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Ethell Vereen, Ph.D., Receives Vulcan Award

Ethell Vereen, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Biology, has been named as the recipient of the 2019 Vulcan Materials Company’s Teaching Excellence Award at Morehouse College.

Established in 1991, the prestigious recognition is presented to a member of the faculty in honor of their excellence in teaching, commitment to student success, and leadership to enhance campus community.

“Winning the Vulcan Award makes me feel so honored and proud, but also humble,” said Dr. Vereen. “I was absolutely thrilled simply to have been nominated, given the caliber of my colleagues at Morehouse, and especially those that have won this award before me.

“This award not only recognizes my achievements, but also reinforces my vision for educating and developing the next generation of students, scientists, and thought leaders. Making a difference to young people has been my lifelong passion, and, for me, this award recognizes their achievements, too, as well as recognizing just how important teaching and leadership is for their success.”

Vereen’s areas of expertise are water quality, environmental health, and microbial ecology. His current research focuses on the ecology of waterborne diseases, with an emphasis on water quality. “Recently, I expanded my research to include activities on the mechanisms and evolution of antibiotic resistance,” he said. “My work on water quality is focused on understanding the sources, transformation, transport, and ecology of waterborne pathogens—specifically, Salmonella and Campylobacter, as well as fecal indicator organisms.

“I am also interested in exploring undergraduate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and pedagogy, with an emphasis on Pan-African and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in the sciences.”

The Vulcan Teaching Excellence Award is presented to outstanding professors educating students on select member campuses of the Georgia Independent College Association.

Vereen was also recently awarded a $300,000 Research Initiation Award from the National Science Foundation for his project, “Metagenomic Approach to Assess Water Quality and Microbial Load Variability of an Urban Watershed,” which is expected to increase the research capacity at Morehouse College and provide additional training opportunities for the College’s STEM students. 

Vereen earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from South Carolina State University, a master’s degree in environmental health at the University of Georgia College of Public Health, and a doctorate in ecology from the University of Georgia. He was also a FIRST (Fellowships in Research and Science Teaching) Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Health at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.

Vereen has stated that his goal in teaching is “to facilitate critical thinking and problem-solving skills through biology, as well as public and environmental health course curriculum that includes an evaluation of real-world problems presented through case studies and reviews of primary literature. As an instructor, I aspire to not only ensure that my students gain an understanding of the material, but to create as much interest and creative understanding of the material as possible. 

“In my teaching, I have developed educational materials and facilitate critical thinking and problem-solving skills using active learning techniques, such as small group discussions, audience response systems and flipped classrooms,” he added. “I engage students by letting my natural excitement and passion make the lecture a positive environment. I often also draw upon my own experiences, and research (including others in the field) to expose my students to biology and science outside of the classroom.” 

Seventeen Morehouse College professors have received Vulcan Teaching Excellence Awards. The recognition is presented annually during Commencement ceremonies.

Previous Morehouse Vulcan Award-Winners

Melvin Rahming, Ph.D., Department of English; James Richardson, M.A., Department of English; Keith Hollingsworth, Ph.D., Department of Business Administration; Hamid Taqi, Ph.D., Department of Political Science; Emmanuel Onifade, Ph.D., Department of Business Administration; David Morrow, D.M.A, Department of Music; Lawrence Blumer, Ph.D., Department of Biology; Cynthia Hewitt, Ph.D., Department of Sociology; Gloria da Cunha, Ph.D., Department of Modern Foreign Languages; Marcellus Barksdale, Ph.D., Department of History; Uzee Brown Jr., D.M.A., Department of Music; John Handy, Ph.D., Department of Economics; David Cooke, Ph.D., Department of Biology; Ida Mukenge, Ph.D., Department of Sociology; E. Dolores Stephens, Ph.D., Department of English; Tobe Johnson, Ph.D., Department of Political Science; and Miesha Williams, Ph.D., Department of Economics.