Marta Toran receives awards for community engagement, teaching

BOONE, N.C. — Congratulations to Marta Toran, lecturer and outreach coordinator in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences (GES), on receiving both the Excellence in Community Engagement Award and the Wayne D. Duncan Appalachian State University Faculty Enrichment and Teaching Fellowship!

The Excellence in Community Engagement Award recognizes a faculty or staff member for outstanding accomplishments in community engagement and/or outreach activities. The Wayne D. Duncan Appalachian State University Faculty Enrichment and Teaching Fellowship recognizes a full-time faculty member for innovative and successful teaching in the General Education Program. Toran was presented with both awards at the 2022 University College and General Education Awards held on Monday, November 28.

Toran holds a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from the University of New Hampshire, a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from Oxford University and a Master of Science in Science Education from Montana State University. With an extensive background teaching science at different levels, Toran joined App State in 2013. She teaches the "Introduction to Environmental Science" course, "Oceanography" labs, a special topics course for GES majors interested in K-12 education and outreach methods, and three first-year seminars: “Science and the Public,” "Visualizing Environmental Science" and "Climate Response and Responsibility."

As the outreach coordinator for GES, Toran oversees Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach activities to expand geoscience awareness. She facilitates school group visits to GES facilities, including the F. Kenneth and Marjorie J. McKinney Geology Teaching Museum and Fred Webb Jr. Outdoor Lab and Rock Garden, and fosters long-term relationships with regional K-12 schools by providing guest speakers, classroom materials, loaner kits and professional development workshops for educators. Toran also manages the “Geobago” Mobile Earth and Environmental Science Lab and two outreach websites: GES K12 Outreach for general geoscience outreach initiatives and Water on the Move for hydrology outreach. To support her work, Toran has secured external funding from organizations like the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Geophysical Union, Captain Planet Foundation and Vulcan Materials Company. 

In their nomination letter, a former student explained the impact that Toran had on their undergraduate experience: “Marta has been a wonderful mentor and teacher to me since my freshman year at App State. She got me interested and involved with the GES Outreach Club. This helped me become more involved in college especially since she would always have opportunities available, even in 2020 when it was very hard to feel like a part of campus due to COVID restrictions. She is also amazing with all the outreach activities that she has spearheaded, such as local workshops with K-12 schools and also creating the Geobago...She also continues to reach out to her students with more academic opportunities even if she no longer teaches them. I feel she deserves a nomination for all of these awards because of her dedication to her students' success but also in sharing her passion about environmental science through outreach.”

Like her students, Toran's colleagues recognize her commitment to both teaching and outreach. GES Department Chair Dr. Cynthia Liutkus-Pierce emphasized Toran's accomplishments, stating: "Marta has been a non-tenure track member of the department for almost a decade (Jan 2014) and in that time she has distinguished herself as a creative and motivational educator who brings science to others through a variety of methods including: teaching courses in the First Year Seminar and General Education programs and Introduction to Environmental Science; mentoring current undergraduate students in outreach methods and scientific communication (in English as well as Spanish); engaging the public through outreach events (during which she interacts with literally thousands of K-12 children throughout the region); and coordinating and implementing workshops for current and future educators (K-12 teachers). One thing that sets her apart from others is her ability to connect with her students and to connect them with each other and the world around them. Her passion is to teach others to teach, and she is a creative, engaging, innovative and tireless advocate for science education."

The Excellence in Community Engagement Award comes with a $300 stipend, and the Duncan Fellowship provides $4,500 for the recipient to use for travel, equipment or other approved purposes for enhancement of teaching and/or scholarship or creative activity. To learn more about both awards and view a list of previous recipients, visit


About Appalachian’s General Education Program
The General Education Program at Appalachian State University empowers students with broad knowledge and transferable skills for responsible global citizenship regardless of their chosen major. The General Education Program provides a rigorous liberal arts education that includes 44 semester hours of courses across the university that explore connections among different areas of study, plus two courses in the student’s chosen major — all of which address the goals of critical and creative thinking; effective communication; making local-to-global connections; and understanding the responsibilities of community membership. Learn more at

About the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences
Located in Western North Carolina, Appalachian State University provides the perfect setting to study geological and environmental sciences. The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences provides students with a solid foundation on which to prepare for graduate school or build successful careers as scientists, consultants and secondary education teachers. The department offers six degree options in geology and two degree options in environmental science. Learn more at

About University College
Formed in 2007, University College consists of the university’s general education program, faculty and student support, and co-curricular programming and support – all designed to support the work of students both inside and outside the classroom. All students at Appalachian begin their education in University College and benefit from its programs until they graduate. Learn more at

By Lauren Andersen
December 9, 2022

Marta Toran
Published: Dec 9, 2022 7:50am