Feature Stories

Honoring our best and brightest

The University of Georgia continues to be propelled forward by the accomplishments of its faculty, staff, students and alumni.

While the incredible work by individuals at UGA happens year-round, the university sets aside a week to recognize the work of some of the best and brightest who exemplify the university's motto "to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things."

"Honors Week is a celebration of the innumerable ways that our faculty, staff, students and alumni help make the University of Georgia such a vibrant academic community," said Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

Honors Week at UGA dates back to the 1930s, when then-Chancellor S.V. Sanford set aside a day to recognize exemplary students. The event was expanded to a full week in 2011 to include events recognizing faculty, staff and alumni.

Read about all of the award winners on our Honors and Awards site.


The honors include faculty teaching awards such as the Richard B. Russell Awards, which recognize the outstanding undergraduate teaching by faculty early in their academic careers, and the Josiah Meigs Teaching Professorship, the university's highest recognition for instruction at both graduate and undergraduate levels.

The 2016 winners of these teaching awards represent schools and colleges across campus, demonstrating the range of teaching excellence in disciplines from genetics to advertising and from housing economics to poultry science.

What's more, these faculty members demonstrate teaching excellence in a variety of ways. Russell Award winner Zachary Wood, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, empowers his students to teach each other through student-authored textbooks.

Tim Smalley, a new Meigs Professor of Horticulture, employs an old-fashioned principle.

"To paraphrase Goethe, I believe that by treating students as they ought to be and could, they will become what they ought to be," Smalley said.

UGA also recognizes the groundbreaking research undertaken by university faculty, students and staff during Honors Week. The research recognized during Honors Week showcases the breadth of work undertaken at UGA, like that of Creative Research Medal winners Jenna Jambeck, who has been calculating the amount of plastic trash in the ocean, and Steve Kogan, whose work fights the spread of HIV in the rural South. UGA also named Distinguished Research Professors like Elena Karahanna, an expert in how information systems are used in the health sector, and Ed Pavlic, whose work highlighted the influence of the iconic writer James Baldwin on African-American music.

This week, the university also recognizes faculty and staff for their contributions to public service and outreach. These honorees showcase Georgia's impact in the state and beyond.

Karen Payne, a senior public service associate in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government's Information Technology Outreach Services, has been the Walter Barnard Hill Distinguished Public Service Fellow Award, which is UGA's highest honor for public service and outreach. As the head of humanitarian programs at the Vinson Institute, Payne uses geographic information systems and other spatial and information technologies to help organizations worldwide that are involved in humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

Fei Zhang, program coordinator for the Carl Vinson Institute of Government's International Center, has been given the PSO Staff Award for Excellence. Zhang assists Georgians visiting China as instructors or leadership delegation members with cultural orientation, translation, program and budget development, and more. He has also served as the primary coordinator for more than 1,000 Chinese officials who have visited Georgia.

In addition to these awards, departments across campus recognize faculty, staff, students and alumni for their inspiring contributions during Honors Week.

Published Sunday,