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:

  • Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students
  • FYE Peer Leader of the Year

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.

Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students

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.  The award can recognize any faculty or staff member (except previous winners or full-time staff in the FYE office); the nominee does not have to have taught FYE 1220 or FYE 1410.

In 2013, students and colleagues nominated 35 faculty and staff members to be recognized as an Outstanding Advocate for First-Year students:

  • Susan Cason (Academic Success Center)
  • Michelle Crummey (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Dr. William Eaton (Literature & Philosophy)
  • Dr. Olivia Edenfield (Literature & Philosophy)
  • Dr. Henry Eisenhart (Human Ecology)
  • Christopher Elliott (Sociology & Anthropology)
  • Dr. Brian Feltman (History)
  • Dr. Bob Fernekes (Library)
  • Jaynie Gaskin (Geology & Geography)
  • Dr. Chris Geyerman (Communication Arts)
  • Dr. Hemchand Gossai (Literature & Philosophy)
  • Kerry Greenstein (Dean of Students’ Office)
  • Dr. Giuseppe Gumina (Chemistry)
  • Dr. Eric Hall (History)
  • Michael Johnson (student staff, University Housing)
  • Erin Jordan (Health & Kinesiology)
  • Dr. Chris Kadlec (Information Technology)
  • Dr. Eric Kartchner (Foreign Languages)
  • Stacy Kluge (Center for Teaching, Learning & Scholarship)
  • Dr. Jason LaFrance (Leadership, Technology & Human Development)
  • Kendria Lee (Library)
  • Erin Murk (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Nathan Palmer (Sociology and Anthropology)
  • Ria Ramoutar (Cheminstry)
  • Warren Riles (First-Year Experience)
  • Susan Roach (College of Business Administration)
  • Dr. Rachel Schwartz (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Dr. Joyya Smith (Educational Opportunity Programs)
  • Susan Smith (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Mallary Taylor (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Chris Thompson (COE Student Success Center)
  • Michael Wiggins (Accountancy)
  • Leigh Ann Williams (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Dr. Brent Wolfe (Human Ecology)
  • CJ Yow (Writing & Linguistics)

In 2013, the FYE Council made two awards: one for a faculty member and one for a staff member or administrator.

2013 Faculty Recipient

The 2013 Faculty Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students is Leigh Ann Williams, a Visiting Instructor in Writing and Linguistics.  Ms. Williams teaches English Composition I and English Composition II.

Williams_class_webOne of her nominators wrote, “Throughout my high school and middle school years, I have loathed English classes. I hated to write, read, and grammar was my worst enemy. Professor Williams changed this. . . . She helped me understand grammar . . . and she gave me feedback on essays in a way I could understand. She was always willing to help, always. She knew everyone in the class, and she made a point to connect [to] the students in the classroom. I nominate her because she is the reason I love to write. A professor who can teach students to be passionate about their work is the greatest gift a student can ever receive. I am very thankful for that.”  A colleague of hers wrote, “Everything that I know of Ms. Williams speaks to her commitment to her students, her interest in them, her desire for them to succeed, and her excitement about being in a college classroom.”

Provost Dr. Jean Bartels, Dean Dr. Curtis Ricker and Department Chair Dr. Phyllis Dallas presented the award to Ms. Williams during one of her ENGL 1102 classes in Spring 2013.  She is pictured to the left with her students in that class.


2013 Staff/Administrator Recipient

The 2013 Staff Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students is Chris Thompson, Director of College of Education’s Student Success Center Success Center.Thompson_provost_web

One of her nominators wrote, “Mrs. Thompson was my Goal Setting FYE teacher this semester. She is one of the most caring teachers I have ever had in all my schooling years. She was constantly asking us how we were doing and if there was anything she could help us with. She . . . challenged us to think, explore, and find out who we really were. I got to know some of my classmates very well through the activities and class work we did. She taught us to embrace the differences in our lives and accept each other without judgment.”  Her dean wrote in support that she “works tirelessly to support the success of first-year students” and that she “has engaged the Center’s staff in professional learning that targets strategies to support first-year students.”

Provost Dr. Jean Bartels and Assistant Provost Alan Woodrum presented the award at a leadership meeting of the College of Education.  She is pictured here with them.


Previous Winners
  • 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 of New Student and Parent Programs
FYE Peer Leader of the Year

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

The 2013 recipient is Sam Ivey, a junior Biology major.  In Fall 2011 and 2012, he worked with Dr. Abby Brooks. Dr. Brooks wrote in nomination: “Oh how Sam is outstanding, let me count the ways” and then preceded to enumerate them specifically.  She noted the way he made connections with all students, but particularly those who struggled.  He served as a mentor and support for students and a real asset to Dr. Brooks as she taught.

Sam, a former SOAR leader, participated in the “Who Will You Be?” readers theater in late April.  Afterwards, Dr. Brooks and Alicia Howe, FYE’s Assistant Director for Intervention and Peer Education made the presentation to Sam to applause from his colleagues.  Those pictures didn’t turn out very well, but above is one of Sam (third from left, holding the award) with friends who came to support him, including both outgoing and incoming SGA presidents (Dominque Quarles, second from the right, and Garrett Green, far left).


2013 Peer Leader of the Year Nominees
  • Madeline Bunn
  • Virginia Byrd
  • Hannah Costabile
  • Tyler Daniel
  • Chelsea Hodge
  • Sam Ivey
  • Ty Jacobs
  • Samantha Kitchens
  • Faith Kuhn
  • Samantha Marzullo
  • Haley McKenzie
  • Denitria Pollard
  • Ty Von Plinksy
Previous Winners
  • 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
First-Year Experience • P.O. Box 8145 Statesboro, GA 30460 • (912) 478-3939 •