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 later this fall; more details to come in the eReporter.
The 2020 honorees represent each school, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors College and the Graduate School.
School of Optometry
Terri Call, O.D., assistant professor of optometry, teaches and serves as course master in the areas of optometric methods and procedures, injections and other minor surgical procedures. She also directs the primary care clinic at UAB Eye Care.
Call also has led the way in transitioning to online instruction and serves on the Strategic Advisory, Clinic Quality Assurance, Clinic Oversight and Faculty Advisory committees, among others. In her lecturing, Call is known for explaining difficult concepts and emphasizing clinical applications of knowledge — habits that have enriched the quality of students graduating from the optometry program, a colleague writes.
“A person can’t help but be motivated and inspired by Terri,” a colleague said. “Her depth of knowledge is readily evident as she reviews concepts with students — and with faculty.”
College of Arts and Sciences
Renato Camata, Ph.D., associate professor and undergraduate program director in the Department of Physics, studies clean energy, ionic transport in electroceramics, mid-infrared semiconductor optoelectronics, laser and aerosol synthesis of thin films and nanomaterials.
Camata is “universally esteemed” among his students and fellow faculty, writes a nominator. When a student was unsure of whether to pursue a degree in physics, Camata’s enthusiastic teaching style was a selling point — “that class was one of a few that really made me fall in love with physics,” the student wrote.
Camata has published dozens of articles in peer-reviewed journals, including recently in Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, Data in Brief and Journal of Crystal Growth, among others, and received the UAB Outstanding Academic Advising Award in 2017.
School of Health Professions
Christopher Eidson, assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy, successfully implemented team-based learning in his assigned courses and also in other courses and programs by mentoring colleagues within his department and across UAB.
From 2006 to 2014, Eidson was the department’s academic fieldwork coordinator before moving into full-time instruction; both roles proved him a passionate and committed educator who has “worked tirelessly to understand the mechanics and delivery of team-based learning,” a colleague wrote.
“Educators need to have the ability to build trusting relationships with their students in order to create a safe, positive and productive learning environment,” he/she continued. “He cares for his students and responds to their individual needs to ensure their success.”
Eidson has been published in peer-reviewed publications such as the Journal of Educational Evaluation for Health Professionals, Optometric Education and Occupational Therapy in Health Care.
School of Nursing
Karmie Johnson, DNP, assistant professor in the Department of Family, Community and Health Systems, is a psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner who works with vulnerable patients at the School of Nursing-led PATH Clinic. She also is the wellness coach for the Nurse-Family Partnership of Central Alabama and instructor for adult mental health courses in the school.
Johnson, who assumed a lead role in creating collaborative learning communities within the school, is known for her excellence in conveying complex psychiatric concepts in a relatable way to undergraduate nursing students, a colleague writes.
“Dr. Johnson is the most-often quoted and revered by our students,” he/she continued. “Every time I have heard her name mentioned among our graduate students, it follows that the students’ eyes light up and they begin reflecting on what an influential instructor she is.”
Johnson has been published in journals such as the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions and Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services and has authored or co-authored four book chapters.
Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health, studies associations between dietary patterns and health risks such as stroke. Outside her research interests, Judd prioritizes mentorship, and says the Honors College has provided her ample opportunity to give back to students.
Judd is known for being open-minded and accessible to students she teaches and mentors — even those who are not currently enrolled in her courses.
“She is dedicated to helping students find their passions,” a nominator wrote.
“Even after finishing her course, Dr. Judd remained a valuable resource to me as well as my classmates throughout my undergraduate career, providing a variety of advice and opportunities,” echoed another former student.
In 2017, Judd was honored with the UAB Graduate Dean’s Excellence in Mentorship Award, and she also is the director of the School of Public Health’s Lister Hill Center for Health Policy. Her findings have been published in peer-reviewed publications such as the British Journal of Nutrition, Stroke and Biomarkers, among others.
School of Engineering
Roy Koomullil, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, teaches complex courses in fluid mechanics, and has a natural talent for simplifying complicated engineering phenomena into easy-to-understand concepts and deliver that knowledge to students effectively, a colleague writes.
Koomullil is known for his dedication to his students. He makes time to answer questions outside class and office hours, provides strong syllabi and is open-minded to feedback, often incorporating suggestions from classes into course structures to meet specific student needs.
“He provides excellent guidance and shows students not just how to be successful, but to trust in themselves, building a strong confidence in their ability,” a nominator wrote.
Koomullil has been published in peer-reviewed publications such as Early Career Technical Journal, Journal of Computational Physics and Journal of Physical Mathematics, among others.
Collat School of Business
Randy Kornegay, instructor in the Department of Management, Information Systems and Quantitative Methods, has taught more than 2,500 students across 125 courses at the graduate and undergraduate level while at UAB. He also is the business communications coordinator for the school, responsible for course development and onboarding adjunct faculty.
Students find Kornegay’s approach to teaching — a practice-based approach in which he draws on his industry-consulting background and real-world experiences — thorough and fundamental to success, a colleague writes.
“He created an open environment for students to ask questions and receive feedback,” a student wrote. “I could really tell that he cared deeply about our success.”
Kornegay has authored articles in peer-reviewed publications such as Cooperative Accountant and has consulted for dozens of companies, including Mayo Clinic, EncompassHealth Corp. and Regions Financial Corp.
School of Public Health
Robin Lanzi, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Health Behavior, is a developmental psychologist who specializes in maternal and child health outcomes. Her research focuses on maternal depression, child social and academic development and adolescent development. She launched the UAB Mental Health Ambassadors program, a peer-to-peer mental health promotion program designed to promote mental health awareness, self-care and resiliency in students, in partnership with the Honors College and Student Counseling Services.
Students praise Lanzi’s dedication to mentorship and training and research experiences and her enthusiasm for enriching the student academic experience.
“One thing I really appreciate about Dr. Lanzi in and out of the classroom is her efforts to understand her students’ needs and reach each student where they are,” a nominator wrote.
“She is someone that all of us students know that she has our best interests at the forefront and will do everything she can to support us,” echoed another student.
Lanzi recently has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as JMIR Serious Games, AIDS and Behavior and American Journal of Orthopsychiatry and is the recipient of the 2020 Honors College Dean’s Award, among other honors.
School of Education
Tondra Loder-Jackson, Ph.D., professor of educational foundations, in the Department of Human Studies, helped establish and formerly directed the school’s UAB Center for Urban Education, an alliance between UAB, Birmingham City Schools, schools in the Birmingham metropolitan area and local and national partners that prepares teachers and administrators to work in urban school districts.
Loder-Jackson is a captivating educator, writes one nominator, who uses “her teaching strategies, deep knowledge of her content, Socratic methods and an understanding of adult learners to engage and to push thinking of the learners in the room.”
Outside the classroom, Loder-Jackson is passionate about current events and works to instill that love in her students.
“She was always willing to facilitate and participate in contentious or controversial conversations for the sake of learning and growth of students’ perspectives,” a nominator wrote.
Loder-Jackson has been published in peer-reviewed publications such as Urban Review, Urban Education and Peabody Journal of Education, among others, and is the author of “Schoolhouse Activists: African American Educators and the Long Birmingham Civil Rights Movement.”
School of Dentistry
Augusto Robles, DDS, DMD, is an associate professor of general dentistry who researches dental materials, adhesion and bonding, composites, minimally invasive dentistry and ceramic onlays.
In the classroom, Robles is known for his interactive, informative and up-to-date lectures and presentations, and he carries that standard of excellence into his clinical practice and teaching, students say. He also encourages critical-thinking skills and independence among his students.
“What I love about Dr. Robles is that he does not serve the answer up for you on a silver platter,” a student wrote. “He makes you work your way through the situation and analyze all possible solutions and outcomes. He will help guide you along the way, but he makes you earn it. I think this is so critical for us as young dental students because this is how you truly learn. These are the moments when you grow as a clinician.”
Robles recently has given dozens of presentations for continuing education credit and is a member of the manuscript review panel for the Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry.
Nicholas Van Wagoner
School of Medicine
Nicholas Van Wagoner, M.D., Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and associate dean for students in the School of Medicine, where he leads the Office of Medical Student Services, which offers medical students individualized support and promotes intellectual and professional development.
In the classroom, where he lectures on herpes vaccine viruses and sexually transmitted infections, Van Wagoner is known for being a “superb clinician educator.”
“He is an outstanding educator, clinician and mentor for students, residents and faculty,” wrote a colleague.
“His commitment to education — from the intellectual content to building and maintaining the environment that supports its delivery and adoption — is exceptional,” echoed another.
Recently, he has been published in peer-reviewed publications such as Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Academic Medicine, among others, and has received an award every year from medical students since he began teaching them in 2014, including delivering the keynote address at the 2015 White Coat Ceremony.
Joint Health Sciences
Janet Yother, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Microbiology in the School of Medicine. Her laboratory focuses on bacterial polysaccharides and their roles in pathogenesis — specifically the polysaccharides in Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Yother is known among colleagues and students for being knowledgeable, fair, approachable and straightforward — characteristics she has demonstrated throughout her decades-long career at UAB. Each semester, she teaches the introductory microbiology course, which introduces new concepts to more than 180 medical students, many of whom have never studied microbiology before.
“Dr. Yother is one of the best teachers I’ve had so far at UAB,” one student wrote. “She taught everything in a clear and organized manner and didn’t assume that we already knew things, which made her lectures easy to follow.”
In recent years, Yother has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and Microbial Pathogenesis, among others, and in 2014 received UAB’s President’s Diversity Award.