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                                         The History of the Chemistry Department

 

 

The Department of Chemistry at the University of West Georgia has gone through a considerable number of changes in the past fifteen years.  Back in the early nineties, the departmental Chair of Chemistry, at then West Georgia College, Dr. Lucille B. Garmon, had a vision for the department inclusive of a strong research component and an American Chemical Society accredited degree program.  With the hire of four new faculty members, Drs. Geisler, Slattery, Leavitt, and Khan a new emphasis of undergraduate research emerged.  Through the financial support of the University and through  numerous  externally  funded  grant  proposals  (e.g. National Science Foundation, Research

Corporation, The Petroleum Research Fund), the department was able to acquire an array of instrumentation and chemical equipment providing students with a high quality academic environment and experience with a wide range of technologies which are traditionally encountered in a graduate setting.  The significance of this initiative has been evidenced by the demonstrated success of our graduates.  Top ranked graduate and medical schools as well as state and private industry began to realize that West Georgia chemistry majors were valuable.

 

During the following years and until her shift to the Deanís office, Dr. Vickie Geisler, Chair, oversaw the recruitment of three new faculty; Drs. Hansen, Basu-Dutt, and Ray.   The institution converted from a quarter to a semester system and allowed for a further restructuring within the chemistry curriculum.  What had begun was now blossoming as the department integrated new degree programs in the chemical sciences.  The American Chemical Society (ACS) accredited B.S. Degree came to full fruition.  Pre-professional programs were expanded adding to pre-medical, the pre-pharmacy, pre-veterinary, and pre-dental options.  A dual degree in chemistry and chemical engineering in collaboration with Georgia Tech and other engineering schools was being developed.  Likewise, a program with a biochemistry emphasis was initiated.   The department became actively involved in scientific community affairs hosting such events as Science Olympiad, Women in Science, tutoring programs, and ARCH (Big Night) where campus faculty can showcase their research activities to the community.  In addition, popular demonstration shows were incorporated and geared toward local elementary, junior, and high schools emphasizing the chemistry which is all around us.  It was also during this time that the department said good bye to two retiring members, Dr. Glen Esslinger and Dr. William Lockhart, whose guidance, impact, and humor has been missed.

 

Under the span of Dr. Farooq Khan's tenure as Chair, the department found a new home in the Technology-enhanced Learning Center situated at the North entrance of campus.  The institution had shifted from college status to State University.  The Biochemistry program received accreditation from the American Chemical Society.  Drs. Gaguere-Parker and Boatright became our new Assistant Professors.  As well, Jill Stallings became the departmentís Administrative Assistant and through her warm and professional demeanor, in essence, became the ĎDen Motherí of our chemistry majors.  During this time a new pedagogical approach was implemented in the classroom.  The Studio Method of teaching was utilized which integrates short laboratory exercises with the lecture.  Conjointly introduced was Peer Led Team Learning, termed 'Workshop' which organizes the freshman level students in small clusters.  Under the guidance of upper level undergraduate mentors who work alongside the faculty instructors, the groups review and practice the material presented during instruction that week.

 

In the past eight years Dr. Spencer Slattery, Chair, has overseen the arrival of new members, Drs. Fujita, Ayers, Stuart, and Otwell as well as a growth in chemistry majors.  The institution has achieved official University status and a new mascot, the West Georgia Wolves. Lucy Garmon, though retired, was conferred Emeritus status and continues to teach and direct the Workshop program tirelessly.  Past curriculum design is being restructured to further enhance the student experience while simultaneously accommodating increased student numbers.  Research remains a strong focus.  We've acquired a new FT-Infrared Spectrometer and a 400 MHz. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance instrument.  The department has broadened it's focus to integrate more campus-wide STEM initiatives such as UWise, UTeach, the Provost's Scientific Literacy Initiative, as well as the Chemistry and Art Study Abroad Program.  In collaboration with the Department of Education, it has acquired Improving Teacher Quality grants, as well as implemented outreach programs for children such as IMPACT and REACH.  As the chemistry department transitions through changing times, a challenging financial environment, and growth in student numbers, our standard remains the same; a foundation of high academic standards, an undergraduate research experience, high levels of post graduate employment, broad and varied faculty research emphases, all while maintaining a student oriented environment.