A focus on sustainability and hands-on actvities for students are what Knightdale Land Use Review Board member George Hess considers some of the reasons he was chosen to receive North Carolina State University’s Board of Governor’s award at the university’s commencement exercises earlier this month.
When Hess isn’t making recommendations to Knightdale Town Council about land ordinances, he is a professor in the College of Natural Resources at N.C. State, a position he’s held since 1996.
The Board of Governors award was established in 1993 and takes nominations from each of the university’s 12 colleges. From there, the board of trustees evaluates each of the nominees to pick one who best demonstrates exemplary teaching.
Most of Hess’s classes have some sort of real-life application. One of his favorite classes, he said, was one that studied the Raleigh-area greenway system.
Students spent their 3-hour lab classes going out to different parts of the greenway to study plants, water, animals and people. The class worked with Raleigh’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“That’s the kind of thing that I like to do,” Hess said. “It really gives the students a great deal of responsibility.”
He said he tries to make sure what he teaches students underscores the impact their studies can have on other people. It also teaches them how to approach problem-solving, he wrote on his website where he discusses his classes and research projects.
“One consequence of this learning environment is that a course is new every time,” Hess wrote. “Thus, I am always a student and learn along with everyone else.”
In a release from N.C. State announcing his award, the university described his specialized teaching topics as a “collaborative combination of science and policy inquiry.”
“(Students get to) see a lot of things that they don’t usually see in class because a lot of times (researchers) do a lot of the work in the background and they don’t realize all the nitty gritty,” Hess said.
Hess’s award includes a $12,500 stipend, a bronze medallion and “lifetime bragging rights,” N.C. State’s release said.