VSU Professor Pursues Fellowship to Improve Teaching, Promote Student Success

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

For Valdosta State University’s Dr. Emma Kostopolus, the learning process did not end when she earned a doctorate and started her teaching career.
She believes it is a never-ending journey that ensures the best possible learning outcomes for the students in her classroom.

“It’s important for all educators to stay current on best practices,” says the assistant professor of English. “Just like our specific fields of research, our understanding of how to foster learning improves all the time, and it is our obligation as practitioners of pedagogy to adhere to good methods.” 

At the beginning of the 2023-2024 academic year, Kostopolus was selected for the Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program, an annual initiative that provides higher education faculty members from accredited public and private colleges and universities across Georgia with expanded opportunities for developing important teaching skills. It was established in 1995 by former Georgia Governor Zell Miller.

Throughout the Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program, Kostopolus will attend six three-day symposia that include a combination of structured instructional and faculty development activities, as well as self-directed activities designed to meet her individual needs. She plans to use the opportunity to design a new Introduction to the Digital Humanities course.

“This course is intended to be the first in a new Digital Humanities concentration or minor here at VSU, where students can learn valuable job skills in critical technology use from faculty across multiple departments,” she says. “I’m excited that this course will potentially be a springboard for a successful new program here.”

Kostopolus joined the VSU Department of English faculty in Fall 2021. In June she will also step into the role of university catalog editor.

“For me, teaching is about more than just giving students the content and skills of my field,” she says. “It’s also about giving them space to figure out how they want to be in the world as adults. So, while I am directly teaching the skills of writing, I think my classroom — and all college classrooms — are places where students can build healthy habits surrounding work that they can carry with them into their futures, and I’m dedicated to fostering that and having active conversations about not just the work itself but also how we engage with the work positively.”

Kostopolus enjoys teaching all the classes assigned to her. However, one of her favorites is ENGL 3020: Technical Writing and Editing.

“We have days where we play with LEGO bricks to learn about writing good instructions and generally have an excellent time in class,” she says.”

In terms of research, her subject matter expertise lies in writing pedagogy.

“I conduct experiments to help us determine best practices for teaching students how to write,” she says. “So far here at VSU, I’ve conducted experiments on the potential benefits of meditation and journaling for reducing stress and increasing retention of skill in the writing process, with interesting results.”

Outside the classroom, Kostopolus serves as faculty sponsor for Sigma Tau Delta: International English Honor Society. She says the organization “is an excellent opportunity for students interested in a career as a writer, since there are publication and presentation opportunities galore.” She also writes articles for various publications, including Programmatic Perspectives and ImageText.

Kostopolus is one of 16 higher education faculty members from across Georgia participating in this year’s Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program. The participants were selected based on their teaching experience, their interest in continuing instructional and professional development, their ability to make a positive impact on their own campus, and their home institution’s commitment to support them throughout the process.
The Governor’s Teaching Fellows Program is an outreach initiative of the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia.