12 honored for excellence in teaching

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Twelve faculty have been selected to receive the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, which honors those who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. They will be recognized during the annual Faculty Convocation to be held 4 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Hilton Birmingham at UAB.

The 2019 honorees represent each school, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors College and the Graduate School.

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Kannatassen Appavoo

Honors College

Kannatassen Appavoo, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physics, is engaged in designing, fabricating and characterizing electronic nanomaterials for targeted technologies in energy and optoelectronics. Appavoo’s courses range from 200-level courses on non-calculus-based physics to first-year graduate courses on introductory quantum mechanics.

“Dr. Appavoo has sparked a passion for physics in myself that I didn’t even know was there,” a student writes.

Has been published in journals such as Physical Review B and Science and was awarded a Goldhaber Distinguished Fellowship from the Brookhaven National Laboratory from 2013-16 and the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Award in 2018.
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Erika Austin

School of Public Health

Erika Austin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics, strives to use rigorous scientific research to promote equity and social justice. Students say she is dedicated to her work and has no shortage of understanding and patience when addressing both academic and administrative issues — which results in a classroom of learners who “feel respected and valued for their unique contributions,” one wrote.

“Her teaching record displays a steadfast dedication to diversity, inclusivity, acceptance and mutual understanding,” another said. “At the start of each semester, Dr. Austin makes it clear that she is not only interested in facilitating the academic progress of students, but truly getting to know them on a personal level without judgment according to preconceived notions.

Austin has been published in the journals Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Psychological Services, among others, and has work forthcoming in PLOS One and the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.
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Brenda Bertrand

School of Health Professions

For more than 23 years, students have recognized Brenda Bertrand, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences and director of the nutrition science graduate program, as an outstanding dietetic and nutrition educator and adviser. She is known in her department for mentoring students and colleagues. One writes that, of the nominating committee, three of the five members discovered they had each sought Bertrand’s advice on various teaching dilemmas during the past year.

“Dr. Bertrand is a treasure in our school, for her department and especially for her students, who are the real beneficiaries of her talent,” another colleague wrote.

Bertrand has worked to create new tracks, degrees and certificate programs in her school, including the master of public health/nutrition sciences dual-degree program. She has published dozens of articles in peer-reviewed publications such as the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
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Susanne A. Fogger

School of Nursing

Susanne Fogger, DNP, professor in the Department of Family, Community and Health Systems, is an expert in psychiatric nursing, addictions and mental health care for under-served populations, focusing specifically on those with HIV and veterans. In the classroom, Fogger is known for being an engaging and committed instructor. One student writes that her “continued engagement in my success, even following my graduation, enables my professional development to exceed expectations as a nurse practitioner in my clinical setting and to be a contributing expert in my field of practice.”

Fogger is known for encouraging critical thinking and creative insight in her students and for always being available for mentorship, which one student says makes her “a faculty role model for academic success, academic practice and professional performance.”

She has received numerous awards, including the 2017 President’s Award for Service from the International Nurses Society on Addictions.
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Keith Gurley

School of Education

Keith Gurley, Ed.D., associate professor in the Department of Human Studies, researches school leadership, specifically the role of assistant principals, and is known in his department for providing effective classroom instruction, inspiring and mentoring students and using innovative teaching methods. One student writes that Gurley is the “heart of the instructional leadership program at UAB,” and that “he never lost sight of the connection between his teaching and learning.”

Gurley also recognizes that scholarship translates into better classroom practices, another student writes; he has published articles in journals such as School Leadership and Management and Journal of Educational Change and helps shepherd students through the journal article submission process.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Gurley is on the editorial board of the American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences Journal.
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Maninder Kaur

School of Dentistry

Maninder Kaur, BDS, assistant professor in the Department of Periodontology, is known in the classroom for breathing life into traditionally mundane topics — one student recalls a stimulating discussion on the role of dental plaque in oral disease. Outside the classroom she alway makes time for students, often delaying lunch to maintain her open-door policy. Kaur “has a unique ability to treat everyone as a colleague regardless of their level of training,” another student writes.

