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UAB continues to put Safety Task Force recommendations into action
UAB continues to put Safety Task Force recommendations into action
Implementation of safety measures continues following UAB Safety Task Force assessment and action plan.

rave guardianThe launch of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Rave Guardian safety app and continued emergency notification upgrades — two of many recommendations outlined in the action plan of the UAB Safety Task Force finalized during the spring 2015 semester following input and feedback from students, faculty, staff and outside experts — highlight the latest actions taken as a result of the thorough campus safety review.

“Our highest priority is the safety of our students, faculty, staff, patients and guests,” said Chief Anthony Purcell of the UAB Police Department. “Our accredited police department trains regularly and works closely with the UAB and Birmingham communities to stay at the forefront of law enforcement excellence in a diverse environment of higher education, health care, and arts and entertainment.”

In late summer of 2014, UAB President Ray L. Watts initiated a review of the institution’s on-campus threat preparedness that would enlist outside consultants. An October assault and robbery in an on-campus parking deck accelerated that initiative; following immediate actions including campus-wide communications, increased UAB Police Department patrols, and extended hours for campus escorts and shuttles, the administration assembled a Safety Task Force.

That group of UAB and external constituents conducted a comprehensive survey of facility features, existing safety support services and education programs, as well as institutional practices and procedures intended to create and sustain a safe environment. Faculty and student leaders participated in the process, and the entire student body was encouraged to read the task force’s draft report and provide suggestions and questions.

“Broad input was imperative in these efforts, and I thank everyone who contributed to what became a robust assessment and action plan,” said Vice President Allen Bolton, who chaired the task force. “Students and parents, faculty and staff, and community partners, thank you. We continue to implement and build on the actions outlined in the report and will continue to invest in these and other safety initiatives as we strive for a crime-free campus.”

In conducting its assessment and developing its action plan, the task force studied best practices and considered strategies used by peer universities. The group also reviewed UAB crime statistics and took into account a safety study conducted by the Assessment Unit of the School of Public Health, which demonstrated that the perception of crime on campus considerably outweighs actual crime. Safety on the UAB campus compares favorably to other universities, particularly regional institutions in or near urban settings, including peer universities like Tulane, Houston, Emory, Vanderbilt and Memphis.

safety task force graphic*Violent crimes against persons: Murder, Negligent Manslaughter, Sexual Offenses, Robbery, Aggravated Assault

The full Safety Task Force report and action plan is posted on the UAB Emergency Management website. It addresses communication and education, facilities, safety services, specific student concerns, and other safety topics like pedestrian safety. Key recommendations in different phases of implementation — in place, in process, in planning stages or under feasibility review — include:

  • Permanently increase UABPD patrols by plain-clothed and uniformed officers
  • Update B-Alert emergency messaging protocol and tools to increase speed and accuracy
  • Improve parking structures to enhance safety
  • Launch a free, university-sponsored smartphone application, Rave Guardian
  • Increase transportation options through Blazer Express and Safety Escort Service
  • Improve communication protocols and expectations with external agencies like Crimestoppers
  • Expand communication and safety education for students and employees, and train additional UABPD officers to conduct safety education like Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) Programs
  • Review campus facilities for potential expanded lockdown of UAB buildings
  • Work with community partners to improve campus lighting
  • Build a more robust on-campus surveillance camera network — now with more than 2,800 cameras on campus
  • Partner with appropriate stakeholders on neighborhood revitalization efforts
  • Revise communication protocols for incident management

Specifics of many safety initiatives implemented — details of UABPD patrols, locations and operations of cameras — cannot be shared publicly for security reasons; but initiatives that can be shared will be included in communications to the UAB community.

UAB Executive Director of UAB Emergency Management Randy Pewitt says this process does not end with this report and action plan, or with the initiatives implemented to date, and he hopes students, faculty and staff will be active in learning about what UAB and UABPD are doing, as well as what they themselves can do.

“Awareness is vital to maintaining a safe campus, and we encourage the UAB community to share our responsibility for safety by taking full advantage of available resources,” Pewitt said. “Read the task force report, download the free RAVE Guardian safety app, call for on-campus safety escorts and use Blazer Express, take advantage of UABPD education and safety programs, and update your B-Alert emergency notification profile. If students, faculty and staff read their campus communications like the eReporter and Greenmail electronic newsletters, they can stay aware of important updates and resources.”

Learn more at uab.edu/emergency and uab.edu/police.

UAB names vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
UAB names vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Dilworth will lead efforts to build upon UAB’s longstanding reputation as one of the most diverse college campuses in the nation.

paulette dilworthPaulette Patterson Dilworth, Ph.D., has been named the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s next vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion after a comprehensive needs assessment and national search.

Dilworth has 38 years of experience in higher education diversity consulting and training, recruitment, retention, and teaching, and she comes to UAB from Auburn University, where she was assistant vice president for Access and Community Initiatives.

UAB’s student, faculty and staff population represents more than 100 countries and is consistently ranked among the nation’s most diverse campuses. UAB President Ray L. Watts says diversity is a strategic institutional priority.

