” Ms. Richard’s supervisor wrote in support: “Annise is someone who will stay up all night to help and advocate for a student who comes to her. Annise is someone who continues to grow and develop as a young professional. . . . Annise has a real passion for this field and it is no wonder that students have nominated her for this award.”

Annise formalDr. Teresa Thompson, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and Dr. Chris Caplinger, director of First-Year Experience, made the award presentation at a University Housing staff meeting. Ms. Richard is pictured here with members of her staff.

Annise Res Ed staff

In 2016, students and colleagues nominated a total of eight administrators or staff members for the Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students award:

  • Will Douberly (First-Year Experience)
  • Erin Martin (University Honors Program)
  • Dr. Theresa Novotny (Academic Success Center)
  • Janet O’Brien (Academic Success Center)
  • Annise Richard (University Housing)
  • Lisa Sapp (COBA Advising Center)
  • Amy Taulbee (Career Services)
  • Jenna Tyson (Career Services)
Previous Advocate Award Winners
  • 2015 (Faculty): Abby Johnson, lecturer, Bachelor of General Studies (Sociology)
  • 2015 (Admin/Staff): Michael Baugh, educational program specialist, Academic Success Center
  • 2014 (Faculty): Dr. Ed Mondor, associate professor, Biology
  • 2014 (Admin/Staff): Kerry Greenstein, associate dean of Students
  • 2013 (Faculty): Leigh Ann Williams, visiting Iinstructor, Writing & Linguistics
  • 2013 (Admin/Staff): Christine Thompson, director, College of Education’s Student Success Center
  • 2012 (Faculty): Dr. Padmini Shankar, associate professor, Health and Kinesiology
  • 2012 (Admin/Staff): Mike Czech, assistant director, Academic Success Center
  • 2011 (Faculty): Dr. Trey Denton, professor, Marketing
  • 2011 (Admin/Staff): Patrice Buckner, assistant dean of Students & director of Student Conduct
  • 2010 (Faculty): Dr. Bridget Melton, assistant professor, Health and Kinesiology
  • 2010 (Admin/Staff): Ms. Jodi Middleton, assistant director, Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement
  • 2009 (Faculty): Dr. Dan Czech, associate professor, Health and Kinesiology
  • 2009 (Admin/Staff):  Bob Frigo, assistant director, University Honors Program
  • 2008 (Faculty): Jessica Orvis, assistant professor and Director of General Chemistry
  • 2008 (Admin/Staff): Janet O’Brien, director, Academic Success Center
  • 2007:  Dr. Michelle Cawthorn, assistant professor, Biology
  • 2006:  Dr. Donna Saye, assistant professor, Mathematics
  • 2005:  Kellie Pickett, coordinator, New Student and Parent Programs
2016 FYE Peer Leader of the Year: Brandon Lee

The 2016 Peer Leader of the Year is Brandon Lee, a senior management major. Christy Curley, for whose class he served as a peer leader, wrote “Brandon memorized each student’s name, major, and the interesting fact they shared on the first day of class‐‐all within a week! . . . He arrives 5‐10 minutes early to greet the students, start the opening assignment, and spend some time chatting and checking in with them. When I arrive to the classroom, students already appear both comfortable and engaged in what we’ll be doing that day. Brandon perfectly embraces the balance of peer and instructor. His appropriate self‐disclosure and remembering personal facts about students allows him to come to their level and help students feel valued and comfortable around him. At the same time, he maintains professionalism by always dressing appropriately, arriving early, taking the lessons seriously, standing at the front of the room, and interjecting into each assignment as appropriate.”

Brandon Lee 5

Brandon is shown here with Dr. Olivia Edenfield, with whom Brandon also worked as a peer leader, as well as Lexi Hurst Steele, his supervisor in First-Year Experience.

2016 Peer Leader of the Year Nominees 
  • Kyla Dickson
  • Eldresha Dublin
  • Derrick Herrin
  • Rachel Hoag
  • Jordan Huerta
  • Abi Johnson
  • Kayla Lanier
  • Sidney LeCompte
  • Brandon Lee
  • Jasmine Lewis
  • Desiree Lee
  • Amy MacArthur
  • Jessica Maierhoffer
  • Mackenzie Payne
  • Andrew Perry
  • Hannah Pressey
  • Alexa Rushworth
Previous Winners
  • 2015: Janie Malson, junior English major
  • 2014: Caitlin Evans, sophomore pre-early childhood education major
  • 2013: Samuel Ivey, junior biology major
  • 2012: Matt Kempton, senior middle grades education major
  • 2011: Ansley Callanan, senior English major
  • 2010: John Kile, senior political science major
  • 2009: Brandi Heath, junior chemistry major
  • 2008: Erin Rice, senior psychology major
  • 2007: Synovia Edwards, senior psychology major
  • 2006: Amanda Fischer, senior biology major
  • 2005: Abby Lynes, senior human resources major



Last updated: 5/20/2016

First-Year Experience • P.O. Box 8145 Statesboro, GA 30460 • (912) 478-3939 •