GGC's Jessica Damián receives USG Excellence Award

Dr. Jessica Damián, associate professor of English at Georgia Gwinnett College, is one of three University System of Georgia (USG) faculty members honored with the 2012 USG Board of Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award. She was presented the award among her colleagues at a March 31 dinner hosted at the downtown Marriott Marquis.

Dr. Jessica Damián, associate professor of English at Georgia Gwinnett College, is one of three University System of Georgia (USG) faculty members honored with the 2012 USG Board of Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award. She was presented the award among her colleagues at a March 31 dinner hosted at the downtown Marriott Marquis.

Receiving the award means so much to me because the University System of Georgia recognizes the dynamic work taking place within our classrooms at GGC,” Damián said. “It’s rewarding to see that our student engagement model resonates within the state system.”

Damián, the first faculty member of the GGC English program, came to the college in 2007 when there were 10 faculty members on campus. She credits Daniel J. Kaufman, president; Stas Preczewski, then-vice president for Academic and Student Affairs and Lois C. Richardson, current acting vice president for Academic and Student Affairs and then-dean of the School of Liberal Arts, for their leadership, continued presence and hands-on involvement in the accreditation process that reaffirmed her belief in Georgia Gwinnett’s mission and vision.

“These senior administrators served and continue to serve as extraordinary mentors, teaching me how to remain in service to my students, colleagues and institution,” Damián said. “I value their insights and support.”

Dr. Damián’s unsurpassed skill as a leader and her tireless devotion inspire students and faculty to succeed,” said Kaufman. “The measure of her success is the remarkable retention and progression rates achieved by her students, a level that matches or exceeds those at state universities.”

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.

“Dr. Damián’s classes are always the first to fill,” said Richardson. “She sets high standards, but her willingness to offer the extra help, addressing various learning styles, attracts students to her classes.”

At GGC, students make initial nominations for the award. Damián’s students describe her as inspiring and engaging. She is known for encouraging them to “fall madly in love” with their college experience by finding that one thing that turns their world around.

For example, in an effort to advance the dreams of one of her students, she sponsored mentee Seijin Tranberg, former Student Government Association president, during a 2,400-mile cycling trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles last December to raise awareness for human rights in Japan. Currently, he’s serving as a Gilman Scholar in China. 

“Dr. Damián is not only interested in her students’ success while they are her students, but invests the necessary time to develop an educational relationship with them that endures long after they leave her classroom,” said current student Kristine Ward in her nomination letter. “Her allegiance to her students’ academic and personal growth is incomparable.”

In addition to the Teaching Excellence Award, she was nominated by President Kaufman for the Aspen Institute’s Wye Faculty Seminar to be held this July. The Seminar addresses a central need of faculty in liberal arts institutions – to exchange ideas with colleagues from other colleges and other disciplines while probing ideas and values that underlie their teaching.

“Dr. Damián enables her students to become independent learners who acquire the critical thinking skills that are so crucial to their future careers and other endeavors,” said Kaufman.

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. Damián specializes in British romanticism, transatlantic studies and Caribbean literature.

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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