WCU faculty member Lisa Briggs wins UNC teaching award

Lisa Briggs

Lisa Briggs

Lisa Briggs, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Western Carolina University, has been named one of the best teachers in the University of North Carolina system.

Briggs is among 17 recipients of the UNC Board of Governors Awards for Excellence in Teaching. A member of the board, David Powers, will present Briggs with the award during a spring graduation ceremony at WCU, and Briggs will speak at the Graduate School commencement to be held at 7 p.m. Friday, May 4.

A faculty member at WCU since 2002, Briggs is known at WCU for her eagerness to work with, by and for her students, and for extending learning opportunities beyond the classroom walls.

Regina Cline, a senior criminal justice major from Gold Hill, said Briggs was more than just a role model to her.

“She is like a mother to me,” said Cline. “She has supported me in all of my endeavors, and she has created and provided countless opportunities for me to grow as an intellectual and as an individual. Dr. Briggs has mentored many students in both career choice and graduate studies. She sponsors undergraduate research on an annual basis and has spent untold hours with students in experiential learning and community service projects.”

Briggs’ students assist organizations committed to preventing child abuse, elderly neglect and animal abuse, and helping victims of domestic violence. She and her students dedicated more than 100 hours to helping open a local domestic violence shelter by getting the facility ready by moving in furniture, stocking supplies, assembling beds, hanging pictures, caulking bathrooms and hanging curtains. Students who participated said they gained a better understanding of what it takes to run nonprofit organizations and on how much such agencies rely on donations, said Briggs.

Her students’ projects have included reopening cold homicide cases in cooperation with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office; becoming certified in “From Darkness to Light,” a child sexual assault prevention advocacy program; and participating in educational activities aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving and reducing the risk of date rape and sexual assault.

“Students leave her classes not only with a firm knowledge foundation, but also with a strong sense of what a difference they can make to strengthen the justice and fairness that fellow citizens’ experience,” said >Stephen E. Brown, professor and head of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

In addition, Briggs has served as the field studies director and is the faculty sponsor for the university’s chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society. In the last three years, she has taken more than 40 WCU and high school students to 10 countries to study abroad. She also recently worked with federal agencies to host a human trafficking training conference at WCU titled “Life Under the Surface: Human Trafficking.” Students participated and had the opportunity to share their research with career professionals.

“She truly exemplifies Western Carolina University’s engaged mission,” Cline said.

Briggs holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in public affairs from Western Carolina University and a master’s degree in sociology and a doctorate in sociology, specializing in crime and deviance and inequality, from North Carolina State University.

She has field experience in law enforcement and probation and parole and has taught at institutions including the University of Connecticut, NCSU and East Tennessee State University. She won several teaching awards before coming to WCU, where she has been honored with the Chancellor’s Meritorious Award for Engaged Teaching, College of Health and Human Sciences’ Faculty Student Engagement Award and Faculty Service Award, and the Board of Governor’s Innovative Teaching Award.

The UNC Board of Governors Awards for Excellence in Teaching were established by the Board of Governors in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to reward good teaching across the university. The awards are given annually to a tenured faculty member from each UNC campus. Winners must have taught at their present institutions at least seven years. No one may receive the award more than once.