Dr. Sarah Balcom honored with the Kirwan Undergraduate Education Award
Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg
University of Maryland faculty and staff gathered at the UMD Memorial Chapel on September 14, 2022, for the annual convocation to officially usher in the academic year and celebrate the outstanding academic and service achievements of their peers. Two AGNR faculty members, Dr. Liangli Yu and Dr. Sarah Balcom, were honored with prestigious awards.
Sarah Balcom, principal lecturer in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences and director of its undergraduate program was honored with the Kirwan Undergraduate Education Award, which recognizes faculty or staff who have made exceptional contributions to the quality of undergraduate education at the university.
Balcom has made many significant contributions to teaching on campus, from the development of captivating courses, a revamping of her department’s advising and exceptional efforts to keep her students connected during COVID-19.
“Dr. Balcom has always demonstrated a tremendous commitment to excellence,” said Chad H. Stahl, professor and chair of animal and avian sciences. “Student evaluations for her courses are among the best in the department, despite students ranking her courses as being particularly rigorous.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary, Balcom received her master’s in animals and public policy and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Tufts University. She started at the University of Maryland in 2010 as a lecturer, working her way up to senior and then principal lecturer by 2020.
In that time, she has designed or redesigned several courses to fit students’ need. Those range from basics—like “Introduction to Animal Science” and “Introduction to Veterinary Medical Terminology”—to more advanced classes—like “Love Me, Hate Me, Use Me, Save Me: Our Conflicting Views of Animals,” also taught as an honors seminar, and “Sheep Management,” which includes the popular “lamb watch” experience that allows students to help ewes give birth.
“Dr. Balcom urges critical thinking rather than memorization, challenging her students to engage in discourse about relevant issues and engage in discussion with peers,” says Rachel Gagliardi ’18, one of Balcom’s former students. “She provides her students with the tools to be successful in any area of work, not just animal science.”
That dedication has been especially evident since the onset of the pandemic. To keep students connected, she created virtual tours of the department and the Campus Farm, hosted online career nights and wrote weekly check-in letters.
“I have been either been a student at or been employed at four different land-grant universities during my career and have never met another educator who was more capable or more passionate about improving the educational experience of students than Dr. Sarah Balcom,” says Angela Black, animal care program coordinator.
The prize carries an honorarium of $5000 and is awarded at the Campus Convocation each fall.