BOONE, N.C. — Dr. Maryam Ahmed, a professor in App State’s Department of Biology, has received the 2023 University of North Carolina Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award.
Each year, one faculty member from each of the UNC System’s 17 institutions is selected for the award and receives a $12,500 cash prize.
In addition to her role as an educator of App State students, Ahmed is a virologist whose area of research focuses on how viruses interact with different host cells for the development of cancer therapies. Her professional background includes work in immunology, cancer biology and infectious diseases.
“Dr. Ahmed exemplifies the innovation and scholarship that elevate the App State Experience as she leads her students along the cutting edge of cancer research,” said App State Chancellor Sheri Everts. “I am proud to see her devotion to the pillars of an App State education recognized by the Board of Governors.”
Ahmed said the news of the award came as somewhat of a shock.
“I feel like there are so many other deserving people here who do amazing work and bend over backwards to support students,” she said. “With our history of being a teachers college, it feels even more meaningful. It’s an honor to represent App State.”
Campus-based awards for 6 other faculty
The UNC Board of Governors also selected six other App State faculty to receive campus-based awards for their innovative teaching methods in the classroom.
“I am thrilled that these outstanding faculty members have been chosen for this well-deserved honor,” said App State Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Heather Hulburt Norris. “Their innovative approaches to teaching, mentoring and learning have provided students with rich and engaging educational experiences that have inspired them during their time at App State and throughout their careers.”
The faculty were chosen after being nominated by their peers, along with App State students, administrators and alumni.
Emily Daughtridge, professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, is the recipient of the Appalachian State University Excellence in Teaching Award and will receive a $1,500 prize.
Winners of the Appalachian State University School/College Awards, with a prize of $1,000 each, are:
- Dr. Kara Dempsey, associate professor in the Department of Geography and Planning.
- Dr. William Gummerson, professor in the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies.
- Dr. Christopher Seitz, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health and Exercise Science.
- Dr. Nicholas Nam Shaw, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences.
- Dr. Matthew Thomas-Reid, associate professor in the Department of Leadership and Educational Studies.
About Dr. Maryam Ahmed
Ahmed teaches a variety of classes for biology students at App State, including an advanced virology class, as well as infectious disease classes and public health classes. She also teaches a human microbiology class for nutrition and nursing students and recently developed a vaccine class during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Biology is very, very content heavy, so for me, teaching has always been about how I can make connections to what’s going on currently, or historically,” she said.
Ahmed grew up in the Philippines and credits her love for biology to her hometown high school science teacher.
“She was an amazing teacher,” said Ahmed. “The way that she taught was very hands-on. We did experiments. We walked out in nature. She taught us about the world and also the scientific process, and I was just hooked.”
Ahmed graduated with her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and obtained her doctoral degree at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
“Before I came to App State, I was purely doing (medical) research,” she said. “When I was in a research associate position in my last job, I had the opportunity to work with undergraduates who volunteered in our lab, and that’s when I realized I really enjoyed working with students.”
That’s when Ahmed applied for a position at App State, having had no prior teaching experience. The nomination letter sent by Ahmed’s colleagues to the UNC Board of Governors states that “although she did not have previous experience teaching at the university level, she has expertly translated her strong background in research to a demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching and student engagement learning outcomes.”
The letter further states, “Maryam has demonstrated a deep passion for promoting inclusive learning environments for all students. We are extremely impressed with Maryam’s organization, her calm and friendly demeanor and her usage of active participation techniques for engaging students in the material.”
Now in her 13th year of being a teacher, Ahmed said she still strives to continue to improve in her methods but has always made it her top priority for her students to feel comfortable in the classroom.
“I work really hard at getting to know students,” she said. “I think about all of the professors who were really important to me, and while I may not remember everything about the content of the class, I do remember the relationships. I hope for my students that they learn something about themselves and gain the perspectives and skills they need to allow them to be successful and confident in wherever they go in life.”
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Six other faculty receive campus-based awards for innovative teaching methods
About the Department of Biology
The Department of Biology is a community of teacher-scholars, with faculty representing the full breadth of biological specializations — from molecular genetics to landscape/ecosystem ecology. The department seeks to produce graduates with sound scientific knowledge, the skills to create new knowledge, and the excitement and appreciation of scientific discovery. Learn more at https://biology.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Appalachian State University is home to 17 academic departments, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. CAS aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. More than 6,400 student majors are enrolled in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing App State’s general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.