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Longtime Mental Health Advocate Fights On

Anne Bruno LaRussa has worked for years to bring affordable mental health services to women and children in Birmingham. And she’s not done yet.

Birmingham native Anne Bruno LaRussa’s journey to becoming a mental health counselor started in the 1980s when she worked at a local community college advising older women who had returned to school to earn their degrees.

Anne Bruno LaRussa

“I realized that some of the women had mental health issues,” she says. “Some of it was due to divorce or grief. That’s when I realized there was a lot that could be done for them.”

LaRussa eventually enrolled in the UAB School of Education to earn a master's degree in counselor education and later an education specialist degree.

Today, she is the founder and former executive director of Oasis Counseling for Women and Children, a nonprofit that provides mental health counseling services for low-income women and children. She also has launched the Anne B. LaRussa Foundation of Hope, which will promote efforts to make mental health wellness accessible to more Alabamians.

Preparing for the Vision

LaRussa says the counselor education classes at UAB gave her the knowledge she needed to become an effective counselor.

“I learned so much,” she says. “I spent a lot of hours studying in the library, and my professors were always so helpful and encouraging.”

She graduated from UAB in 1993 and enrolled in the education specialist program in counseling that the school offered. While taking classes at night, she worked at the Cheaha Mental Health Center in Talladega during the day.

“I had the assurance that I knew what I wanted to do. I had a goal, and I just went after that goal."

“Somehow I got most of the older women clients,” says LaRussa, “and a lot of them requested me. I realized that they needed more than they were getting there. I would go in in the mornings and the waiting room would be full of people.”

LaRussa says she began dreaming of opening her own counseling center to help women who otherwise could not afford to pay for mental health services.

“I had the assurance that I knew what I wanted to do,” she says. “I had a goal, and I just went after that goal. The most difficult part was getting it open.”

She wanted her center to be in a home-like setting instead of a traditional, clinical environment, she says. So she found a Victorian home on Birmingham’s Southside and opened Oasis Counseling for Women and Children in 1995. As the nonprofit’s clientele increased, Oasis expanded its operations to two more Victorian homes next door.

Serving the Underserved

Cover Art from Anne Bruno LaRussa's Family Memoir

Today Oasis has a staff of 10 professional counselors. It offers services on a sliding fee scale and accepts Medicaid for children. In fact, much of the center’s revenue comes from foundation grants, contributions and an endowment, according to its 2015 annual report.

In 2016, Oasis provided 6,732 counseling sessions, 74 percent of which were clients with annual household incomes of $25,000 or less, she says.

LaRussa worked as the executive director of Oasis for five years before she retired and joined its board of directors.

Currently, she is an ex-officio board member and has turned her attention to writing.

She recently debuted a family memoir called “The Knitter” that begins with her maternal and paternal grandparents and reflects on her Sicilian roots, her own reflections on family life and her personal commitment to mental health awareness.

The book even recounts the time she battled postpartum depression following the birth of her sixth child.

“It’s a life story, and life includes all of those things,” she says. “I’m hoping that people will read it and not be afraid to seek help because you don’t want to lose all of the good things that life has to offer.”

LaRussa says proceeds from the book will support the foundation, which has been in existence since May 2016. To purchase the book, or to learn more about the Anne B. LaRussa Foundation of Hope, visit the website at

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New Exercise Physiology Lab Makes Its Debut

When UAB's kinesiology professors needed a new teaching lab, the School of Education created a high-tech space that would take the program to a new level.

The UAB School of Education now has its own in-house exercise physiology lab.

The Exercise Physiology Lab in the UAB School of Education

In the past, undergraduate exercise science, fitness leadership and physical education students at UAB conducted their kinesiology experiments in the Bell-Wallace Gymnasium and the School of Health Professions. But last fall, the School of Education, with monies from the Provost’s Office, renovated two adjacent, first-floor classrooms in the building to create a new exercise physiology lab.

The new 1,132 square-foot lab features more than 800 pounds of free weights along with high-tech equipment that includes arm crank and cycle ergometers, computerized treadmills, and skinfold calipers and bioelectrical impedance scales for measuring body composition. The lab is also equipped with a metabolic cart to measure energy expenditure during rest and exercise, portable handheld spirometry for pulmonary assessments, electrocardiography to analyze heart rhythms, and an electromyography system and force platform for the assessment of motor unit activation during muscle contraction.

“Having access to this state-of-the-art lab sets our undergraduate students up for success in their coursework, internships, graduate school and the job market,” says Kristi Menear, Ph.D., chairwoman of the UAB Department of Human Studies.

