BVU’s Lisa Mellman Winner of 2023 Wythe Award

Buena Vista University Professor of Chemistry and Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Lisa Mellmann, is the recipient of the 37th George Wythe Award.

The award is BVU’s highest honor for excellence in teaching, and was announced during the university’s Employee Recognition Celebration. Mellmann (pictured above with BVU President Brian Lenzmeier, left, and Dr. Annamaria Formichella, Professor of English and Chair of the Wythe Award Selection Committee) has been at BVU for 14 years as a science instructor, with a focus on chemistry and physics. During her time, she has tested out and changed her approach to teaching to more meaningfully impact her students.

“The first half of my career, I taught in a style that didn’t fit me and I felt that I had to because that’s what you do in sciences, you lecture,” says Mellmann. “In the last seven years, it has been fun to experience different ways of teaching and to witness the growth in myself and my students. All the work of changing how I teach has paid off.”

Instead of lecturing students, Mellmann teaches learning by doing. One pedagogy that she has found to be successful in the sciences is Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), which consists of students working in small, self-managed teams on specially designed guided inquiry materials. Mellmann noticed her students having more light-bulb moments, collaborating as groups, and learning together through inquiry guidance. 

Mellmann wants the material she teaches to be relevant and to help students learn useful and transferable skills like problem-solving. Her students have noticed her dedication.

“The passion that Dr. Mellmann has for education is unmistakable in her teaching,” says one of Mellmann’s former students. “While the subject she teaches is notorious for being challenging, it is clear that she has a deep understanding of the content in her field.”

Being a first-generation college student, Mellmann has a special connection and passion for the Education for Service Scholars Program. As the junior cohort advisor, over the last three years, she has helped these students build bigger connections, and learn more about themselves, and their impact on their communities.

“Dr. Mellmann saw and understood my passion for helping people in need, which led me to become the person and student I am today,” says another of Mellmann’s students. “She saw something in me that I didn’t. She went above and beyond, pushing me to new levels of intellectual thinking. This is just one of many examples reaffirming my conviction that Dr. Mellmann is truly a great professor.”

Mellmann is proud to be one of the four women nominated for this award. “This year’s nominees are a great group of strong women who are making big impacts on the lives of students,” says Mellmann.

“I’m honored and excited for the opportunities, this award will create,” says Mellmann. “I’m looking forward to learning something fun, but I also want to use this time to help build more advanced courses and enhance student opportunities.”

There are many avenues that Mellmann could pursue from forensic science and toxicology to new workshops and travel courses with students. She is excited about all the possibilities and various ways that she can use the stipend money and sabbatical time.

The George Wythe Award is named for an early United States educator whose students included Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, James Monroe, and Henry Clay. The award is endowed through a gift from the late BVU Life Trustees Doctors Paul and Vivian McCorkle, who each graduated in the BVU Class of 1959.

The award is meant to enhance the quality of teaching at BVU by allowing the recipients to have experiences that can further their disciplinary knowledge and pedagogy. Recipients of the George Wythe Award receive a 30-thousand dollar stipend and a sabbatical to pursue professional development and/or research.


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