“I look forward to what Dr. Dilworth will do to support diversity as one of our core values and strengths; it is a part of UAB’s very fabric and the guiding force behind our involvement in our community, throughout Alabama and around the globe,” Watts said. “We continue to recruit and retain outstanding students, faculty and staff because of our deeply embedded culture of diversity, equity and inclusion — we want to provide equal opportunities for everyone at UAB to thrive and excel.”

As vice president, Dilworth will report to the president as a member of the senior administrative team. She will have enterprise-wide responsibility for facilitating strategic initiatives to promote diversity excellence as a fundamental institutional and educational value in campus culture, operations, business practices and programming. Dilworth will also nurture collaborative and engaging relationships with internal and external constituents to provide effective leadership in the coordination of diversity-related programs and initiatives, as well as work across the enterprise to optimize UAB’s decision-making capabilities and inspire the highest standards of performance.

“This is an incredible opportunity to make a positive impact on diversity, equity and inclusion on a campus already well-known for those values,” Dilworth said. “I enjoyed my visits to campus and meeting the leadership team, as well as many students and employees, and I look forward to working closely with the UAB family to capitalize on the exciting momentum that has been building over many years.”

The national search was led by a 19-member search committee made up of student, faculty, staff and community leaders and co-chaired by School of Medicine Associate Dean Mona Fouad, MD, professor of Preventive Medicine, and Collat School of Business Dean Eric Jack, Ph.D., Wells Fargo Endowed Chair in Business. Their time and dedication to this process yielded great results.

“Dean Jack and I are excited to have a visionary like Dr. Dilworth join UAB and know she will be an asset to the leadership team and the Birmingham community,” Fouad said. “The search committee was pleased with the caliber of candidates we reviewed, and the process that took place before the search was invaluable.”

As vice president, Dilworth will report to the president as a member of the senior administrative team. She will have enterprise-wide responsibility for facilitating strategic initiatives to promote diversity excellence as a fundamental institutional and educational value in campus culture, operations, business practices and programming.

UAB conducted a comprehensive assessment of the roles and functions of the UAB Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion before the search began. The assessment involved faculty and staff representatives of groups and programs that advocate for diversity on campus, members of the Faculty Senate, undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, and senior leadership.

UAB Chief Human Resources Officer Alesia Jones says it was important that all views were considered in laying the foundation to recruit a leader to this important role.

“More than 100 stakeholders have participated in these discussions,” Jones said. “We have an amazing opportunity to continue to be a frontrunner in terms of diversity and inclusion, and we worked with the UAB community so the diverse needs of this growing campus can be met.”

At Auburn, Dilworth remained active in professional, civic and higher-education organizations. She led the Access and Community Initiatives unit of the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and provided leadership for staff engaged in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in areas including recruitment, retention and civic involvement. She also developed multicultural programs and services, built and strengthened partnerships on and off campus, and advanced academic support services for students.

Dilworth has also served as an associate professor in the School of Education at Indiana University–Bloomington, where she was also co-director of Project TEAM, supporting underrepresented groups and first-generation college students in STEM disciplines. Prior to that, Dilworth was at Emory University for 12 years, where she was director of Minority Affairs. A Selma, Alabama, native, she started her career in higher education at Florida A&M University, where she earned an undergraduate degree in political science. Dilworth holds a Master of Art degree in educational research and a Ph.D. in educational studies from Emory University.

When she begins work at UAB on Jan. 15, 2016, Dilworth will be the second person in the position created in 2003, with Louis Dale, Ph.D., having held the position with distinction since its inception and set to retire after 40 years at UAB.

For more information on UAB’s Diversity Program, visit uab.edu/equitydiversity.  

UAB faculty receives two NSF grants for cybersecurity research
UAB faculty receives two NSF grants for cybersecurity research
A UAB Computer and Information Sciences professor will continue improving security and usability of authentication systems through new funding.

Nitesh Saxena fNitesh Saxena, Ph.D., has been awarded two grants in 2015 from the National Science Foundation to continue his research in computer and network security.

The grants total $1 million overall, with UAB’s share comprising approximately $500,000.

The first of the two grants, a collaboration with Syracuse University, will help Saxena develop a secure and easy-to-use mechanism for user authentication in current-generation smartphones. Because they are in near constant use, mobile phones can be much more difficult to secure than traditional devices such as desktops or laptops. Saxena’s research will look into a way to constantly protect the smartphone. The project seeks to leverage several collaborating wearable devices, for example a smartwatch or smartglass, and their different sensors to build a strong behavioral biometric authentication mechanism that can recognize the legitimate user of the smartphone transparently and continuously.

The second grant, a collaboration with the University of California, Irvine, will assist Saxena’s team in furthering his research into improving the security and usability of two-factor password authentication systems. Saxena aims to design and implement two-factor authentication systems that improve upon previous, weaker systems by ensuring they protect against online attacks, as well as phishing attacks and offline attacks. Importantly, in doing this, Saxena’s design will not minimize the usability component of the authentication system and thus remain amenable to real-world deployment. This project has been supported by UAB Information Technology.

Saxena, the director of the Security and Privacy In Emerging computing and networking Systems (SPIES) lab and associate professor of computer and information sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at UAB, is focused on a field of research that includes mobile and wireless security, and usable security. He has received several prior grants from NSF as well as from many industrial tech giants including Google, Comcast and Cisco.


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