University of South Florida

College of Education

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Assistant professor receives faculty excellence award from USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy

Sara Smith headshot

Sara Smith, PhD

College of Education Assistant Professor Sara Smith, PhD, was named a 2022 recipient of the University of South Florida (USF) Women in Leadership & Philanthropy program's Dr. Kathleen Moore Faculty Excellence Award.

The WLP program at USF is focused on engaging and educating its members in support of women and women's initiatives throughout USF and in local communities. The Dr. Kathleen Moore Faculty Excellence Award recognizes women faculty who demonstrate excellence through their research at USF. Each year, six recipients are selected from across the university with categories recognizing researchers at each campus and in areas focused on junior faculty, instructors and health.

Dr. Smith is an assistant professor of ESOL and foreign language education in the Department of Language, Literacy, EdD, Exceptional Education and Physical Education. The broad aim of her research is to gain a better understanding of the diversity of language experience and how linguistic diversity relates to language, cognition, speech, literacy and academic achievement. Through her scholarship, Dr. Smith studies differences related to the individual and the language environment, vocabulary, literacy and biliteracy, student achievement outcomes and technology-enhanced language learning, including digital environments and immersive virtual environments.

As a result of her research, Dr. Smith launched an augmented reality application called MARVL, which stands for Multimedia Augmented Reality Vocabulary Learning. The award-winning language instruction tool uses technology and research-based best practices to support learning vocabulary in a new language.

“I am so grateful for this award — it allows me to develop new technologies for supporting greater educational access and equity,” Dr. Smith said. “It's even more meaningful to be recognized by such an impactful organization that focuses on supporting and elevating women.”

As a recipient of the faculty excellence award, Dr. Smith will receive a $5,000 grant to support her research activities.

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About the USF College of Education:

As the home for more than 2,200 students and 130 faculty members across three campuses, the University of South Florida College of Education offers state-of-the-art teacher training and collegial graduate studies designed to empower educational leaders. Our college is nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and our educator preparation programs are fully approved by the Florida Department of Education.