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School of Public Health Sherry Lin receives 2023-24 Faculty Teaching Excellence Award

By demonstrating a data-driven, decision-making approach to instruction, Lin has influenced other faculty’s adoption, resulting in a culture of reflective teaching
Sherry Lin

Sherry Lin, PhD, an instructional assistant professor at Texas A&M University School of Public Health, is one of 10 Texas A&M faculty members selected to receive the 2023-24 Provost Academic Professional Track Faculty Teaching Excellence Award.

Lin has earned the admiration of her School of Public Health colleagues over the span of her 12-year career.

“In recent faculty searches, an oft-heard refrain of needed qualifications would include ‘… someone like Dr. Lin,”’ said Jennifer Griffith, DrPH, an instructional professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management. “Texas A&M University is a better place for students, staff and faculty because of Dr. Lin. Her attention to detail, commitment to student success, and willingness to continually innovate set her apart.”

Finding public health

Growing up in Taiwan and Costa Rica, Lin initially wanted to pursue a career in music but eventually shifted her focus to veterinary medicine. After moving to the United States and briefly attending the University of Idaho, she transferred to Texas A&M to study biomedical science in 2004. Lin realized after two internships that being a veterinarian wasn’t a good fit for her, but still completed her bachelor’s degree in 2008.

Trying to figure out her professional path, Lin turned to a Texas A&M advisor, who counseled Lin that her propensity for management would be a good match for the School of Public Health. As a result, Lin decided to pursue a master’s degree in health policy and management—and soon realized that she found her place.

She also impressed the school’s faculty, who encouraged her to do her doctorate in health services research. Lin was excited about the opportunity to explore and learn more about public health—but she wasn’t initially interested in teaching because of a childhood belief that she wasn’t patient enough to be in that role. However, she had a change of heart when she was offered the opportunity to be a teaching assistant and was paired with Griffith.

“That was when I started realizing that I thought this was fun,” Lin said, adding that she enjoyed seeing the growth in students’ conceptual understanding and their realization of how the information could be applied after college.

After completing her doctorate in 2015, Lin remained at Texas A&M as an instructional assistant professor and associate director of the Program on Disability Research and Community-Based Care. She was promoted to instructional associate professor in 2021.

Lin received the award for exceptional teaching practices that create meaningful learning experiences for students.  L-R: Interim Associate Provost for Faculty Success Michael Johnson, Dr. Sherry Lin, Provost and Executive Vice President Alan Sams .

Inviting classroom engagement

Realizing the generational differences in how people learn, Lin utilizes a variety of strategies—such as a flipped classroom modality and supplemental videos—to engage current Aggies. She also believes that everyone brings a unique perspective to the classroom.

“Education is about learning from each other,” she said. “Students learn from me when they attend the classes, but I also learn from the students. There are a lot of things that students use every day that I didn’t know, like TikTok—so education is a two-way street.”

Lin regularly engages her students in classroom discussions to not only gauge comprehension, but also to understand their different life experiences, learning styles and passions.

“A lot of time, we think the student has learned something, but they actually are not quite there, so the more that we share and the more examples that we can provide, the more they are going to understand,” she said. “And from what they tell me, I get the idea of what they like, what is of interest, and what is a current trend.”

Lin also regularly incorporates group projects in her classes. “These projects often build on top of each other and are opportunities for students to learn from each other,” she said, adding that these experiences invite students to not only delve deeply into public health concepts, but to explain in their own words why those concepts are important.

She also encourages students to focus on improving their soft skills in her courses. For example, she asks students to make presentations and leverages the expertise of others (Texas A&M’s Career Services and Toastmasters) to help students gain these skills.

Knowing that her courses are not static, Lin regularly uses data from assessments, student mid-semester feedback surveys, course evaluations, and other sources to inform curricular redesign and realignment. This analysis and recalibration ensure that students have appropriate instructional scaffolding and content to support them in their development as public health practitioners.

Laying the programmatic foundation

Lin’s influence also extends far beyond the classroom. She was an integral part of the team that instituted the school’s first undergraduate offering, the Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree program, in 2014.

She helped develop the nascent undergraduate program’s practice-based curriculum, tools and assessments, and was an early adopter of using detailed analytics from her course assessments to identify areas where she needed to reteach or provide supplemental instruction. By demonstrating the effectiveness of this data-driven decision-making approach, she influenced other faculty’s adoption, which resulted in a culture of reflective teaching.

Her work played a part in laying the foundation for the growth of the school’s undergraduate offerings over the past decade. At its onset, the School of Public Health first undergraduate program had 18 students. As of the 2023-24 academic year, the school offers three undergraduate degree programs serving 2,303 students.

Gaining recognition

Over the years, Lin has remained involved at the departmental, school and university level, including serving as the departmental curriculum committee chair and a committee member on the university’s Canvas/Howdy Grading Experience Pilot Committee. Lin currently is the faculty advisor of the Public Health Student Organization and a leadership coach for the Division of Student Affairs’ Maroon and White Leadership Program.

Her work has resulted in numerous recognitions, including being recently named an ADVANCE Administrative Fellow in 2022-23 and ADVANCE Diversity Champion in 2022. She also was recognized with the 2019 Association of Former Students’ Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching for the School of Public Health

This latest award reaffirms Lin’s commitment to undergraduate students. “This award is a push to help me do better as an instructor,” she said. “It also reinforces that I am making an impact on people’s lives and that I’m playing an important role in helping create the next generation of public health professionals.”

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