ATLANTA — The Andrew Young School of Policy Studies has named Esra Tanyildiz, Andrew Heiss and Thaddeus Johnson winners of its prestigious annual faculty awards. Kristy Hill received the college’s top staff honor, the Staff Excellence Award.
Johnson, an assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology, received the 2023 Andrew Young School’s Early Career Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of a junior or mid-career faculty member for outstanding successes in research and scholarship, potential for additional productivity through summer support, successful progression toward promotion and tenure goals, and research that is consistent with the strategic initiatives of the college and the university.
“Dr. Johnson is producing timely work of the highest quality, his body of work recognized as important by leaders in the field,” Professor Dean Dabney, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, wrote in his nomination of Johnson.
During his short academic career Johnson, a former Memphis police officer, has published eight peer-reviewed journal articles, four book chapters, three research reports and an essay in an edited volume. He has three papers under review and two more that are nearing submission. He has adopted a multifaceted approach to maximizing the impact of his work by focusing on public and professional outlets as well as traditional academic outlets, and he has made numerous media appearances in local and national outlets. He presents at academic conferences and to government and community agencies as well as educational institutions.
“It is rare for a new faculty member to dedicate themselves to both traditional and public scholarship, and to excel at both,” Dabney wrote. “Thaddeus epitomizes what we are all about in the Andrew Young School. His work has real potential to create meaningful change to our criminal justice system and other
Tanyildiz and Heiss received the 2023 Andrew Young School’s Excellence in Teaching Award, which celebrates faculty members who exhibit superior teaching during the last few years. Their innovation in the classroom, commitment to curriculum development and recognition as distinguished advisers add immeasurable value to the school’s scholarly culture. Their impact is measured in student evaluations, course demand and faculty adoption of their unique teaching methods.
Tanyildiz holds a joint Ph.D. in Public Policy from Georgia State and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A clinical assistant professor of public management and policy, her primary goal is to excel in all components of teaching and contribute to the scholarship of teaching at Georgia State. During the last four years, she has developed new courses, led teaching initiatives, developed a college-to-career project, mentored doctoral students in teaching and acted as a part-time instructor liaison. Prior to teaching in the AYSPS, she held research and teaching positions in Brussels and Istanbul. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in research methodology, policy and program evaluation, and urban policy. She has also developed a teaching methodology course for graduating doctoral students.
Her experiences have clarified her teaching philosophy, which she summarizes in five core beliefs: adaptive teaching, inclusive learning, mentoring, professional development and contributing to the scholarship of learning.
“Coming from a family of three generations of teachers, I grew up hearing students speak about how my mother and my grandmother inspired them to learn and preserve their curiosity,” Tanyildiz has said. “In addition to my professional goals, I fervently strive to hear these words during my time in teaching.”
Heiss, an assistant professor of public management and policy, said he “entered academia largely because I love teaching.” He strives to make his teaching as active, flexible and empathetic as possible, tailored closely to his students’ needs.
Heiss joined the faculty at AYSPS in 2019, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When everything closed in March 2020, including the Georgia State campus, he converted all his classes to an asynchronous online format, built a recording studio in his home and ended up recording all his classes in 245 professional videos, totaling 73 hours of content. He posted them all publicly on YouTube under a Creative Commons license and incorporated them into standalone course websites that students (and anyone with an internet connection) can access. He structured his classes to be student-centric, empathetic and as accommodating as possible, and provided students with policies that allowed for greater flexibility while removing barriers to getting help.
With classes now in person, Heiss has implemented a flipped classroom approach. He also designed stickers for each class that are so popular, several students have told him they’ve signed up for the class “just to get the stickers, then found out that they loved the course content.” In one case, a student signed up for his evaluation research class to “complete her collection,” having no interest in the topic, but she excelled and actually got a job related to evaluation after graduation.
“I believe that university teaching should challenge and shift how students understand the world,” Heiss said. “As a teacher, I believe that students can grapple with these big ideas only when teaching has real-world applications and teaching materials are grounded in real-world concerns, when courses are designed with student needs in mind and when students are actively engaged in the learning process.”
Hill, an academic administrative specialist in the Department of Economics, received the Staff Excellence Award, which recognizes exemplary performance, beneficial contributions to the work environment and consistency in workplace efficiency, creativity and innovation. Hill is recognized for her extraordinary efforts, accomplishments and quality of service to the college.
Several faculty members, students and staff from both inside and outside Hill’s department nominated her for the award this year.
"I believe that Kristy Hill absolutely deserves more recognition for being the most supportive staff I have ever known,” said economics Ph.D. student Za Eng Mawi, a graduate research assistant with the Georgia Policy Labs. “She is committed to making the Economics Department a better place for everyone.”
“Kristy has done an exceptional job in providing academic support to faculty, staff, part-time instructors and students, not just in Economics but also in the departments of Public Management & Policy and Criminal Justice,” Elsa Gebremedhin, business manager for the Department of Public Management & Policy (PMAP), wrote in her support for Hill’s nomination. “Due to staff turnover, we asked Kristy to assist with academic tasks in our department this year and last. Kristy graciously agreed to assist our department even though her workload was full, and she had just finished assisting the Department of Criminal Justice. She understands that excellent student support is imperative to student success. She also understands that department academic support requires highly developed skills, knowledge and experience. So, she agreed to take on the additional duties, put in the work and tirelessly provided outstanding support to our students, faculty, staff, PTIs and GRAs in addition to those in her department.”
“Kristy is highly reliable and strives to meet deadlines,” wrote Professor Cathy Liu, PMAP department chair. “She helped PMAP by training our new staff member, and when we had staff turnover, she stepped up to fill in the void to make sure our time-sensitive work was completed in a timely and high-quality manner. Her work ethic is inspiring to others around her. Her expertise and experience with the university system helped us weather the uncertain times.”