The Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges has selected Dr. Erin J. Friedman, an assistant professor of biology at University of Lynchburg, as the 2017 recipient of the H. Hiter Harris III Rising Star Award. She received the award on November 9 at the VFIC Annual Luncheon in Richmond, Virginia.
The award recognizes Dr. Friedman for her clear and abiding commitment to the craft of classroom teaching, the teaching-learning process, and the development of each student as an individual.
The H. Hiter Harris III Rising Star Award was created in 2015 through an endowment gift from H. Hiter III, Managing Director, of Harris Williams & Co. and current board chair of VFIC. This award includes a stipend to support the recipient’s scholarly research and professional development activities. Harris endowed this award to highlight the special features of VFIC colleges and universities by recognizing faculty members “who are up and coming in their profession and reflect a strong, clear and abiding commitment to excellence in classroom teaching within the undergraduate liberal arts and sciences community.”
Dr. Friedman clearly meets those ideals.
She “has demonstrated the highest standards of professionalism, a deep commitment to teaching, and the ability to make the classroom comfortable for all students so as to promote learning,” according to Dr. Sally Selden, vice president and dean for academic affairs at Lynchburg. She described Dr. Friedman as “highly valued by students, faculty, and staff” and “committed to the craft of classroom teaching and to the highest standards of excellence.”
Dr. Selden said that Dr. Friedman creates an atmosphere that promotes learning by “learning student names quickly, having an open door approach to office hours, adopting a friendly, approachable style, challenging students to learn more than they thought possible, working individually with students, and simply being present for students.”
Dr. Selden also recalled the moment she knew Dr. Friedman, who has been at Lynchburg since 2013, was a good fit for the College. “The day I knew the College had made an outstanding hire was when I saw Dr. Friedman dressed as a superhero on Halloween,” she said. “Her students were abuzz with excitement.”
Dr. Friedman earned her B.S. in Biology at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX and her Ph.D. in Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At Lynchburg, Erin teaches courses including Introductory Biology, Cellular Diversity, and Cell Communication. As a Writing Enriched faculty mentor, she provides guidance to other professors who are incorporating challenging writing into their curriculum.
She is passionate about teaching students how to effectively use evidence to communicate scientific findings. She mentors undergraduate student researchers on projects investigating the effects of environmental stresses on plant development and the impacts of symbiotic bacterial infections on the evolution of tiger beetles and enjoys integrating these topics into her courses whenever possible.
Since joining the faculty at Lynchburg, Erin has served on the education committee for the American Society of Plant Biologists and has presented her research at their annual meeting each year. She has served on grant panels for ASPB and the Natural Science Foundation. In the Lynchburg community, Erin volunteers at elementary schools, teaching the students about genetics and plant biology.
Founded in 1952, the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges is a nonprofit fundraising partnership supporting the programs and students of 15 leading independent colleges in the Commonwealth: Bridgewater College, Emory & Henry College, Hampden-Sydney College, Hollins University, University of Lynchburg, Mary Baldwin University, Marymount University, Randolph College, Randolph-Macon College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Sweet Briar College, University of Richmond, Virginia Wesleyan University and Washington and Lee University. For additional information on the VFIC, visit www.vfic.org.