Jessica Damian receives USG Teaching Excellence Award

Dr. Jessica Damián, associate professor of English at Georgia Gwinnett College, is one of three University System of Georgia (USG) faculty members selected to receive the 2012 University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award. She was recognized as the 2010-2011 GGC Outstanding Teaching Award at the college’s academic convocation ceremony, Sept. 15.

Dr. Jessica Damián, associate professor of English at Georgia Gwinnett College, is one of three University System of Georgia (USG) faculty members selected to receive the 2012 University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award. She was recognized as the 2010-2011 GGC Outstanding Teaching Award at the college’s academic convocation ceremony, Sept. 15. 

“Dr. Damián was the very first member of our English faculty, and she has been a driving force for student success since the day she arrived,” said GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman. “She combines all the attributes of a teacher and scholar with infectious enthusiasm and dynamism. Hers is a special kind of scholarship, one ideally suited to the tasks needed to instill in students a commitment to being life-long learners as well as engaged and contributing citizens.”

Damián is the second GGC faculty member to receive the award within the past three years. The award recognizes outstanding teaching by individual faculty members, single academic program or department. It honors exemplary teaching that significantly improves student success, as well as research demonstrating innovative teaching techniques that enhance student learning.  Each year, recipients are selected from nominations submitted by USG institution presidents. Award winners receive $5,000 and a certificate of achievement.

At GGC, students make initial nominations for the award. Damián’s students describe her as inspiring, engaging and dynamic.

“Dr. Damián uses her talents to implant a hunger for knowledge and social justice in her students. This is certainly the most invaluable gift she offers,” said former student Mary Beth (Rumble) Kingry in her nomination letter. “A student arises from her course with the desire and tools necessary to create lasting and powerful change. Perhaps the best summation of Dr. Damián’s classroom experience is encapsulated in Gandhi’s famous words, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’  There is no one I’ve known that lives these words more simply and consistently as Dr. Jessica Damián.”

“I am so honored to have been nominated by my students, particularly in light of the many magnificent instructors at GGC. I feel quite humbled,” Damián said. “When you teach, you have no expectations to receive anything back, except the joy and pride in your students’ accomplishments.” 

Damián specializes in British romanticism, transatlantic studies, and Caribbean literature. She has published numerous articles in journals including Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies, The Journal of West

Indian Literature, and Anthurium: A Caribbean Literary and Cultural Studies Journal. Her most recent work on Maria Graham’s Journal of a Residence in Chile (1824) was published in Romanticism and the Anglo-Hispanic Imaginary. Damián’s current book project, Mining Romanticism: British Women Writers Explore South America, 1770-1860, examines the role mining played in the construction of the British Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries.

She serves on the editorial board of Anthurium: A Caribbean Literary and Cultural Studies Journal and the review board for Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies. Damián has presented her research at numerous academic conferences in the United States, Canada and England.

During her tenure at GGC, Damián’s service to the institution has been significant. She served as the charter chair of GGC’s Internationalization Committee from 2007-2009, the founding advisor of the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) from 2007-2011, and as a member of the College’s strategic SACS and QEP Committees. In 2009, Damián received GGC’s first Excellence in Service to the Institution Award.

As the charter member of the English faculty, she was an integral member of the team that developed GGC’s core English program, subsequent major and teacher certification program. Within GGC and the community, she is an outspoken and avid proponent of the mission and vision of the college.

“Dr. Damián uses innovative classroom techniques and strategies to make sure that every student, regardless of ability level, has an equal chance of doing well in her classes,” said Lois Richardson, acting vice president of Academic and Student Affairs. “She brings the same energy to service and student engagement as she does to teaching and the students are appreciative.”

Damián holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Miami at Coral Gables, where she was the recipient of the Bernard Benstock Doctoral Award and a Center for Latin American Studies Research Grant to the Princeton University Archives. She received a master’s degree in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Miami at Coral Gables, studying as a College of Arts and Sciences Merit Scholar in the Humanities. 

Damián has traveled extensively in Europe and the Americas and enjoys visiting family in her native country of El Salvador. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Mike Schelke, who founded the Antonio Damián Scholarship, the first endowed scholarship for the GGC School of Liberal Arts. He founded the scholarship to honor Damián’s late father, a Lebanese immigrant who believed in the power of education.

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