2017 D.W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Teaching
Maria Navarro is changing the world, one University of Georgia student at a time.
In addition to working to expand the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication (ALEC), Navarro maintains a full teaching load.
She teaches or has taught courses such as “Reflections on Fighting Hunger,” “International Agricultural Development” and a first-year Odyssey class on poverty.
She is passionate about many things, including growing outreach for and awareness of underrepresented groups, food insecurity, and understanding the causes of poverty. Her vast range of experience allows her to understand issues like hunger from different angles, and she explains these concepts to her students.
Before coming to UGA in 1999, she obtained both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural engineering and agronomy at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Spain. Then, she received her doctorate in agricultural education from Texas A&M University.
In addition to teaching, she has been an administrator at the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies in Zaragoza, Spain, and completed an internship with the Carter Center Global Development Initiative in Atlanta. She has won 15 national and international awards and 37 state, university and collegiate awards throughout her diverse career.
Her ability to empower her students to understand the ways in which agriculture shapes the world around them is most impressive. She uses service projects, creative projects, group discussions and dialogues on current events to engage her students in meaningful conversations that broaden their worldviews.
Many past and current students can testify that, despite her busy schedule, Navarro is always willing to assist in research projects, student organizations or to simply help students find their niche in terms of their majors and college careers.
Even students who are not in CAES find Navarro’s leadership and teaching invaluable.
“I honestly doubt if I would ever have considered (much less come to value) the crucial role of agriculture in a community’s sense of security without Dr. Navarro’s skill in daring students to connect dots for themselves,” said Jeremy Akin, who graduated from UGA with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and is now pursuing his law degree at the UGA School of Law.
In addition to mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, she also mentors faculty members. She has formally mentored three assistant professors and a UGA Center for Teaching and Learning Lilly Teaching Fellow and informally mentored many others university-wide.
She is always mindful of the “multiplier effect” that work in the classroom carries with it and tries to be aware not only of the impact she’s having on her students, but also of the impact her students will have on others.
“The opportunity to influence so many lives carries with it the responsibility to excel in how I teach and to address relevant topics in a socially conscious and globally engaged manner,” Navarro said.
Her passion is contagious, and Navarro’s drive to educate and push UGA’s brightest minds to think outside of the box and think globally is an asset to CAES, UGA and the world.