Eleven faculty will be honored with the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching during the annual Faculty Awards Convocation to be held at 4 p.m. April 2 at the UAB Alumni House.
Other faculty to be honored during the ceremonies are Cynthia Ryan, Ph.D., professor of English, who will receive the 2014 Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award, and Gregg Janowski, Ph.D., professor of engineering and associate provost for assessment and accreditation, who received the 2013 Ellen Gregg Ingalls/UAB National Alumni Society Award for Lifetime Achievement in Teaching.
The 2014 honorees for the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching represent each school, the College of Arts & Sciences and the Joint Health Sciences departments.
Asim K. Bej, Ph.D.
Bej, a professor of biology, is described as a "patient mentor" in the lab by his students. Students and colleagues praise his skill in working with students, including those outside the department, noting his ability to "distill complicated information to target the knowledge level of his audience." Co-workers point out that Bej is a nationally and internationally recognized leader in the field of microbiology and molecular genetics, and that he's authored 84 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals. But it's Bej's track record of excellence in teaching that causes students to flock to his classes. He regularly teaches Molecular Genetics and Principles of DNA Technology, which have become popular among students from multiple disciplines. Along with his high IDEA evaluation scores are flattering comments from students: "Dr. Bej is a wonderful teacher, who truly wants his students to succeed. Also, his little jokes made the course material more memorable."
Laura Forbes, Ph.D.
Forbes, a professor of health education, has worked in the field of college health for 14 years and is described by her students as a strong motivator and adviser. Students call her dedication “legendary,” and she is considered a professional role model. "Her pure enthusiasm, vast knowledge and dynamic hands-on teaching methods intensified my eagerness to become a health educator and a certified health education specialist," one student said. Students also say they feel Forbes has their best interests at heart. "Anybody can just do their job, but she goes above and beyond that in a way that makes you feel cared about — like you're not just another student," another student said. Forbes invests in her students, and she also serves the university. She gives the National College Health Assessment to develop programs to address the health concerns of UAB students.
Alecia K. Gross, Ph.D.
Gross, a professor of vision sciences, is known for taking Biochemistry of the Eye — a course that students were not enthusiastic about — and turning it into one students rave about. "The students also had very positive comments on their accessibility to her, her fairness in grading and … her ability to motivate and inspire," one of her co-workers wrote. She is known for demanding high standards, but her students say they know she is committed to their success. In addition to teaching, Gross is co-director of the Cell Molecular and Developmental Biology Graduate program. She has an active, National Institutes of Health-funded research laboratory that "has attracted students in the Vision Science Graduate program and also an M.D./Ph.D. student and Ph.D. students from the Graduate Biomedical Sciences program."
John Hansen, Ph.D.
Hansen, a professor of marketing, is "widely considered one of the top teacher/scholars of professional sales in the country," according to colleagues. Hansen is known for his ability to merge theory with practice by "disseminating theoretical concepts while emphasizing relevant managerial applications." He brings accurate and up-to-date information to the classroom, which "inspires a student's lifelong interest in learning that extends outside of the classroom." Hansen creates a comfortable classroom environment in which students are encouraged to contribute to classroom discussions. He uses feedback to make adjustments to his classes as needed. "Perhaps Dr. Hansen's most important attribute is that he recognizes teaching excellence requires hard work, devotion and constant change," a co-worker wrote.
Jason R. Hartig, M.D.
Hartig, a professor of internal medicine, "has demonstrated deep commitment to teaching and established a well-documented track record of excellence as a teacher and educator," according to his colleagues. Hartig came to UAB in 2000 and has been honored with several awards, including the Argus Award for the Best Clinical Instructor from medical students (three times), a "Top 10 Teachers Award" from the Department of Medicine, the Tinsley Harrison Award for the best teacher in the Department of Medicine and the Educator Supplemental Award for Excellence in Teaching (four times). Hartig is the director of the Medicine-Pediatrics training program, and has "radically changed not only the curriculum but also the ethos of the residency." Students say his passion for teaching fosters an enthusiasm for medicine. "He is extremely gifted in his ability to allow each individual to recognize their strengths and overcome their weaknesses, all while exhibiting a patience that pervades everything he does," one student said.
