Seven Faculty & Staff Honored for Teaching, Scholarship, Or Service Excellence At MGA Fall Convocation

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Friday, August 5, 2022 12:00 AM
Categories: Honors/Awards | School of Education and Behavioral Sciences | School of Aviation | School of Computing | School of Arts and Letters | School of Business | Pressroom | Faculty/Staff | School of Health and Natural Sciences

Macon, GA


Middle Georgia State University (MGA) recognized seven faculty and staff members for outstanding achievements in teaching, scholarship, and/or various areas of service.

The seven received the awards at 2022 Convocation, an annual gathering of all MGA faculty and staff leading into fall semester and the return of students.

Those receiving awards were:

Dr. Donna Balding, assistant chair of the Department of Natural Sciences, for Excellence in Scholarship. A member of MGA’s faculty for 18 years, Balding has been a key member of the team tasked with obtaining University System of Georgia STEM II and IV grants. Balding has worked with more than 10 other faculty members in administering the grants and assessing the outcomes. She was a Florida state wildlife grant subcontractor, enabling her to participate in research related to the isolation and characterization of the mitochondria and nuclear genes in the amphipods and isopods.  Most notably, she is doing research on Bartonella henselae, the bacteria that causes cat-scratch fever.

Dr. Andre Nicholson, associate professor of media and communication, for Excellence in Service. This award recognizes a faculty member who has contributed extraordinary service to Middle Georgia State University and/or its surrounding public communities. A member of MGA’s faculty since 2012, Nicholson has been involved in innumerable service opportunities serving students and the institution as a whole. He has served as the chair of the Student Media Advisory Board since 2019 and as faculty advisor for Student Media. He supervises student internships and he has served on the editorial board of the Knighted journal since 2021. All of these activities are essential to build media and communication students’ portfolios and ensure they enter the job market with the skills they need to be successful. Nicholson is also the coordinator for the new Master of Arts in Public Relations program and a Core Teaching Fellow, and he has worked on initiatives to ensure diversity, inclusion, and equity in teaching practices. 

Dr. Rebekah Hazlett-Knudsen, associate professor of social work and director of the Bachelor of Science in Social Work program, for Excellence in Teaching. This award recognizes a full-time faculty member who provides high-quality instruction and exceptional learning experiences. Hazlett-Knudsen was described by one of her students on a nomination form as “always going beyond the call of duty as a professor by patiently teaching and reviewing key concepts, engaging the class in the most innovative ways, and providing one on one advising in the unique way she has of talking us off the ledge.” Hazlett-Knudsen developed a community-based experiential learning project, which included student research in partnership with the United Way of Central Georgia. She integrated the concept of self-care into weekly activities for one of her courses, and she designed and implemented an outdoor meditation and mindfulness session. She remains current with the latest technology to support educational practices. She is responsible for the initial development of the BSW Dashboard, which is a course section set up in the D2L platform that serves as an information and organization hub for all BSW majors.

Dr. Eric Sun, associate dean for the School of Health & Natural Sciences, for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion. This award recognizes a staff or faculty member who has demonstrated a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity at the University and/or in the community. Sun’s numerous activities and involvement in various organizations and frequent participation in faculty development opportunities provide strong evidence of his commitment to diversity. He serves as a member of the Tubman Museum’s Board of Directors and is president-elect of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society Board, which recently created a diversity, equality and inclusivity committee to address issues of equality and promote diversity and inclusivity in academia. In addition, he serves as a member of the conference planning committee for the Georgia International Leadership Consortium Conference, which has been an important event in promoting intercultural exchange and fostering leadership skills among the various institutions within the state. At MGA he serves as one of the faculty advisors for the International Student and Studies Association. Under his guidance, ISSA members presented a session entitled “Challenging Stereotypes: Opportunities for Intercultural Communication” at a recent Georgia International Leadership Conference. In his role as director of MGA’s Georgia Academy, he established a faculty mentor group to support dual-enrolled students. 

Thomasa Negron, admissions specialist, for being the Unsung Hero. This award is for a staff member who works behind the scenes, and yet continues to go above and beyond the call of duty to improve the MGA experience for students and coworkers. Negron is known for her calm demeanor and unwavering work ethic. Day in and day out she is consistent, dependable, reliable, positive, and proactive. She pivots from one job responsibility to another with exacting precision and focused attention to detail. She regularly goes above and beyond the scope of her daily assigned duties to fill in or assist with other areas where help is needed. Negron believes in the mission of MGA and, to that end, gives unrelenting commitment, dedication, and her absolute best.

Ashley Turner, professional advisor, for Service Excellence. This award is for a staff member who has made exceptional contributions, exceeding normal expectations, to deliver superior service to members of the campus community and/or the community at large. Turner exercises excellent customer service skills with prospective and current dual-enrollment students, their families, and high school guidance counselors by creating a collaborative environment.  She is proactive in foreseeing and addressing issues that may adversely impact students and provides prescriptive actions to resolve them. On countless occasions, high school guidance counselors, parents, students, and MGA colleagues have shared that during their experience working with Turner, they have experienced exceptional customer service. Turner works with multiple offices such as admissions, financial aid, bursar, and registrar. Maintaining positive work relationships with multiple offices is a priority for her to help ensure all students progress in the program.

Devereaux Lindsey, student services coordinator, for being MGA’s Champion in exemplifying the University’s core values of Stewardship, Engagement, Adaptability, and Learning. By virtue of her job position, Lindsey is not often frontline like faculty, advisors or other MGA staff, but she consistently shines brightly and engages others. She is also fun, courteous, respectful, and very creative. Lindsey does a great job providing activities and programming that appeal to all students. She does a wonderful job fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion, learning, and teamwork. She leads students and her MGA colleagues by example with her “can do” attitude. At least once a year she has programming that involves the entire MGA community collecting food and clothing to donate to organizations that serve people in need.


See photos of the honorees on the Middle Georgia State University Facebook page.