The David J. Prior Award for Students

The David J. Prior Award was created in 2012 to recognize senior-level undergraduates whose academic careers and future goals have been shaped by the transformative power of the liberal arts and sciences experience at a COPLAC institution. Each student's reflective personal essay highlights one or more of the following features of COPLAC's student-centered approach to teaching: emphasis on active learning, ethical reasoning, interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge, community engagement, critical and reflective skills, and connections between liberal learning and informed, active citizenship.

The legacy of David Prior - his career-long commitment to superior undergraduate teaching, his desire as a consortium leader to make the outcomes of an education at our public liberal arts institutions widely recognized, and his deep concern that all students, regardless of financial circumstances, have equal access to a high-quality education anchored in the liberal arts and sciences - is the inspiration for this award.

2024 Winners of the David J. Prior Award

Selah Ryan, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus

Selah Ryan is a senior Law, Crime and Justice student as the University of Alberta's Augustana Campus in Camrose, Alberta. She wrote her capstone thesis on the current academic descourse of homelessness, persons experiencing homelessness and crime in Canada and plans to begin work on a Master of Social Work degree after graduation. Originally from central Ontario, Selah has found her roots in Camrose where she plans to eventually find a community-building career.

Read her essay here.

Nicole Snyder, Georgia College & State University

Nicole Snyder is a senior Chemistry major, Dance minor at Georgia College & State University. Her research focuses on detection of nitroaromatic compounds using porphyrin doped silica sol-gels. She volunteers often with the Georgia Science Education Center in their STEMing in the Community program. She is also a dance instructor and teaches ages 4-65 years old. Future plans include pursuing a career as a college professor so she can help younger generations the way her professors did for her.

Read her essay here.

2024 Honorable Mentions

Alexandria Arndt, Northern State University
Rachel Eubanks, USC Aiken
Kate Justis, Truman State University
Elinore Voss, SUNY Geneseo

Previous Winners

Charles Dunn Award for Faculty

The COPLAC Board of Directors, in memory of the contributions of Charles Dunn to the advancement of the consortium and to student success in the public liberal arts sector, had established an annual faculty award in his name.

As President of Henderson State University for twenty-two years, and as a COPLAC President (2000-2001) and Board member for ten years, Dr. Charles Dunn placed student well-being and academic success ahead of all else, affirming Henderson State University's reputation as the "School with a Heart."

Charles Dunn understood that members of the faculty play the essential role in advancing this mission. Therefore the COPLAC Award recognizes a faculty member whose commitment to student success goes "above and beyond" the classroom and office, the traditional roles of teacher, academic advisor, and mentor. She/he will have demonstrated, over the course of many years, extraordinary attention to students as individuals who sometimes face unique challenges, both on and off campus, that may compromise their academic performance.

Examples of student-centered service "above and beyond" are myriad and include: hosting an undergraduate who would otherwise be alone for the holidays, stepping in to assist with transportation to the airport or for a medical appointment, or extending a gesture of friendship when a loved one has been lost. The review committee seeks to recognize a COPLAC faculty colleague who consistently practices the vision of a public liberal arts campus as a community dedicated to learning on a human scale.

2024 Winner of the Charles Dunn Award

Dr. Cynthia Alby,
Georgia College and State University

Dr. Cynthia Alby has spent most of her career immersed in avid cross-disciplinary idea synthesizing. She studies pedagogy, sociology, neuroscience, behavioral economics - anything that might yield clues to answering her primary research question: How might we re-enchant learning to help faculty and students flourish? She joined Georgia College and State University in 2001, where she is now Professor of Teacher Education. She recently published a book with three COPLAC colleagues that is being used in many professional learning communities,  Learning that matters: A field guide to course design for transformative education.

Dr. Alby has won four university-level awards, two for scholarship in teaching and learning, one for service, and one for department of excellence. Along with her work on transformative course design, she has spent the past year and a half writing and speaking extensively across the country on artificial intelligence in higher education and has been featured on a variety of podcasts including Teaching in Higher Ed. She is passionate about incorporating high impact practices, embodied and vertical learning, well-being strategies, and relationship-rich pedagogy into the classroom as well as experimenting with minimizing grades while maximizing learning.

In addition, for nearly 20 years Dr. Alby has helped to develop faculty from across the state in Georgia’s “Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program” through the Louise McBee Institute for Higher Education at UGA. She recently began work on a blog called The Year of Teaching Dangerously, in which she is attempting to “get into the weeds” in terms of sharing her teaching practice.

Previous Winners