Professor Owsiak Wins Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

As Professor Andrew Owsiak circles the classroom, you can sense the powerful engagement he brings to each of his lectures. Not to mention his trademark red shoes.

“As an instructor, my goal is to teach students how to think critically about the world around them so that they, as citizens, can positively contribute to our democratic society,” says Owsiak. “I am very proud to provide students with an experience that they find supportive, challenging, interesting, and educational.”

Professor Owsiak arrived at the University of Georgia in 2011 after receiving his PhD in Political Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  In his three and half years at the School of Public and International Affairs, Owsiak has developed a teaching philosophy that emphasizes five core strengths: an innovative teaching style, mentorship, pedagogical research, performance development, and passionate classroom instruction.

For Dr. Owsiak, the most memorable and educational moments occur outside of the classroom, and he tries to create those moments for his students through mentorship.

“’Mentoring’ is not even the right term – he is socializing undergraduates into what it means to do research,” said Dr. Markus Crepaz, Department Head of International Affairs. “He breathes a desire to learn into his students by exposing them to role playing exercises, simulations, and closely supervised research projects.”

As the advisor to Model United Nations, Owsiak plays a passive yet important role. His approach allows the students to make their own decisions and experience the effects of those decisions, while also remaining present and available for consultation.

Additionally, Owsiak spends most of his mentoring time working through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO). He often works with students for multiple semesters in order to introduce them to the academic research process; help them discover their own research interests; and guide them through a process where they can research, write, and present an independent project about a question that interests them.  For his mentoring efforts, he was awarded the 2014 CURO Research Mentoring Award.

“Whether he may realize it or not, I am confident that my work with Dr. Owsiak in CURO not only pushed me to develop research of my own, but perhaps inadvertently set the stage for other students,” commented Travis Miller, a previous student. “I managed to find a professor that was right for me, for aiding in my development and preparing me for life beyond undergraduate students in the best way possible. I don’t think there’s much more a student could ask for.”

Inside the classroom, Owsiak takes a similar approach by engaging his students in active learning exercises. Whether he asks the students to lead discussions or participate in policy debates, his goal is to teach his students to analyze the questions, identify the critical components of an answer, and obtain consensus among the group.

“The thing that makes Dr. Owsiak stand out as a mentor, professor, and advisor, is his ability to provide quiet leadership built upon a foundation of stability,” said former student, Ashton Moss. “Professor Owsiak is an outstanding person and an exemplary professor who has made an enormous impact on my life.”