Top Faculty, Students Named at 2003 Honors Convocation

Botanist Julie Ballenger, who has led Columbus State University biology majors in field study exercises in such places as the Florida Keys, Bahamas and sub-Saharan Africa, has been named CSU's 2003 Educator of the Year. Ballenger, an associate professor of biology at CSU since 1995, accepted the award at CSU's annual Scholastic Honors Convocation held Sunday at the RiverCenter.

Also, Paleontologist David Schwimmer received the Faculty Research and Scholarship Award; the Faculty Service Award went to Teresa Irvin and graduating senior Mary Hill earned the Faculty Cup - the highest student honor.

Ballenger was cited for working 'diligently to extend her student's education beyond the classroom' through her coordination of and leadership in study abroad programs for CSU biology students. She previously earned, in 2001, CSU'S research and development award for her assessment of South African tribes and environments. A member of several honor societies, Ballenger has a doctorate from Miami University (Ohio).

Schwimmer's book 'King of the Crocodylians: The Paleobiology of Deinosuchus' was published in 2002 and attracted positive reviews nationally. The book described Schwimmer's findings on the ancient Deinosuchus rugosus - a giant croc which roamed the Chattahoochee Valley. These crocs are believed to have weighed about 3 tons and up to 28 feet in length and likely were the top predators on the southern coast, even feeding on carnivorous dinosaurs. Schwimmer, a CSU College of Science faculty member since 1978, also was quoted recently as an expert by national media outlets including the Washington Post and National Geographic in regard to a Chicago scientist's uncovering of the fossilized remains of a giant crocodile, Sarcosuchus Imperator. Those remains indicated a dinosaur-preying 10-ton croc the length of school bus.

Irvin, an associate professor of developmental writing, also has served CSU as chair of the Graduation and Special Events Committee and on the Hunter Lecture Series Committee. She also is acting chair of the Department of Basic Studies. Her service beyond the university includes designing and implementing a bridge program between CSU and the Muscogee County School District to remediate high school seniors at risk of being placed in learning support English courses in college.

Hill, of Buena Vista, recently earned a national biology research award, and will graduate with honors on May 10. She earned the Beta Beta Beta Frank G. Brooks Award in Washington DC this spring for her study on 'The Effect of Seed Color on Seed Choice of the Florida Scrub Jay.' She also is part of CSU's first graduating class of Servant Leadership students through which she performed 800 community service hours and helped to implement the Roots and Shoots program for local elementary school students. The project is part of a national outreach program of the Jane Goodall Institute that is operated through CSU's Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center. Her other academic honors include Who's Who Among American Colleges and Universities, a USA Today Academic Team nominee and induction in the Beta Beta Beta and Phi Kappa Phi national honor societies.

CSU's other top student awards went to Ashley Chaplin (Academic Recognition Award) and Jessica Trenchik (Phi Kappa Phi Senior Award).

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