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Georgia Southern professor, alumnus honored at Regents Scholarship Gala

Georgia Southern University President Kyle Marrero, Associate Professor Arpita Saha, and Lt. Gen. Leslie C. Smith

A Georgia Southern University professor and graduate were among the distinguished honorees at the recent 17th annual Regents’ Scholarship Gala that raised more than $625,000 to support and provide need-based scholarships for University System of Georgia (USG) students across the state.

Hosted by the USG Foundation, the event included Governor Brian P. Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp as well as supporters, donors, alumni, legislators, members of the Board of Regents and presidents from USG’s 26 public colleges and universities.

Six USG faculty members were honored as 2021 recipients of the Felton Jenkins Jr. Hall of Fame Faculty Award. This prestigious teaching award recognizes faculty’s important contributions to their schools and fields of study and for their strong commitment to teaching and student success. Among the honorees was Arpita Saha, Ph.D., associate professor of inorganic chemistry.

Saha says she deeply values the challenges associated with the STEM disciplines for the underserved community, and focuses much of her work on equity, inclusion and excellence. She has taught chemistry to freshmen and graduate students, and everyone in between while at Georgia Southern. 

She has led a Faculty Learning Community on Inclusive Teaching Practices in the classroom and developed and implemented high-impact teaching practices such as an inquiry-based laboratory course (Course-Based Undergraduate Research, CURE) for upper-level chemistry course, which was proven to be effective toward students’ understanding of scientific authentic research practices. She is co-leader of her college’s Diversity & Inclusion Collaborative since its inception in 2019 and a co-leader of the GS Alliances of Women in STEM and a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence.

Saha co-launched the College of Science and Mathematics’ Freshmen Research Program in 2019 and currently leads a team of faculty representing various disciplines within COSM to expand the program on all three campuses of Georgia Southern University. Through this program, she aims to incorporate first-year students into research, diversify STEM workforce, and provide several active interventions until their graduation for motivation, retention, and academic success.

“I am overwhelmed and feel truly special receiving such statewide recognition with the Hall of Fame Faculty Award in Excellence in Teaching,” Saha said. “This would never have been possible without the support of my wonderful family, colleagues, collaborators and especially GSU administration for encouraging the visions and initiatives. With humility, I sincerely thank the University System of Georgia, Board of Regents, and Georgia Southern University for such honor and recognition!”

The USG Foundation also recognized four recipients of the Regents’ Hall of Fame Alumni and Distinguished Friends Award. This award is presented to outstanding alumni and friends for their dedicated service and support to a USG institution. Among the honorees was Lt. Gen. Leslie C. Smith, nominated by Georgia Southern.

Smith, the 66th Inspector General of the Army, retired in August after more than 35 years of Army service. He is the highest-ranking military official Georgia Southern has ever produced.

Smith has served as The Inspector General (TIG) since February 2018. Before that, he served as Deputy, The Inspector General (DTIG) from April 2015 until becoming TIG.

Smith received his commission in the U.S. Army from Georgia Southern in 1983 as a field artillery officer. In 1985, he completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting as a distinguished military graduate and entered the Army as a chemical officer. Smith holds a Master of Science degree in administration from Central Michigan University and a Master of Arts degree in national security strategy from the National Defense University.

No matter how far he ascended in the Army ranks or how far away his service took him, General Smith has consistently made time to invest in others, especially Georgia Southern’s students. Even before his daughter Tori attended Georgia Southern and graduated in 2018, General Smith would visit his alma mater at least once a year to speak to ROTC cadets, business students, student-athletes, and many others.


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