Alumni Outstanding Teacher awards are bestowed by the UT Alumni Association to recognize teaching excellence.
Megan Bryson approaches her teaching with a goal of examining ideas and exposing students to critical thinking, even about commonly held beliefs. She encourages her students to examine challenging concepts, reconsider preconceived notions, and develop an overall understanding of religion. Bryson uses group and individual work in class so students can develop their ideas by talking to each other. She values collaborative learning and assigns group projects and presentations so students can share and verify their understanding of course material. The group work also helps to develop their interpersonal and organizational skills. A lecturer in Religious Studies, Bryson has extensive background in Asian culture and religion. She speaks Mandarin Chinese and did field work and research for her dissertation at Dali University in China. She also took courses on language and ethnicity in Taipei, Taiwan, and in Beijing, China. She held doctoral fellowships at the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies and received several fellowships at Stanford.
An award-winning educator and researcher in Food Science and Technology, David Golden infuses his courses with humor and real-world stories. His students say this style of teaching helps them remember what they have learned. He teaches about the impact of people and historical events on the production, distribution, and consumption patterns of food as well as the role of food in society and culture. His lessons have titles like “Two All-Beef Patties, Special Sauce…A History of Hamburgers” and “Got Milk? Louis Pasteur’s Contributions to Food and Society.” He invites guest lecturers from other UT departments and from food companies like Bush Brothers. Golden’s light-hearted approach and sincere interest in his students and their lives have earned him teaching evaluations that are positive nearly across the board. Golden’s professional experience includes work for the US Food and Drug Administration and as a visiting research scientist for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia. He is a faculty fellow for the Haslam Scholars Program and will serve as president of the Faculty Senate next year.
Will Jennings keeps world events at the forefront of his courses on African politics and political change in developing countries. A lecturer in Political Science, he begins each class with a discussion of current events to encourage students to think critically about the world around them. His courses focus on much more than politics to encompass society, culture, religion, geography, and regional history. This comprehensive view can help students see the role Africa plays in their own lives—whether they trace their ancestry back to the continent or come to understand Africa’s increasing influence on American business and politics. Jennings’s extensive research and study abroad experience influences his teaching. He has worked in southern Sudan, South Africa, South Korea, Haiti, and Cameroon. He emphasizes quality writing and critical thinking and assigns literature reviews and media analyses to strengthen these skills. Students rate him as an engaging and interesting teacher and appreciate his role as an advisor and mentor.
John Riley, professor of agricultural economics, has been a member of the UT faculty since 1995. After serving almost four years as dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, he returned to the classroom, where he teaches courses about the job search process and marketing and sales communications in addition to agricultural economics. Riley dedicates a lot of time to advising, with forty-five undergraduate students and two at the master’s level. He also coaches UT’s National AgriMarketing Association (NAMA) Student Marketing team, which competes with more than thirty teams from the United States and Canada. He is the longest-serving coach for this competition and has received two NAMA outstanding advisor awards. In fact, the organization recognized his commitment by renaming the award in his honor. In the words of one of his students, “Dr. Riley is disciplined and dedicates his time and efforts into making sure that every student succeeds. He’s a good man and a great professor. I wish every single one was like him.”