The Exercise Physiology Lab in the UAB School of Education

UAB Assistant Professor Gordon Fisher, Ph.D., says he, the Distinguished Professor Gary Hunter, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Eric Plaisance, Ph.D., are using the new space to conduct labs for their undergraduate courses in exercise physiology, and exercise testing and prescriptions.

“It’s a good lab,” says Fisher. “It’s a sufficient lab for research and for teaching. We’ve been able to enhance the educational curriculum because we now have an in-house lab where our students can gain hands-on experience performing experiments.”

Mark Merritt of Morris, Ala., a senior, says he enjoys the convenience of the new lab.

“What’s nice about it is that whatever we’ve talked about in class, we’re now able to come here in this lab and watch it happen.”

Fisher says that for now, he and the other kinesiology professors are using the lab primarily for their undergraduate classes. Plans are in the works, however, to eventually conduct graduate-level work in the facility.

“Everything here could be used for research,” says Fisher. “We hope in the future to deliver student-driven projects within this lab and actually use it for research.”

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UAB Adds New Master’s Degree in Instructional Design

The School of Education is offering a new master’s program that promises to prepare students for one of the country’s most in-demand professions.

The job outlook for instructional designers is bright, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Bureau has projected close to 11,000 new jobs in the field to open between 2014 and 2024 with a median salary of more than $60,000 per year.

To help meet the demand, the UAB School of Education is debuting a new Master of Science in Instructional Design and Development degree program. The five-semester, 30-hour program will be fully online, and classes are set to begin this fall.

Photo of Students with Computer

Jenelle Hodges, Ph.D., the Master of Science in Instructional Design and Development program manager, says demand for this master’s program is strong, and that she has already received many inquiries about the new degree offering.

“The local job market has been asking for this for some time,” she says.

Instructional designers have the know-how to evaluate the learning needs of a particular audience and to create the training manuals, curricula, software and e-learning experiences that the audience wants.

“Today, instructional designers work in hospitals, corporations, companies, universities and school districts,” says Hodges. “Even at UAB, we have a strong instructional design presence.”

Hodges says UAB’s new master’s degree in instructional design and development will offer cutting-edge courses in instructional design principles, learning theory and universal design and usability principles.

“Today, instructional designers work in hospitals, corporations, companies, universities and school districts. Even at UAB, we have a strong instructional design presence.”

One of the courses, universal differential instructional design and development, will teach students about various instructional methods and assessment strategies for creating curricula that meets a student’s needs.

“How people learn is a major focus today,” says Hodges, “and the ability to offer different options for learners is so important.”

Hodges also says applicants will not have to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). “A lot of graduate programs are moving in that direction, and we didn’t feel that the GRE would tell us who would succeed in the program. We wanted to open it up and not put that as a hindrance.”

Once students complete the coursework, they must submit a digital portfolio in addition to passing an oral examination, she says.

“Our goal,” says Hodges, “will be to make sure that our students are the best and most sought-after instructional design graduates entering the job market.”

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School Rises in U.S. News & World Report’s Online Graduate Programs Ranking

The UAB School of Education made a major jump in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Online Graduate Education Programs” ranking this year.

The UAB School of Education’s online graduate programs got a substantial boost in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Online Programs” ranking for 2017.

Photo of UAB Obelisk on Campus

U.S. News & World Report rated the School of Education at No. 29 among schools of education with online programs, up from No. 95 in 2016. The new ranking puts the School among the top 10 percent of the nation’s schools of education with online programs.

“I believe the School rose in the ranking thanks to the hard work and commitment of the faculty, administration and staff within our school to provide continual professional development and resources that enable us to offer an exemplary online learning environment for our students,” says Jenelle Hodges, Ph.D., administrator of the School’s Canvas learning management system.

In the “Best Online Graduate Education Programs” category, U.S. News & World Report based the ranking on criteria that included student engagement, student services and technology, faculty credentials and training and peer reputation. The following are just some of the online master’s degree, certificate and Ed.S., degree programs that prospective UAB School of Education graduate students can choose from:

  • Collaborative Teacher K-12 Special Education
  • Community Health
  • Community Health With the Nonprofit Management Graduate Certificate
  • Early Childhood
  • Early Childhood and Elementary Education
  • Elementary Education
  • Instructional Design and Development
  • Physical Education
  • Reading Education
  • School Psychometry

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Former Teacher Grants Wishes for Seriously Ill Children

In her new job, former special education teacher and assistant principal Sandy Naramore makes dreams come true for children suffering from serious illnesses and conditions.

Back in April, the UAB School of Education selected Sandy Naramore as the Outstanding Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Alumna for 2017. The honor came just four months after she took the reins as executive director of Magic Moments, a nonprofit that grants non-medical wishes for youngsters suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

Sandy Naramore

Recently, Naramore jokingly called the new job her “third act.” She had already spent nearly a decade as the director of Mitchell’s Place, a comprehensive center in Irondale, Ala., for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and 30 years as a special education teacher and assistant principal.

Today, Naramore spends much of her time organizing “reveals” when she and her staff present children with their requested “moments.” Those requests have included trips to the Walt Disney World and Six Flags theme parks, visits with famous athletes and celebrities, as well as shopping trips for electronics to help recipients with their educational needs. Additionally, when she is not busy planning presentations, she is visiting children in the hospital, promoting the organization on local television and radio stations or reaching out to prospective donors.

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical day,” says Naramore. “We’re constantly meeting with people to make sure we have the funds to provide the children with the moments they requested.”

A Path to Leadership

Naramore enrolled at UAB in 1989 to pursue a master’s degree in early childhood special education. At the time, she taught special education at Cahaba Heights Elementary School in Jefferson County.

“I went to school at night,” she says, “and that was the beauty of it. UAB offered the classes I needed at night so I could keep teaching.”

Naramore graduated in 1991. Then, in 2004, she returned to UAB to earn an Ed.S. in educational leadership. She completed her studies the following year and later became the assistant principal at Greystone Elementary School in Hoover.

Looking back, Naramore credits the educational leadership coursework and internship with preparing her for all of the challenges and tasks that come with being a school administrator.

"I went to school at night, and that was the beauty of it. UAB offered the classes I needed at night so I could keep teaching.”

“People skills,” says Naramore. “That was the biggest thing I learned in the educational leadership program. How to manage people. But I also learned how to manage budgets. As a special education teacher, I had no exposure to the budgeting side of school programs. So UAB did an excellent job of training us.”

New Job, New Chapter

In 2008, she retired from the state Department of Education. That is when the founders of Mitchell’s Place contacted her. Naramore had once taught the couple's son, and they asked if she would apply for the educational director’s job.

“I observed the facility and met with the families and the staff there, and it was a no-brainer,” she says. “It was an incredible opportunity for me to use my administrative skills and my special education background.”

She later became the organization’s executive director. She thought Mitchell’s Place would be her last job before retiring for good, she says. But in 2016, she had a chance meeting with a staffer from Magic Moments. That meeting eventually inspired her to apply for the executive director’s job.

Today, Naramore says she is enjoying this latest chapter in her career.

“I never dreamed that I would have an opportunity that would just sweep me off my feet,” says Naramore. “It’s a job I don’t think everybody can do, but I think my background in education prepared me for this. It can be sad at times, but it’s so rewarding.”

Naramore, who is married with two adult sons and two grandchildren, says that when she does retire, she wants to volunteer with an organization that helps children.

“As long as children are in my life,” says Naramore, “I’m good.”

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UAB Graduate School Application

Follow the link below to access the UAB Graduate School online application. If this is your first time logging into the application system, you will need to click the Sign Up link on the next page to create an account before you begin.

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Early Childhood and Elementary Education Honors Program

Early Childhood and Elementary Education Honors Program


  • Junior standing
  • Completion of 9 hours pre-professional education courses
  • 3.5 GPA in Education courses
  • 3.0 GPA overall
  • Faculty recommendation

About the Honors Program

In order to participate in the Honors Program and graduate with honors designation, you must enroll and complete the following two Education Honors Courses: EDH 491 and EDH 492.

As a result of participating in the Honors program, you will have an opportunity to teach in the CCLC summer enrichment program.

Required Honors Courses

EDH 491 | Honors: Education Research | 2 hours
This course is designed to enhance students’ research and inquiry skills and professional orientation within a community of learners. Research project under supervision of faculty sponsor, Dr. Cora Causey. Prerequisites: Admission to Department of Curriculum & Instruction Honors Program

EDH 492 | Honors: Education Service Project | 2 hours (to be taken with internship)
This course is designed to engage students in a school or community-based service project that will enrich students’ educational experiences and enhance the lives of the children or other constituents for whom the service is provided. Service project under supervision of faculty sponsor, Dr. Cora Causey. Prerequisites: Admission to Department of Curriculum & Instruction Honors Program.

Honors Program Advisor

For additional information, contact Cora Causey (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 205-975-6495).

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UAB’s ESL Program Enjoys Funding Success

esl grant

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Education’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program is enjoying more than $10 million in federal funding this year.

