August 11, 2022

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Professor Describes Teaching Fellowship as Transformative Experience

Dr. Linda de la Garza, associate professor of chemistry, attended the 2021-2022 Governor's Teaching Fellows Program. She joined the Valdosta State University faculty in 2005.

VALDOSTA — Dr. Linda de la Garza returns to her classroom in Valdosta State University’s Hugh C. Bailey Science Center this fall with a renewed passion for teaching and a few new skills.

The associate professor of chemistry says her transformation is due, in large part, to her recent participation in the annual Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program offered through the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia.

The Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program provides higher education faculty members from accredited public and private colleges and universities across Georgia with expanded opportunities for developing important teaching skills. It was established in 1995 by former Georgia Governor Zell Miller.

Throughout the 2021-2022 academic year, de la Garza attended six three-day symposia that included a combination of structured instructional and faculty development activities, as well as self-directed activities designed to meet her individual needs. She also received the support necessary to engage in a VSU-specific instructional improvement project — increasing student participation and engagement in CHEM 2310: Quantitative Analysis, a sophomore chemistry class.

“It was a transformative experience,” she shared. “I now keep in mind student perspective much more than I did before. The program ended in a course redesign and introduction of various active learning activities in the classroom and project-based learning in team format and in individual assignments."

Student feedback throughout the process was positive, she added.

Students in de la Garza’s spring class who wanted to further develop their interest in analytical procedures presented their work at VSU’s annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. Her summer class made chemistry displays that are currently featured in the third-floor exhibition cases in the Hugh C. Bailey Science Center.

“I am now working on inquiry-based lessons and activities, as well as projects for other classes,” she said.

A total of 14 faculty members representing Kennesaw State University, Columbus State University, Augusta University, Dalton State University, Berry College, Georgia State University-Perimeter College, Mercer University, South Georgia State College, Georgia College, University of North Georgia, Andrew College, Middle Georgia State University, and VSU were named fellows and selected to participate in the 2021-2022 Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program’s Academic Year Symposia Program.

Each fellow was chosen based on their teaching experience, their interest in continuing instructional and professional development, their ability to make a positive impact on their own campus, and a strong commitment by their home institution for release time and other forms of support for the duration of their participation in the program.

“The program allowed me to think not only about teaching but also about mentoring and leadership activities, and I recommend faculty to apply and participate in future sessions,” de la Garza said. “It was an honor to participate along with faculty in other disciplines from other institutions in Georgia.”

Recruited as a tenure-track faculty member, de la Garza joined the VSU Department of Chemistry in 2005. Seventeen years later she enjoys teaching all course levels, especially laboratories, in general chemistry and quantitative analysis and pursuing and advancing knowledge through research.

“I have experience in the characterization of photo-induced electron transfer processes in semiconductor nanoparticles and the application in solar energy conversion,” she said “At VSU we study the properties of semiconductors at the nanoparticle level using a variety of spectroscopic and electrochemical techniques. Recent projects with undergraduate students, like the one from the Blazer Summer Research Institute in 2021, involved the recycling of rust into materials for solar cells. This year we started projects using methods of water analysis and new teaching laboratory experiences with a forensic chemistry theme.”

When not in the classroom, de la Garza advises VSU’s chapter of Student Members of the American Chemical Society. Her work with this student organization earned her the Student Life Advisor of the Year Award earlier this year. She also volunteers to serve underrepresented minority students through the Southwest Georgia STEM Pathways Alliance and Latinx students through VSU’s MESA (Mentoring, Engagement, Support, and Achievement) Committee.

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