Deborah Littleton personifies the ideal of a dedicated employee, her colleagues say. Littleton, academic advisor in the College of Arts & Sciences, has been a source of timely and accurate information for students and faculty for almost two decades advising upper-division undergraduates first in the School of Social & Behavioral Sciences and now in the College.
Colleagues describe Littleton as a knowledgeable and punctual professional, who is innovative in handling problems and a caring advisor of her students — attributes that make her September’s UAB Employee of the Month.
“She is at her best when we need her most,” says Wendy Gunther-Canada, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Government. “The real measure of Deborah’s success often is not noticeable to either faculty or students. I have worked with her on sensitive student issues to reach a fair and positive outcome in full compliance with UAB student and faculty policies and procedures. She has impressed me with her ability to work diligently to resolve matters concerning curriculum, scheduling and performance.”
Littleton approaches these tasks with an expansive understanding of the concerns of UAB students and the priorities of the administration. She brings a positive spirit and a unique empathy to her interactions with each student advisee.
That was especially evident in the aftermath of April’s devastating tornadoes. Littleton acted as a liaison between distressed students and faculty to ensure coursework was completed in time for graduation.
“I had quite a few students affected by the tornado,” she says. “A lot of them had my phone number in their cell phone, so I was an easy contact. I did reach out to some of the professors concerning students to make sure they knew what was going on. I followed up to ensure things were working out and students were able to get their assignments in on time or take their finals a little bit later.”
“Deborah is an exceptional academic advisor,” says Catherine Daniélou, Ph.D., associate dean for Academic Affairs. “She helps students readily, helps them stay on track and graduate, is a quick problem-solver and cares profoundly about each student reaching out to her. We are fortunate and grateful for the many ways she connects with our College of Arts and Sciences students and helps them get to where they want to be or need to be.”
To navigate the waters of graduation for students and faculty, Littleton has to stay current on all of the current catalog language. Her comprehensive knowledge of the undergraduate curriculum is grounded in her own first-hand experience of UAB as a respected, active alumna.
Littleton has generously guided students in their academic progress on campus and energetically worked to ensure retention and graduation. Of course, often she has to help her students and faculty through crisis.
Nikolaos Zahariadis, Ph.D., professor of government, has had to deal with cases of students having to fulfill the foreign language requirement of their international studies major with languages that are not offered at UAB.
“I was able to work through this problem by discussing various creative solutions with Ms. Littleton that would satisfy UAB rules but still allow me to verify language proficiency,” Zahariadis says. “She also put me in touch with others I did not know who helped me solve some of these problems. I appreciate her willingness to help me think outside the box to solve difficult administrative problems.”
Commitment to students
Littleton advises juniors and seniors and began teaching freshman courses in 2010. She’s teaching two freshman-experience courses this fall.
“I like interacting with the freshmen and see where they’re coming from and how they’re transitioning from high school to college,” Littleton says. “It’s also great to be with students as juniors and seniors and see their successes. It’s really special to be a part of that and see them reach their goals and move on to graduate school or the workforce.”
Colleagues say Littleton never lets the demanding nature of her job get in the way of her commitment to students. Renato Corbetta, Ph.D., professor of government, says Littleton does an incredible job guiding political science and international studies majors through the maze of graduation requirements.
“Many of our students come from non-traditional backgrounds, and it is often challenging for them to balance academic goals and non-academic needs,” Corbetta says. “Ms. Littleton goes above and beyond her call of duty in offering them individual attention and getting to know them personally. Students talk to me about Ms. Littleton in the highest terms possible, always mentioning her knowledge, expertise, care and empathy.”
Littleton also leads recruitment efforts for the social sciences, including UAB Transfer Day and UAB Day for prospective students. Holly Brasher, Ph.D., associate professor of government, says these programs are extremely well run and well organized.
“Deborah’s leadership for these events is an important contribution to UAB’s recruitment efforts,” Brasher says. “She is a welcoming leadership presence for students and parents, and she communicates effectively with faculty to inform them about prospective students and the details of the events so faculty are well prepared and the departments can maximize the usefulness of the recruitment events.”
Littleton says she is grateful for the honor bestowed upon her by her colleagues, especially considering she is just doing what she loves to do each day.
“It’s definitely very humbling to be thought of in a positive light by your colleagues,” Littleton says. “I do love my job. I love the people and departments I work with. My students are great. Every day is different — new and exciting. I definitely like that.”