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Featured: Christine Burgoyne, Office of Academic Special Programs

Christine Burgoyne, head of the Office of Academic Special Programs, feels that the most important aspect of service is bringing opportunity to others. She sees service-learning as an integral part of any land- and sea-grant university’s mission, and in turn part of what defines UGA as on of the most distinguished and versatile institutions in the nation.

Where did you earn your degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I have masters’ degrees in English and teaching English as a second language from the University of Nevada, Reno. As head of the Office of Academic Special Programs, I work with a variety of programs that engage Georgia’s pre-collegiate students in historical and scientific research, including the Georgia Science and Engineering Fairs (GSEF), the Northeast Georgia National History Day and the Georgia Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I came to UGA in 1993 to take a public service faculty position in an intensive English language program that was part of UGA’s Georgia Center for Continuing Education. Being part of the Georgia Center has provided me with a wonderful range of opportunities: I have worked in the departments of university studies, grants & contracts, and professional and personal development, each of which exposed me to a new aspect of public service and outreach.

What is the best part about your job?
It is incredibly rewarding to watch pre-collegiate students become fully engaged as they explain the process and results of what is often their first opportunity to conduct independent research.

Describe your current research or service projects.
The vast majority of the projects in this office focus on the development of critical thinking and research skills at the middle- and high-school levels, including the presentation of the students’ original research to peers, professional researchers and the public. We direct various regional- and state-level competitions and collaborate with the universities, technical schools and school districts that plan preliminary levels of competition. We also provide guidance to classroom teachers whose students are learning to perform original research, whether that research is in history or in one of the science, teaching, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas.

My latest project is related to our usual work but geared toward teachers. It will provide a wider range of opportunity for Georgia’s K-12 teachers to obtain Professional Learning Units (PLUs) toward the renewal of their teaching certifications. Teachers will now be able to get PLU credits for studying in the Georgia Center’s American Sign Language certificate program or taking new accent reduction classes that are part of the certificate in Global TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

What does service mean to you?
Of all the aspects of service, the most important is bringing opportunity to others, whether by organizing community projects, serving on nonprofit boards or creating pathways to bring research-based skills and knowledge to those who can most benefit from them.

What do you feel is UGA’s role as a land- and sea-grant university?
As a land-grant and sea-grant university, UGA has a responsibility to provide for the contemporary needs of the public while honoring the spirit of the original Morrill Acts. Whether by promoting relevant research, assisting in economic development or sharing knowledge and technical resources, UGA brings its resources to the citizens of this diverse and complex state.

What does it mean to you to work at a land- and sea-grant university, both personally and professionally?
In addition to UGA, I have worked at three other land-grant or sea-grant institutions. It has been my experience that an institution’s awareness of its land-grant or sea-grant status creates an environment that encourages faculty and administrators to take seriously their responsibility to bring knowledge and resources beyond the classrooms and laboratories and into the community.

Why is public service an important aspect of higher education?
Public service is the primary link between the university and the rest of the state. Through public service and outreach programs, universities use research-based knowledge to address real-world problems in the communities they serve.

What are the benefits of attending a land-grant university for students as opposed to the experience they would get at a non-land-grant university?
Land-grant universities have a mandate to provide not just intellectual knowledge but also practical research and training applicable to careers outside of academia. Being held accountable to this mandate has led to a high level of integrity and has put land-grant universities on par with the country’s most distinguished and versatile institutions.

What are some of the service-learning and public service opportunities for students that you are involved with?
We have been able to expose undergraduate student workers and public service scholars to all facets of our youth outreach programs, from planning to in-the-trenches implementation.

What is the value or benefit of students engaging in service-learning and public service?
The right experience in any form of public service can expand a student’s worldview and provide a new perspective from which to interpret everything he or she sees and experiences. Service-learning specifically integrates research and academics with real-world situations; students apply what might otherwise be abstract knowledge to hands-on situations requiring problem solving and higher-level thinking; in doing so they develop leadership skills, self-confidence and a sense of social responsibility.

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