Teacher of the Week - Oswiak
Assistant Professor, Department of International Affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs
“…an exciting and engaging experience for me too.”
The Center for Teaching and Learning recognizes Andrew Owsiak as CTL Teacher of the Week. Owsiak is an Assistant Professor in the Department of International Affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs.
Since joining the faculty of The University of Georgia in 2011, Dr. Owsiak has had much success in the classroom. In Spring 2015, he received the Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Owsiak attributes his accomplishments in the classroom to three related factors. First, Dr. Owsiak notes, “We have great students at The University of Georgia. Given how bright and talented our students are, I have to work hard to keep up with them!” Second, he has been fortunate to have a gift set of mentors, including Loch Johnson, Jeff Berejikian, Brock Tessman, Marisa Pagnattaro, Gary Green, Paul Quick, Tom Reichart, and Chase Hagood. These individuals have helped Owsiak reflect on what he is doing in the classroom, offered creative ideas about new techniques and activities, spurred new thoughts based on their suggestions, and allowed him a low-risk, judgment-free space to evaluate and discuss his failures. He says, “This confluence of reflection, creativity, and a space to fail, all let me try new things, only some of which work.” Lastly, Owsiak notes that UGA offers programs through, for example, the Teaching Academy and the Center for Teaching and Learning that have been instrumental in inspiring junior faculty to excel at teaching and offer them the tools and support to do so.
Dr. Owsiak has particularly enjoyed using role-playing exercises in his classes as a strategy for using experiential learning. For example, in his crisis diplomacy course, he assigns students a specific role (i.e. US Secretary of Defense) and provides them a scenario to which they respond (i.e. the collapse of a specific foreign government). Through this, students play out crisis scenarios in real time, and then are able to step back and analyze the events through the lens of the course material. Owsiak notes, “Students often take the exercises in directions that I would never think of. This means that no two exercises play out the same, even if the scenario used remains the same. It is therefore an exciting and engaging experience for me too.” Dr. Owsiak learned this teaching technique here at UGA from those in his department and from participating in similar exercises found in other programs, like Reacting to the Past.
When student Matthew Yarbrough reflected on his experience in Dr. Owsiak’s classroom, he praised Owsiak as “One of those needles in a haystack. He finds a unique way of imparting his vast knowledge of the work of hundreds of scholars in the classroom, while reminding each of us that enjoying the work we are doing is of great importance. He is truly one of a kind.”
See Owsiak’s online biography: http://intl.uga.edu/directory/faculty_staff/owsiak-andrew-p