First-Year Experience
Georgia Southern University

First-Year Experience 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.

Previous Advocate Award Winners
  • 2014 (Faculty): Dr. Ed Mondor, Associate Professor, Biology
  • 2014 (Admin/Staff): Kerry Greenstein, Associate Dean of Students
  • 2013 (Faculty): Leigh Ann Williams, Visiting Instructor, 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 and 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
2015 Outstanding Advocate (Faculty): Abby Johnson

The 2015 Faculty Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students for faculty is Abby Johnson of Sociology & Anthropology.

Abby Johnson

Ms. Johnson’s FYE 1220 course was entitled “Good Grief,” which dealt with the ways people cope with grief and loss.  One nominee wrote, “Professor Johnson goes above and beyond for her students. She takes the time to get to know everyone and genuinely cares about their lives. She takes time to answer any questions we may have, because she realizes college can be a tough transition for freshmen. She always takes the [time] to listen to us, and gives the best advice possible. If she can’t help, she finds someone who can. In the short time we spent in her class, I truly believe she impacted the lives of each student she got the opportunity to teach.” Another nominee explained, “Professor Johnson . . . was real. She never tried to sugar coat how the rest of our college years would be at times. She never tried to make us keep in the fact that we all missed home and our parents and our beds. It was a relief to go to her class on Mondays and Wednesdays. It was a time to debrief and get myself together. She taught us how to deal with our emotions. We became very close as a class and I can’t imagine a better person to teach a class of freshmen.”

Ms. Johnson is pictured here with Dr. Peggy Hargis, chair of Sociology and Anthropology, and Dr. Chris Caplinger, director of FYE, along with her Spring 2015 FYE class.

In 2015, students and colleagues nominated a total of sixteen faculty members for the Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students award:

  • Dr. Christina Abreu (History)
  • Dr. Dustin Anderson (Literature & Philosophy)
  • Dr. Jeff Burson (History)
  • Dr. Rachel Eike (Human Ecology)
  • Lauren Fortenberry (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Dr. Chris Geyerman (Communication Arts)
  • Dr. Rami Haddad (Electrical Engineering)
  • Abby Johnson (Sociology & Anthropology)
  • Dr. Geoff Kelley (Sociology & Anthropology)
  • Dr. Leticia McGrath (Foreign Languages)
  • Dr. Collin McKenzie (Music)
  • Dr. Joe Pellegrino (Literature & Philosophy)
  • Warren Riles (First-Year Experience)
  • Chasen Smith (Mathematical Sciences)
  • Dr. Zachary Stahlschmidt (Biology)
  • Dr. Christopher Wheeler (Biology)
2015 Outstanding Advocate (Staff/Administrator): Michael Baugh

Mike Baugh 2 reducedThe 2015 Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students for Administrators or Staff Members is Michael Baugh in the Academic Success Center. According to his nominator, “At the start of my semester with Michael Baugh, it seemed like his class would be boring and nothing I hadn’t already heard. His first lecture really made me look at the previous beliefs I held. . . . In ONE class, I was set on a path to change my life. After a few weeks of sitting in Professor Baugh’s class, I, the only white man in a class about black men in America, was out marching through the streets of Statesboro for action against police brutality, specifically of, at the time, recently killed Mike Brown. In the class there was one guy who stood out as the guy who wouldn’t do his work and was a sure drop out. One day this man was caught by Baugh texting in class. Professor Baugh asked to speak to the man after class and a change happened almost instantly. The student after that day was still quiet, but he would listen intently and when asked to speak on whatever topic, he would spout the most insightful material of the entire class. Michael Baugh did not turn his pupil into an enemy as I had expected, but instead he provoked his potential. I don’t know what Michael said to him, but he motivated his student. Professor Baugh encouraged me to look within myself, search for truth, search for love, and he taught me something you just can’t learn in a textbook. Michael Baugh is the catalyst to a reaction that only the student can actually carry out.”Mr. Baugh is pictured here with Dr. Chris Caplinger, surprised at a reception at Cone Hall for Academic Success Center award winners. In 2015, students and colleagues nominated a total of eleven administrators or staff members for the Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students award:

  • Jana Briley (Audits & Advisory Services)
  • Kareem Clarke (University Housing)
  • Will Douberly (First-Year Experience)
  • Theresa Duggar (College of Education)
  • Reginald Jordan (University Housing)
  • Sammie Linton (University Housing)
  • Haley McKenzie (First-Year Experience)
  • Michael Baugh (Academic Success Center)
  • Julie Ogburn (Student Conduct)
  • Chris Pugh (Multicultural Student Center)
  • Dr. Stephen Rossi (CHHS dean’s office)
2015 FYE Peer Leader of the Year: Janie Malson

2015 PL JanieThe 2015 Peer Leader of the Year is Janie Malson, a junior English major.  Dr. Dustin Anderson, for whose class she served as a peer leader, wrote of Janie: “Her delivery of both Extended Orientation and Seminar related material was not only well thought out and developed, it was meticulously crafted. Janie showed the initiative to put a great deal of thought into both what she chooses to say and how she chooses to say it. She was willing and able to follow and participate in whatever direction our discussions took. It was no surprise that she quickly and thoroughly developed a rapport the students in the class. Her enthusiasm to get in front of the classroom did not get in the way of her process of learning to be a better teacher. Other students I’ve worked with treated their primary instruction days as either a job or a hurdle. Janie looked to these as an exam that she could learn from as she continues to develop as a classroom leader. . . . Well before the end last semester, Janie had already cultivated a keen critical eye for her own methods and her capabilities. Her willingness to self-assess is the very thing that we should look for in a model peer leader.”

Janie is shown here with Dr. Anderson as well as Lexi Hurst and Alicia Spence, her supervisors in First-Year Experience.

2015 Peer Leader of the Year Nominees
  • Monica Bilczewski
  • Chrissy Chandler
  • Zack Davidson
  • Kyla Dickson
  • Janay Garrett
  • Justin Hewitt
  • Megan Johnson
  • Janie Malson
  • Theron Webber
  • Rachel White
Previous Winners
  • 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: 10/28/2015

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