Faculty honored for excellence in teaching

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Eleven faculty have been selected to receive the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, which recognizes those who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching.

The 2016 honorees represent each school, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors College and the Joint Health Sciences departments.

jack howardJack Howard

School of Business

Jack Howard, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Management, Information Systems and Quantitative Methods, has been on faculty since 2009, when he was recruited to strengthen the existing Human Resources program within the broader management discipline.

He brings a wealth of professional experience to the classroom and is on the editorial board and a reviewer for numerous professional journals.

Howard has a reputation as being demanding, yet fair, and detail-oriented. Students say he constantly strives to equip them with knowledge and skills that will prove valuable in the workplace, and the course assignments reflect this orientation. "Clearly, he creates an active and engaging learning environment that encourages students to express (and defend) their ideas,” according to one nominating letter.

Howard consistently receives strong teaching evaluations, and students have voiced their appreciation for this level of rigor. “The course is a lot of work, but it is well-structured,” one said. “Howard talks about relevant topics, gives thorough instructions, all tools necessary to complete the tasks and is more than willing to help or answer any questions. Honestly one of my favorite professors.”

doug barrett excellenceDouglas Barrett

College of Arts & Sciences

Douglas Barrett, associate professor of graphic design, is an outstanding teacher and role model selected for “teaching that develops students into artists who are not only conceptually creative but also technically strong.” He accomplishes that through demonstrations and discussion methods that enable students to discover unexpected strengths and abilities that will continue to serve them throughout their adult lives and careers.

A most telling description is this: “Doug expects the best, but he allows us to fail to get there.”

Colleagues say he sets a high standard of design application, discovery, integration and teaching, and by doing so has made  a significant impact upon his students' education, the community, the university and his field.

His national award-winning BLOOM Studio demonstrates his commitment to creating the next generation of leaders in graphic design that can create work that is human-centered and socially responsible. The studio helps students learn to become skilled and creative graphic designers and engaged professionals who work with clients to develop solutions to real-world problems for local non-profits and under-served communities.

nico geurs excellenceNicolaas Geurs


Nicolaas Geurs, DDS, chair of periodontology, has served in every position and rank in the department — from visiting student to resident, research instructor, pre-doctoral and postdoctoral program director and chair — during his 20-year career here.

Colleagues say he has an incredible teaching style that engages the audience and transforms any teaching session into an interactive experience for his students, and he also makes sure that his faculty colleagues are continuously evolving as educators.

Geurs has mentored more than 40 students and residents, many of whom progressed to be finalists or recipients of major university and national awards and ultimately extremely successful clinicians and teachers.

Students describe him as approachable and available with a true desire to teach, with passion and forward thinking that are contagious and fervor for excellence that is evident in all aspects of their interactions with him.

“Whether in a classroom or in the clinic, Dr. Geurs finds a way to instill confidence in us as budding independent surgeons,” said one student. “Our problem-solving skills, compassion for patients and camaraderie with staff have all been heightened under his tutelage.”

jennifer kilgo excellenceJennifer Kilgo


Jennifer Kilgo, Ed.D., professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, is a cornerstone of early childhood special education at UAB.

Throughout her career, she has prepared educators and therapists to serve infants and young children with disabilities and their families, and she has built  a strong graduate program that focuses on putting the latest evidence-based research and practices into use.

Kilgo's passion for teaching can be seen in the premier education program she developed, Project TransTeam, which uses interdisciplinary courses and seminars to teach team-based, recommended practices to students in health and education fields. The same is true for Camp iMagination, a summer assistive-technology camp offered through the Vestavia school system, in which graduate students gain experience with state-of-the-art assistive technology and young children receive exemplary services.

Kilgore’s students describe her courses as interesting, engaging and challenging, and say she is fair, open and responsive to their individual needs and models professional responsibility.

“Each of her students has specific needs and issues, and she continually monitors our programs and progress to make sure we will succeed and become the best professionals we can possibly be.”

lee moradi excellenceLee Moradi


Lee Moradi, Ph.D., a professor of mechanical engineering, directs the Engineering and Innovation Technology Development Center, which develops sophisticated multi-million dollar payload experiments for use on the International Space Station.

He has created an area within his research organization in which students and employees can mingle and work on engineering research problems, and he has mentored and advised hundreds of senior design and graduate students during his teaching career. Moradi also has created opportunities for bright high-school students to work in his laboratories and acquire hands-on experience in engineering and hardware development.

Moradi’s courses receive very high ratings from students who appreciate his engaging style, depth of knowledge and broad range of industrial, government and academic experience. They say he is personable, approachable, concerned with student learning and has a real gift for making difficult subjects easy to understand.

“Every day that I have class, I look forward to attending and learning the material,” said one student. “I definitely recommend him to everybody.”

michelle brown excellenceMichelle Brown

Health Professions

Michelle Brown, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical and diagnostic sciences, brings innovative and inter-professional learning opportunities to her classroom, and her passion for helping others around her grow is evident in her teaching, colleagues say.

Brown regularly teaches across disciplines and schools, and she challenges students to sharpen their problem-solving and clinical decision-making skills through rigorous laboratory and simulation situations. Equally important, she teaches them not to be intimidated by the authority or experience of others — but to be willing to step in and state their case in an assertive, yet humble and caring manner, for the patient’s sake.

