The UAB Women's Center and Women's Studies Program present the awards annually during Women's History Month to honor female members of the UAB and Birmingham communities who have mentored or served other women, taken a courageous stance or overcome adversity. Candidates for the award are nominated by Birmingham residents and selected by a committee of university women.
Melanie Talbot Montgomery - The Susan D. Marchase Outstanding Woman Administrator
Montgomery, assistant dean for administration for the School of Health Professions, has gone through tremendous personal turmoil and now helps women discover community and encouragement — all while controlling the finances for the burgeoning School of Health Professions.
Montgomery lost her 11-year-old daughter Virginia to a brain aneurism in 2004 and has used that experience to help others. In 2009, Montgomery bared her soul in a book published by Margaret McSweeney called Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experience Grace. Through this collection, readers are encouraged by heartfelt writings that deal with loss and hardship in a real an honest way. She reminded women that they are not alone in any situation.
“After losing my daughter, I was given so much love, support and encouragement that it helped me to continue on,” Montgomery says. “Other mothers who had lost children were especially helpful as they understood the true depth of the loss of a child and knew the challenges that I would be facing. Unfortunately, I have had too many people I know also lose children suddenly and unexpectedly and I want them to know there is a support network out there and that they are not alone.”
Friends of Melanie and Virginia also set up several awards in Virginia’s memory in Vestavia Hills, including the Virginia Markle Cheerleading Spirit Award, and Melanie worked to create the Virginia Markle Adventure Village located ay YMCA-Camp Cosby — one of Virginia’s favorite places.
At UAB, Montgomery manages the finances for the School of Health Professions. The school was facing a $1 million shortfall in the state budget when she arrived in 2001. She worked with the then new dean Harold Jones, Ph.D. — before he arrived on campus — to balance the budget and still maintain the level of programs and services provided. The finances for the school have improved immensely, as shown by the recent expansion project that began at the school.
“I was truly honored and humbled to learn my coworkers had nominated me for this award,” Montgomery says. “However, winning wouldn’t have been possible without the people I work with. They are great coworkers who are committed to excellence in everything they do and it makes all of us want to do our best.”
Alison Barnard - Outstanding Woman UAB Graduate Student
Barnard, a doctor of Physical Therapy student, has worked diligently to encourage young women to pursue their interests in science, technology, engineering and math — especially if they are areas of strengths.
“When I realized that some girls who enjoy and show promise in STEM subjects were losing confidence in their abilities and believed that boys were better at STEM subjects, I wanted to do something,” Barnard says.
After researching some ideas, Barnard found a program called Women in Science that had been successful at Ohio State University and put together the event UAB Girls in Science and Engineering Day based off its principles. Barnard enlisted the help of UAB professors and students with many different departments to create hands-on workshops in subjects such as neuroscience, materials engineering and reptilian biology. They also found internal and external sponsors for the event and welcomed 75 middle school girls from the Birmingham metro area. Another event is in the works for 2012.
Barnard also has volunteered her time to help teach a dance class to young girls with Down’s syndrome and autism.
“It is fun to be able to give these kids a chance to do typical girl activities like dance class,” Barnard says.