12 honored for excellence in teaching

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 were recognized during a reception Sept. 13 in the Hilton Birmingham at UAB.

The 2022 honorees represent each school, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors College and the Graduate School.

Nancy Borkowski

Nancy Borkowski

School of Health Professions

Nancy Borkowski, DBA, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Health Services Administration, has more than 20 years of experience in the health care industry. Teaching across four programs in the department, she has teaching interests including leadership, organizational behavior and strategic management, and students consistently recognize her commitment to encouragement, guidance, thoroughness, patience and kindness as an educator and scholar whose research bridges the gap between academia and the field of practice.

“Dr. Borkowski not only brings a great deal of prestige to UAB through her subject matter expertise and connections to industry, but also has a remarkable ability to translate that experience and expertise into effective teaching,” a nominator wrote.

Borkowski also is the author of the “Organizational Behavior in health Care,” which earned the American Journal of Nursing 2005 Book of the Year Award, as well as three additional textbooks, and has been recognized multiple times by the American College of Healthcare Executives, including with their Excellence in Teaching Award.

Erin Buczek

Erin Buczek

School of Medicine

Erin Buczek, M.D., who was assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at the time of the award, also was associate residency program director and directed Thyroid and Parathyroid Services. Buczek is an expert on head and neck cancer, thyroid and parathyroid diseases, salivary gland tumors and skin cancer. 

In her role at UAB, Buczek demonstrated consistent dedication to education, whether by enabling residents to exercise autonomy in challenging situations, creating new courses to enable students to explore their interest in otolaryngology or organizing an in-office ultrasound training course for residents and fellows. This passion for education translated to mentorship — she worked tirelessly to ensure students could access shadowing, research and educational opportunities, a nominator writes. 

“Even after a full day of clinical activities, she [could] often be seen logging on to virtual meetings to assist with planning otolaryngology rotations or upcoming research blocks,” they continued.

Buczek also exemplified a commitment to patient care as a clinician and surgeon and was known as a skilled diagnostician dedicated to ensuring her patients were educated and knowledgeable about their conditions and related procedures.

“No question is too small for her to answer, and no complex issue is too large for her to explain to her patients,” a nominator wrote. 

Read more from Heersink School of Medicine News.

Tom DeCarlo

Tom DeCarlo

Collat School of Business

Tom DeCarlo, Ph.D., professor and Ben S. Weil Endowed Chair of Industrial Distribution in the Department of Marketing, Industrial Distribution and Economics, teaches distribution management, distribution policy and creativity in distribution while also serving as a faculty mentor for numerous undergraduate research projects.

DeCarlo regularly consults with industry partners to assess their needs in order to best prepare his students to enter the field, often utilizing their feedback to develop new courses. One new course for the major’s medical distribution track enables students to observe live neurosurgical procedures with a UAB neurosurgeon to experience firsthand how medical industry sales representatives interact with surgeons and nursing teams in operating rooms. 

“His teaching methods breed a culture of engaged learning, and not only does it directly influence the students in his classrooms, but affects other students and classrooms across the campus,” a student nominator wrote.

 He also publishes frequently in top-quality journals, with recent articles included in publications such as Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Industrial Marketing Management and the European Journal of Marketing.

Read more in Collat School of Business News.

Ragib Hasan

Ragib Hasan

College of Arts and Sciences

Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and director of the computer science doctorate program and the master’s in cybersecurity program, researches digital forensics and security for cloud platforms, biomedical devices, social networks and databases, incorporating those interests into a diverse teaching portfolio that hosts some of the department’s most popular courses.

Hasan is known for his unique teaching style, which includes instructing students in reviewing peer-reviewed research and providing relevant, real-world examples of how course material relates to current events. He also is a dedicated mentor — several students from the master’s program have since joined tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook — and often can be found holding one-on-one meetings with students to provide research direction.

Internationally, Hasan is recognized for his award-winning, Bengali-language online teaching platform, Shikkhok, which aims to educate rural and underserved students in India and Bangladesh.

