Presson joined the university in 1987 and is assistant dean of undergraduate academic programs in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
Joelle Presson received the 2017 University of Maryland President’s Distinguished Service Award at the Faculty and Staff Convocation for her exemplary contributions to undergraduate teaching and learning and for her leadership and innovation in course and curriculum development. Presson is assistant dean of undergraduate academic programs in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS).
“The award was a complete surprise and I am honored by the respect from my colleagues that the award represents,” Presson said. “The University of Maryland has been an incredibly nurturing place for me to work because of the talented and caring people I have had the pleasure to work with.”
Presson joined UMD in 1987 as a research associate in the Department of Zoology (now the Department of Biology) and became the department’s director of undergraduate studies in 1990. In 2007, she became the assistant dean of undergraduate academic programs in the College of Chemical and Life Sciences (now CMNS). Presson’s responsibilities include curriculum development, program administration and student advising.
“Having known and worked with Joelle over her entire career at the University of Maryland, I know that her commitment to serving students has had a profound impact on the future career paths of thousands of students,” said CMNS Interim Dean Gerald Wilkinson. “It’s wonderful to see her hard work recognized by President Loh.”
Presson oversees the curriculum and administration of the biological sciences undergraduate program. She analyzes how students perform in classes and how to improve students’ likelihood for success. Presson’s work has led to modifications in course requirements, such as changed math prerequisites for freshman biology and chemistry courses.
She has taught a variety of courses, including general biology and neuropharmacology. Most recently, she created and taught the novel general education course BSCI 189I: “Beyond Race: Human Biological Diversity.” To accompany the course, she co-authored a textbook, which was the second textbook she co-authored to support biology education for non-majors.
In addition, Presson helped create and now serves as director of Science in the Evening, a non-degree, post-baccalaureate program that provides the prerequisite coursework needed to apply to most medical, dental and veterinary schools, as well as biotechnology and biological sciences graduate programs. This program provides new academic options at UMD for non-traditional students who typically work full-time jobs and are interested in pursuing careers in the health professions.
“Joelle has worked tirelessly over her career to increase the quality, access and support for undergraduate students on our campus,” said Robert Infantino, associate dean of undergraduate education in CMNS. “Her commitment to the campus has led to improved programs and processes, better articulations with our community college partners, and increased communication among institutions to improve our students’ academic success.”
Presson has focused considerable effort on helping transfer students smoothly transition to UMD. She piloted a transition course for transfer students, and she helped Montgomery College enhance the content of some of its biological sciences and math courses to make them more equivalent to UMD courses.
“Joelle shared valuable information about transfer student success at the University of Maryland and the factors that impact that success,” said James Sniezek (B.S. ’84, biological sciences; M.S. ’87, Ph.D. ’92, zoology), the instructional dean of Chemical and Biological Sciences at Montgomery College. “Dr. Presson’s commitment to students in unparalleled. Her dedication to the mission of the University of Maryland to provide excellent teaching, research and service is beyond compare.”
The President’s Distinguished Service Award was established in 1996 to honor university staff who have served the university for at least 10 years and have demonstrated exceptional leadership and performance. Recipients of the award have a record of exemplary performance and distinctive contributions to the operation of an administrative, academic, research or service unit on campus. They have clearly demonstrated initiative toward the improvement of university programs or campus activities and have shown commitment to the campus community as a whole.
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About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college’s 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.