Meredith L. Kilgore, Ph.D.
Kilgore, a professor of health care organization and policy, "makes research seem fun and exciting." He teaches clinical decision-making and cost-effectiveness analysis. Students say they appreciate that Kilgore uses real-life situations as examples. "I thoroughly enjoyed both of Dr. Kilgore's classes, and it made me want to work in cost-effectiveness in my future career," one student said. "In most classes, professors are more concerned with the product of a project rather than the process. I really appreciated Dr. Kilgore's focus on the process rather than the product," another said. Kilgore says he came to teaching late in life, but experience has taught him what it takes to be a good teacher. He said the most important thing is being able to evolve courses and standards, while engaging students in meaningful discussions.
Silvio H. Litovsky, M.D.
Joint Health Sciences
Litovsky, a professor of pathology, "is a dedicated teacher and mentor who is both loved and respected by his students," colleagues said. Litovsky, a naturalized American citizen, joined the Department of Pathology in 2004. He is "especially adept at teaching across the health-care campus because he trained first as a cardiologist in Argentina and subsequently as a postdoctoral research fellow in electrophysiology before returning to more classic pathology training," a colleague said. His passion for teaching and inherent desire to see his students succeed makes him an excellent professor. "Litovsky combines his pathology knowledge and his clinical cardiology background, which allows him to provide students with basic, translational and clinical concepts that are the foundation of the medical knowledge that will serve them well in their clerkships, residency and beyond," according to colleagues.
Stephen C. Mitchell, D.M.D.
Mitchell, a professor of dentistry, has been director of the Undergraduate Clinic in Pediatric Dentistry since 2000. His co-workers say his innovative teaching activities are helping to transform the educational structure. "His course evaluations consistently are positive, and students comment that his teaching style encourages integration of concepts into clinical situations in a way that requires critical thinking," a colleague said. Mitchell has worked to give students more hands-on experience by helping develop the Sparks/Talladega/UCP rotation, which gives students experience with special-needs patients, and creating the Tuscaloosa and Cahaba Valley clinics, which give students direct patient experiences under the supervision of faculty. "The continuity he is able to provide between lecture presentations and actual clinical practices is an extremely unique and effective teaching tool," one student said.
Haibin Ning, Ph.D.
Ning, a professor of engineering, is nationally recognized for his expertise in the composite materials field, and he was the 2013 American Society for Testing and Materials International Professor of the Year. The award recognized that Ning "not only encourages the use of standards in his undergraduate teaching, but also in his graduate teaching and in his cutting-edge research." Ning is known for the detailed and individualized feedback he gives to his students. "I have personally witnessed on numerous occasions how Dr. Ning readily has time for his students via his consistent open-door policy and willingness to go out of his way to attend his students' processing activities between meetings," one student said.
Erica R. Pryor, Ph.D.
Pryor, a professor of nursing, teaches epidemiology, research methodology, design and statistics in the graduate program. She was the doctoral program coordinator from 2006-12, and during that time she helped improve total enrollment and graduations by more than 100 percent. She mentors doctoral candidates and is "a highly sought after mentor both for her content and statistical expertise," according to co-workers. "Dr. Pryor is a superb example of teaching excellence, demonstrating a rare blend of professionalism, academic expertise and student advocacy," one student said. Students say she is supportive and helpful during her courses and is available to answer questions after class. "Dr. Pryor was always accessible to students offering optional chat sessions to ensure that the content was understandable," according to a student.
M. Tino Unlap, Ph.D.
Unlap, a professor of biotechnology, "has the ability to take complex concepts and simplify them in such a way that anyone can understand," said one colleague. In addition to biotechnology, Unlap teaches courses for clinical laboratory sciences and nurse anesthesia programs. He is sought after by industry leaders both for his teaching and research talents, including the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and the Heritage Center. He has won The Graduate School's Excellence in Mentorship award and SHP's Excellence in Teaching Award. "Students and faculty appreciate that he uses every means at his disposal to give them access to elite individuals, facilities and learning experiences," a colleague said.