Dr. Jessica Galloway-Peña, an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB) at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS), has been named a 2022-23 Montague-Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) Scholar.
The Texas A&M University Montague-CTE Scholar award is a distinguished honor in teaching excellence. Awards are given annually to one tenure-track faculty member from each school or college based on their early success as an educator and commitment to teaching undergraduate students.
Galloway-Peña said she is grateful for the positive feedback she has received from colleagues, students, and mentors and aspires to use this opportunity to have the biggest sphere of influence as possible in young people.
“I am absolutely thrilled to receive such a prestigious honor and to be among the most fantastic educators before me at such an early stage in my career,” she said. “It is an absolute privilege to have my teaching efforts supported by the Montague family.”
In 2006, Galloway-Peña earned her bachelor’s degree with honors in biology from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. She initially planned to teach science to high school students but ultimately decided to continue her own education and teach at the university level.
“I was getting my secondary teaching certification to become a high school biology and chemistry teacher when I did an undergraduate summer research experience at the University of Texas Medical School,” she said. “This solidified my interest in academic research, but I always kept my passion for teaching. Being a tenure-track faculty member includes all of my favorite things: research, teaching, writing, and advocacy.”
Galloway-Peña then earned her doctorate in microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 2013 and went on to conduct a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
In the fall of 2020, she joined the VTPB faculty and has since taught VTPB 405, Biomedical Microbiology, to undergraduate students majoring in biomedical sciences. She has also directed studies for graduate students in GENE 608, Critical Analysis of Genetic Literature, as well as research-based courses for both graduate and undergraduate students.
In her classes, Galloway-Peña aims to simply provide an environment in which students can learn.
“I believe that science should be fun for everyone,” she said. “If a student makes an effort to take responsibility for their learning, I will always make a commitment to engage myself in their learning process. I maintain an open-door policy to discuss course material, advise students on their career choices, or mentor them in their personal lives. I believe an individual who is balanced in all facets of their life will flourish in their education.”
As part of her recognition as a CTE scholar, Galloway-Peña will receive a $6,500 grant to aid in her development of innovative teaching methods.
“When it comes to science, I want students to learn to love the process, not the outcome,” she said. “Everyone wants resolution, but in science, there isn’t always one. The previous design of the lecture for the Biomedical Microbiology course generally required recall of knowledge.”
In order to develop her students’ higher-order thinking skills, Galloway-Peña introduced case-based learning (CBL) to the Biomedical Microbiology course, which she describes as an interactive, student-centered exploration of real-life scenarios. With this approach, students gather knowledge on symptomatology, patient history, and clinical laboratory results and then use this information to determine the causative agent of a patient’s illness, a diagnosis, and treatment options for a simulated case, much like a practicing physician or veterinarian.
“This type of learning was very well-received by students, with many positive comments in student course evaluations,” Galloway-Peña said. “The student feedback further motivated me to include more higher-level thinking tactics within my Biomedical Microbiology course. As such, I propose to continue my integration of CBL, as well as research-based learning (RBL) within my course. RBL provides a framework that helps prepare students to be lifelong inquirers and learners. The grant will be used to provide financial support for more research-based learning within the framework of Biomedical Microbiology.”
Ultimately, Galloway-Peña’s goal is to have a positive influence on as many potential young scientists and health professionals as possible.
“I view science and research as a vehicle to teach students to think critically and outside of the box,” she said. “As an educator, my hope is to cultivate the best atmosphere for my students to formulate their own ideas and be enthusiastic about science, as well as to provide a strong foundation for real-world application of their knowledge, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. I want to make sure my students succeed, no matter what their goals may be. Their success is my success—in life and in their education and career. That’s what keeps me going.”
Galloway-Peña said she has felt the utmost support from VTPB’s department head Dr. Ramesh Vemulapalli and associate dean for Research & Graduate Studies Dr. Mike Criscitiello. She is also grateful to her husband for the continuous support he has provided so that she can achieve her career goals and be present for her students and trainees.
“I am very pleased that Dr. Galloway-Peña’s passion for undergraduate teaching and student success has been recognized with this prestigious award,” Vemulapalli said. “She is an inspiring teacher and mentor to students and a true representative of the caliber of educators we have at the VMBS.”
The Montague-CTE Scholars awards are named in honor of Kenneth Montague ’37, a distinguished alumnus and outstanding trustee of the Texas A&M Foundation.
Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of VMBS Communications, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; firstname.lastname@example.org; 979-862-4216