• Faculty Awards

    2020 Academic Achievement Awards

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    The George I. Alden Excellence in Teaching Award

    This award publicly acknowledges Worcester State University professors who have made a difference in students’ lives through their teaching excellence.

    Each year, Worcester State University asks students, alumni, and faculty to nominate full-time faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in teaching.

    From those nominations, a committee composed of students, alumni, and faculty choose one full-time faculty member from each school to be honored with this award.

    Dr. Jennifer Hood-DeGrenier

    Dr. Jennifer Hood-DeGrenier
    Dr. Jennifer Hood‑DeGrenier
    Associate Professor of Biology, School of Education, Health, and Natural Sciences

    Dr. Jennifer Hood-DeGrenier exemplifies the type of teacher who looks for ways to improve students’ learning experiences at Worcester State University. Dr. Hood-Grenier never teaches the same version of a class twice, always tweaking assignments and incorporating up-to-date material. She is enthusiastic about trying new classroom ideas despite the significant risk and time investment.

    Dr. Hood-DeGrenier is genuinely fascinated by the content she teaches and strives to convey her excitement about biology to her students and to make the subject matter relevant to their lives outside of class. She emphasizes fundamental concepts and skills that students can apply in many contexts, including stressing the importance of biology literacy for making informed decisions as a responsible citizen.

    Dr. Hood-DeGrenier places a high priority on fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment in all classes and uses a variety of techniques to encourage participation from everyone. She promotes collaboration among students in an intentional manner by asking them to take on specific roles in their groups, such as reader, recorder, information gatherer, and discussion facilitator.

    Dr. Hood De-Grenier incorporates a variety of teaching techniques from lecturing, polling methods to assess real-time understanding, and “workshop” sessions in which students are guided to their own understanding of the material rather than her lecturing about the content directly. Her colleagues are impressed with the “way that she has incorporated research into her classes and that she consistently has students working on research projects, requiring that she spends long hours working with them in a research setting. Providing our students with such research opportunities demonstrates a commitment to our students which will have a lasting effect on their education and future careers.”

    Dr. Hood-DeGrenier’s service to the sciences reflects her dedication to student learning. She serves on the Education Committee of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) and was an organizer at the 2019 National Meeting of the society for an Education Minisymposium entitled, Biology Competency for the Classroom and Beyond. She is an editor for CourseSource, an online repository that provides “evidence-based teaching resources for undergraduate biology education.” She is also involved in numerous service activities related to the improvement of education and student success at Worcester State, including service to the Commonwealth Honors Program, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Biology Department, and the Pre-Medical Advisory Committee.

    Dr. Hood-DeGrenier’s innovative and thoughtful approach to her teaching exemplifies teaching at Worcester State University.

    Dr. Christina Santana

    Dr. Christina Santana
    Dr. Christina Santana
    Assistant Professor of English, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

    Dr. Christina Santana is an exceptional professor in the English Department at Worcester State University. She is an engaged teacher-scholar who draws upon her scholarship to challenge her students intellectually and practically in their professional development. She is an adept discussion facilitator and a charismatic and engaging instructor who more than maintains her students' avid interest and participation.

    Across her composition and business communications courses, Dr. Santana helps students become multi-literate, publicly engaged, and critically reflective. As a community literacy scholar, she sees students as situated experts with important knowledge to contribute to problem-solving contexts. As a teacher, she helps students identify their specific areas of expertise and works with them to locate gaps in their knowledge and develop their skills in rhetorically sophisticated ways.

    Dr. Santana sees her writing courses as rich intellectual endeavors that provide students with the means to better envision themselves as individuals and as citizens enmeshed in public lives. She enables students’ understanding by exposing them to different literacies and world views that help them examine and reexamine their often unchallenged assumptions.

    As with her own research, a goal of her teaching is to get students to use rhetorical tools to speculate thoughtfully about their future. In her Business Communications course, Dr. Santana helps students cultivate speculative thinking abilities and has them develop an employment packet to leverage an internship or employment opportunity. At the conclusion of this course, a recent Worcester State graduate stated that Dr. Santana is a “phenomenal teacher and made a lasting impact in my undergraduate career. You helped me net my dream job.”

    Dr. Santana’s classroom is a comfortable mix of high standards and practicality built on the belief that good writing is not necessarily an innate talent, but the fruit of iterative work. She frames the writing process as a series of strategies students can use to get started, organize their thoughts, and work through roadblocks and setbacks. She understands how essential it is to ensure Worcester State students are successful and feel supported. In response to this need, she created “Pop-up Writing Centers” to meet students in their spaces.

    As the Writing Center Director, Dr. Santana’s teaching extends beyond the classroom. She works with student writing consultants to effectively respond to documents in progress. She teaches them to use peer feedback and guides them to provide useful and systematic feedback to peer writers. Additionally, she shares her expertise in peer feedback with colleagues at Center for Teaching and Learning workshops.

    Dr. Santana is dedicated to the success of students while being a down-to-earth, approachable, and inspirational forward thinker. She raises the bar and inspires students to be better.