Professor at UNG honored by USG

Regents’ Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Award

University of North Georgia faculty member Dr. Michael Rifenburg has won the 2022 Regents’ Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Award from the University System of Georgia. He will officially receive the recognition and the accompanying $5,000 prize at the Regents’ Scholarship Gala in September.

It marks the second year in a row a UNG faculty member has earned the honor — associate professor of marketing Dr. Caroline Muñoz secured the award in 2021.

Rifenburg received especially high marks for his work with students as research and writing partners. An associate professor of English, he serves as co-director of first-year composition in the English department and senior faculty fellow for scholarly writing within UNG’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership (CTLL).

“This award is certainly humbling and surprising,” Rifenburg said. “It shows the quality of students and faculty I get to work with at UNG and the quality of professional development through the CTLL.”

Dr. Roger Runquist, director of the CTLL, was grateful to see Rifenburg recognized.

“Dr. Rifenburg is highly involved in the UNG community as both a scholar and educator,” Runquist said. “He constantly implements new ways of involving students in his research, expanding their experience and knowledge.”

Some of Rifenburg’s collaboration with students has focused on giving them a greater say in how their English capstone course is structured. A particularly proud moment for Rifenburg came when student Kellie Keeling presented some of their findings to Vice Provost Dr. Steven Lloyd and other English faculty members on a Zoom call.

“I want to learn more about my teaching and what’s working and not working in the classroom. A helpful way to do that is bringing students into the research on teaching and learning,” Rifenburg said. “It’s an opportunity for students to broaden their research skills and have more say in their education. It’s an awesome partnership.”

For Keeling, it was a game-changer. A transfer student from Kennesaw State University, the senior pursuing a degree in English with a concentration in writing and publication was unsure what to do for her internship and jumped at the chance to assist Rifenburg.

“It has helped more than I can say,” the Dahlonega, Georgia, resident said. “Professors like Dr. Rifenburg cared about what I wanted to learn. It gave me direction.”

It has led to publications, as well, including an article in the Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice in December 2021, with Rifenburg and UNG student Zoë Phalen as her fellow authors. The publishing process, particularly exposure to peer review, has been invaluable for Keeling.

“Otherwise, I wouldn’t have even known this process existed until I got into the workforce,” she said.

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