UAB's cultural strength comes from many shared accomplishments and the determination to achieve even greater things.
Good morning. I want to thank Chancellor Witt and the distinguished members of our Board of Trustees for this opportunity to update you on behalf of UAB faculty.

It is a privilege for me to serve as the Chair of Faculty and representative to this Board, particularly in such exciting and promising times for our university. This has been an outstanding year for UAB faculty, as we continue pushing the envelope in research and scholarship, mentoring talented young minds who are already making their own marks and earning prestigious honors, and helping this university to have a tremendous impact on our local and global community.

Our faculty are securing increasingly competitive research funding and top awards in their fields, as they conduct cutting-edge research across many disciplines…

  • You just heard President Watts speak of Sarah Parcak in the Department of Anthropology who recently won the TED Prize of $1 million awarded to a leading innovator or thought leader.
  • Discover Magazine cited a seminal research paper from the lab of David Sweatt, the Chair of Neurobiology, on epigenetic modulation of DNA as one of the top 100 stories of 2015 in an issue that highlighted the best in science in a range that spanned from space exploration to medicine, technology, paleontology to environment.
  • Gary Warner and other faculty in our one-of-a-kind cyber forensics center continue collaborating with the FBI, Homeland Security and industry partners to develop innovate new technologies for combating global cybercrime.

These and other faculty are carrying on—and building upon—a longtime culture of innovation and collaboration that has earned this university global renown for decades, and that culture continues to grow stronger.

That strength comes from many shared accomplishments and the determination to achieve even greater things, but—as with any university, organization or corporation—strength can come from struggle as well. Last year, my colleague Chad Epps, the then-Chair of Faculty, stood before you and expressed our lack of confidence with President Watts. The no-confidence resolution was a very difficult decision that faculty did not take lightly.

With this, though, I can report that the Senate and faculty remain committed to finding ways to weather the storm. President Watts’ actions over the past year demonstrate a desire to repair the damage and move forward. He has instituted regular meetings with the Faculty Senate Chair, has committed to visiting each of the academic units at least two times per year and has openly encouraged other members of senior administration to work collaboratively with faculty and other UAB constituents.

We are encouraged by the UAB President’s Liaison Committee that Dr. Watts established and are confident that it has open lines of communication with the Board, Faculty and Community at large.

Even with the willingness to change, we have, in the past year, continued to experience rushed decisions that lack the benefit of shared governance. We have brought these to the attention of senior administration and stand cautiously optimistic that the culture will continue to improve in coming months and years. We all want the same thing: for UAB to be the very best, knowing we must do it together.

Through this period, we appreciate members of the Board of Trustees reaching out to faculty leadership to begin a dialogue that helps advance our institution. That gesture was well received and we look forward to ways of continuing that dialogue in 2016.

Now a very promising new day is upon us, and I am proud, positive and hopeful about our working relationship with the UAB administration and, you, the Board of Trustees. UAB faculty are beginning to collaborate more effectively with administration and are working towards a true spirit of shared governance. Effective communication remains the key to our continued progress. By continuing to increase the levels of inclusiveness and transparency, we can be more unified than ever in our mission and excel like never before.

I could not be prouder to be part of this faculty and this university. The term “world-class” is probably over-used but in UAB’s case it applies quite literally. Two recent rankings put UAB among the top 1 percent of world universities. For decades, top faculty from around the globe have come to Birmingham, Alabama, to be part of our intensely collaborative culture.

Our faculty are here to continue that tradition, to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We are here to bring our own passion and expertise to bear on UAB’s leadership in many different fields, and to educate the leaders of tomorrow. In short, we came here to discover and teach knowledge that will change our world, and that is what we strive to do daily.

I offer my sincere gratitude to the Board and UAB administration for your continued efforts in supporting the faculty at UAB and all that we can accomplish together.

Thank you.

Alecia Gross
Chair, UAB Faculty Senate

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