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When a newly reestablished School of Dentistry Staff Council kicked off in July 2019, the group quickly went to work developing initiatives to support and engage staff school-wide. That was before COVID-19 brought its activities to a halt.

Toys for Tots campaign After a brief hiatus, executive leadership kept things going – primarily behind the scenes throughout the spring and summer – and committees shared reports to close out a successful inaugural year. Those reports highlight remarkable depth and breadth of programming.

“Council members connect a diverse and often disconnected staff through collaboration,” said Ann Marie Karaki, council president. “Their role is to champion the university and school missions, visions, and values and strengthen the sense of community among staff. It’s exciting to see how much they have accomplished as a team.”

Staff Engagement Committee

Promoting participation in campus service initiatives, the Staff Engagement Committee coordinated activities with the UAB Staff Council and the UAB Benevolent Fund. The team led a highly successful school-wide drive, amassing over 900 donated toiletry supplies to support UAB’s Blazer Kitchen and placing first among campus units for collecting the most items. Chair Christy Peters shared that other service activities included a Toys for Tots campaign and a UAB Habitat House volunteer workday that included staff, faculty, and students.

The group also acts as a welcome committee, greeting each new staff with a SWAG goodie bag and staff council contact list. They continue to work on new initiatives, including developing a mentor program to pair newer staff members with veterans who are willing to share administrative, business, and clinical expertise and are pulling together information for a staff web page.

Professional Staff Development Committee

The Professional Staff Development Committee hosted a series of educational sessions on subjects ranging from personal wellness and financial wellness to taxes and retirement planning. The group’s goal: to encourage staff vocational and educational development. Topics were chosen based on staff feedback, including the results of a school-wide survey the council conducted. Some sessions were held in a ‘Lunch & Learn’ format, while others were timed with school-wide EXCEL programs or held virtually amid the pandemic. Of course, who could resist a free meal? That’s what the entire staff received when a Lunch & Learn delivery arrived a day early and the committee pivoted to host an impromptu pop up lunch.

“Of everything we did, our kick-off event was one of the most memorable,” said Nannozi Ssenkoloto, chair. “We held a ‘Meet and Greet’ with Dean Taichman not long after he arrived. It gave the staff a great opportunity to interact with and learn more about our new leader.”

In addition to hosting their own events, the committee promoted campus educational opportunities such as SmartPath webinars and LinkedIn Learning. They also helped coordinate an update on the UAB Employee Engagement Survey by Dean Taichman and Senior Associate Dean Robinson that was held in tandem with an EXCEL program.

Committee on Excellence and Institutional Pride

The Committee on Excellence and Institutional Pride coordinates the school’s annual staff service awards and Employee of the Quarter (EOQ) recognition programs. In January, chair Sheila Turner announced that Theresa Creel had been named the school’s Employee of the Quarter. Then, both programs were interrupted by the pandemic. The committee plans to resume Employee of the Quarter activities soon.

Executive Committee

BK supply drive 2019The executive committee helped launch additional initiatives, including a ‘Give a Hoot’ coworker appreciation program. Felicia Rose (Periodontology), Cindy Penny (Endodontics), and Michelle Vickery (Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery) were first to be recognized. The team also hosted or co-hosted several school-wide recognition events.

Exploring New Opportunities

Settling into a new normal, committees will restart activities virtually this fall and because of the pandemic, the original yearlong terms have been extended by six months. The council will conduct elections this fall with new officers assuming their roles in January 2021 for 18-month terms. President-elect Nancy Parsons said the council is looking forward to the future. The group is reimagining its programs and exploring new opportunities for staff engagement.

SOD Staff Council Representatives 2019-2020

Executive Committee:

  • Ann Marie Karaki, President
  • Nancy Parsons, President-elect
  • Theresa Creel, Secretary
  • Liz Bolton, Treasurer
  • Sheila Turner, Chair, Committee on Excellence and Institutional Pride
  • Nannozi Ssenkoloto, Chair, Professional Staff Development Committee
  • Christy Peters, Chair, Staff Engagement Committee
  • Lynne Jarreau, Dean’s Liaison
  • Sylvia Strothers, UAB Staff Council Liaison


  • Kelly Stinson, Academic Affairs
  • Ann Marie Karaki, Continuing Education
  • Nancy Parsons, Clinical and Community Sciences
  • Wanda Marshall, Clinical Operations
  • Christy Peters, Development and Alumni Relations
  • Wynde Winter, Endodontics
  • Vacant, Faculty Practice
  • Jacquiselyn Story, Health Information and Business Systems
  • Tamara Howard, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Carol Williams, Orthodontics
  • Sheila Turner, Pediatric Dentistry
  • Liz Bolton, Periodontology
  • Theresa Creel, UAB Staff Council Representative
  • Renee Holifield, UAB Staff Council Representative
  • Rosie Turner, UAB Staff Council Representative