Julia S. Austin, Ph.D., pictured at the 20th anniversary celebration of the UAB ESL Teacher Education Program
The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees recently established the Dr. Julia S. Austin Endowed Scholarship for graduate students in the School of Education (SOE). This endowment celebrates the career of English as a Second Language (ESL) educator Julia S. Austin, Ph.D.

Created by family, friends, colleagues, and students, this endowment recognizes Austin's contribution to the SOE's ESL teacher education program and her decades of continual service to the ESL profession. It provides scholarships to students in the ESL Master of Arts in Education program with a preference for students seeking a career for teaching ESL to adult learners.

"For many years, Dr. Julia Austin has been making a difference within the UAB School of Education and the ESL community," states Dr. Michelle Robinson, Interim Dean of the UAB School of Education. "This endowed scholarship in her honor is a long time coming. I am proud of our team's work to make this endowment a reality and our ability to celebrate the everlasting legacy Dr. Julia Austin has left as an educator and an advocate for those learning English as a second language."

As Director of Educational Services in UAB's Graduate School, Austin collaborated with SOE colleagues to address an urgent need to prepare educators to serve Alabama's growing immigrant population. In 1999, Austin taught the first SOE methods course on ESL teaching. After that, she spearheaded the design for an ESL teacher certification program—approved two years later by the Alabama State Department of Education. Austin then authored five ESL grants totaling $5.5M, awarded between 2001 and 2012 by the U.S. Department of Education. She served as principal investigator on these multi-year grants until retiring in 2014.

Through these federal grants and other outreach initiatives, Austin was instrumental in establishing a solid foundation for SOE's ESL teacher education program. This foundation was so strong that UAB soon became the state's leading provider of ESL teachers. In twenty years since the first student graduated from this ESL program, over 800 UAB students have graduated and become ESL teachers.

Julia S. Austin, Ph.D., pictured with Susan Spezzini, Ph.D.


Shortly after this program started, Austin was joined by Dr. Susan Spezzini to direct one of these grants. Spezzini later assumed the SOE's first tenure track position in English learner education. As Professor and ESL Program Director, Spezzini has been the leading force in creating the Dr. Julia S. Austin Endowed Scholarship to honor her colleague, mentor, and friend.


"Dr. Julia Austin directed her efforts towards a vision to address the preparation of teachers for serving the ESL community at UAB and across the state of Alabama," states Dr. Spezzini. "Our ESL teacher education program exemplifies how Julia took a courageous stance for embracing a vision not yet identified by others and then worked unselfishly for several years to turn this vision into reality. Julia has a unique ability for inspiring people to work together toward a larger purpose."


As the leading architect of UAB's ESL teacher education program and an advocate for ESL educators across the state and worldwide, Austin has dedicated her career to serving linguistically diverse populations. Even though she's retired, Austin still teaches graduate courses to prepare future ESL teachers. Austin's commitment and passion will remain steadfast in The Dr. Julia S. Austin Endowment.

As such, this endowment launches Austin's legacy of preparing ESL educators to teach learners from all backgrounds.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Julia S. Austin and the endowment.