2019 UNCG Nominee
Ann Berry Somers
“My life goal and passion are to provide the people of North Carolina with a sense of wonder about the natural environment and in so doing instill an understanding of the importance of wildlife in our shared world,” she said. “Central to this objective is my core teaching philosophy that hands-on experiences and service are among the most powerful and meaningful opportunities I can offer students. This type of learning endures a lifetime, long after the details and facts about a subject fade away. In the process these methods also help establish service as a core value of the students, my programs, and of the University.”
At UNCG, Ann Somers is known for her extraordinary hands-on courses on sea turtle and coral reef conservancy, and for her work on the HERP Project, which introduces middle and high school students from across North Carolina to hands-on herpetology research and citizen science.
Across the state, she is known for providing access to STEM education for a diverse population of young people, for wildlife conservation, and for her service to North Carolina.
In 2019, Somers received three state-level awards: the Thomas L. Quay Wildlife Diversity Award, the North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research (NCBAR) Distinguished Teaching Award, and the Governor’s Award for Excellence, which is the highest honor a state employee may receive for dedicated service to the State of North Carolina and its citizens.
Somers served for 23 years on the Non-Game Wildlife Advisory Committee of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and began an organization called the Box Turtle Connection, which now has 32 sites across North Carolina. She has also worked with partner organizations such as NC Wildlife Federation, NC State Parks (particularly Haw River State Park), NC Herpetological Society, T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Society, Greensboro Science Center, Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch Library, and others.
Over her 30 years at UNCG, Somers has created courses such as “Wildness as a Teacher” and “Biology and the Conservation of Sea Turtles,” for which students travel to Costa Rica to study and collect data on sea turtles and compare rescue and rehabilitation efforts to those in North Carolina.
Last June, she traveled with students to the Central Caribbean Marine Institute at Little Cayman Island for the UNCG coral reef conservation course, a first-time offering in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Sustainability, and the only UNCG study abroad course that has involved scuba diving.
The first recipient of the Conservation Hero award from UNCG’s Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling, Somers has developed seven courses that have an environmental service component and have thus provided more than 21,000 hours of public service to the state.
“UNCG has been a wonderful place for me to develop courses and to find colleagues with similar interests,” said Somers. “I thrive on teamwork, and I certainly have found that at UNCG. Also, I have had a lot of support from my various department heads and program directors, in the Department of Biology and the Department of Geography, Environment, and Sustainability and from faculty across campus. The environment at UNCG has allowed me to thrive and develop my talents.”
What is the Holshouser Award
for Public Service?
The Public Service Award was created in 2007 to encourage, identify, recognize, and reward public service by faculty of the University. Faculty of any of the 17 constituent institutions of the University of North Carolina are eligible. At its August 2013 meeting, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a resolution to rename the award after Governor James E. Holshouser, Jr.
Who was James Holshouser?
James Eubert Holshouser, Jr. (October 8, 1934 – June 17, 2013) was the 68th Governor of the state of North Carolina from 1973 to 1977. He was the first Republican candidate to be elected as governor since 1896, when Republican Daniel L. Russell was elected as a Fusionist candidate. Holshouser’s election reflected the new political realignment of the South, in which former white Conservative Democrats shifted to the Republican Party.