Lori A. Blanc, a research scientist in the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, has received the university's 2014 Diggs Teaching Scholars Award.

Sponsored by the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, the Diggs Teaching Scholars Award was established in 1992 and is presented annually to up to three Virginia Tech faculty members to recognize exceptional contributions to the teaching program and learning environment. A cash award is given to each recipient and their academic department. Diggs Teaching Scholars are invited to lead the Diggs Roundtable -- a series of presentations and a discussion of their innovative teaching -- a year after receiving the award.

The award is supported by an endowed fund from an estate gift by the late Edward S. and Hattie Wilson Diggs. Edward Diggs was a 1914 graduate of Virginia Tech.

Among her teaching roles, Blanc is the director of the Da Vinci Living Learning Community, a First-Year Experience program designed to help biological and life science freshmen successfully transition through their first year at Virginia Tech.

“Throughout Lori’s academic career, she has distinguished herself by developing an incredibly diverse profile of student learning experiences that challenge students to consider themselves and the world in which they live from new perspectives,” wrote Jill Sible, assistant provost for undergraduate education, and Eleanor Finger, director of housing and residence life, in their nomination letter. 

“When we think of high-impact practices for student learning — learning communities, study abroad, service learning — we cannot think of anyone who has led so many of these experiences nor led them as well as Lori," Sible continued. "Her passion for and commitment to student learning as well as her personal integrity and work ethic and ability to bring out these qualities in students is a precious asset to Virginia Tech."

This past year, Blanc significantly enhanced and updated the curriculum of the First-Year Experience seminar used by Da Vinci and Curie Living Learning Community students. In addition to enhancing the credit-bearing elements of these communities, Blanc has worked with students to envision science projects using 3-D scanning and printing technology in Lee Hall’s Studio 1 lab. Students will complete these projects as part of their First-Year Experience seminar, thus better integrating the curricular and co-curricular aspects of these communities, something that has been a hallmark of Blanc's teaching career.

Since 2008, Blanc has taught field-based study abroad programs in Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Antarctica. Her teaching emphasizes hands-on, interdisciplinary learning, undergraduate engagement with peer-reviewed scientific literature, writing-intensive project work, service learning, self-reflection and the use of co-curricular activities to improve curricular engagement.

Blanc’s research focuses on avian community ecology, conservation biology and endangered species management. She has more than 15 years of teaching experience in topics ranging from environmental sustainability, conservation biology, and molecular genetic techniques to computer literacy, programming, and computer architecture. 

Blanc received her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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