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 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.

2017 Outstanding Advocate (Faculty): Dr. Dan Calhoun

The 2017 Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students for faculty is Dr. Daniel Calhoun, associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Technology and Human Development. He teaches almost exclusively graduate students in higher education administration, but reports enjoying teaching FYE because of the opportunities it provides to interact with undergraduates. In addition to a well regarded FYE 1220 course on leadership, Dr. Calhoun serves on the FYE Council and for the past several years has worked as a teaching mentor for new adjunct FYE faculty.

One of Dr. Calhoun’s student nominees wrote, “Dr. Dan is so easy to talk to for help and advice. He made learning about leadership so interesting and exciting each class. Group discussions were always a big part of class and it was obvious that he greatly valued each [student’s] opinion. This class was originally not one of my top picks; however, I can’t imagine taking any other class. He makes me want to get way more involved in school and in the community.” Another wrote: “Dr. Dan has influenced me as a first year student by giving me a feeling of acceptance in classrooms. He was our professor, but at the same time he showed us that our thoughts and words were just as important as his. He was a great teacher, and honestly a good friend. He was always there if anyone needed to talk, and he always had us participating in interactive assignments.”

Dr. Calhoun (center, with plaque) is pictured below (l-r) with Dr. Deborah Thomas, associate dean of the College of Education; Dr. Diana Cone, vice provost; Dr. Jean Bartels, provost; Dr. Beth Durodoye, chair, Leadership, Technology and Human Development; and, Dr. Chris Caplinger, director of First-Year Experience.

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In 2017, students and colleagues nominated a total of thirty faculty members for the Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students award. In addition to Dr. Calhoun, they were:

  • Dr. Christina Abreau (History)
  • Dr. Laura Agnich (CJ & Criminology)
  • Dr. Dustin Anderson (Literature & Philosophy)
  • Dr. Dan Bauer (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Jessica Burke (Art)
  • Dr. Beth Butterfield (Literature & Philosophy)
  • Cameron Clements (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Kevin Cook (PSIS)
  • Janet Dale (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Dr. Lisa Denmark (History)
  • Dr. Anoop Desai (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Ben Drevlow (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Amanda Ford (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Lauren Fortenberry (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Dr. Chris Geyerman (Communication Arts)
  • Moriah Gibson (Mathematical Sciences)
  • Dr. Eric Hall (History)
  • Helena Hernandez (Spanish)
  • Dr. Jose Hidalgo (Spanish)
  • Dr. Jim LoBue (Chemistry & Biochemistry)
  • Dr. Zhuojun Magnant (Mathematical Sciences)
  • Brandi Moody (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Sheila Nielsen (Writing & Linguistics)
  • Dr. Jeffrey Orvis (Chemistry & Biochemistry)
  • Dr. Laxman Pandey (Chemistry & Biochemistry)
  • Dr. Joe Pellegrino (Literature & Philosophy)
  • Dr. Craig Roell (History)
  • Stephanie Sipe (Accountancy)
  • Dr. Michael Van Wagenen (History)
2017 Outstanding Advocate (Staff/Administrator): Nick Escalante

The 2017 Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students for administrators or staff members is Nick Escalante, financial aid advisor in the Office of Financial Aid.

One student nominee wrote of Mr. Escalante: “When I first arrived at Georgia Southern I was having problems with my financial aid due to verification. The first time I walked into Mr. Escalante’s office I felt welcomed. He is always so ready to help you in any way that he can, and he is sure to do it with a smile adorning his face. He will stop at nothing to make sure whatever problem you are facing is taken care of in some way.”


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Dr. 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 Financial Aid staff meeting (above). Mr. Escalante is pictured below with members of the Financial Aid staff.

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In 2017, students and colleagues nominated a total of eight administrators or staff members for the Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students award. In addition to Mr. Escalante, they were:

  • Susan Cason (Academic Success Center)
  • Theresa Duggar (Career Services)
  • Brandi Hoffman (Leadership & Community Engagement)
  • Laura Howell (CEIT Advisement)
  • Dr. Patrice Jackson (Dean of Students)
  • Jay Pollett (Career Services)
  • Kim Simpson (CLASS Advisement)
Previous Advocate Award Winners
  • 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 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
2017 FYE Peer Leader of the Year: Alex Duggan

The 2017 Peer Leader of the Year is Candace (Alex) Dugan, a sophomore English major.

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Dr. Dustin Anderson, the professor for the course for which she peer led, wrote this about Alex: “Alex took the initiative to develop a “News Agency” for the students in our class. Rather than simply passing on dates and times of FYE events, Alex spent considerable time researching campus and community events that she saw relating to the students’ interests at not only a course topic level, but at an individual level. Alex worked with me on our Success Series follow-up assignments, and from those was able to identify topics that students were struggling with or worries that they had. . . . This was time-consuming, but Alex treated it as if it were simply the done-thing. Once the students came to see this as a regular aspect of our course, I could see a marked improvement in our students’ time-to-completion on assignments, their attitude towards attending additional events, and an overall improvement in their interpersonal and social skills.”

Alex is shown above with Dr. Anderson at a training session for Fall 2017 peer instructors. Alex was one of 21 nominees for this year’s award. In addition to her, they were:

2017 Peer Leader of the Year Nominees 
  • Alexis Bivens
  • Joseph Chadwick
  • Christina Chandler
  • Sarah Deloach
  • Hannah Dorough
  • Breanna Dunaway
  • Alexis Emery
  • David Jefferson
  • Bailey Kirk
  • Shane Lewis
  • Raychel Martin
  • Riley Martinez
  • Jessica Meierhoffer
  • Madeline Mitchell
  • Megan Prangley
  • Emily Pressler
  • Rebecca Romanek
  • Morgan Stokes
  • Ashley Vinson
  • Charlecia Williams
Previous Winners
  • 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: 2/5/2018

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