SUNY Oswego Honors Botanist, Teacher Educator for Scholarly Work, Mentoring Students

OSWEGO — One of the world’s foremost experts on the root structure of aquatic and wetland plants and a teacher educator pursuing multiple lines of inquiry received this year’s SUNY Oswego awards for scholarly and creative activity during the college’s recent Honors Week.

Dr. James L. Seago, professor of biological sciences with a career of more than 40 years teaching undergraduates and studying plants, received the college’s President’s Award for Scholarly and Creative Activity and Research. The award honors a career of significant accomplishment.

Dr. Barbara Garii, who joined Oswego’s faculty in 2005 as an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, received the Provost’s Award for Scholarly and Creative Activity, which recognizes a junior faculty member’s work. Garii is now an associate professor and associate dean of the School of Education.

Researcher of national repute

Dr. James L. Seago, professor of biological sciences.
Dr. James L. Seago, professor of biological sciences.

The Botanical Society of America recognized Seago with its highest honor in 2004. He is the national award’s only recipient from an undergraduate college and was cited in particular for encouraging talented students to pursue careers in botany. More recently, the society selected him among 100 botanists to receive its Centennial Award.

Seago has published 19 peer-reviewed papers on his botanical research in such journals as American Journal of Botany and Annals of Botany and three more on incorporating research into teaching, all while teaching a full load of undergraduate courses. He has presented his research internationally in Austria, Canada, the Netherlands and Slovakia.

While providing a window on the adaptation and evolution of roots, Seago’s decades of study have also produced results with implications for environmental solutions to problems of soil erosion, wetland conservation, water purification and the spread of aggressive weeds in aquatic and wetland habitats.

“Dr. Seago has brought great reputation to our institution through his tireless research efforts and his work with our students,” said Richard Back, chair of the biological sciences department, who nominated him for the award.

Seconding Back’s nomination of Seago were three botanists from other institutions, including Dr. Peter Raven, who is a U.S. Medal of Science recipient, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the George Engelmann Professor of Botany at Washington University in St. Louis.

Raven called Seago “a prime example of a professor fully devoted to teaching and mentoring but achieving significant research results at the same time.” He wrote that Seago “is clearly one of the best known and most effective instructors of undergraduates in the country. . . . His enthusiasm and good spirit are legendary in the field.”

Beyond Oswego, Seago’s colleagues have tapped into his expertise by choosing him to review research proposals for the National Science Foundation and manuscripts for 12 professional journals, and to judge candidates for doctoral degrees and candidates for tenure at six research universities.

Seago earned his doctorate in botany from the University of Illinois. He majored in biology at Knox College as an undergraduate and received his master’s degree in botany from Miami University.

Scholar of teaching

Dr. Barbara Garii, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction.
Dr. Barbara Garii, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction.

With research interests encompassing mathematics education and the effects of teachers’ intercultural experiences on their teaching, Garii has taken advantage of a number of international opportunities, including one that merged these interests: bringing calculators to secondary classrooms in Benin.

Garii’s work on international aspects of teacher education led to an invitation to guest edit an issue of the journal Issues in Teacher Education. She has been an invited speaker at a research conference in Berlin and published her work in top-tier journals in her field such as Teaching and Teacher Education. She has published eight peer-reviewed, research-based articles on work she has done since coming to Oswego.

Like Seago, Garii is recognized for mentoring students entering her field. One of them, Jason DeMauro, wrote of his experience with her: “Dr. Garii would ask me terrifically difficult questions, pushing me to delve deeper and deeper into the discourse. . . . The culmination of our effort that year was an invitation to the American Educational Research Association’s 2009 annual conference” to present his undergraduate research.

Garii received her bachelor’s degree in social linguistics and communications at Wesleyan University, her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at Seattle University and her doctorate in epidemiology at the University of Washington.