Dr. Paige Ouzts
Dr. Paige Ouzts teaches physics at Lander University and she knows the subject intimidates many of her students who are not comfortable with the mathematics associated with it. But she tries to boost their confidence by telling them not to make things harder than they are, the same advice she received when she was a student.
Ouzts, an associate professor of physics, is Lander's 2010 Distinguished Professor of the Year, an award presented annually to a faculty member who demonstrates exemplary performance as a classroom teacher and scholar, and for service to Lander and beyond.
She believes it is essential for a teacher to be inspiring, enthusiastic and challenging. "Those teachers who pushed me made the biggest impression. They made me a better student." She believes it is important for students to feel they have made accomplishments on their own with her guidance.
Ouzts is a native of Greenwood and credits John Kinard, her physics teacher at Greenwood High School, with stimulating her interest in physics. She received a bachelor's degree from Furman University and her master's and doctorate in physics from the University of Alabama. She joined Lander's science faculty in 2003 after three years as a visiting assistant professor of physics at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.
She said teaching is also a learning experience for her because of some of the questions students ask. "Each class has its own personality. I have to find new ways of explaining material they do not understand." She demonstrates real world applications of physics to help them better understand the subject.
She also encourages students to take advantage of research opportunities because research gives them hands-on experience with the concepts that they learn in the classroom.
Her research background includes projects at the University of Alabama and a fellowship at Stanford University in a program sponsored by NASA and the American Society for Engineering Education. She specializes in research using infrared technology.
Ouzts has also taught physics without the usual heavy dose of math to sixth- through ninth-graders enrolled in the annual Fuji Summer Science and Math Enrichment program at Lander. She designs the classes to help students explore and understand the mechanics of energy and motion, electricity and magnetism, and other physics principles.
She is a member of Sigma Pi Sigma physics national honor society; Phi Beta Kappa, the academic honor society; and Pi Mu Epsilon, the mathematics national honor society.
Dr. David Slimmer, dean of Lander's College of Science and Mathematics, nominated Ouzts for the award. He said, "I am ecstatic that she was chosen. She does a great job in the classroom and on campus, and in her outside service. The award is well-deserved."
Ouzts said she is honored to have been selected as Distinguished Professor of the Year because it makes her aware of how she teaches. Her students supported her nomination and wrote letters on her behalf. "Sometimes we forget that we do make a difference."