UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on Campus Life
Throughout his time at UAB, Nowakowski has never been short on administrative responsibilities. He has served as chief of the Low Vision Clinic, chief of ocular disease service, chairman of the faculty affairs committee, and chief of staff, among other duties. In all that time, however, he has maintained room in his life for outside interests—most notably his hobbies of playing guitar and flying airplanes.
Although Nowakowski didn’t follow his teacher’s advice and pursue guitar as a career, he never gave it up either. After arriving at UAB, a fellow faculty member discovered that Nowakowksi was a musician, and the two began playing together. “At that point, I had only played classical, but we got together with some students who were musicians, and they taught me a lot about other types of music and how to improvise,” Nowakowski says. “We eventually began to play at parties (including the annual UABSO student party called the Eye Ball), and we called ourselves Rod and the Cones. I certainly didn’t deserve top billing, but for a band of optometrists, the name was just too good to pass up.”
Aside from music, Nowakowski says one of his favorite places to unwind is high above the ground in his Viking airplane. “I started flying in 1977,” he says. “I had a friend in optometry school who talked me into learning how and going in with him to buy a plane. We bought a 1946 Aeronca Champ and paid about $2,500 for it.”
When both young men fell in love with the skies, they found there wasn’t enough air time for both of them, so they bought a second plane. “This one was a 1946 Aeronca Chief for about the same price,” Nowakowski says. “So we each owned half of two planes, one of which didn’t always run as well as the other, so we would flip a coin to see who got stuck flying that one.”
Eventually, Nowakowski would graduate to owning his own plane. To date, he has owned five planes, even owning two at the same time for a brief period.
Rodney Nowakowski Adds Optometry Dean to a Long and Colorful Resume
By Grant Martin
UAB School of Optometry are likely to know Rodney Nowakowski, O.D., Ph.D., as their dean, since Nowakowski was named the school’s fifth dean in early 2011.Current and future students of the
To others, Nowakowski may always be remembered as a teacher, considering his more than 35 years as a UABSO faculty member. But throughout those same years, there are also those who knew Nowakowski primarily as their optometrist, a student, a geneticist, a musician, or an airplane pilot. And when Nowakowski casually mentions his earlier stints as a lifeguard, a soldier, and an instructor of ballroom dancing, one may legitimately wonder if there ever has been a dean with a resumé quite so colorful.
“I’m the archetypical jack of all trades, master of none,” Nowakowski jokes. “I just have a passion for learning new things.” That passion may have been evident earlier in Nowakowski’s life, but there was a brief period when he was a college dropout working as a lifeguard on South Florida beaches with precious little on his resume that would suggest he could one day be dean of the most prestigious optometry school in the world.
UAB Student Sets Sail on Educational Voyage
By Marie Sutton
At times last year, 21-year-old Jessica Stephenson found it hard to keep her eyes turned toward the front of her classes. And who could blame her? The classroom window opened onto “miles and miles of ocean bliss,” says the UAB student and Oxford, Alabama, native.
Semester at Sea college credit trip, Stephenson attended classes on an old cruise ship remade into a mobile university that set sail along the coast of Central America. The decks included state-of-the-art classrooms, an 8,000-volume library, and a 24-hour computer lab.As part of a
For 26 days, the secondary education and math major joined fellow future teachers from across the United States on a journey to six countries while taking a semester’s worth of courses, teaching native students, and trying to squeeze in a little fun in the sun.
“I always dreamed of going on Semester at Sea, but could not believe it was actually coming true,” says Stephenson, a member of the UAB Global and Community Leadership Honors Program. “I remember seeing the ship for the first time and thinking, ‘How is this even possible? Is this really happening to me?”
Stephenson learned about the program while attending a high-school college fair and resolved to set sail someday. She entered UAB as a biomedical engineering student, but after working with a Memphis-based street ministry doing outreach to urban communities, she discovered her passion for teaching and changed her major.
Stephenson researched Semester at Sea programs and found one that would allow her to study various teaching methods abroad. Covering the cost of the trip, however, presented an initial obstacle, she says.
Getting Them Right for Graduation
By Shannon Thomason
At each semester’s end, proud graduates stride across the stage at UAB’s Alys RobinsonStephens Performing Arts Center to receive their doctoral honors. After countless hours of hard work and study, and with families and friends from far and wide in attendance, they’ve reached the crowning moment of their educational journey. So the last thing they want to hear is their name mispronounced.
Spring Commencement 2012
UAB’s spring commencement ceremonies will take place at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 12, 2012 in Bartow Arena, 617 13th St. South. Graduation for College of Arts and Sciences students, including those from the School of Education, will begin at 9:30 a.m. All other graduates will attend the 2 p.m. ceremony. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. for the 9:30 a.m. ceremony and at 1 p.m. for the 2 p.m. ceremony. The doctoral hooding ceremony will take place at noon Saturday, May 12, in the Jemison Concert Hall at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. South.
Lee Shackleford is responsible for making sure that never happens. An assistant professor in the UAB Department of Theatre, he is tasked with properly announcing each name and the often obscure words and symbols related to the dissertations at each doctoral hooding ceremony.
Shackleford always earns a hearty round of applause for his oratorical accomplishments, but he is quick to acknowledge that he doesn’t do the job alone. “Every semester, the folks at the UAB Graduate School, especially communications and events specialist Kellie Carter, work very hard to get phonetic pronunciations for the names of all candidates, who come from all over the world, and the terms in their dissertation titles,” Shackleford says. He then spends at least two weeks saying the names and titles aloud to practice for the big day.
“The greatest challenge is to remember what sound a Q or an X represents in different Far East languages,” Shackleford says. “For some, an X makes a ‘kh’ sound, and for others it’s ‘ch’ or ‘eks.’”
UAB’s Newest Sport Brings the Beach to Birmingham
By Grant Martin
Even though Spring Break was still a few weeks away, one group of UAB student-athletes was already hitting the beach this February. No road trip was required, however, for the members of UAB’s first sand volleyball team—their “beach” of choice is a brand-new three-court facility adjacent to the Blazer soccer stadium.
UAB has long been home to a successful women’s indoor volleyball team, but head coach Hal Messersmith says fans at the Blazers' home matches this year are in for a whole new experience. “It’s a completely different game when you take it outside,” says Messersmith, who has spent the past six seasons inside Bartow Arena as the Blazers’ assistant volleyball coach. “The weather alone is a big factor, since you’re having to adjust to wind and temperature changes, and then there are the differences in the game itself; sand volleyball has a whole different dynamic.”
The NCAA announced it was designating sand volleyball as an “emerging sport” at roughly the same time that UAB began looking for women’s sports to replace its synchronized swimming program. (The emerging sport designation identifies new athletic opportunities for female athletes.) The university added bowling as a fall sport in 2011, with sand volleyball making its debut in spring 2012. But unlike the bowling program—which required the university to find a coach and assemble a team—the sand volleyball staff and players were on hand almost from the outset. In addition to being the assistant volleyball coach, Messersmith is the husband of UAB head volleyball coach Kerry Messersmith. Together, the two have led the Blazers to more than 130 wins in six seasons, having won 20 or more games in four of those seasons, including a 23-9 record in 2011.
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