Kaur’s work has been published in publications such as the Journal of Clinical Periodontology and the Oral Hygiene Journal, and in 2015 she earned the Educator Award for Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring in Periodontics from the American Academy of Periodontology.
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Vineeta Kumar

School of Medicine

Vineeta Kumar, M.D., professor in the Division of Nephrology, director of the transplant nephrology fellowship program and clinical director of the MS1 renal module, has earned the praise of medical students, residents, fellows and colleagues during her time at UAB. She is popular for always engaging, challenging and inspiring growth in her students, a colleague writes. She also has gained national prominence for her teaching activities, serving as chair of the education committee for the American Society of Transplantation in 2014 and as a panelist for trainees at the American Society of Nephrology in 2015 and 2018.

One student writes that Kumar energized exhausted first-year medical students with interactive and creative presentations on renal education, using students’ competitive nature to inspire them to come prepared for lectures: “I cannot describe how much we needed Dr. Kumar’s energy, kindness, proactivity and teaching style as we rounded out our final module of the first year.”
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Charles Monroe

School of Engineering

Charles Monroe, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is known for bringing enthusiasm and energy to everything he does, including teaching. Monroe has helped modernize the department’s curriculum, including creating online question banks in Canvas for widespread faculty use. One student remembers approaching Monroe after having a difficult time understanding a concept from class; Monroe sat with him for about two hours explaining the idea until it finally clicked. “When I walked back out of his office, I felt as if the way the world works had just been explained to me,” the student wrote. “I went on to recover from the first test and get an A in the course. I’ve seen him do the same with countless other students.”

During his tenure in the department, Monroe has developed four new courses, revamped one and taught 17. In addition to his work at UAB, Monroe has been a Foundry Education Foundation Key Professor since 2012.
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Karolina Mukhtar

College of Arts and Sciences

Karolina Mukhtar, Ph.D., associate professor and associate chair in the Department of Biology, is a broadly trained molecular plant biologist with more than 10 years of experience studying plant-microbe interactions using genetic and biochemical approaches. Mukhtar also studies the development and implementation of instructional strategies for teaching students with learning disabilities. Students praise her intriguing lectures and contagious excitement: “She engages students in such a way that we feel we can truly impact the world — we aren’t just idly sitting in desks learning information for future tests. She challenges us to take what we have learned and utilize it outside of the classroom, ever reaching to improve not only our own lives, but the lives of others.”

Mukhtar has been published in journals such as Frontiers in Plant Science and Journal of Visualized Experience and in 2018 received the Faculty Travel Award from the American Society of Plant Biologists.
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Julio Rivera

Collat School of Business

During his 30-year tenure at UAB, Julio Rivera, DBA, associate professor in the Department of Management, Information Systems and Quantitative Methods, has remained intimately involved in curriculum development at the program, school and university level. In the classroom, he is popular for teaching students how to fix a problem and also how to recognize where the problem is in order to formulate their own solutions: “He taught that having a solid foundation is great, but it is imperative that students think for themselves and not just regurgitate what’s in a textbook,” one student wrote.

Another student says that Rivera is deeply committed to student success, and that his background in his field allows him to teach with authority and experience while retaining the ability to communicate difficult concepts to students.

His research focuses on computer-mediated learning and information security and Rivera has been published in Information Security Education Journal and the Journal of Cybersecurity Education, Research and Practice, among others.
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David Schneider

Graduate School

David Schneider, Ph.D., associate dean of graduate biomedical sciences and professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, studies fundamental processes that govern cell growth and proliferation, which has potential clinical application in cancer cell biology. He is known to students for his willingness to change his courses based on student feedback — “he takes his evaluation forms and implements new material, structure and supplemental information to improve the course,” one student writes. These changes have helped students think more scientifically and critically and less about the memorization of minute details, they continue.

Outside of the classroom, Schneider mentors students even when they no longer are under his tutelage. “Many students continue to seek advice and mentorship well after they finish his course,” one wrote.

In 2014, Schneider received the UAB Graduate Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship, and his work has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Cell, among others.
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Katherine Weise

School of Optometry

Katherine Weise, O.D., professor in the Department of Vision Science and director of UAB Eye Car Pediatric Optometry Services, is a “natural educator,” according to her students, who say that she is full of energy and that her enthusiasm for pediatrics is infectious. Weise studies myopia, or nearsightedness, and also has studied how vision is affected by concussions.

“Most would agree [Weise] is a superwoman,” one colleague writes, saying that they cannot imagine the number of lives she has touched during her commitment to academia.

Weise is currently the co-chair of the Myopia Treatment Study Protocol Development Committee for the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group and is the 2019 Hero for Sight recipient from Sight Savers America. Her articles have been published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology and Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, among others.