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 a reception later this fall; more details to come in The eReporter.
The 2021 honorees represent each school, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors College and the Graduate School.
School of Dentistry
Kiran Chavali, associate professor of dentistry, works to educate students, patients and the community on oral health care in patients with HIV and AIDS via continuing education programs and his work as a CORE educator. He also teaches courses in biomaterials and prosthodontics and is known among students for creating welcoming and interactive learning environments.
Through partnerships with the Alabama AIDS Teaching and Education Center and Medical AIDS Outreach of Alabama, Chavali has worked to educate dentists and their teams working at the Alabama State Department of Corrections and Montgomery’s River Regions Clinic. He also works in direct patient care in the 1917 Clinic dental unit.
“[He] leads with a heart of service, passion for teaching and a desire for his students to master the subjects he teaches,” a nominator wrote.
School of Education
Robin Ennis, Ph.D., associate professor of curriculum and instruction, studies emotional and behavioral disorders in K-12 students and relevant instructional strategies and models of prevention. In the classroom, she works to demonstrate responsiveness and accessibility, model instructional strategy uses and implement research-based practices.
Ennis has published articles in more than 90 peer-reviewed publications, including most recently in Exceptionality, Behavioral Disorders and Remedial and Special Education. She regularly seeks student feedback in courses, often revising assignments, updating syllabi and adopting new textbooks based on their responses.
“Dr. Ennis was in the top tier of professors I had while at UAB,” a student wrote. “She was well-prepared, engaging, thoughtful and down-to-earth. Although she is nationally recognized in the field of special education, she always makes time to meet the needs of her students.”
School of Public Health
Leann Long, Ph.D., associate professor of biostatistics, studies categorical data analysis, selection bias in cohort studies and the application of novel statistical methods to public health research. She often collaborates across disciplines such as stroke and diabetes epidemiology, psychology and injury prevention.
Long is a proponent of student mentoring and works to help mentees learn collaboration and time-management strategies; she also has co-authored several articles with students in peer-reviewed publications, including most recently in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, Diabetes Care and Pain Medicine.
“Her charming personality makes a 90-minute lecture feel like a 10-minute one,” a student wrote. “She updates her lectures with the most cutting-edge theories and methodologies while building foundations.”
Joint Health Sciences
Carmel McNicholas-Bevensee, Ph.D., associate professor of cell, developmental and integrative biology and co-director of the Biomedical and Health Sciences master’s program in the School of Health Professions, researches the biology of human sweat gland cells and inflammation and tissue remodeling in airway cells.
Outside the classroom, McNicholas-Bevensee organized Physiology Understanding (PhUn) Week, the outreach program established by the American Society of Physiology to introduce the discipline into grade schools. She also has led and developed summer camps and high school outreach programs and mentored both graduate and medical students.
“She truly cares about her students and will work extremely hard to make sure that every student does the best they possibly can, often with quite challenging material,” a nominator wrote. “Carmel is always willing to help anyway who asks.”
College of Arts and Sciences
Shahid Mukhtar, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, researches the interface of bioinformatics and life sciences, specifically understanding how macromolecular networks are organized in cells and how pathogen proteins can promote diseases within them.
Mukhtar has supervised research projects in lab settings for more than 45 undergraduates and K-12 students and 18 total graduate students; he is known for his active mentoring style aiming to prepare the next generation of intellectual leaders in biology and STEM fields. Since 2017, Mukhtar has organized the day-long National Science Foundation-funded workshop Green DNA Day, in which he and graduate students teach basic plant biology lab techniques to local high school teachers.
“One of the best things about Dr. Mukhtar and his class is the way he emphasizes understanding, asking questions and application over memorization of material,” a student wrote. “Dr. Mukhtar genuinely wants to see that all of his students learn from his class in a way that is deeper and more useful than just memorizing material.”
Selvum Brian Pillay
School of Engineering
Selvum Pillay, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and director of Materials Processing and Applications Development (MPAD), studies composite materials, advanced manufacturing, engineering education, entrepreneurship, recycling and sustainable materials. Pillay has six patents to his name, including one for fastening devices for land-string buoyancy.
