Thirteen faculty members will be honored with the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching during the annual Faculty Convocation Monday, April 23 at 10 a.m. in the Alys Stephens Center Sirote Theatre. The 2007 honorees represent each school and the Joint Health Sciences departments.

Ward Haarbauer, Ph.D.
Arts & Humanities

Haarbauer, a professor of theatre and associate dean of the school, will end a 40-year career at UAB when he retires in June. Students described him as a “man of great character with a passion for his craft” whose unfailing support for students leads him to attend every department production, “no matter how large or small.”

Faculty remark that administrative duties may have reduced his class time, but he still remains one of the strongest teachers and student mentors in the department.

Haarbauer has amassed a long list of service and professional activities. He helped found the state theatre association and the Birmingham Area Theatre Alliance, which recently presented him a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Nell Adkins, Ph.D.

Adkins, an associate professor of accounting, joined UAB in 1999. A teacher specializing in taxation, she spends endless hours preparing for classroom teaching and devotes evening hours and weekends to meeting with students, co-workers say.

Her commitment as faculty advisor for the Beta Alpha Phi fraternity “has tirelessly extended her role from teacher to mentor” and distinguishes her from those who are “good in the classroom.”

Former students said her enthusiasm and real-world examples have been critical to their success, and she is “a valued asset to the university and a welcomed mentor to students.”

Ken Tilashalski, D.M.D.

Tilashalski is an associate professor with qualifications in oral and maxillofacial pathology and endodontics. He holds a secondary appointment in the School of Medicine, and he is an associate scientist in the centers for Metabolic Bone Research and Minority Health and Research and a scientist in the Center for Outcomes Effectiveness Research.

His diverse knowledge has enabled him to take on a leadership role within the school while lecturing in 10 or more classes each year in addition to offering seminars. His use of audio and video streaming make his lectures “upbeat and memorable.” Letters say his “cutting-edge and lively presentations” are highly rated by students, and he also is a very popular continuing education speaker, conducting more than 100 courses per year.

Jerry Patterson, Ph.D.

Patterson is a professor in the Educational Leadership graduate program who has committed more than 30 years to teaching and administration, from elementary school to college. His innovative approaches to teaching and his ability to exploit new educational technologies, nominators say, enable students to “reach beyond the traditional classroom walls.”

He is called a “never-tiring leader among his colleagues,” and he encourages others “through work and deed” to participate in university-sponsored committees and professional organizations. Most important, one noted: “He demonstrates that teaching is about giving students room to learn how to think for themselves.”

Virginia Sisiopiku, Ph.D.

Sisiopiku is an associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering who has helped significantly expand the graduate course offerings in transportation engineering.

Testimonies from students reflect her devotion to teaching and advising, and she involves her students in professional association activities that promote learning. Her use of technology to develop distance-learning courses has benefited students on all three system campuses and expanded their professional training opportunities.

Bradley Newcomer, Ph.D.
Health Professions

Newcomer is an associate professor of medical imaging and therapy and program coordinator for the School of Health Professions’ Honors Program. He also is a scientist in the centers for AIDS Research and Aging and an associate scientist in the Clinical Nutrition Research Center.

Newcomer is commended for his effectiveness in conveying difficult subject matter without “dumbing down” the material, and with connecting with students through teaching and mentoring. Said one colleague: “I know teachers can be made and developed, but in my opinion Brad has a set of superior built-in teaching skills.”

Louis Justement Ph.D.
Joint Health  Sciences

Justement is a professor of microbiology and associate director of the School of Medicine Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) that promotes education in biomedical research. He has been recognized as best coursemaster – and medical microbiology has been recognized as the best course by the medical students’ Argus awards – but the quantitative proof is the students’ consistently excellent performance on that component of the national board exams, nominators say.

Justement has been a member of the curriculum re-vision task force and “a leader in articulating the vision that will shape medical education at UAB.” His understanding and his devotion to providing research experiences “have helped the MSTP develop into one of the strongest components of our educational program.”

Robert Cerfolio M.D.

Cerfolio is a professor of cardiovascular/thoracic surgery whose patient volume and long operating times create a strenuous rotation for medical students. But, “no other service is more fiercely requested by medical students,” according to one letter writer who said the reason is simple: “He is an outstanding teacher who captures their hearts, stimulates their curiosity and inspires them to learn.”

One student, who noted Cerfolio’s dedication to teaching was evident from his first encounter, said the surgeon’s willingness to help hone his clinic skills and permit him to participate in clinical trials helped him to realize his interest in academic surgery.

Renato Camata Ph.D.
Natural Sciences & Mathematics

Camata, an assistant professor of physics, receives high praise from students, whether he is teaching a graduate-level physics course or physical science to non-science majors.

Graduate students considered him to be a dynamic instructor whose pep talks and career-planning advice help them achieve their goals. A member of the physical science class wrote that “an enlightening learning experience” materialized where she expected tedium in a five-hour summer class: “He truly wanted us to learn and retain what he was teaching, not only to expand our knowledge but also to show us different ways of looking at how and why the world works.”

Jill Ross Ph.D.

Ross is an assistant professor of nursing whose exemplary classroom instruction is cited in her nomination, but it is her inspiration to community service and professionalism that is most detailed.

One project requiring students to present and talk with pregnant women at Alethia House helped them overcome their fears and build confidence in their teaching skills and understand the reward of nursing.

Said one student: “The experience of teaching and reaching out to the individuals in the community in need of nursing expertise has encouraged me personally always to seek out the opportunity for community teaching as part of my career.”

David Whikehart Ph.D.

Whikehart is a professor of vision sciences who is considered by colleagues to be a diligent and consistent educator who sets high academic and moral standards in all his teaching endeavors and is rewarded with his students’ respect.

One reason noted is his efforts to “learn about the background of his students to anticipate who will excel and who may struggle so he is prepared to help those in the latter group.”

Whikehart’s ideas have helped the curriculum committee improve the research opportunities for professional students and his devotion to mentoring graduate students is rewarded with “hard work and fruitful projects.”

Pauline Jolly Ph.D.
Public Health

Jolly is a professor of epidemiology who also directs the Minority International Research Training (MIRT) program, the Doctor of Public Health Program in International Health and the Peace Corps Master’s International Program for the School of Public Health. Students say she challenged them to be productive individuals in the field and achieve their goals and provided opportunities to serve the global community while acquiring life skills.

Said one in the MIRT program: “She has inspired me to further my studies and work to serve order to control and eradicate disease that have plagued humankind. My life and others will not be the same because of Dr. Jolly; she has made us leaders who will follow in her footsteps.”

Michael Sloane Ph.D.
Social & Behavioral Sciences

Sloane is an associate professor of psychology and a scientist in the Vision Science Research Center and the Rehabilitation Research Training Program.

Students say he takes dense information and makes it comprehensible, engaging and relevant. He uses technology and visuals to help students experience the phenomena they are studying, such as optical illusions, and he relates the course information to directions in current research.
One student said Sloane’s objectivity in teaching helps them re-examine their assumptions about ethical issues.

“When discussing prejudice, stereotypes and implicit attitudes, he made sure we saw it was a matter of degree and that such judgment mechanisms have advantages (comprehending the world around us), and he used up-to-date studies to teach us about the neural basis of stereotyping.”

That, coupled with a deadpan sense of well-timed humor, makes it “nigh impossible to turn your brain off in his class.”