In recognition of their exceptional teaching, Ashley Bryan, Nishi Bryska and Ian Marriott have received the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ Excellence in Teaching Awards for 2017.
Bryan, a faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies, has received the Outstanding Teaching by a Part-Time Faculty Member Award. Bryska, a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences, has received the Outstanding Teaching by a Full-Time Lecturer Award. Marriott, a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences, has received the Integration of Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award.
They, along with finalists for the teaching awards, were honored at a college reception on April 24. Dean Nancy A. Gutierrez and the awards committee chairs commended the honorees for their innovation, creativity and focus on engaging students in scholarship and research.
The finalists for the Outstanding Teaching by a Part-Time Faculty Member Award were Valerie Bright of English and Jeanne-Marie Linker of Mathematics & Statistics.
The finalists for the Outstanding Teaching by a Full-Time Lecturer Award were Hannah Peach of Psychological Sciences and Wafaa Shaban of Mathematics & Statistics.
The finalists for the Integration of Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award were Jennifer Munroe of English and Stephanie Norander of Communication Studies.
The Winners Are:
Ashley Bryan is a part-time faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies. After graduating from Temple University with a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in religion and philosophy in a global context, she worked at a small business in Charlotte in the technology sector. She credits her liberal arts degree and her knowledge of international cultures as the reasons for gaining this employment. Later, Bryan entered the master’s degree program in religious studies at UNC Charlotte, where she was a graduate teaching assistant. She joined the faculty at UNC Charlotte in 2013.
“All of my classes are designed so that students can truly be self-directed learners within the parameters set forth in the class,” Bryan says. “Even though I give students very instructive advice related to proven methods that can help structure their own success, I recognize that each student is an individual with their own study methods, external obligations, internal struggles, and personal preferences.”
Bryan has developed innovative courses in Religious Studies, and students return to study with her repeatedly. Her teaching evaluations from students demonstrate that she is a faculty member who is thoughtful, challenging, and interested in the intellectual well-being of students at the university.
“Though many former students liken me to a mentor, I firmly maintain that I am only a supporting actor; it is the curiosity and imagination contained within the students themselves and the liberal arts ethos of ongoing self-driven education that enables students to effect change in their lives and the world around them,” she says.
As a senior lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences, Nishi Bryska has contributed to the human anatomy and physiology lecture and laboratory instruction offered by both Biological Sciences and, at one period of time, Kinesiology. She has also helped develop the curriculum for the Animal Physiology Laboratory and two new liberal studies courses. She advises biology majors and students seeking professional degrees in allied health fields.
Her teaching philosophy is focused on promoting positive learning experiences, sparking an enthusiasm for learning, and providing strong foundations for lifelong learning.
“I think learning should be stimulating and exciting,” Bryska says. “I try to have the students think of a difficult concept as if it is a mystery novel. There is a beginning and an ending. I want them to be excited about arriving at the end.”
Over the years, Bryska has used different methods of teaching, and she finds it exhilarating to actively involve students in learning.
Her course material is presented in a variety of ways that include lectures, demonstrations, in-class problem-solving sessions, group work, and even role playing where she has selected students to pretend to be amino acid units in order to demonstrate how a protein structure forms or the molecular structure of muscles. A former student states that she is a “really excellent professor who taught professionally and uses a variety of methods to help students understand.”
Her future plans are to incorporate inquiry-based learning in her courses, by which students would practice problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to arrive at the appropriate conclusions.
Ian Marriott, professor of Biological Sciences, is a prolific researcher in immunology and biotechnology, and he has an extensive record of both integrating undergraduate students in his own scholarly research and integrating undergraduates’ research into his classroom and research practices.
He has co-authored eight peer-reviewed articles and numerous conference presentations with undergraduates, including some in which the student was the first author. He routinely designs classroom activities that facilitate student designed-and-conducted research.
In addition to an impressive record of funded research of his own, Marriott is the co-principal investigator on a $70,000 award from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center that funded the purchase of new equipment to support two practical, hands-on, undergraduate courses that focus on the application of current biotechnology and immunological techniques. He developed these courses with colleague Kenneth Bost.
In his research-intensive classes, he integrates material from his federally funded biomedical research program. “Undergraduate students in these courses are encouraged to actively participate in the design, performance, and interpretation of the results, of such experiments,” he says. “It is only in this setting that students can begin to appreciate the complexity of the interaction between our bodies and bacterial and viral pathogens and, importantly, recognize the limits of our current understanding of disease processes.”
Students and alumni say Marriott excels at creating a classroom environment where they feel safe and supported as they assume intellectual risks they find are key to scientific discovery and scholarly innovation.
Pictured: Ian Marriott, Ashley Bryan, Nishi Bryska, Nancy Gutierrez