University News

Professor Named Georgia Sociologist of the Year

Georgia Sociological Association President Pamela Pittman Brown, Ph.D., (R) presents Ned Rinalducci, Ph.D., (L) with theSociologist of the Year Award.

Georgia Southern University Associate Professor of Sociology Ned Rinalducci, Ph.D., was named Sociologist of the Year by the Georgia Sociological Association (GSA). The award recognizes an outstanding sociologist who has made a significant impact in the field of sociology in the state of Georgia.

“It is a great feeling to know that my peers appreciate the work that I do in the state, in my community, at my university and for my discipline,” Rinalducci said. While he acknowledges the honor of the lifetime achievement award, he added he’s not done making contributions.

“I’ve always felt that it is my mission as a sociologist to use my knowledge, skills and expertise towards the goal of increasing community and civic engagement, and to strengthen the communities I am part of, be they academic or civic,” Rinalducci explained.

Rinalducci served as president of GSA in 2004 and 2013 and received the GSA Meritorious Service Award in 2008.

New Dean Leads Waters College of Health Professions

“In the short time that I have been at Georgia Southern, I have been particularly impressed with the hospitality of the faculty, staff and students,” says Whitney Nash, Ph.D., the new dean of the University’s Waters College of Health Professions. “The commitment to educational excellence and the pride of Eagle Nation is obvious across all the campuses. The diversity of programming and the focus on preparing a high-quality workforce is inspiring.”

Nash joined Georgia Southern University’s largest college last August. She previously worked at the University of Louisville, where she served as a professor in the School of Nursing, associate dean of practice and service, and associate vice president of interprofessional practice.

“To address the many challenges faced by higher education in a post-COVID world, it will be critical for institutions to re-think how we continue to provide educational excellence that is accessible to any student wishing to attend Georgia Southern,” she says. Creative solutions that leverage the entrepreneurial capacity of the faculty, staff and students will be the foundation of this initiative.”

Nash received a Ph.D. in nursing, MSN in adult nurse practitioner and a BSN from the University of Louisville.

Faculty Member Named Governor’s Teaching Fellow

Georgia Southern University Professor of Educational Research Meca Williams-Johnson, Ph.D., is among a select group of faculty from institutions of higher education across the state named a 2022 Governor’s Teaching Fellow (GTF). The GTF program was established in 1995 by Gov. Zell Miller to provide Georgia’s higher education faculty with expanded opportunities for developing important teaching skills.

The 16-year professor in the University’s College of Education (COE) has served as a member of the University Honors Council and mentor to honors students for more than 14 years. Her research interests include emotions in teaching and learning, self-determination theory, self-efficacy beliefs, critical race theory, intersectionality and qualitative research methods.

“Since 2008, I’ve worked with the University’s Honors Program, and now Honors College, in facilitating research projects with our preservice teachers,” she noted. “I am happy to see it grow and develop with the inclusion of our undergraduate research courses for our special education undergraduate majors. It is with renewed hope and energy that we will continue to chart more ways to infuse research course work into the undergraduate student experiences in COE.”

Williams-Johnson is also the faculty advisor for the University’s Statesboro Campus Chapter of NAACP. During the GTF academic year, participants attend three-day symposia held six times over the academic year while also engaging in instructional improvement projects held on their home campuses.

Library Brings Escape Room to Botanic Garden

Could you find the last will and testament of Daniel Bland to escape the Bland Cottage at the Botanic Gardens? Over 230 participants did just that during the short run in October of “Bland’s Botanical Bequest: An Escape Game for Georgia Archives.”

This year, Library Special Collections took the escape game concept outside of the library and partnered with Georgia Southern’s Botanic Gardens. The program was held in the Botanic Gardens’ historic Bland Cottage, the 1920s homestead of Daniel and Catherine Bland, who donated the cottage and land to the University in the 1980s.

The game, similar to commercially available escape games, placed players together in a situational environment where they must solve a series of puzzles and clues in order to solve the task at hand.

Many of the clues and puzzles encountered throughout the game were based on actual materials belonging to Dan and Catherine Bland including photographs, a hand-drawn map, herbarium press book, historic newspaper articles and even an oral history recording.

Special Collections hopes to offer an encore presentation of the program in 2023 based on unprecedented demand from both the University and greater community.

More information about the program can be found at

Dominique Quarles Named Georgia Southern Chief Diversity Officer

Alumnus Dominique A. Quarles, Ph.D., (’11,’13) has returned to Georgia Southern University as the associate vice president for inclusive excellence and chief diversity officer. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s in higher education from the University. He is a critical member of the President’s Cabinet, which continues to prioritize inclusive excellence as a strategic pillar and a core value at Georgia Southern.

Quarles has experience with large-scale initiatives, securing funding for programs and special projects and collaborating across institutional divisions to maximize the impact of diversity, equity and inclusion work on college campuses. He previously served as the assistant vice president for access, diversity and inclusion at Mississippi State University. He earned a doctoral degree in higher education from the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia.

More than $1 Billion: Study Reveals University’s Economic Impact

Georgia Southern’s economic impact on the region it serves reached more than $1 billion during the 2021-2022 fiscal year according to a report released by the University System of Georgia (USG). That marked a 7.4% increase over fiscal year 2020. The total impact of all 26 USG institutions on their communities reached $19.3 billion between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.

The report found these economic impacts demonstrate that continued emphasis on colleges and universities as a pillar of Georgia’s economy translates into jobs, higher incomes and greater production of goods and services.

“We faced unprecedented challenges in FY 2021, but we’ve come out stronger than ever,” said Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero. “With more than $1.03 billion of direct impact on southeast Georgia, Georgia Southern will continue to create more academic programs that meet specific needs for economic development. Informed by our regional academic plan and University strategic plan, we’re committed to making our region a thriving economic hub in Georgia.”

There are 3,250 jobs on Georgia Southern’s campuses in Statesboro, Savannah and Hinesville. Because of institution-related spending, 6,363 jobs exist off-campus.

Georgia Southern Receives $1.3M Grant to Prepare Underrepresented Students for Doctoral Studies

A Georgia Southern University program that helps underrepresented college students pursue a doctoral degree has received a $1.3 million grant to continue the program through 2027. The grant from the U.S. Department of Education will provide funding for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program.

The McNair Scholars Program is one of seven federal TRIO programs established to support students who are underrepresented, income-eligible, first-generation or individuals with disabilities. The Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program will serve 25 students each year. The goal of the program is to increase the number of underrepresented students in doctoral programs.

“Our project activities will afford McNair participants the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research, introduce them to doctoral-level expectations, work hand-in-hand with faculty mentors, and help pave the way for an inclusive and richly diverse academic community in the future,” said Issac Taylor, Ed.S., director of the Ronald E. McNair Program and principal investigator for the grant.

The program is named after Ronald E. McNair, a physicist and astronaut who died in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Georgia Southern is one of 189 national grantees and one of five grantees in the state of Georgia to receive funding.