Brown is teaching her students the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities to be great clinicians who are able to work in a modern, interdisciplinary acute /critical care environment where critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and teamwork are essential skills.

Students say, "She cares about my success," and "She sets the bar high and doesn't budge!"

david resuehr excellenceDavid Resuehr

Joint Health Sciences

Assistant Professor David Resuehr, Ph.D., is a key member of the anatomy faculty whose responsibilities span the professional schools and the School of Health Professions. He is highly regarded by his colleagues and students,who consider him a talented instructor and educational innovator.

Among his innovations, Resuehr created the Anatomy Teaching Associate program for fourth-year medical students, which expands their skills and lowers the student-teacher ratio for younger students. He also has developed the use of ultrasound as a key component of pre-clinical education, which enables the students to better appreciate the clinical significance of anatomy and makes their learning experience more valuable.

Resuehr also is a lead mentor in the Learning Community Mentoring Program and meets weekly with students to help them adjust to the challenges of medical school and strengthen student-faculty relationships.

“In our development sessions, he strives to ensure we each feel comfortable with each other and does all he can to alleviate whatever school-related stress he can,” said one student, including organizing recreational outings that build connections among the other students.

ashita tolwani excellenceAshita Tolwani


Ashita Tolwani, M.D., professor of medicine, embodies exemplary teaching skills in all aspects of internal medicine, and she consistently is ranked among the top teachers by colleagues and students.

Tolwani’s expertise in developing educational tools for acute kidney injury and continuous renal-replacement therapy is recognized internationally, and her talks are “intellectually stimulating, case-based, relevant and even fun,” says a colleague who attends her residency lectures.

Tolwani directed nephrology’s fellowship program for eight years — mentoring more than 100 fellows — and was instrumental in developing UAB’s in-service examination for renal fellows that has now been adapted by the American Society of Nephrology.

Nominators say she is a consummate professional and incredible role model for the humanistic side of medicine: kind, honest, genuine and humble with all, positive, creative, with a deep commitment to medical education and enthusiasm that is contagious.

“While I learned a great deal of nephrology from her as her clinical fellow, I also learned about the value of the patient-physician relationship. She has a stellar bedside manner and goes the extra mile for any patient under her care.”

dann sommerall excellenceD’Ann Somerall


D’Ann Somerall, DNP, assistant professor of nursing, is an expert nurse educator who sparks student and faculty passion and advancement as the coordinator of the Family Nurse Practitioner Track.

Somerall leads the development, implementation and evaluation of top-quality multidisciplinary learning for her students and demonstrates exceptional standards for learning, professionalism and mentoring through fairness, open-mindedness and accessibility, colleagues say.

She teaches and oversees 160-180 students in each cohort while leading the way in distance-education classroom innovation, including the new Kaizen software that enables students to test their clinical knowledge in a game-based environment.

Students often express appreciation for Somerall's unique ability to succinctly explain difficult concepts and for her attentiveness to the many details of their FNP training. She keeps her courses extremely well organized and interactive, easily explains difficult concepts and draws from her vast professional experience as a family nurse practitioner, according to students.

“Her students are continually challenged to think, research and better themselves and their communities. She perfectly represents an ethical, fair, inspiring and steadfast instructor… and she also inspires her students to reflect these same traits.”

mark swanson excellenceMark Swanson


Mark Swanson, O.D., is a professor of optometry and accomplished researcher, but foremost he is a skilled teacher, compassionate doctor and a role model for optometry students, graduate students and faculty.

In the classroom, he is known as one of the best at explaining difficult concepts in a way that is meaningful and comprehensible. “He has the ability to take a topic as difficult as neuro-optometry and streamline a thinking process that allowed us to understand the important relationship of the eyes to the brain,” one student said.

He also is an exemplary clinician and clinical teacher, students say. “He challenges students and residents to manage difficult cases to help build our confidence as clinicians and our abilities to diagnose, treat and manage complicated non-surgical eye disease.”

Swanson’s interdisciplinary work also sets a wonderful example of the less traditional roles of optometry in medical care.

“Because of his teaching, it is in this class that I believe many students truly begin to appreciate that ocular conditions can be the sign of systemic issues that can even be potentially fatal,” a former student said.

dale dickinson excellenceDale Dickinson

Public Health, Honors College

Dale Dickinson, Ph.D., assistant professor in environmental health sciences, believes guiding students to understand why they are learning what they are learning is the key to engaging them now and fostering life-long learning.

Dickinson, who was instrumental in launching UAB’s undergraduate degree in Public Health in 2013, is a committed teacher who brings his passion for education to every course he teaches, colleagues say.

He is especially credited with helping faculty embrace new ideas related to teaching pedagogy — which he did by example: teaching online classes when others were not, teaching undergraduates when many felt it could not be done in public health and leading the development of three fully online MPH programs.

Whether he is teaching in the classroom, online or in blended courses, his students provide consistent feedback that Dickinson is a committed instructor.

“It is obvious that he is passionate about the subjects he teaches and that excitement flows over into students.”