August 28, 2020 For more information, contact: Su Ofe, (334) 833-4515; email@example.com
Huntingdon Faculty Honored for Exemplary Teaching
Montgomery, Ala.—Excellence in teaching is a signature aspect of Huntingdon College and extends to the relationships Huntingdon faculty develop as advisers and mentors to their students. In this spirit, we celebrate the winners of four faculty awards announced during the College’s annual Awards Convocation in May 2020: Dr. John Berch ’98, professor of chemistry; Dr. Allison Mugno, assistant professor of psychology; and Dr. Sara Shoffner, assistant professor of sport science.
Recognized with the Dr. and Mrs. John N. Todd Award for Excellence in Teaching, Dr. Allison Mugno joined the Huntingdon faculty in 2017 after earning her Ph.D. at Florida International University. She says teaching came to her as a calling after sampling other ways of working in her field. “It wasn’t until I was working in a memory research laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that I first learned about the area of legal psychology, [which] I found particularly fascinating,” says Dr. Mugno. “I knew that I wanted to go back to graduate school to one day teach and conduct research at the college level.”
“Teaching at Huntingdon has been extremely fulfilling,” she says. “Because Huntingdon is a smaller college, it is so nice to have the opportunity to connect with the students well. With the smaller course size, you can also engage the students better in active learning and hopefully further pique their interest in the material.”
Dr. Sara Shoffner was honored with the Winn and Gordon Chappell Academic Enrichment Award, presented annually to a faculty member who has demonstrated exceptional student engagement and student achievement in the arts and sciences. The recipient is determined through a faculty nomination process. A star golfer for her undergraduate and graduate alma mater, the University of Mississippi, she says, “After graduating college, I thought about becoming a golf coach, a golf instructor, or playing golf professionally. However, after working in athletics doing academic counseling, I discovered that I really enjoyed teaching. I am so thankful to be teaching at Huntingdon now and have found my niche for helping students in an academic setting, while still fulfilling my desire to be involved with sports.”
She echoes Dr. Mugno’s sentiment on teaching at Huntingdon. “Each semester I am so grateful for how caring and supportive our students are. I also work with wonderful colleagues who are always willing to help and provide guidance. Huntingdon is a family, and I enjoy getting to know my students and finding ways to help them academically as well as in their endeavors to find their future career paths.”
Dr. John Berch, a 1998 Huntingdon graduate in chemistry who earned his graduate and doctoral degrees at the University of South Carolina, was named the recipient of both the Julia Lightfoot Sellers Award and the Exemplary Teacher Award. The Sellers Award is chosen by members of the junior and senior classes and is given to a faculty member “who … has done much this year toward inspiring students to nobility of purpose and integrity of character, and rekindling within them a deeper desire for learning.” Huntingdon faculty vote on the recipient of the Exemplary Teacher Award, given annually to a senior member of faculty.
Dr. Berch learned of the awards while at home watching the virtual ceremony with his wife, Nanci Smith Berch, Class of 1996, and children. “To share that moment with my family was incredible because they are the ones who completely accept that I am going to answer a call in the middle of dinner to help a student, and they aren’t annoyed or upset. My oldest child usually makes the comment, ‘They must have a test tomorrow.’”
“From the moment I decided to become a professor, I knew I wanted to come back to Huntingdon,” reflects Dr. Berch. “I wanted to do, for current students, what Huntingdon did for me. I was truly blessed to have GIANTS as professors during my time as a student. I work every day to grow and improve in hope that I can have the impact on current students that [my Huntingdon professors] had on me”
“When you first decide to become a teacher, I think you reflect on all of your teachers in the past and learn from all of them,” agrees Dr. Mugno. “You think about what strategies seemed to work, and others that maybe didn’t work as well. The other faculty at Huntingdon have also been tremendous influencers for providing good teaching and encouraging good learning.”
Dr. Shoffner is grateful to her Huntingdon teaching colleagues for easing her into confident teaching, while also citing the College’s institutional values as inspiration to be a better teacher. “The dedication of the College to helping students find their sense of vocation is something that I value and emphasize in my own teaching,” says Dr. Shoffner. “I always tell my students it’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do, but you have to continually seek out experiences to find your own path. I enjoy partnering with students to discern opportunities where they can volunteer, intern, or work in an effort to find their own path to success.”
All three faculty express certainty with their own calling to teach. “To watch a student truly put forth effort, reap the rewards of that effort and grow their confidence in their own abilities is simply incredible,” remarks Dr. Berch. “I often tell students that thanking me is like celebrating the guy who built the frame for the Mona Lisa. At the end of the day, it is the students who put the work in and their families and teachers before me who prepared them with the priorities, diligence, and virtues that are the true reasons for their successes.”