Smitherman Receives State Teaching Award


Dr. Marina Smitherman believes students should be equal partners in the learning process.

She was recently recognized by the University System of Georgia (USG) Foundation for her dedication to and style of teaching. Smitherman, a professor of biology and the chair of the Department of Life Sciences at Dalton State College, recently received the Felton Jenkins Jr. Hall of Fame Faculty Award at the annual Regents’ Scholarship Gala hosted by the USG Foundation.  

“I am truly honored - and a little speechless - to be selected for this award,” Smitherman said. “I have been privileged to work within this exceptional academic community for over a decade, and I am grateful to so many across the USG who have inspired me to continually raise the bar in service to our students. I am grateful to the committee who selected me to receive this award.

“I feel humbled,” she said. “I believe this has come as a direct result of working with such great students and fantastic faculty and staff at Dalton State. I hope this shines a light on all the great things we do here. I believe learning needs to be student-centered, and that students need to be equal partners in that process. My goal is to facilitate the students gaining skills necessary to become active participants in learning.”

The award is given to a faculty member who has a strong commitment to teaching and learning, uses effective teaching strategies to enhance student learning and has a strong commitment to fostering the academic success of students through interaction with students outside the classroom. One award is given to the state college sector of the USG each year.

“Dr. Smitherman has blazed new trails for the Dalton State community during more than a decade of service to the institution,” said Smitherman’s award letter. “Her teaching is innovative, her service to the college is foundational, and her focus on student success is transformative.”

“Dalton State is extremely fortunate to have Dr. Smitherman as a faculty member,” said Dr. Randall Griffus, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and executive director of the Center for Engaging and Supportive Academic Experiences. “Through her student-centered approach, she implements innovative teaching strategies in the classroom and gets students actively involved in their learning. Dr. Smitherman has also directed numerous student research projects, making a significant contribution to Dalton State’s commitment to provide our students with undergraduate research opportunities. This award is a well-deserved recognition for Dr. Smitherman’s long-standing commitment to the improvement of teaching and learning at Dalton State and beyond.”

Smitherman helped charter a biology honors society on campus, promotes high impact learning practices to faculty and collaborates on pedagogical development. She received the 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2013 Excellence in Service Award from the Dalton State Foundation.

Smitherman earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. She holds a Master in Public Health from the University of Manchester and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Nottingham, both in England.

Smitherman’s award comes on the heels of Dalton State being named among the best teaching schools in the South by U.S. News and World Report. The college is also implementing more programs designed to create a supportive and encouraging environment for students’ success.