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Video Presentations

The following video presentations can be used in teacher education courses to provide an introduction to edTPA.

edtpa overview
edtpa overview

Student Resource Website

The website linked below has been developed to provide candidates in the teacher education program detailed information about edTPA.

edtpa student resource website

Concentration Options

The ECE programs offers five concentrations:

  • Curriculum
  • Early Intervention / Young Children at Risk
  • Early Childhood and Diverse Populations
  • Literacy
  • Piagetian Studies

Why UAB?

Research and Scholarship

Research and Scholarship

Courses and experiences are designed for the candidate to become confident and competent in not only reading and applying research, but in designing and implementing studies that guide the field. Complementing the research agenda is an expectation of scholarship (presenting and publishing) contributions to the early childhood field. Faculty mentoring and participation in "emerging scholar communities" help to complement master teachers with research and scholarship skills required at the Ph.D. level.

Teaching Experiences

Teaching Experiences

Candidates are provided opportunities to design, implement, analyze, and evaluate varied pedagogical approaches to early childhood education. As a significant proportion of the Ph.D. program is offered using face-to-face and online asynchronous technology, candidates may have the opportunity to develop skills in using and designing 'distance education' that continues to grow at a faster rate than traditional face-to-face education.



Through close interactions with, and mentoring from the ECE faculty, the ECE doctoral candidate is expected to learn about, develop a service agenda, and provide service through a variety of local, state, national, and international venues.

International Opportunities

International Opportunities

As multiple faculty have international backgrounds and experiences, opportunities present themselves to research and present with an international focus. Also many faculty have held leadership positions with the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) and the World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP) and use these experiences to provide service and scholarship opportunities.

Urban Opportunities

Urban Opportunities

Collaborative opportunities with the UAB School of Education, Center for Urban Education allows Ph.D. candidates to focus scholarship activities on issues related to "quality education for socially and economically disenfranchised groups residing in urban areas".

Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center

Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center

The Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center (MMFLC) supports and disseminates research in literacy, provides professional development for teachers and students and creates innovative literacy projects, both locally and globally. Through the MMFLC, candidates have a unique opportunity to build their professional credentials by publishing research articles, presenting at professional development conferences and volunteering in literacy projects.


  • Core Courses

    ECE 730 - Advanced Developmental Theory 3 hours
    ECE 731 – Children and Society 3 hours
    ECE 749 - Advanced Early Childhood Curriculum 3 hours
    One course from the following: ECE 735, ECE737, ECE 748 or other ECE doctoral classes at discretion of committee. 3 hours
    Total Credit Hours for Core Courses 12 hours
  • Concentration Area Courses

    Four courses: ECE 750, ECE 751, ECE 752, and ECE 774
    12 hours
    Four courses: ECE 746, ECE 760 and two from ECE 742, ECE 743, ECE 744, or ECE 745
    12 hours
    Early Intervention / Early Childhood Special Education
    Four courses from: ECE 738, ECE 740, ECE 748, ECE 760, ECE 792
    12 hours
    Piagetian Studies
    Four courses: ECE 742, ECE 743, ECE 744, ECE 745E
    12 hours
    Early Childhood Teacher Leader
    Three courses (15 hrs) approved by the ECE doctoral faculty
    15 hours
    Total Credit Hours for Concentration Area Courses 12-15 hours
  • Research Methodology Courses

    EPR 696 – Qualitative Research 3 hours
    EPR 710 – Multivariate Research 3 hours
    6 hours of Qualitative Research courses from the following: EPR 792 or SOC 708, EPR 796 OR 6 hours of quantitative research courses from the following: EPR 695, EPR 792, HB 714, SOC 704, PY 727, BST 640, BST 661, BST 671, SOC 706 6 hours
    Total Credit Hours for Research Methodology 12 hours
  • Research Internship

    ECE 798 – 3 hours in first 18 hours of study 3
    ECE 798 – 3 hours in second 18 hours of study 3
    Total Credit Hours for Research Internships 6+ hours
  • Dissertation

    ECE 799 –  At least two semesters of dissertation hours 12 + hrs
    Total Credit Hours for Dissertation 6+ hours
    To move into dissertation hours (candidacy), the candidate must have:
    • Completion of the majority of PhD coursework
    • Approval of the dissertation proposal by your dissertation committee and approved by the Program Director and the Graduate School Dean
    • Successfully passed the written and oral defense
    • IRB approval of procedues for dissertation research
    • ECE 799 –  At least two semesters of dissertation hours with at least one semester of 6 ECE 799 credit hrs 12 + hrs
    ECE 798 – 3 hours in first 18 hours of study 3 ECE 798 – 3 hours in second 18 hours of study 3 Dissertation – 18-24 hours ECE 799 –  At least two semesters of dissertation hours 12 + hrs

Graduate Teaching/Research Assistants

The Early Childhood doctoral program is seeking full-time Graduate Teaching/Research Assistants to perform teaching-related or research-related assignments to benefit the Early Childhood Education faculty and program.

