Dalton State Foundation Presents Excellence Awards to Faculty and Staff


Dr. Kimberly Hays quickly got the attention of the Dalton State community.

In only three years as an assistant professor of biology, she has demonstrated her extensive knowledge and how deeply she cares about her students – reaching out to help them succeed inside and outside the classroom.

For her many attributes and contributions to the College and its student body, Hays was awarded the 2015 Excellence in Teaching Award by the Dalton State Foundation.

To win this award, several criteria are taken into account, including student evaluations, peer evaluations, instructional methods, and creating new courses or academic programs.

“Dr. Hays has achieved success in a remarkable number of these measures,” said Dr. Andy Meyer, interim vice president of Academic Affairs. “She is extremely versatile and teaches everything from introductory courses as well as developing new upper level courses. She also finds time to supervise students in service learning and in individual research.

“Colleagues say her interaction with students is amazing and that she is a great mentor to students both in academic research and in life,” he said. “She keeps a demonstration kit in her office just in case she’s called to share her discipline in a moment’s notice.”

Hays was one of five recognized for her excellence this year.

“Collectively, the recipients of these five prestigious awards represent the very best Dalton State has to offer among its distinguished faculty and dedicated staff,” said Dr. Margaret Venable, interim president of the College. “The Foundation is proud to recognize the extraordinary human capital at Dalton State with these awards. These honorees and their colleagues are the ones who make the institution work. We are honored to have these outstanding professionals at Dalton State.”

Dr. David DesRochers, an assistant professor of biology, received the Faculty Excellence in Professional Development Award.

DesRochers was awarded for several reasons, including his publications in peer-reviewed professional journals and books, as well as presentations at conferences, leadership in conferences or professional organizations, and having scholarly work reviewed positively by his peers.

“Dr. DesRochers has very active and collaborative ongoing research projects,” Meyer said. “He collaborates with faculty both at Dalton State and at other universities. In addition to reviewing manuscripts for a number of journals, he has also reviewed chapters for several textbooks. Ten of his students have been involved in seven different research projects. His passion has led him to be active in the community as well, assisting with Dalton’s annual National Audubon Christmas Bird Count since 2010, an activity which surveys all birds in the Dalton area once a year.”

Dr. Sarah Mergel, an associate professor of history, received the Faculty Excellence in Service Award.

Criteria for this award includes serving as chair to a college committee, serving on at least three active committees in a year, sponsoring a group or club, serving on a board for professional or community organization, serving as a faculty mentor to colleagues, and participation in First Year Experience activities.

“Dr. Mergel has accomplished many of these measures,” Meyer said. “From day one she has been a model for faculty members seeking to be of service to the College. She began active service to the College in the Advising Center and has taken her expertise from her time there. She shares the knowledge freely with colleagues and assists others as needed.”

Mergel has served on several committees including search committees, accreditation committees, budget review committees, and the Institutional Research Board. She is also the president elect for the College’s faculty senate.

Dr. Ben Laughter, a senior lecturer in business, received the Barbara Schfiller ’76 Award for Business Teaching.

“Teaching really comes down to the relationship between the teacher and his or her student,” said Dr. Larry Johnson, dean of the School of Business. “Dr. Laughter is an excellent lecturer. Students wait in anticipation just to take his class – to the point we have to limit the class size at 80. He is a skilled master in bringing the business world into the classroom. His engaging manner where he weaves his experience and captivating dilemmas into the day’s subject keeps students on the edge of their seats.”

Laughter often brings in guests and speakers to help students learn more about the professional world.

A student commented on a course evaluation, “He does a wonderful job. The way he incorporates other styles of teaching so students who are visual learners are able to remember important information is wonderful. This course was interesting because he works hard to make it that way.”

In addition to his role at the College, Laughter is also a full-time practicing attorney and a community volunteer who gives time to help students.

Deby West, administrative assistant in the Office of Academic Affairs, received this year’s Beth Burdick Service Excellence Award.

Often West’s job is to see people who are “upset,” said David Elrod, director of the Foundation. She gives people gentle guidance to help them with their problems.

West graduated from Dalton State in 1973, and returned to work at the College in 1980. She has helped keep the College moving forward in times when there were vacancies in positions. Many people rely on her for answers to their questions and to help them finish tasks.

“’Taking care of it’ may as well be on the nameplate outside her office, because that’s what she’s doing,” Elrod said.