Skip to content

Jennifer Griffith named recipient of 2024 Riegelman Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

The national award recognizes exemplary efforts in undergraduate teaching, collaboration, and respect and enthusiasm from students
Jennifer Griffith

Jennifer Griffith, DrPH, MPH, an instructional professor at Texas A&M University School of Public Health, has been named the recipient of the 2024 Riegelman Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH).

This prestigious national honor is awarded to faculty who have made exemplary efforts to start or sustain an undergraduate program, collaborated with community partners and other disciplines, and garnered respect and enthusiasm from students. Griffith will receive the award, which includes a cash prize, at the ASPPH Annual Meeting on March 21 in Arlington, VA.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by ASPPH as the 2024 Riegelman Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education recipient,” Griffith said. “Witnessing undergraduate students realize their passion and love for the field of public health has been and continues to be the most rewarding aspect of my career. I am grateful and fortunate to be surrounded by like-minded colleagues who have and continue to support, guide and challenge me in this journey of training the next generation of public health professionals.”

A primary architect

Griffith was one of the primary architects of the School of Public Health’s first undergraduate program, which launched in 2014.

“As a founding faculty member of the Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree program, Dr. Griffith has had an immense influence on the establishment of the program’s culture, identity, structure and curriculum,” said School of Public Health Dean Shawn Gibbs, PhD. “Her work created a rich and fertile soil that has supported the growth, quality and sustainability of not only this degree program, but the school’s subsequent undergraduate program degree offerings. Her body of work with our undergraduate program makes her very deserving of this award.”

Griffith’s leadership has been instrumental in the growth of the school’s undergraduate offerings over the past decade. At its onset, the school’s one undergraduate program had 18 students. As of the 2023-24 academic year, the school offers three undergraduate degree programs serving 2,303 students:  Bachelor of Science in Allied Health program with 1,338 students, Bachelor of Science in Public Health with 846 students, and Bachelor of Science in Community Health program with 119 students.

Furthermore, the Bachelor of Science in Public Health now is one of the most diverse degree programs at Texas A&M with a student body that is 40.8 percent White, 30 percent Hispanic, 21.4 percent Asian, 5.2 percent Black, and 2.2 percent mixed or other race.

A strong programmatic foundation

Griffith’s work focused on creating a strong student-centered academic foundation built on excellence, health equity and inclusiveness. She led faculty in mapping the inaugural curriculum and competencies, which ensured that the program met the Council on Education for Public Health criteria. She also was instrumental in the development of the program’s initial state-of-the art assessment system that helped faculty identify and address student learning gaps, while also serving as a programmatic evaluation tool.

Griffith was committed to supporting the new undergraduate program’s faculty through championing efforts such as the Public Health Learning Exchange (PHLEx) while serving as the school’s associate dean for academic affairs from 2019-23. This initiative shared best practices using semi-formal discussions, networking and mentoring. In addition, she secured funds to support identified faculty so they could attend pedagogic professional development that reinforced the school’s emphasis on teaching excellence.

Outstanding teaching

Griffith is dedicated to providing quality instructional teaching in her undergraduate courses. She uses her platform to share the broad range of professional pathways available in public health to students, opening their eyes both to careers as well as to ways that public health intersects individuals’ daily lives.

In the classroom, Griffith strives to create a “high-touch” active learning environment where students are respected and engaged in rich, interactive and diverse experiences that, when appropriate, include both high-tech and no-tech approaches. Her “high-touch” instructional approach has gained notice, as she was selected to teach in Texas A&M’s Innovative Learning Classroom Building in the first semester of its operation.

Griffith incorporates a modeling approach in her courses that allows students to practice applying concepts with low-stakes assessments before developing higher-stakes products later in their coursework. In this approach, Griffith teaches core concepts and then models the concepts through everyday examples to demonstrate concept application and knowledge transfer.

She purposefully teaches the degree program’s bookend courses, where she is able to see students’ progress. Most first-semester freshmen enroll in Griffith’s one-hour seminar course, “Public Health Concepts,” where she introduces them to the vast field of public health and highlights expectations for student engagement and problem solving.

As seniors, students enroll in the capstone course, where she and her fellow instructors use a case competition format requiring students to develop and be evaluated on an intervention proposal. Griffith also embraces team-teaching in this course, which gives students a chance to learn to address convergent and divergent opinions and feedback from several faculty members. This exposure mimics what students will experience professionally and helps them learn to weigh and value feedback proceeding.

Her commitment to classroom excellence has been recognized over the years. She was named a Service Learning Faculty Fellow (2014-15) and received the Texas A&M Association of Former Students’ 2017 Distinguished Achievement Award at the college level. In 2021, Griffith was honored by Texas A&M students as a namesake for Fish Camp, the university’s freshman orientation experience.

Faculty development

Committed to her own professional growth, Griffith regularly uses data for continuous improvement through an end-of-semester self-reflective process that combines student evaluations and course performance objectives. This combination of data gives her actionable ideas that she incorporates into future course offerings.

Wanting to prepare the next generation of faculty to succeed, Griffith advocates for doctoral students serving as the instructor of record in some undergraduate courses. She makes herself available to provide these new instructors with formal instruction and mentoring support.

Creating connections

As the school’s former associate dean for public health practice, Griffith retains many relationships with community practice partners and encourages their involvement in the undergraduate program and in her classes. These partners inspire students’ capstone cases, provide stakeholder insight and serve as judges for the capstone course.

She also has built interdisciplinary bridges to other Texas A&M schools and colleges through her service on faculty committees. She’s been actively involved with the Center for Teaching Excellence and the university’s former Dean of Faculties Office.

Griffith’s dedication to the school’s undergraduate education has earned the respect of current and former colleagues alike.

“In the decade since stepping up from her faculty role to help conceptualize, launch, build, lead and improve Texas A&M’s undergraduate public health program, she has dedicated herself and her career to the whole-of-enterprise in undergraduate education,” said Gerard Carrino, PhD, former head of the school’s  Department of Health Policy & Management and current dean of the Texas Tech University Julia Jones Matthews School of Population and Public Health. “She has dedicated her research, her classroom-cum-laboratory, and most of her professional development resources—smartly and systematically—not only to build and improve the undergraduate program, but also to develop and multiply her own capacity to grow a program of 18 students into one with 2,300, offering the same high-touch, individualized experience for each one.”

Media contact:

Share This

Related Posts

Back To Top