Each year, faculty who demonstrate extraordinary commitment to engaging UAB’s undergraduate students in research, creative activities, service-learning and education-abroad experiences are awarded the Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence.
This year, the Office of the Provost introduced the Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Learning in a Team Environment to highlight faculty who teach students to succeed in team-based scenarios and use those skills to improve learning.
This year’s winners represent four departments from three schools: Sami Raut, Ph.D., assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology; Vinoy Thomas, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Engineering Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Stacy Moak, Ph.D., professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Social Work; and Dawn Taylor Peterson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Medicine Department of Medical Education.
Raut integrated a service-learning component into her biology for non-majors course, partnering with UAB Sustainability to implement a module on global climate change and sustainable practices. Students participated in service-learning hours at the UAB Gardens, where they pulled weeds, laid fertilizer and cleaned garden plots, all while learning about the flowers, fruits and vegetables grown there.
“Despite the challenges associated with teaching large sections of undergraduate students in entry-level courses, I am impressed with Dr. Raut's commitment to making sure her courses are a positive educational experience for the students and that the content is relevant to their lives and experiences,” a nominator wrote.
Thomas, who is the department’s graduate program director, is known for making undergraduates feel comfortable in labs, often giving them choices between research projects, encouraging them to be independent and offering feedback on their work.
“Because of the way Dr. Thomas leads, I was able to grow as a student, a researcher and an engineer,” a nominator wrote. “His confidence in my ability to participate in research helped me to grow as an independent thinker, and I feel like I am much more prepared for a career in research and design and as a future graduate student.”
In her role as assistant professor of social work, Moak created an academically rigorous faculty-led study-away program to Kenya that integrated hands-on learning with sustainable service-learning practices. Students work alongside the Maasai people to increase school access for young Kenyan women. While there, Moak has developed Birmingham partnerships to support work done in Kenya and enable Kenyan students to travel to UAB as interns.
“Her commitment to opening students’ eyes to the opportunities they have around them is evident in the education-abroad programs she designs,” a nominator wrote.
Learning in a Team Environment
Peterson, who is also an assistant professor in the School of Health Professions’ Department of Health Services Administration and director of faculty development and training in the Office of Interprofessional Simulation for Innovative Clinical Practice, is known among her peers as someone who can help faculty, staff and students from different professions learn successfully from and with each other.
Peterson teaches UAB faculty — and faculty and staff outside UAB — how to use simulations in their own classrooms, both nationally and internationally. She has helped train more than 750 total since 2015.
“As a learner myself during her teaching, she masterfully manages the group to create the best learning environment,” one nominator wrote. “She has a consistent approach to delivering education.”