Student survey names top UAA faculty

April 13, 2016
Choron Ryan, a UAA biological sciences instructor, poses for a photo with one of her anatomy and physiology classes. Ryan received the most "unique student" nominations (49) on this year's Mapworks list of UAA's most outstanding faculty, followed by Vara Allen-Jones (33) and Kristin Bogue (25). (Photo by Theodore Kincaid / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Choron Ryan, a UAA biological sciences instructor, poses for a photo with one of her anatomy and physiology classes. Ryan received the most “unique student” nominations (49) on this year’s Mapworks list of UAA’s most outstanding faculty, followed by Vara Allen-Jones (33) and Kristin Bogue (25). (Photo by Theodore Kincaid / University of Alaska Anchorage)

What do a bar of soap, a colander, and a slice of pizza have in common?

UAA instructor Choron Ryan mentioned all of those items in a recent anatomy and physiology lab to help students better visualize and understand the size and appearance of a human kidney and its internal structures and functions.

“Renal pyramids are kind of shaped like a piece of pizza,” Ryan said. “The papilla might be where you’d take the first bite, where the arcuate arteries and veins can be found along the pizza crust. That will come in handy when you take a look at the flow of blood in the kidney.”

Ryan’s translation of complex anatomical terminology into plain English students can “see” is one reason why she received the most student nominations of outstanding instructors in this year’s Mapworks surveys—49 students named her as most outstanding. (See next week’s Green and Gold to learn more about Ryan). Vara Allen-Jones and Kristin Bogue rounded out the top three on the “Outstanding Faculty” list, with 33 and 25 students nominating them, respectively.

Vara Allen-Jones earned the second-highest number of "unique student" nominations on this year's Mapworks survey of UAA's most outstanding faculty. (Photo courtesy of Vara Allen-Jones)

Vara Allen-Jones earned the second-highest number of “unique student” nominations on this year’s Mapworks survey of UAA’s most outstanding faculty. (Photo courtesy of Vara Allen-Jones)

Allen-Jones is an assistant professor of counseling who came to UAA from Savannah, Ga., in 1991. She directed UAA’s AHAINA (African-American, Hispanic, Asian/ Pacific Islander, International and Native American) Student Programs from 1994-1998; successfully wrote multimillion-dollar grants to grow UAA’s TRiO grant programs; expanded new-student orientation; developed the UA Scholars and UAA retention program and advocated for improved learning environments and conditions for students with disabilities. She has served as assistant vice provost for the Academic Center for Excellence and associate vice chancellor for academic and multicultural student services, among many other roles.

She has received a Noel-Levitz National Award for Student Retention and a UAA Chancellor’s Award for Excellence: Outstanding Contributions to Students.

Bogue, a senior professional academic and career advisor with exploratory/undeclared and Associate of Arts students, is interim coordinator for Exploratory Student Services for Academic Advising and Career Development. For more than four years, she has worked as an adjunct faculty member teaching “Creating Success in College,” a three-credit course targeting first-year students. She has also taught health, sexuality, and family life courses to health science and nursing students.

Kristin Bogue holds up a banner inscribed with her students' dream careers, at Campus Kick-Off. Bogue received the third-highest number of "outstanding faculty" nominations on this year's Mapworks student survey. (Photo courtesy of Liz Shine)

Kristin Bogue holds a banner inscribed with her students’ dream careers, at Campus Kick-Off. Bogue received the third-highest number of nominations on this year’s Mapworks student survey that asked which UAA teacher helped them most in their college success. (Photo courtesy of Liz Shine)

Seven hundred thirty-three UAA students nominated 178 UAA faculty members this year. See the full list here.

“My experience with these nominations and this event, paired with my expertise in student retention, tell me these are faculty members who go far beyond their duties as an instructor,” said Molly Orheim, UAA’s student retention and Mapworks coordinator. “They are truly able to connect with students and help them discover and build their own network of support and community at UAA.”

The nominations were “unique student” nominations.

“We survey the same students four times each year,” Orheim said. “Many students will nominate the same instructor all four times, but in this situation we only count this as a single nomination. So, for Choron, she was nominated more than 49 times, however, 49 unique students nominated her in total.”

The surveys asked students to nominate a teacher on the UAA campus who helped them most in their college success. A faculty appreciation luncheon on March 24 celebrated the efforts of the nominees.

Mapworks is a success and retention tool designed to help students transition to college life and successfully graduate by linking them with individualized resources they need, when they need them.

