Four graduate students at Georgia Southern University earned the highest award in the Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies for their research or instruction in various disciplines during the 2020-21 academic year.
Each year, the Averitt Award is bestowed upon a group of students within the College of Graduate Studies who stand apart in research or instruction. This year’s winners included Cesar Carapia, Excellence in Research; Erin Arneson, Excellence in Research; Bradly McGinnis, Excellence in Instruction; and Cydney Price, Excellence in Instruction.
Carapia is a mechanical engineering major who pursued a degree at Georgia Southern for its hands-on learning experiences. The opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research with Allen E. Paulson Distinguished Chair of Renewable Energy Valentin Soloiu, Ph.D., among others, has been a vital component to his success.
“Receiving this award helps validate that all the effort I put into my work at Georgia Southern in research is actually bearing fruit, not only through the research papers I publish, but also through acknowledgment from my peers,” Carapia said.
Arneson, who will earn her master’s degree in biology this year, credits much of her learning to Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary where she performed a significant amount of her research. It was this work that ignited her passion for sharing the beauty of biology with others.
“I worked hard through graduate school not only to do my research well, but also to expand my abilities to convey that research to other people at different levels of understanding,” Arneson said. “Whether it’s kids, adults or other scientists who work in different fields, I hope I can be a liason or collaborator to help bridge the gap between scientists and the community.”
McGinnis (’21), who earned a master’s in experimental psychology in May, hails from a family of teachers. Carrying the tradition forward, McGinnis began teaching at the start of the pandemic. On his final day in the classroom, his students gave him a round of applause, an experience that will stay with him as he begins a doctoral program in clinical psychology in South Dakota this fall.
“That was my last lecture here, and getting that was amazing,” said McGinnis. “I’m going to miss it.”
Price (’21) began her college journey as a fashion merchandising and apparel design major. She completed her undergraduate studies in both fashion and English and chose to continue her education in English with a master’s degree. It was this experience that led her to teach at Georgia Southern.
“Going to graduate school, when I found out that teaching was a mandate, I was nervous because I had never had my own classroom before,” Price said. “But when you step into your classroom and you realize that these students are depending on you, that you are why they are going to leave this campus someday and do something bigger, then you realize that you can’t let them down. So you figure out how to make sure that they learn world literature, but also how to navigate the rest of their college and careers to some extent.”
Each of the honorees received a $500 cash prize. The Averitt Award is funded by the Graduate Student Organization (GSO).