Position requires a full-time enrollment (9 hrs/semester, including summer which equals 27 hrs per year) as a doctoral Early Childhood Education student in good standing. Full-time UAB employees are not eligible for these funds.

The award also requires that you be available to work 20 hrs/week on assigned tasks.

Applications due by May 15.

Application for Graduate Assistantship Funding

Admission Requirements

  • If a Ph.D. applicant has completed most / all of the following coursework, they may enter the program and start their Ph.D. coursework the first semester. If applicants have not taken courswork similar to the courses listed below, then the applicant can be accepted into the program and is expected to complete the majority of the prerequisite coursework prior to taking doctoral level classes.

    • EPR 594 Introduction to Educational Research Design
    • EPR 596 Introduction to Qualitative Methods of Educational Research
    • EPR 608 Statistical Methods and Research in Education (with EPR 607 lab)
    • EPR 609 Statistical Methods and Research in Education: Intermediate
    • EEC 610 Curriculum Development in Early Childhood Education
    • EEC 300 Child Development in Early Childhood Education
    • EEC 672 Piaget & Perspectives or ECE 630 Cognitive Curriculum
    • EEC 660 Readings in Teaching and Learning
    • Demonstrated Technology Proficiency

    Determination of whether the following coursework has been completed will be made by the program coordinator from a review of transcripts and conversation with the applicant.

  • The following indicators are considered by the Doctoral Program Admissions Committee when determining program admission:

    • Master's Degree in ECE (or related field) or an Education Specialist degree with prior experience in early childhood education settings. Applicants have been accepted into the program with backgrounds in ECE, elementary education, law, health and human services, maternal child health, etc.
    • Professional experience - preferred at least 3 years
    • Professional resume/CV
    • Writing assessment - statement of research interests and professional goals essay
    • MAT or GRE scores (score at 50th percentile or higher)
    • GPA (minimum of 3.25 on previous graduate work)
    • Three recommendations/letters of reference
    • Presentations at state, regional and national conferences
    • Publications
    • Professional involvement
    • Interview with faculty
  • Applying for admission begins with completing an online application through the UAB Graduate School.

    • Complete and submit online degree-seeking application for admission to the Graduate School
    • Submit professional resume/CV and statement of research interests and professional goals
    • Pay application fee online with credit card or debit card (mailing a check will severely delay the application process)
      • Domestic: fee for Ph.D. is waived
      • International: please check graduate school website for current fee
    • Ask the individuals from whom you request references to respond online to the form that they will receive via email from the Graduate School (NOTE: This form is sent automatically to your references by UAB as soon as you click submit on your degree-seeking application).
    • Request transcripts from all prior institutions to be sent to UAB including institutions where you might have taken only one course (information on how to do this is provided in Apply Yourself). The preferred email addresses for electronic submission of transcripts are as follows: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you have international transcripts, you should send a copy and then bring the original transcript with you.
    • Submit official GRE or MAT test score.
    • Submit official TOEFL or IELTS test score (for international applicants only) NOTE: International applicants must also meet all requirements stipulated at . This includes a mailing your Financial Affidavit of Support

Career Opportunities

Graduates from our program are prepared to take positions in a variety of roles. Careers include higher educational/post-secondary settings. Just within the United States, almost one third of all institutes of higher education (IHE) offer some type of early childhood training program. This translates to over 1300 IHE where the largest program within a college of school of education is early childhood education. Graduates also work with policy development at local, state, national, and international levels. Our graduates come from and work in a variety of countries that include Canada, Taiwan, China, Japan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.

Early Childhood Faculty

Lois Christensen

Lois Christensen

James Ernest

James Ernest

Grade Jepkemboi

Grade Jepkemboi

Lynn Kirkland

Lynn Kirkland

Program Handbook

Download the program handbook to learn more about the Ph.D. program in Early Childhood Education.

Tuition & Fees

Learn about the costs associated with earning your degree.

Scholarships & Financial Aid

Discover what scholarships and financial assistance are available.


Learn about when you need to submit your application materials.

Get Involved

See what student organizations are in the School of Education.

Have Questions? Contact Us.

James Ernest, Ph.D.
Program Advisor
By Phone: 205-934-8360
By E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.