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Texas A&M chemist Daniel Collins, holding hands with his fiancé Dr. Sara Fehr while awaiting presentation of his 2023 Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students Award
Texas A&M chemist Dr. Daniel Collins, holding hands with his fiancé Dr. Sara Fehr while awaiting presentation of his 2023 Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students Award, flanked by Office for Student Success representatives Bradley Burroughs (background) and Meredith Malnar (at podium). | Image: Mathew Baughman, Arts & Sciences Marketing & Communications

Texas A&M University chemist Dr. Daniel Collins has been selected as the 2023 Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students in recognition of his commitment to student success and improving their initial experiences in Aggieland.

Texas A&M faculty and staff in College Station, McAllen, Galveston and Qatar are eligible to be nominated for the award, which was established in 2022 by the Office for Student Success to honor individuals who exemplify significant and extraordinary contributions to the development, advocacy and mentorship of first-year students along with their involvement in high-impact practices to benefit first-year student success.

First-Year Experience representatives visited Collins’ classroom on April 18 for a surprise announcement of his selection in front of his students. He was formally presented with his award Tuesday (May 16) during the annual Hullabaloo U All Instructor Symposium, held in the Memorial Student Center’s Bethancourt Ballroom.

As Texas A&M’s 2023 honoree, Collins’ nomination packet will be submitted for consideration for a national level Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate Award through the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

“Your attributes and efforts described by your nominators perfectly aligned with the intent of this award, and we are honored to celebrate you as our 2023 Outstanding Advocate,” said First-Year Experience Director Meredith D. Malnar '05 in an email to Collins following her team’s surprise in-class presentation. “Thank you for your commitment to student success and for serving as a leader on campus for best practices in the first-year experience. Congratulations for your outstanding contributions to students and for all that you do on behalf of our great university.

Texas A&M chemist Daniel Collins (right) receives congratulations from the Office for Student Success's Bradley Burroughs upon Collins' receipt of the 2023 Outstanding Advocate for First-Year Students Award
Collins (right) receives his plaque and congratulations from the Office for Student Success's Bradley Burroughs (left). | Image: Mathew Baughman, Arts & Sciences Marketing & Communications

Collins, an instructional associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, joined the Texas A&M faculty in 2015 after earning his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of South Carolina in 2012 and subsequent teaching stints at South Carolina (2012-2013) and Florida State University (2013-2015). As a member of the First Year Program in Texas A&M Chemistry, his teaching specialties are introductory chemistry, organic chemistry service courses and Hullabaloo U First Year Experience courses. To date, Collins has served as an instructor to more than 10,000 undergraduate students, including hundreds he has mentored through the Hullabaloo U program. His previous career awards include a 2022 Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching, the 2020 McGraw-Hill ALEKS All-Star Educator of the Year Award and the 2019 Honoring Excellence Award from the Texas A&M Department of Residence Life. He also was honored as a 2019 Fish Camp namesake.

"Of the many awards I have won recently, this one is incredibly special," Collins said. "Texas A&M is a special place, but being a first-year student can be so tough. Many students have moved away from home for the first time, balancing priorities and becoming part of a huge community. Just to be a mentor, inspiration and advocate for those students is one of the best things I do.

"So many of our students, either in my chemistry courses or in Hullabaloo U, are looking for someone to believe in them, push them past their own boundaries and get them where they want to go. When I came to Texas A&M in 2015, I felt those same things, and with the help of First-Year Experience, the Department of Chemistry and the college, I have been able to accomplish so much. This award is just a sign of that, along with the amazing students, peer mentors and colleagues I work with."

In addition to his teaching prowess, Collins is equally dedicated to university service and educational outreach. During the past eight years, he has been a member of the Faculty Senate, the Academic Professional Track (APT) Faculty Committee, the Aggie Honor Council, the University Discipline Appeals and Academic Appeals Panels and the former College of Science Dean’s Advisory Council. He has also judged numerous science fairs and competitions, including the Texas Junior Science and Humanities SymposiumTexas Junior Academy of Science and Texas Science and Engineering Fair. Collins also assists with the Department of Energy National Science Bowl regional and national competitions as well as the Chemistry Roadshow. He has served since 2015 as Texas A&M Chemistry’s mole mascot.

Learn more about Collins and Texas A&M Chemistry’s First Year Program.