First-Year Experience
Georgia Southern University

First-Year Experience Awards

Nominations for the 2019 cycle are now closed. Check back at the end of the semester for the announcement of winners!


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 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.

2018 Outstanding Advocate (Faculty): Dr. Salman Siddiqui

The 2018 Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students for faculty is Dr. Salman Siddiqui, lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering. He teaches multiple sections of FYE 1220 each year on “Engineering Your Future” as well as several sections of Computing for Engineers, where he interacts with large numbers of first-year students.

One of Dr. SIddiqui’s nominators wrote, “Dr. Siddiqui has always supported me to be successful, and has always been willing to go above and beyond his teaching responsibility to help all his students succeed. He helped me tremendously during my first semester to polish my resume before the career fair. He also referred me to one of the alumni employers to consider for an internship and guided me to write thank you letters after networking with employers. He was also my resource to connect me with a professor who I did undergraduate research with.” Another wrote: “There could be no better option. Dr. Siddiqui is easy to communicate with and he makes himself an ultimate resource for those that have questions. With the speed at which he responds to emails and how helpful his responses are every student is made to feel important and valued in some way. Dr. Siddiqui is the quintessence of an outstanding advocate for first year students. A first year student could not ask for more.”

Austin Crawford, one of Dr. Siddiqui’s student nominators, presented the award to Dr. Siddiqui at an overview session for FYE faculty. Dr. Siddiqui (second from left) is pictured below (l-r) with Austin Crawford, Dr. Chris Caplinger, director of First-Year Experience, and Dr. Diana Cone, interim provost.

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2018 Outstanding Advocate (Staff/Administrator): Dr. Francis Desiderio

The 2018 Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students for administrators or staff members is Dr. Francis Desiderio, associate director of the University Honors Program.

One nominee wrote of Dr. Desiderio: “Dr. Desiderio has fostered an incredible amount of student innovation in the classroom and this development has stemmed, for myself personally at least, across all fields. He has also taken time to develop a personal relationship with the students and continues to build a foundation of trust between them. I find that this personable student/teacher interaction is a unique commodity among college campuses, yet an extremely invaluable one!”

FYE presented the Peer Leader of the Year Award to Morgan Gallahue in Dr. Desiderio’s FYE 1410 class (see below). Dr. Desiderio was aware of this award presentation, but not the one that followed– for him!


Previous Advocate Award Winners
  • 2017 (Faculty): Dr. Daniel Calhoun, associate professor, Leadership, Technology & Human Development
  • 2017 (Admin/Staff): Nick Escalante, financial aid counselor
  • 2016 (Faculty): Dr. Leticia McGrath, assistant professor, Spanish
  • 2016 (Admin/Staff): Annise Richard, hall director, University Housing
  • 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 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 & 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
2018 FYE Peer Leader of the Year: Morgan Gallahue

The 2018 Peer Leader of the Year is Morgan Gallahue, a senior biology major.

Dr. Francis Desiderio, the faculty member with whom she taught, wrote that Morgan “has encouraged [students] to think about research, connecting with faculty, and presenting at conferences. Of course, I will say this same information, . . . but it connects with the students when Morgan says it because she is a student who has done it or is in the midst of it. She has worked on research projects with faculty, held summer internships, and presented at conferences. She is very good at telling her story and getting students motivated to take advantage of undergraduate research opportunities.” He added: “I am impressed with the work she puts into being a Peer Leader and making sure she has a connection with all of the students in the class. She created a GroupMe for the class and has worked to create connections and community among class members. She has an excellent rapport with the students. I sense that they trust her and could go to her with questions about the class, the program, Georgia Southern, and other topics.”

Below, FYE graduate assistant LaNesha McCann is pictured interrupting Dr. Desiderio’s spring FYE 1410 class, for which Morgan was a peer leader as well, to present the award. In a surprise to Dr. Desiderio, FYE also presented him an award (see above for additional pictures).

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Previous Winners
  • 2017: Candace (Alex) Dugan, sophomore English major
  • 2016: Brandon Lee, senior management major
  • 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: 4/12/2019

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