Katie Boole is a junior biology student from Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Katie takes pride in doing research at the University of Florida and has been involved in several projects relating to marine ecology. For her honors thesis, she is studying the connections between different shark species using teeth arrangement, food chain level, and evolutionary characteristics. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in marine biology or ecology. Katie is also a member of the UF Carillon studio and frequently climbs the 194 steps of Century Tower to play the bells for all to hear.
A junior biology major from Boca Raton, Florida, Kevin Hao is passionate about learning, serving others, and STEM education. Kevin is an undergraduate researcher in the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Lab led by Dr. Jennifer Nichols. Kevin founded the Science Olympiad at the University of Florida, and serves on the National Science Olympiad Physical Sciences Rules Committee. As a volunteer with Dream Team at Shands Hospital, Kevin develops bedside STEM activities for patients in the Pediatric ICU and Pediatric Cardiac ICU. He looks forward to completing his undergraduate degree and will be entering the UF College of Medicine this fall through the Medical Honors Program.
Gabriela Sullivan is a natural resource conservation junior with a specialization in environmental education from Ocala, Florida. As a Stamps Scholar and CALS Leadership Institute alumna, Gabriela has spent summers in Mexico, Madagascar, Morocco, and South Africa. In 2018, Gabriela and three colleagues received $10,300 in grants to connect university STEM students with local sixth graders to assist them with science fair projects. Gabriela’s honors thesis involves developing fourth-grade classroom activities about how Florida’s non-white groups have utilized the state's natural resources. After graduation, Gabriela plans to join the Peace Corps and attend graduate school.
As part of her professional development as a Ph.D. student in the Youth Development and Family Sciences program, Melissa Fenton serves as lead instructor of the FYC 3112 Contemporary Family Problems course. Melissa’s creates a student-centered classroom through active and collaborative learning strategies. She frequently asks students to share personal experiences to help her illustrate complex theoretical concepts and their application in real life. “We find Melissa to be an excellent, caring instructor who exhibits a confident teaching persona and a strong ability to relate to her students,” said Dr. Tracy Irani, Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department chair.
Students cite her dedication, passion, enthusiasm, adaptability and caring nature as qualities they admire. Melissa consistently contacts students who do not attend class and encourages them to use campus resources as needed. Outside the classroom, she mentors students in Dr. Larry Forthun’s lab and invites others to be active partners in the research process. “Ms. Fenton is an exemplary instructor whose impactful teaching will stay with her students long after the semester finishes,” said a former student.
Shinichi Nakahara, an entomology and nematology Ph.D. student, has studied thousands of butterfly specimens, identified more than three dozen new butterfly species, and published 37 papers in 16 different refereed journals. Dr. Keith Willmott, Shinichi’s doctoral committee chair and the Curator of Lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History, describes Shinichi as one of the most prolific butterfly systematists publishing today.
During his master’s degree, Shinichi was awarded a highly competitive research assistantship from a National Science Foundation grant to study Euptychiina butterflies. In correspondence with numerous researchers and lepidopterists, visits to museums, and personal field work in South America, Shinichi identified 21 previously undescribed species of butterflies. For his Ph.D., Shinichi continues similar taxonomic work on other neotropical butterflies.
Undergraduate students praise his teaching of the Principles of Entomology course and his mentoring in the Introduction to Natural History Collections class. An active participant in museum outreach events, Shinichi speaks to the public and young students about the museum’s research.
Dr. Kate Fogarty, an associate professor in the UF/IFAS Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department (FYCS), sees herself as a “developer,” one who helps students in their decisions for the future, both in and beyond the classroom. Dr. Fogarty’s students find her approachability, commitment, compassion, and encouragement to be the characteristics that make her an outstanding advisor and mentor. One of Dr. Fogarty’s students said, “After being her student advisee, I noticed how much I have learned and grown in my professional goals. She is such a considerate person that cares for my professional development and provides me with many great chances to participate in conferences and get in touch with experts.”
Understanding the needs of students and responding to their individual learning styles comprise Dr. Fogarty’s two-pronged teaching philosophy. She teaches a range of courses on youth development at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Students mention Dr. Fogarty’s quick responses to and availability for answering questions to be generous and crucial to their success. In each letter of support for Dr. Fogarty’s nomination for this award, students noted her ability to guide them outside their comfort zone to improve their learning outcomes.
Alumni of Dr. Fogarty’s program mention they continue to benefit from her advice as junior faculty members at other institutions. Due to her engaging, rigorous, creative, and innovative approach to advising and mentoring, Dr. Fogarty was recently appointed as departmental graduate coordinator beginning this summer. “She is a role model for our faculty in terms of her student centeredness and her creative and innovative approach to teaching and working with students,” said FYCS department chair, Dr. Tracy Irani.