Here is a sampling of student comments about why they chose to nominate Ryan, Allen-Jones and Bogue for “Outstanding Faculty” recognition:

  • Tori Ross: Choron includes lots of analogies, puns, videos, anything really to make teaching anatomy and physiology more understandable. She has started and taught at study groups, given extra office time hours, and is very quick to answer any question posed to her about the material through email.
  • Crystal Berg: Choron Ryan has a very difficult subject to impress into our minds, Anatomy and Physiology 111 and 112. We were to take our midterm on the circulatory system using the mink we had dissected a week earlier. She took pity on us because the vessels on minks are minuscule, so, she gave up her entire weekend dissecting and labeling three cats, which have vessels that are much larger and recognizable. Everyone was so relieved!
  • Meranda Spaulding: She makes science a hilarious subject. She answers any question you have without making you feel stupid. On the other hand, she makes you responsible for your work. She doesn’t baby you.
  • Jerica Christine: She takes all the crazy medical terms and explains it to us in “English”! Wish she could have taught all my science classes! She always prepared very nice study guides for us students and always made time outside of class to help us when we needed that extra push!
  • Kailin Heckert: Choron gets us. Her bubbly personality allows her to get down on her students’ level and figure out how we learn best. She comes up with hilarious mnemonics and cartoons to help us remember the material.
  • Vijay Reddy: Vara Allen-Jones is really an amazing mentor. She guided us how to plan for our future career, [learning] skills such as time management, finance management and preparation for exams. She is professional and particular about the assignments and at the same time, very helpful.
  • Kaying Xiong: Vara Allen-Jones doesn’t teach you just to become another good student at UAA, she teaches you to teach yourself what it takes to be a master student at UAA. She makes you realize everything you choose to do in your life will affect what you want to become in your life. She is like a great friend who will always take you to the right path.
  • Logan Turner: Vara Allen-Jones has a very positive and outgoing vibe she brings into the Guidance A150 class. I got a big confidence boost for my first semester with the class discussions and interactions we had.
  • Ally Johnson: She’s a no-nonsense teacher. You can relate to her and she makes class fun!
  • Chris Brake: I came from a rural part of New Zealand where my family lived by dairy farming and agricultural contracting. Coming to Anchorage was a huge change, but Vara Allen-Jones helped me. She made me feel welcome here. I remember her commenting on my accent in the first day of classes. She would just keep me talking because she liked listening to my voice. She put the mindset in my head that I didn’t sound strange or off-putting, that my accent was interesting to listen to, and sometimes funny with certain words I would pronounce differently, such as ten, August and pen. This proved to be entertaining to other people I found through my other classes, which helped me meet more and more people. It was a great way of breaking the ice with new people. She made me so much more confident in myself and my voice, in class and out of class.
  • Kristina Stalcup: Kristin Bogue always asks how my personal life is, how I’m feeling, as far as my classes are concerned. She even goes so far as to suggest coping mechanisms whenever the stress may become too much. Kristin is honestly just a lovely human being, and is very knowledgeable and supportive when it comes to my academic goals.
  • Rachelle Griffitts: Kristin gives great advice and supports me with things I need like scholarship reference letters. I have the confidence to succeed in school because of her guidance. She is a wonderful advisor.
  • Beau Feckley: Kristin really was the deciding factor for me to go to UAA. I was unsure if college was for me, or if I could handle it, but she made everything very simple for me and eased any doubts I had about enrolling. As my advisor, she’s been outstanding—always easy to schedule meetings, responds fast to emails with multiple solutions to my questions, never gets short tempered or irritated with how air-headed I can be. She’s always made me feel like I’m important at UAA.
  • Jennah Lee: Kristin Bogue helps students create education plans that make sense and work for them without being overwhelming. Taking her class helped me become a better student, and work on any problems I’ve had. Her class alone is one of the biggest reasons I’ve been able to be successful at UAA.
  • Jonella Sebastiani: Kristin is my academic advisor. She took the time to follow through with me and make sure I was taking the correct classes. I didn’t understand what to take, or where to begin when I first started at UAA. I actually recently met with her and she remembered what degree I was interested in and we talked about it. When I meet with her, I don’t feel awkward and she always provides me with great advice!
  • Teresa Schille: The first thing Kristin asks during an advising appointment is how I am doing and what’s going on in my life. I have faced many struggles adapting to college as a nontraditional student. Kristin has helped me navigate this crazy process and be successful in my classes while doing so. Her compassion goes above and beyond that of what is required for her position, and it is refreshing to know there is someone like her to rely on when things get tough.


Written by Tracy Kalytiak, UAA Office of University Advancement

University of Alaska Anchorage - University Advancement
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