“I found Dr. Hasan an amazing mentor,” a nominator wrote. “His guidance helped me to become successful in teaching, research and industry. Even after completing my Ph.D., I am learning a lot from him.”

Jenna LaChenaye

Jenna LaChenaye

School of Education

Jenna LaChenaye, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Human Studies, researches place-based, cultural and ecological sustainability and education, plus neocolonial and poststructuralist theory in education and ethnographic methods in research and evaluation. During her teaching tenure, LaChenaye has developed a reputation as “a knowledgeable and skilled instructor and research methodologist,” a nominator wrote, and often offers customized, independent study courses for students with varied research interests ¬— in addition to her regular course schedule.

“Dr. LaChenaye is an outstanding teacher. She uses a variety of teaching strategies that engage the students, and she relates the material to practical experiences that we can immediately utilize,” a student wrote.

Nominators note that, while LaChenaye’s courses are rigorous, she is popular among graduate students for her generosity with both her help and time: “Jenna is widely known by students and colleagues as a tireless teacher and mentor to her students, as well as a peer mentor to her colleagues with whom she collaborates on scholarly work,” one wrote.

Nathaniel Lawson

Nathaniel Lawson

School of Dentistry

Nathaniel Lawson, DMD, Ph.D., associate professor, director of the Division of Biomaterials in the Department of Clinical and Community Sciences and director of the Biomaterials Residency Program, researches the mechanical, optical and biologic properties of dental materials and clinical evaluation of new dental materials.

He was the 2016 recipient of the Stanford New Investigator Award and the 2017 Innovative Research Fellowship, both from the American Dental Association and serves on the American Dental Association Council of Scientific Affairs and the editorial boards of the Journal of Adhesive Dentistry and Compendium. He also serves as a faculty mentor for UAB’s student chapter of the American Dental Education Association and the UAB Dental Esthetic Club. For his mentorship efforts, he was recognized as the Mentor of the Year in 2020 by the National Student Research Group.

Joe March

Joe March

Honors College

Joe March, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Chemistry and associate director of the Science and Technology Honors Program, has implemented several new courses and activities during his time with SciTech, including a first-year experience course, another course designed to help students better understand theses and proposals, and STH 240, “Big Ideas in Science and Innovation,” which centers on how science is accomplished, the opportunities for commercialization of scientific ideas and the ethics associated with the ownership of those ideas. 

“I have learned more about teaching and about actively engaging learners from Joe than from anyone else,” wrote one nominator. “Observing him and learning from him has transformed my teaching style from ‘telling’ to ‘teaching’ and ‘leading’ students to appreciate new concepts.”

March joined UAB in 1999, and since 2002, the enrollment in General Chemistry I increased from roughly 200 to almost 1,000 current students. Because many of his courses include first-year or first-time college students who may have had fewer chances to form connections between peers, March works to design classes to promote collaboration and team-building, encouraging students to get to know one another ­— something on which students reflect positively: “Instead of struggling with chemistry concepts alone like I did in high school, I was more confident in my ability to ask questions and get help from other people,” one wrote.

Rebecca Miltner

Rebecca Miltner

School of Nursing

Rebecca “Suzie” Miltner, Ph.D., Donna Brown Banton Endowed Professor in Nursing, teaches across all programs in the School of Nursing, which include the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral programs, and “her passion for teaching is evident in her classroom demeanor,” both colleagues and students say. 

Even when teaching on difficult subjects such as statistical analysis, she conveys information effectively in a way “that is easily understood by all types of student learners and transferable to professional working environments,” a nominator wrote, and works to pilot new and innovative approaches to teaching, including real-life, personal examples of complex processes to assist with student learning.

Miltner is a noted expert in quality improvement science with more than 30 years of professional practice in nursing, and nominators write that she inspires and mentors students through research activities, special projects and publication of their work with an objective, analytical approach to information.

“Her contributions to patient safety, quality health care and improvement science have multiplied through her mentorship and teaching countless students in nursing and medicine and other health professional leaders,” they continued.