For Mrs. Susan Curry, being an effective advisor means having the ability to explain the many interconnected elements which make up the path to a student’s degree. As a senior lecturer in the UF/IFAS Soil and Water Sciences Department and coordinator of the Environmental Management in Agriculture and Natural Resources degree program, Mrs. Curry views her role as each student’s first resource when help is needed, and is often the first to counsel or advocate for them. She prefers a collaborative problem-solving approach so the students have ownership of and confidence in the decisions and solutions appropriate for their lives.
When describing Mrs. Curry’s mentoring style, her students say she “listens well,” “keeps a positive attitude,” “demonstrates patience,” “encourages” them, and is “flexible.” One alumnus mentioned Mrs. Curry “can take the most difficult situations and turn it into a positive experience for all.” Another graduate said Mrs. Curry inspired her to pursue a graduate degree in the department, which led her to secure a position as an Environmental Specialist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Many students have indicated to the department chair that Mrs. Curry was the primary reason they selected a major in the department.
Mrs. Curry often goes out of her way to make herself accessible to students. Many of Mrs. Curry’s UF Online students are not available on a typical 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. schedule. She is known for being available to students on and off campus as well as at odd times. “Students are clearly the most important products our academic programs produce,” said department chair, Matt Whiles. “Susan obviously understands this, and she is a primary reason our program has produced so many well-rounded and successful young professionals, many of which have taken the time to let us know how much they appreciate her.”
In just two years, Ms. Grace Burmester has become an integral part of undergraduate advising in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation (SFRC). In addition to advising current students, Ms. Burmester travels across the state, meeting with prospective students and families, high schools, and community colleges. Her efficiency and drive to tackle challenges has led her to develop several new processes for SFRC to better serve students.
Ms. Burmester has made efforts to increase the diversity of students in the SFRC programs. By serving as a mentor in the University Multicultural Mentor Program as well as having taught in a First Year Experience course, Ms. Burmester has increased her understanding of UF resources and the transition experience of her students. Using the Appreciative Advising and Self-authorship approaches to advising, Ms. Burmester fosters positive connections and collaboration through open-ended questions while encouraging students to utilize available tools at their disposal. “After meeting with Grace, current and prospective students have been vocal about feeling ‘heard’ and they are appreciative of the time and effort that Grace puts in to every encounter she has with students and their families,” said fellow SFRC academic advisor, Kristina Haselier.
For Ms. Burmester, advising allows her the opportunity to play a role in her students’ successes, an honor and responsibility for which she is most grateful. When meeting with Ms. Burmester, students say she is “welcoming” and “supportive.” Students appreciate that she often attends club meetings and sends individual messages to them about a class, job, or internship opportunity she thinks fits their goals and interests. One alumna said, “She became a role model, a supporter, a shoulder to cry on, and, most importantly, a friend. Grace always makes the student in front of her the #1 focus.”
Frequent promotion of independent thinking is a common thread found in Dr. Luke Flory’s courses. An associate professor in the UF/IFAS Agronomy Department, Dr. Flory challenges and encourages students to think deeper, all the while reassuring them they have the skill sets and capabilities to succeed. This motivates his students to tackle complex concepts and work for the best outcomes on class assignments. “This ability to inspire independent thinking and confidence to pursue excellence is one of the best gifts we can provide to our students, and Dr. Flory excels at it,” said department chair, Dr. Diane Rowland.
A philosophy of helping students understand how we know what we know, the process of science, and that science is crucial for addressing global issues guides Dr. Flory’s teaching. Delivering information isn’t enough; getting the students interested in the material and excited about what they are learning is key to how Dr. Flory helps his students retain and apply what they learn. Dr. Flory’s department leadership when it comes to teaching practices has led him to develop quantitative assessment methods for curriculum that provides a template for new faculty to use.
To help students understand the source of scientific knowledge, Dr. Flory integrates his research into the classroom while using additional “real-world” challenges. His co-taught study abroad program to Cuba provides an example of this kind of teaching, where students see first-hand the challenges of and potential solutions for invasive species and food insecurity. A recent alumna who took a class with Dr. Flory as a freshman said, “[His] level of commitment to a freshman was absolutely critical in building my confidence as a young scientist and furthering my interest in the sciences. It is without a doubt that this type of support was highly influential in my degree switch and my finding of a home in CALS, where I ultimately completed my degree.”
