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The new cohort of Honors Faculty Fellows are set to offer experiential learning perspectives through the lens of topics such as media and influence, healthcare challenges, cinematic culture reviews, and even Tae Kwon Do. As full-time UAB faculty members, they will design and facilitate year-long projects to provide engaging enrichment opportunities through academic learning activities.

Selected by a committee of honors students, members of the 2023-2024 Honors Faculty Fellows include Brooke Becker, M.L.I.S., associate professor/reference librarian for Social Sciences and Communication Studies; Mark Banaszak Holl, Ph.D., associate dean for research & professor; Steven Howard, Ph.D., associate professor and interim director for Graduate Programs in Healthcare Administration (Residential and Executive); Heather Lee, M.P.H., director of operations in the Department of Health Services Administration; and Kara Van Abel, M.L.I.S., associate professor/reference librarian for the Collat School of Business.

Read below to learn more about how each faculty member plans to spend their fellowship.

Brooke Becker, M.L.I.S.

Brooke Becker, M.L.I.S.
UAB Libraries; College of Arts and Sciences

“Media Over Mind: Honors Movie Night”

Brooke Becker, M.L.I.S. will introduce students to a “behind the scenes” look at how media – from TV and movies to games, AI, and social media – influence how we think and live..

“According to prominent communication theorist, Hugh Rank, there is a distinct difference in the socioeconomic status of people who identify as persuaders and those who are known as persuadees,” Becker says. “Mr. Rank would be astonished at the level of influence media has in our current life, but his message still holds true. “In this series, we will examine different aspects of life touched by media and discuss what it takes to be considered truly literate. At the end of the day, will you be a persuader or the persuaded?”


Mark Banaszak Holl, Ph.D.Dr. Mark Banaszak Holl
School of Engineering

“Building Student Resiliency via Martial Arts”

Dr. Mark Banaszak Holl will use the discipline of Tae Kwon Do (Korean: foot hand way) to educate students about the aspects of the art which include mind and body control, flexibility and stretching, basic foot and hand techniques, basic stances, and forms (kata). Students will learn how martial arts explicitly integrates physical and mental tasks, along with challenges, to assist students with mind-body development. The goals are to develop improved mental and physical discipline that assists the practitioner with all other facets of their life, including their
academic and professional goals.

“Despite these well-known relationships of martial arts, few academic offerings address this type of student-learning outside of competitive sports frameworks,” Banaszak Holl says. “These weekly martial arts sessions are designed to focus on personal growth – not achieving a defined physical goal – and will be appropriate for a wide range of physical abilities and skills."


Dr. Steven Howard

Steven Howard, Ph.D. 
School of Health Professions

“Comparative Health Systems: We Didn’t Start the Fire”

In this seminar series, Dr. Steven Howard's student attendees will learn how healthcare systems are designed to work, how those designs can break down, and brainstorm ideas for practical healthcare system reforms. Different health system designs in different countries have unique challenges – there is no perfect system – so there will be healthcare experts as guest speakers from around the world. Guest speakers will share their challenges and concerns about how those problems will evolve into the future and discuss solutions they are piloting right now.

“The health system is in a crisis, both in the U.S. and around the world,” Howard says. “Costs are out of control, and both physical and mental health are declining. Society needs new ideas – like from the students in the Honors College – to solve these messy problems. Likewise, I will teach these students about three to four basic healthcare system designs that will be followed by a detailed discussion of two to three designs."


Heather Lee, M.P.H. Dr. Heather Lee
School of Health Professions

“Experiential Learning Through Simulation”

Heather Lee, M.P.H. will offer simulation-based learning events that will create an interactive and engaging environment where students can develop and test skills in a “real world” setting without the fear of making mistakes. Students will be able to develop and enhance competencies related to complex decision-making in a variety of scenarios.

“Through these experiences, I hope that students are able to expand their knowledge of health care management, enhance interpersonal skills, and gain a better understanding of systems thinking,” Lee says. “I also hope that through the Global Village simulation, students will gain awareness of the conditions that over 1 billion people live in worldwide and what role they can play in bettering the lives of others.” 


Kara Van Abel, M.L.I.S.Kara Van Abel, M.L.I.S. 
UAB Libraries; Collat School of Business


Kara Van Abel, M.L.I.S. will host a film discussion series on select Thursday nights for students to engage and learn about various concepts. Students will watch thought-provoking films that spark curiosity, challenge perceptions, and leave them with plenty to talk about. Students will have the opportunity to vote on topics ahead of each scheduled film session.

“Through the lens of cinema, may students discover the art of empathy, the power of perspective, and the joy of shared stories, enriching not just their understanding of film, but their understanding of the world," Van Abel says.


For questions or inquiries to apply for the 2024-2025 cohort, contact the Associate Dean of the Honors College, Kristine Hurst-Wajszczuk, D.M.A., at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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