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Annual Recognition Luncheon Brings Together McBee Community

Luncheon Photo

by Suzanne R. Graham

The annual awards and recognitions luncheon is a highlight of the year for the McBee Institute’s faculty and staff. In addition to honoring donors, who contributed directly to student and success, and celebrating student and faculty accomplishments, the event offers an opportunity for the community to connect across cohorts and degree programs.

The 2023 ceremony, held on Wednesday, September 20 at the UGA Special Collections Building, highlighted the work of six students, three faculty members, and a special donor, who recently established a new lecture series in the Institute.

Two incoming doctoral students, Hunter Jones and Ananya Malik, accepted their plaques as McBee Scholars. McBee Scholars receive assistantship placements and annual stipends to support their program completion and research projects.

Ananya Malik and Hunter Jones
Ananya Malik and Hunter Jones

McBee Scholar Hunter Jones is a first-year PhD student. In addition to her selection as a McBee Scholar, Jones is a UGA Presidential Graduate Fellowship recipient. Before joining McBee IHE, she served as an AmeriCorps member working with volunteer tutors at Reading Partners Twin Cities in Minnesota. As a master’s student at Ohio State, Jones was a Graduate Advisor for the Pay It Forward program where she advised the cohort on cultivating community service opportunities for their fellow students. Jones also served as a Graduate Research Associate and contributed to research on financial and academic stress and wellness among undergraduate students.

At the McBee Institute, Jones has joined current projects led by Professor Amy Stich that examine college opportunity and success relative to social class and race.

McBee Scholar Ananya Malik also started her doctorate in August, and Malik received a UGA Graduate School Doctoral Fellow Award. Before coming to UGA, Malik earned a master’s degree in Higher Education from the University of North Texas, where she served as an assistant community director in Housing and Residential Life and as a graduate assistant in the Honors College. Malik also worked for UNT associate professor and McBee IHE graduate Barrett Taylor, who wrote a recommendation, "Ananya exhibits exceptional curiosity and a high level of academic engagement… Class discussions would be richer if I had more students like Ananya."

Malik joined Professor Timothy R. Cain in research of historical contexts and connections between history, policy, and inequality.

Alex Monday
Monday with James Hearn

Alex Monday received the Thomas G. Dyer Outstanding Dissertation Award. Monday’s major professor, Jim Hearn, described his dissertation as a “pioneering effort to examine the reproduction of status through publishing in higher education journals and related outlets.” Hearn expects the three-part study will generate important conversations around the production and dissemination of social-scientific knowledge.

In accepting the award, Monday said, "It is my hope that my work continues to contribute positively to the academic community and beyond. I am both humbled and inspired by this recognition, and I am eager to carry forward the spirit of excellence that the award embodies."

Morn and Morris
Morn alongside Libby V. Morris

Jillian Morn was awarded the Libby V. Morris Leadership Award. Morn is a doctoral candidate, who works at the University of Washington as a quantitative research scientist.

Erik Ness highlighted her ability to humanize statistics, "One of the qualities that most impresses me about Jillian is her ability to bring life to her studies and show their relevance to communities of policy, practice, and research."

In her remarks, delivered remotely from Washington, Morn expressed appreciation for the support she has received from her committee and mentors. She noted, "Making a difference with data in the institutions I serve has always been my driving motivation for my work and my research. I care deeply about making the higher education experience better for students, faculty, and staff."

Renni Turpin
Renni Turpin

The faculty recognized Renni Turpin for her strong academic performance and service orientation with the J. Douglas Toma Excellence in Scholarship and Service Award. Professor Stich described her enthusiasm to work with Turpin, "Renni is one of the sharpest and most talented students with whom I have had the pleasure to work." Stich added, "She has uniquely positioned herself as someone with strengths in both advanced quantitative and qualitative methodologies."

Turpin’s remarks included a rededication to "producing research with policy and practice applications to serve our local, state, and national communities." She said, "I can think of nothing more important than being of service to others."

Chen-Bendle with Wolniak
Wolniak awarding Chen-Bendle

Professor Greg Wolniak presented the Zell & Shirley Miller Fellowship to Emily Chen-Bendle. The award recognizes scholarly potential as well as academic record and professional accomplishments. Wolniak said that Chen-Bendle is "producing original, high impact scholarship at a level that is beyond her academic years." In the past twelve months, Emily coauthored three research articles with three different faculty members that have been published in major journals.

"So many facets of the McBee Institute benefit from having Emily in our community," said Wolniak. He continued, "Through her work she is advancing important complexity, nuance, and understanding of what drives college student 'success' in general."

Chen-Bendle expressed her appreciation for the many opportunities afforded her at the Institute and particularly for the mentorship of Professor Wolniak and other faculty members. She said, "It is truly remarkable and inspiring to be around a group of people who are at once exceptionally good at what they do, dedicated to doing important work, and kind and welcoming."

The ceremony also included recognition of the recent promotions of Timothy R. Cain and Gregory Wolniak to professor.

Hearn family
Hearn and Davis with sons Adam and Bryan.

Former students returned for the announcement of the endowment to support the James C. Hearn Lectureship. The foundational gift was made in honor of the interim director’s commitment to excellence in research by his partner, Dean of the College of Public Health Marsha Davis.

Hearn said, "I’m someone who prefers to avoid the spotlight, but I’m tremendously happy that my name will be attached to a new award furthering our mission of bringing to our students the best in higher-education research, policy, leadership, and practice." He added, "Marsha surprised me with this award, aided by Libby Morris. They’ve crafted it in a way that would help serve the values and priorities that have driven my career as well as the Institute."

Type of News/Audience:


Doctoral Student
Doctoral Student
Doctoral Student

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