As an instructor for three courses in the UF/IFAS Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, associate professor Dr. Melanie Correll encourages her students to think beyond course material to identify societal impacts and solutions. Her courses include rapidly evolving topics in the field, such as ethics and safety.
By embracing her role as a facilitator of learning, Dr. Correll encourages her students to be unafraid to propose diverse, creative ideas and to be comfortable showing struggles and mistakes in their learning process. Through a “flipped classroom” approach, Dr. Correll invites students to bring computational coding errors to class so peers can help troubleshoot the issues. Courses of Dr. Correll’s are adjusted frequently based on course evaluations, curriculum committee feedback, industry feedback, student exit surveys, informal feedback from students, and feedback from graduates who are now in industry.
Dr. Correll’s research program has recruited students from across the university who have won awards and presented their projects at symposiums and international conferences. With students and two additional faculty members, Dr. Correll began the UF International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) program. She worked with seven undergraduate students from across campus in her lab before they competed in Boston.
In their letters of support for Dr. Correll’s nomination, students shared how advantageous it has been that Dr. Correll is approachable and diverse in teaching to different learning styles. Her individual guidance on careers and research projects has been a hallmark of her mentorship, according to her students. One of Dr. Correll’s former students said, “She has been a role model to me and she is representative of a successful, brilliant, and generous professor who cares about the success of her students. I utilize her coursework on a daily basis and she prepared me to not only succeed in the workforce, but also in my graduate studies.”
As an education and training specialist in the UF/IFAS Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department (ABE), Ms. Shannon Noble is most excited about the diversity of the talent and research in the department. A personal goal of Ms. Noble’s was to help students establish an ABE graduate student organization to engage students in formal opportunities for professional development, community service, and social activities. Ms. Noble has served as the advisor for this organization since its beginnings in 2014. The organization has grown to include graduate student peer-to-peer mentoring, a Three Minute Thesis competition, and a Research Poster Symposium.
Ms. Noble said it is a “privilege to be part of [the students’] process of lifelong learning and collaboration.” She has helped students secure funding from the Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. A former graduate student of the department, who is now an assistant professor at North Carolina State University, said, “At my new institution, I have encouraged the graduate organization to adopt initiatives that were spearheaded by Ms. Noble.”
“[Shannon] has actually done more for our graduate students in terms of professional development than any other one person in our department,” said department chair, Dr. Kati Migliaccio. In addition to her work with the department’s graduate student organization, Ms. Noble helped organize and advise seven Bethune-Cookman University students who completed summer internships in the UF/IFAS ABE department. She helped these students find mentors, organized professional development opportunities for the students, and arranged mock interviews for resume and career preparation practice. “She makes the department feel like home with a safe environment for graduate students to thrive in,” said an ABE Ph.D. candidate. “She facilitates a diverse, inclusive, and empathetic environment for all graduate students to flourish.”
Dr. Gerardo Nunez began a lecturer teaching position in the UF/IFAS Horticultural Sciences Department in 2016. Since then his courses are regularly enrolled to capacity. His courses emphasize plant nutrition, protected agriculture, horticultural research, and agricultural literacy. Dr. Nunez was first in the department to offer online courses, which has resulted in enrollment increases. These online courses, “Growing Fruit for Fun and Profit” and “Vegetable Gardening,” have included mailed gardening kits with a live garden camera in Gainesville as well as virtual reality tours. Dr. Nunez has since led a committee to design and develop 12 new courses for students in the department.
A guiding principle for Dr. Nunez’s teaching style is that one size does not fit all. He aims to create a learning environment where students achieve deep understanding. Through use of technology and experiential learning, Dr. Nunez prepares students for a competitive job market. “His teaching style demonstrates mastery in subject matter, enthusiasm, innovation, and creativity,” said Dr. Nunez’s colleagues, Dr. Jeff Williamson, Dr. Brantlee Spakes Richter, and Dr. Rebecca Darnell. He uses an impressive range of teaching methods to enhance interaction among students, such as a course podcast, in-the-field activities, mobile applications to diagnose and measure crops, among many others. Dr. Nunez is currently developing online graduate courses, a critical need for students at UF/IFAS Research and Education Centers across the state.
Dr. Nunez’s teaching is not only confined to the classroom. His approachable lecture style encourages discussion and questions outside of class. Dr. Nunez can often be found meeting with students in his office between classes. Through his undergraduate research program, Dr. Nunez has students who have been awarded national research fellowships from the American Society of Plant Biology as well as several others who have been awarded travel grants and poster presentation recognition at professional society meetings.