Dr. Garey A. Fox, Oklahoma State University
2016 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in College/University TeachingThe winner of the Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University is Dr. Garey A. Fox, professor and Buchanan Endowed Chair of Biosystems Engineering at Oklahoma State University, where he has taught freshman engineering and upper-level hydrology and water quality courses.
Fox grew up in the rural community of Godley, Texas, and was the first in his family to leave the farm and attend college. Generous Future Farmers of America scholarships gave him the opportunity to pursue his math and science interests through agricultural engineering and to discover his passion for water research as an undergraduate. Today, Fox mentors many first-generation college students and incorporates research and real-world applications into his teaching.
“I get excited each day about interacting with students, teaching them the theories and concepts of engineering and science, and challenging them to extrapolate their learning to new problems and issues,” Fox said.
In the classroom, Fox engages students through thought experiments, applications to real-world scenarios and lively class discussion. Alumna Maria Chu, now a professor at the University of Illinois, described Fox as a “tough” teacher with a gift for explaining complex theories and principles in a simplified way and following up with real-world examples.
“His courses, quizzes, homework and exams were intense, but upon completing them you get this ‘feel-good’ feeling that you have accomplished something extraordinary,” she said.
Fox often pairs freshman groups with upper-class mentors to work on design projects. His hydrology students visit the National Weather Service, Severe Storms Lab and Mesonet to learn practical applications to their studies. Fox founded OSU’s annual Student Water Conference for undergraduate and graduate students from throughout the country to present their research and receive feedback.
“Dr. Fox projects a deep respect for students, and they return that respect by producing results,” said Associate Dean Cynda Clary, describing his work with undergraduate research scholars. “He treats students as partners and helps them understand it’s all about the discovery.” In the past 10 years, he has mentored 22 undergraduate researchers, all of whom received competitively awarded funding to accomplish their research. Colleague Daniel Thomas said, “Dr. Fox expects excellence from everyone – including himself – and sets the bar extraordinarily high.”