Luz Padilla

Luz Padilla

School of Public Health

Luz Padilla, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, is one of the longest-teaching instructors in the school’s undergraduate program, joining UAB in 2016 as an instructor in the department.

Padilla created and has consistently taught PUH 201, “Introduction to Public Health,” which reviews the history and philosophy underlying public health, introduces core concepts and values, and highlights the essential functions of public health in society, and has continued to grow in popularity since its creation.

She is known for her commitment to mentoring students and trainees, who note her consistent support and strength as a mentor: “Getting to where I am now, as someone who is the first in their family to get a bachelor’s degree, I had no prior knowledge of academia or continuing education,” a nominator wrote. “In every stage of the projects we worked on, she guided me through the process from the lens of a full-time researcher.”

Padilla also makes herself available to students, never denying requests for assistance, support or guidance, nominators write, and while setting high expectations for her students never feels “unapproachable.”

“She makes everyone feel known, understood and supported. Dr. Padilla thanks each student by name when they turn in assignments or exams,” wrote one nominator. “Dr. Padilla makes a specific effort to acknowledge and include those who sit in the back of the classroom or participate little so that they can feel comfortable speaking and that their voices can be known.”

Vishnu Reddy

Vishnu Reddy

Joint Health Sciences

Vishnu (V.B.) Reddy, M.D., professor in the Department of Pathology and division director of Laboratory Medicine, is also a hematopathologist with four decades of clinical and diagnostic experience. In addition to directing the UAB Health System’s Hematopathology and Bone Marrow labs, Reddy also has developed teaching guidelines and curriculum for trainees and fellows and collaborated with fellow national experts to publish training guidelines for industry programs.

He also was instrumental in starting the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-accredited, nationally recognized Hematopathology Fellowship Program at UAB in 1994 and has served as director of the Heersink School of Medicine’s Hematology-Oncology module for more than 20 years. In 2021, the Department of Pathology announced the establishment of the Vishnu B. Reddy Translational Research in Pathology Endowed Professorship in his name.

“Dr. Reddy excels as an outstanding educator,” a nominator wrote. “He is passionate and effective in sharing his enormous expertise in hematopathology and academic productivity with his trainees and his colleagues.”

Read more in Department of Pathology News.

Lawrence Sincich

Lawrence Sincich

School of Optometry

Lawrence Sincich, Ph.D., professor of vision science and director of the Vision Science Graduate Program, aims to advance the body of knowledge in vision science and bridge the gap between theory and practice through research and education. In addition to conducting his own research studying cone dynamics and visual function on a cellular scale, Sincich also mentors research students and serves on committees to advise students and faculty as they prepare for grants. 

In the classroom, Sincich is known for organizing material and coursework effectively and concisely and simplifying difficult material into easy-to-grasp building blocks for his students, and often can be found working with students one-on-one or in small groups to ensure they are successful in his courses.

“Dr. Sincich always keeps student success at the forefront of every discussion, suggests meaningful and actionable ways for faculty to contribute to that success, and is in general a pleasant and positive influence on the whole school,” a nominator wrote. 

Read more in School of Optometry News.

Wesley Zech

Wesley Zech

School of Engineering

Wesley C. Zech, Ph.D., professor and interim chair in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering and director of the online master’s in construction engineering management degree program, studies topics such as erosion and sediment control and sustainable construction. 

Despite the degree of difficulty in Zech’s undergraduate and graduate courses, his students consistently rank him highly during the course review process ­­— reviews often note that “he is always accessible, happily engages with students and generously spends time with them despite his numerous academic responsibilities,” a nominator wrote.

Zech also is known to be a listening ear for his students, whether they are working to adjust to course loads and university life or navigating their academics with ease.

“He is celebrated due to his ability to address the concerns of top-tier and struggling students alike, motivating all to succeed in their chosen profession,” a nominator wrote. “Dr. Zech incorporates ethics, professional development and lifelong learning in his courses and across the CE curricula.”