Legal Studies professor named a Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor

Marisa Pagnattaro

Marisa Anne Pagnattaro, a professor of legal studies, was named a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, the university’s highest recognition for superior instruction at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The announcement was made by Jere Morehead, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, whose office administers the Meigs program. Morehead is himself a Meigs Professor, having received the award in 2001. The professorships are named for the man who in 1801 became the second president—and sole professor—of Georgia’s fledgling state university.

For Pagnattaro, the goals of teaching can be summarized this way: She wants her students to understand the relevance of their coursework to the outside world, and to be inspired toward lifelong learning.

“I often start class with the most relevant articles, often using an iPad to scroll through key news while projecting them on the big screen for our discussions,” she said. “Students have ready access to the full articles linked to each tweet. I strive to include news from a wide variety of sources, such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, BBC, The Guardian and the WTO to encourage them to read widely. I’ve found that this is an effective way to stay connected with students between classes.”

Those connections are important to Pagnattaro, a professor of legal studies in the Terry College of Business. But they’re also important to her students. Pagnattaro’s teaching reviews read like thank-you cards from students who say she’s rekindled their enthusiasm for school and piqued their interests in new careers. Many remark on how much time she spends getting to know each of them individually, shrinking the feel of her class size to something personal.

“Dr. Pagnattaro guided me through my junior year with recommendations of books to read, stories of personal triumphs and struggles, and most importantly encouragement to be myself and to find the confidence I needed to be a leader,” one student wrote. “What impresses me most is that her support did not end when I graduated. Throughout the summer and my first semester at law school Dr. Pagnattaro has continued to be my friend and offer advice.”

Pagnattaro’s zeal for learning of all kinds is evident by the non-traditional path she took to her position: After completing law school and working as a litigation attorney at a large Atlanta law firm, she left that career to pursue a Ph.D. in English before winding up at a business school.

Since starting at Terry in 2000, she has been actively involved in a litany of teaching-related service activities—from her work with the UGA Task Force on Writing and the First-Year Odyssey Program to helping develop the Terry College’s Certificate in Legal Studies and International Business co-major.

Her varied interests make her relatable to her graduate and undergraduate students, and her research and scholarly drive makes her invaluable to her department. She has consistently published articles in high-quality outlets in legal studies, co-authored three legal studies textbooks, and published a book on law and literature, among other accomplishments. In August, she will become Editor in Chief of the American Business Law Journal, the premier journal in her field.

She is passionate about her research relating to the law in China, which led Pagnattaro to teach in the MBA China Travels Program three times, most recently in 2011. But even across continents, she managed to make legal studies issues relevant and interesting to UGA students.

“Dr. P challenged our class to be prepared to engage in rigorous discussion about Chinese culture, socio-economic strata, educational systems and business practices,” a former student said. “She cultivated an interest in China for me and my classmates that will last a lifetime.”

As Terry’s Dean Robert T. Sumichrast said: “On every dimension, Marisa Pagnattaro has had a remarkably positive impact on the teaching missions of the Terry College of Business and the University of Georgia more broadly.”

Meigs Professors are nominated by their schools/colleges and chosen by a committee that includes 12 faculty members, two undergraduate students and one graduate student. The nominations are supported by letters from current and former students, as well as faculty colleagues on and off campus.