Embarking on the graduate school journey can be a challenging experience, but it helps if you understand the major players involved in that experience. The “Link to Leadership” series features Q&As with UAB's Graduate School leaders and an opportunity for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to get to know these leaders on a deeper level.

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Q: Why did you accept this leadership position within the Graduate School?

A: “I have been actively involved in graduate student mentoring, teaching, course development, the establishment of new training programs, and have served in leadership positions in several different graduate programs since coming to UAB in 1996. When the opportunity arose to become the Associate Dean for Recruitment, Retention, and Diversity, I jumped at the chance. I really enjoy working with all the different UAB graduate programs and students.”

Q: How long have you been in this role? What are your specific responsibilities?

A: “I started this position in early 2016. I work with all graduate programs to increase recruitment and improve retention of their students, especially those from unrepresented groups. I also serve as the Co-Director of the UAB PREP Scholars Program, which supports recent minority undergraduates looking to pursue a doctoral graduate degree in biomedical sciences by providing extra experience students need to gain acceptance into science programs in leading graduate schools.”

Q: When not serving as an associate dean, what are you doing? How much time is devoted to each area?

A: “I spent the majority of my time up until about 3 years ago doing research work focused on the genetics of inflammatory diseases. I still try to stay involved in research, but most of my time involves working in the graduate school, overseeing the undergraduate biomedical sciences undergrad programs in the School of Medicine and running the PREP Scholars program.”

Q: What drew you to that particular field of study?

A: “I have been interested in genetics since I was an undergrad, and ultimately received my PhD in this field. I was given the opportunity to do some undergrad research in a genetics lab during my junior year and it really got me excited about research work and going to graduate school.”

Q: If you were talking with a group of incoming UAB students, what would you most want them to know about you and your hopes for their experience at the School?

A: “That I want everyone to have a great graduate school experience that helps them achieve their future goals. I am also happy to meet with students to discuss any issues, or to hear about new ideas to improve graduate education and training here at UAB.”

Q: Can you talk about your own approach to teaching and how it has or has not informed your work in your current Graduate School leadership position?

A: “I think being a good educator and mentor involves caring about the success of each individual student, whether that would be in the classroom, laboratory or other training environment. As a graduate faculty mentor, you really need to figure out effective strategies to help each student achieve his or her short- and long-term goals.”

Q: What influences have shaped you?

A: “I had very good mentors for both my graduate and postdoctoral work. They were both supportive and this helped me ultimately get a faculty position at UAB.”

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

A: “I like sports and play both ice hockey and tennis.”

Q: Tell me a bit about your family.

A: “I’m married and have a daughter in college and a stepson who is a firefighter. As a family, we enjoy spending time in the outdoors, playing card and board games, and watching movies. We have one dog, an Australian Shepard name Hallie.”