NEW ORLEANS — The Sun Belt Conference announced today that Appalachian State University’s Dr. Zachary Farris, associate professor in the Beaver College of Health Sciences, has been named the conference’s 2023 Faculty Member of the Year.
The annual award recognizes a faculty member from a Sun Belt institution who has a passion for teaching, engaging and inspiring students — while also regularly supporting and displaying enthusiasm for student-athletes and their institution’s athletics department.
Each of the 14 Sun Belt Conference institutions nominated a Faculty Member of the Year finalist for the 2022–23 academic year. The conference’s faculty athletics representatives, student-athlete academic directors and members of the Sun Belt Student-Athlete Advisory Committee voted to select the overall recipient. The conference initiated the Sun Belt Faculty Member of the Year Award in 2019.
“We are proud to recognize these dedicated educators who play an important role in impacting the lives of our student-athletes,” said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill. “These faculty members help improve the trajectory of our student-athletes’ lives.”
App State Chancellor Sheri Everts, who serves as president of the Sun Belt Conference, said that Farris represents App State’s commitment to the success of student-athletes.
“Dr. Farris brings his personal experiences as a student-athlete into the classroom to support and educate all Mountaineers," said Everts, "and I congratulate him on achieving the Sun Belt’s Faculty Member of the Year honor.”
Growing up in rural Arkansas, Farris was a student-athlete who played both basketball and baseball from “sunup to sun down,” he shared. He credits sports for paving his path to a successful career in academia.
“Sports got me through high school, motivated me to keep my grades up, kept me in a safe, supportive environment, provided me with positive male role models and ultimately set me up for the career I have today,” Farris said.
Farris shared that he is “beyond humbled” to have been nominated by Mountaineer student-athletes for the Faculty Member of the Year Award.
“I have immense respect and admiration for student-athletes,” he said. “They are undoubtedly the hardest working and, almost always, the most appreciative of all my students. Their skills, personalities and traits contribute to both their success — and mine — in the classroom.”
In her nomination of Farris, App State student-athlete Katie Fuller, of Chapel Hill, wrote, “Dr. Farris is hands down the best professor that I have ever had who accommodated my needs as a student and an athlete to the best of his ability.”
Fuller, a senior exercise science major who plays as a midfielder on the women’s soccer team at App State, shared that of all the classes she’s taken at the university, Farris’ human anatomy class has been her favorite. “I believe this is because I had the best teacher, who is also a great person,” she added.
Mountaineers and the Sun Belt
Founded in 1976, the Sun Belt now features 18 sponsored sports at 14 institutions across 10 contiguous states. The Sun Belt has established itself as a leader among intercollegiate athletics leagues since its move to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in 2001.
Fifteen of App State’s 17 varsity sports compete in the Sun Belt. The football, women’s indoor track and field, men’s and women’s cross-country, women’s tennis and men’s basketball teams have claimed a combined 11 conference titles since 2016.
Since joining the Sun Belt in 2014, the App State football team holds the sixth highest winning percentage in the FBS and is the only collegiate team to have ever won each of its first six consecutive bowl games.
Everts began her two-year term as Sun Belt Conference president on July 1. She served as Sun Belt’s vice president from 2021–22 to 2022–23, during which time the conference expanded to 14 institutions and realigned to be more geographically concentrated in the Southeast, resulting in reduced travel times and costs for the league’s athletics teams.
About Dr. Zachary Farris
Farris, who teaches in the Department of Public Health and Exercise Science, joined App State’s faculty in 2017. According to Farris, he has taught more than 3,000 students over the last six years through his human anatomy courses. His teaching ranges from large-capacity lectures on human anatomy, to special topics courses on quantitative ecological modeling, to leading graduate students in dissections.
His research focuses on the conservation of carnivore and primate populations living in Madagascar’s rainforest. Farris founded a nonprofit that focuses on human and animal health across Madagascar, and as part of this work, he and his collaborators established the first veterinarian training program for Malagasy scientists. They work directly with the government’s department of public health to carry out widespread rabies vaccination campaigns to address rabies outbreaks.
To date, Farris has published more than 50 papers on a wide range of human and wildlife health topics, and he serves on numerous international organizations and committees, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
In 2020, Farris was selected for Beaver College’s Outstanding Research Award, and in 2018 he was a nominee for the Appalachian State University Global Leadership Award.
Farris holds a Ph.D. in wildlife conservation from Virginia Tech, where he earned the honor of Ph.D. Student of the Year.
Farris and each of the Faculty Member of the Year finalists will be recognized at the Sun Belt Conference Honors Banquet in conjunction with the Sun Belt Fall Meetings on Oct. 24 in Atlanta.
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About Mountaineer Athletics
More than 400 student-athletes compete in 17 NCAA Division I varsity sports at Appalachian State University. App State’s nationally ranked football team has enjoyed unprecedented success at the highest level of Division I (Football Bowl Subdivision), with six bowl wins in its first six years at the FBS level and four Sun Belt Conference championships. The Mountaineers were a dominant force in the Southern Conference for more than 40 years before moving up to the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. App State student-athletes in all sports pursue daily comprehensive excellence in academics, competition and community involvement. All varsity teams compete in the Sun Belt Conference, except for field hockey (MAC) and wrestling (SoCon). Learn more at https://appstatesports.com.
About the Beaver College of Health Sciences
Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS), opened in 2010, is transforming the health and quality of life for the communities it serves through interprofessional collaboration and innovation in teaching, scholarship, service and clinical outreach. BCHS offers nine undergraduate degree programs and seven graduate degree programs, which are organized into six departments: Nursing, Nutrition and Health Care Management, Public Health and Exercise Science, Recreation Management and Physical Education, Rehabilitation Sciences, and Social Work. The college’s academic programs are located in the Holmes Convocation Center on App State’s main campus and the Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences, a state-of-the-art, 203,000-square-foot facility that is the cornerstone of the Wellness District. In addition, the college supports the Blue Cross NC Institute for Health and Human Services and has collaborative partnerships with the Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program, the Appalachian Regional Health System and numerous other health agencies. Learn more at https://healthsciences.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.