Professor and Online Learning Faculty Fellow Jennifer Birch receives Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Jennifer Birch, associate professor of anthropology and Online Learning Faculty Fellow, is one of three University of Georgia faculty members named a recipient of the Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. 

Jennifer Birch receives Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate The award recognizes outstanding instruction by faculty members early in their academic careers. Birch teaches archaeology and serves as the undergraduate coordinator in the department of anthropology, as well as faculty liaison for the Student Association for Anthropological and Archaeological Sciences and the Anthropology Mentoring Program. 

The Russell Foundation established the Russell Awards during the 1991-1992 academic year to honor the late U.S. Sen. Richard B. Russell. The awards include a $10,000 cash award.

“Recipients of the Russell Awards exemplify the commitment to innovative and engaging instruction that makes the University of Georgia one of America’s leading public universities,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “I congratulate this year’s honorees and appreciate their dedication to our students.”

In addition to Birch, two other UGA faculty members are being recognized with the Russell Award: Jonathan Peters, associate professor of journalism in the Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication and an Online Learning Faculty Fellow, and Emily Sahakian, associate professor of theatre and film studies, and of Romance languages in the Franklin College. 

Birch has transformed how archaeology is taught at UGA, making the archaeology field school a learning experience that engages students throughout the entire process of research, from design to testing, skill development, writing, and culminating with professional presentations. 

Birch’s pedagogical style focuses on creating learning communities that develop trust as a basis for critical thinking, empowering students to take control of their learning outcomes. Her teaching approach walks students through historical circumstances of core anthropological issues, giving them a unique perspective and understanding of the field at large. 

Birch also redesigned the anthropology capstone course to focus on professional development and preparing students to succeed in both academic and applied postgraduate career trajectories. 

She has also improved the student experience in her department by developing content for web-based advising resources, along with creating a program-level curriculum map for all anthropology students. 

Birch is the recipient of the UGA-Liverpool Faculty Exchange Grant and the Online Learning Fellowship, through which she created and implemented active learning exercises in an online environment through discussion forums, debates and data analyses. 

To learn more about the Russell Awards and for a list of past winners, see