Pillay frequently incorporates social justice topics into his classroom discussions, informed by his experiences in apartheid South Africa, and he is the faculty adviser for the UAB chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and formerly was the adviser for the Society for Hispanic Engineering Professionals. He also frequently makes himself available for students outside the classroom.
“He encourages us and gives us the resources to freely explore what it is we are interested in, all while making himself available to give us guidance and help when we need it,” a student wrote.
Summer Langston Powers
School of Nursing
Summer Langston Powers, DNP, assistant professor of acute, chronic and continuing care, has more than 16 years of experience in critical care and cardiovascular medicine and has trained in simulation and has special interest in interprofessional education and resuscitation science.
In addition to her role in the classroom, Powers is the coordinator for the school’s American Heart Association Training Center and the Student Nurses Association faculty adviser.
“When an image of a nursing role model is searched on the internet, the image should be Dr. Powers,” a nominator wrote. “She should be the face of nursing at UAB and beyond. She embodies the qualities of what a nurse should be: hands-on, caring, a critical thinker, a patient advocate, dedicated innovative and passionate about patients and their health outcomes.
Collat School of Business
Arline Savage, Ph.D., professor of accounting and finance, researches accounting education and focuses on accounting information systems curriculum development and instructional case studies that fellow accounting educators can use to demonstrate critical concepts.
Her research has been published in journals such as Issues in Accounting Education, Journal of Information Systems, Global Perspectives of Accounting Education and Advances in Accounting Education: Teaching and Curriculum Innovations, among others. She is known in the classroom for being inspirational and engaging.
“Knowledge lives on in those one teaches. All professors are remembered for one reason or another,” a nominator wrote. “She made me fall in love with accounting all over again in a way I did not know existed.”
Diane Tucker, Ph.D., professor of psychology, developed UAB’s SciTech Honors curriculum to better position undergraduates to become scientific leaders of the next generation through prioritizing effective communication to a variety of audiences, leadership and teamwork skills and rigorous scientific thinking. She also previously directed the doctoral program in behavioral neuroscience in psychology.
Tucker is known in the classroom for providing students with lists of new facts for memorization and new lenses through which to view the information they learned.
“Dr. Tucker goes above and beyond the requirements of a teacher and makes an instrumental impact on the academic training of every student she meets,” a nominator wrote. “Every alumnus that I have talked to agrees that Dr. Tucker taught them how to love learning.”
School of Optometry
Candice Turner, O.D., assistant professor of optometry, is the coursemaster for the ocular pharmacology course and previously was coursemaster for the clinical skills and methods and clinical management of vision problems courses.
In addition to her role as faculty, Turner also is a clinical attending in UAB Eye Care’s pediatric clinic and researches the effects of traumatic brain injuries on the visual system, pediatric binocular vision and learning and sports vision.
“Dr. Turner’s clinical care is fundamentally patient-centric and always practical, and the students deeply appreciate her willingness to share her expertise,” a nominator wrote. “She is well-regarded among the students as ‘tough but fair,’ and they always appreciate her feedback as thoughtful, accurate and helpful.”
School of Health Professions
Laura Vogtle, Ph.D., professor of occupational therapy, has published more than 50 manuscripts and six book chapters and has been awarded funding for her work studying adolescents with Downs syndrome, traumatic brain injury and general rehabilitation needs.
Her Project TransTeam grant, awarded by the Department of Education, has supported students from occupational therapy, physical therapy and special education to participate in a course centered on transdisciplinary care of children.
“Vogtle has an open mind and a willingness to adapt her teaching strategies to fit the needs of the class,” a nominator wrote. “I have been inspired by her ability to balance all of her responsibilities while keeping her students first at all times.”
School of Medicine
James Willig, M.D., professor of medicine and associate dean of clinical education, is a national expert in gamification in medical education; he is interested in clinical informatics and its use to enhance clinical care, research and education and use patient-reported outcomes to empower clinicians to provide better care.
Willig, who also is associate dean for Clinical Education in the School of Medicine, has won Argus awards for gastrointestinal and pulmonary modules and is the cofounder of the Clinical Outcomes Research Experience rotation at the 1917 clinic.
“James has a quick wit and great sense of humor that make him instantly likeable by so many of his colleagues and trainees, which makes him a natural communicator and effective mentor to bring out the best in others,” a nominator wrote.