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Catawba College Biology Professor Receives Prestigious Award

April 06, 2009

Category: Biology, Faculty


BaranskiDr. Michael J. Baranski, a professor of biology at Catawba College, was presented the Association of Southeastern Biologists Meritorious Teaching Award at that organization's 70th Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 3rd.

The Meritorious Teaching Award is the most prestigious award presented by the Association of Southeastern Biologists. It recognizes excellence in teaching as exemplified by nomination, and by supporting documents from current and former students, colleagues and professional associates. The award comes with a $1,500 cash prize.

Baranski, who joined the Catawba faculty in 1974, has spent his career promoting environmental preservation, conservation, and awareness among his students and the public at large.

Following are some of the comments Baranski's former students made in nominating him for the Meritorious Teaching Award:

"Each of us has a person in our academic lives we can point to who fundamentally alters the path our life takes. For me and many of my peers, this person is Dr. Michael J. Baranski," wrote 2001 Catawba College alumnus Wesley M. Knapp, now employed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in Wye Mills, Md. "Were it not for Mike's exemplary courses in Biology, I wouldn't have found my life's calling ... Mike's courses prepared me for my current employment as a Natural Heritage Botanist."

BaranskiAnother 2003 Catawba alumnus Jason Hupp of the MS Department of Agronomy Irrigation Research and Education Park at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. wrote:  "...I have known many fine educators, but I have never met another who has expected as much from his students, shown the same level of devotion or has been able to inspire such excellence in people as Mike does. Mike's approach is what sets him apart — that to learn biology you need experience beyond textbooks, line drawings and prepared specimens. And to that end, he has done all he can to take his students out of the classroom and use the great diversity of plant communities throughout the southeastern U.S. as a powerful teaching tool."

Born in Wheeling, W. Va., Baranski received his bachelor of science degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from West Liberty State College and his doctorate in ecology and botany from N.C. State University. He is a professional taxonomist and ecologist specializing in woody plants and natural areas who has written frequently for professional and technical publications and has worked on many environmental issues and projects utilizing his expertise.

Baranski is married to wife Julia and they are parents of two adult children.


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