COLLEGE STATION – Dr. David Briske, a 40-year member of the faculty in the Texas A&M department of ecosystem science and management, was recently honored as a 2016-2017 Regents Professor Award recipient.
Briske is one of 12 system faculty members nominated for this prestigious award, which was presented at the 2016-17 Regents Awards Reception and Dinner on the Texas A&M campus in College Station.
The Board established the Regents Fellow Service Awards in 1998 to recognize employees who have made exemplary contributions to their university or agency and to the people of Texas.
Briske was recognized for maintaining a high profile academic program throughout his career, with an exceptionally strong balance among teaching, research and service.
“I consider his work to far exceed the expectations of a professorial title,” said Dr. Kathleen Kavanagh, head of the department of ecosystem science and management in College Station. “He is among the few academics of which I am aware who has been the recipient of major teaching, research and service awards.”
Briske joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1978 and has held the rank of professor since 1991.
He established a sustained record of exceptional classroom instruction throughout his career, the nomination stated, delivering approximately 100 classes to over 6,000 students. His course evaluations have been consistently high for both undergraduate and graduate courses — among the highest in the department — throughout his career.
“It is my assessment that his sustained teaching effectiveness is a result of his willingness to continue to learn, experiment and adapt teaching methods that engage students with varied learning styles and educational backgrounds,” Kavanagh said.
However, of equal or perhaps even greater importance than the use of diverse teaching methodologies, is his development of a sophisticated sense of student capabilities and dynamics that includes recognition of teachable moments, the ability to create deep student engagement and promotion of enhanced student self-awareness, Kavanagh said.
“Collectively, these attributes create a classroom environment that encourages students to entertain new knowledge, share their perspectives, recognize and contend with ambiguity, and evaluate the foundation of their current knowledge,” she said. “Professor Briske was engaging students in ‘critical thinking’ and ‘deep learning’ before these concepts had gained their current popularity in the educational community.”
Kavanagh said Briske created a unique synergy between teaching and research activities that allows his research expertise, national and international scientific network, and experience as an academic journal editor to enrich the classroom environment.
By invitation, he collaborated with several U.S. Department of Agriculture partners to incorporate the components of resilience theory into an existing management framework – state-and-transition models. Adoption of the resilience-based management protocol by all federal agencies responsible for rangeland management in the U.S. earned Briske and the research team a USDA Secretary of Agriculture Honors Award.
“I greatly respect Professor Briske’s unwavering commitment to translational science – an effort to create and deliver science in ways that directly influence societal decision makers to effectively address various ecological challenges,” Kavanagh said.
Foremost among these accomplishments, she said, are two major volumes he has organized and edited for the expressed purpose of translating scientific knowledge for societal impact.
The first volume is titled Conservation Benefits of Rangeland Practices: Assessment, Recommendations and Knowledge Gaps. The Conservation Effects Assessment Project was created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in response to a request from the Office of Management and Budget to document the accountability of a major increase in taxpayer investments in conservation programs associated with the 2002 Farm Bill.
The second edited volume is titled Rangeland Systems: Processes, Management and Challenges. This volume was developed to document the major conceptual advances that have occurred in the range science profession in the previous 25 years to more effectively guide rangeland science and policy in the future.
Briske influenced the international rangeland profession by taking on several high-profile academic leadership positions that provided opportunities to guide his academic profession toward future challenges and to inform national environmental policy with relevant scientific evidence. These activities involved the USDA National Science Foundation and Society for Rangeland Management.
Briske has served as chair of the National Science Foundation advisory committee regarding site selection in the southern plains region for inclusion in the National Ecological Observatory Network. He has also served two terms as editor-in-chief of the Rangeland Ecology and Management journal.
Within Texas A&M, Briske has be recognized with the T.M. O’Connor Professor in Ecosystem Science & Management; Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award-Teaching;
Texas A&M AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow; Dean’s Outstanding Achievement Award-Research; Student Lead Assessment of Teaching Excellence Award; and Graduate Instructor of Year.
He has also been honored with the following awards outside Texas A&M: the Meritorious Service Award, International Society for Range Management; USDA Secretary of Agriculture Honors Award – Ecological Site Description Team; Research Service Award, Mexican Society for Range Management; and the Sustained Lifetime Achievement Award and the Chapline Research Award, both from the International Society for Range Management.