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Warnell professor receives national teaching accolades

Pete Bettinger is one of two UGA faculty members to receive USDA award

Two University of Georgia faculty members associated with the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources have received national teaching awards from the USDA.

Pete Bettinger, the Leon "Buddy" Hargreaves Jr. Distinguished Professorship in Forest Management, is the recipient of a USDA regional award for excellence in teaching in forestry and natural resources. Also, Nick Fuhrman, a professor in the UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, has received a national award for agricultural leadership education and communications.

Bettinger specializes in landscape planning and harvesting schedules and teaches classes associated with the Harley Langdale Jr. Center for Forest Business at Warnell. Fuhrman co-teaches environmental education classes within Warnell and is a member of the faculty in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. He is also known for his “Ranger Nick” videos and environmental education outreach with youth across the state.

The two faculty members join James Anderson II, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences who received a national award for teaching and student engagement.

The awards were announced today during the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU). Part of a set of honors given to select faculty across the country, the USDA Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences includes six regional awards as well as national-level teaching awards, early career awards and honors for teaching and student engagement.

Bettinger’s teaching philosophy goes beyond ensuring that students understand measurement, analysis and use of forests—he also feels strongly that students can confidently manage forest resources in a sustainable, socially acceptable way.

“Ideally, no matter where I’m interacting with students—whether it’s in the classroom or the forest—I try to foster open dialogue and motivate them to improve their knowledge of the management of forest resources,” said Bettinger. “This interactive engagement with students serves to not only explore issues within and around the topic of the day, but also to expand my knowledge of how these students perceive the management and measurement of forest resources.”

This synergistic approach also allows multiple opportunities for students to give feedback, whether it’s in-person during the lesson, periodic summaries throughout the semester, and a final course evaluation.

In an earlier Zoom call to notify the winners of their awards, Warnell dean Dale Greene noted the close ties between the forestry and agriculture schools, and how collaborations between faculty members as well as academic units prove beneficial.

“You all make us look good every day, and you deserve the recognition,” he said. “Nick, I feel you’re part of our family because you partner with us in so many ways. That’s another way I feel we benefit is through our collaboration.”

Recipients of the national-level awards receive $5,000 for their school or college to be used to improve teaching in any way they see fit. Regional award winners receive $2,000 for the same purpose. Winners also take part in the APLU’s annual meeting, which this year took place virtually. Award winners may also take part in a workshop delving into teaching excellence scheduled for later this year—a new element added by the APLU.

“Congratulations to all—it’s a big deal!” said Tara Westington, associate director of food, agriculture and natural resources for APLU during a virtual meeting earlier this year to announce the award winners. “Congratulations and high marks—this is quite an achievement.”

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