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The Provost’s Awards for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research, Service Learning, Core Teaching, and Education Abroad honor UAB faculty members who demonstrate extraordinary commitment to engaging undergraduate students in research, creative activities, service learning, core classes, and education abroad experiences.

Deadline and Procedure for Nomination

Nominations must be submitted by March 30, 2024. Any UAB student, faculty, staff, or community member may make a nomination by completing and submitting a short paragraph describing why the nominee is deserving of the award.

Selection Committee: The Offices of Service Learning and Undergraduate Research, Education Abroad, and Blazer Core Curriculum will review nominations and make recommendations to the provost for each of the following categories: Undergraduate Research, Service Learning, Core Teaching, and Education Abroad.

All UAB faculty members are eligible. The awards are based on outstanding accomplishments in teaching and mentoring as demonstrated by any or all of the following:

  • Actively and effectively guides students’ research, creative, or service projects; and personal development.
  • Establishes clear expectations and maintains high standards for academic performance.
  • Inspires and assists undergraduates in developing their own scholarly profiles and in disseminating the results of their work as appropriate (e.g., meetings, conferences, committees, performances, publications, UAB Expo).
  • Actively prepares students for success in applications to graduate and professional schools or professional careers .

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

UAB encourages those making awards, and those naming selection committees for awards to keep in mind the diversity, equity, and inclusion values and goals of both the UAB strategic plan Forging the Future and of the Strategic Diversity Plan.  We strive to make sure everybody counts, every day, and that we actively seek varied perspectives in our decision-making, including when recognizing our faculty with awards.


Each selected faculty member honored receives $1,000 in professional development funding and a plaque that recognizes his or her achievement at the annual UAB Faculty Fellows Celebration.

Recipients of the Award for Faculty Excellence

  • Service Learning
    • The Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Service Learning goes to Ana Oliveira for 2022.

      Oliveira has successfully outdone herself to go above and beyond to implement ways of service learning in her graduate courses and professional school-related programs. In these programs, her students participate in projects related to underserved populations, sustainability and teaching molecular diagnosis to high school students. Many of her graduate students in Oliveira’s courses go on to be assigned as judges at the UAB Expo.

      “Ana is passionate about service learning,” a nominator wrote. “As a graduate of UAB Faculty Fellows program, she has volunteered as a mentor to two fellows in the same program. In addition to her teaching and scholarship reflecting her passion for service learning, Ana’s commitment is also reflected in her service activities. She has volunteered at the UAB Expo many years where she judges student service-learning posters.”

    • Dr.Rinker is a leading professor here for teaching all the German courses at UAB and has acted as advisor for students minoring in German. Both in the language classroom and in her role as the facilitator of Stammtisch, Rinker looked for opportunities to share her interests in her discipline, especially the intersections of German and Austrian literature, film, and popular medical discourses, and promoted student exploration of their own personal and academic interests through faculty-led and third-party study abroad.

      She has been awarded the Faculty Excellence Award for 2021 in Service-Learning for her support in the German and World Languages & Literature departments in the Honors College. Many students who completed study abroad have cited her encouraging efforts in assistance with their applications, not limited to just programs such as the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals and the BACHE partnership.

    • ""

      The 2019 Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Service Learning goes to Caroline Harada, M.D., Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care.

      Harada oversees all service-learning activities in the Heersink School of Medicine, from Equal Access Birmingham, the school’s student-run free clinic for the under- and uninsured, to the service components in each medical school preclinical course. She also developed “Learning Communities,” a new four-year longitudinal curriculum focused on professionalism, wellness, and ethics, centered on teaching through relationship-building. This mandatory part of the medical school curriculum has increased engagement, decreased burnout, and improved wellness among students.

      “Dr. Harada has established herself as an enthusiastic and superior teacher,” wrote a nominator; Harada received the Outstanding Teaching Award from her division in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and the UAB Heersink School of Medicine Leonard Town Humanism in Medicine Award in 2019.

      “I can think of no one more deserving of this award than Dr. Harada,” said another.

    • ""

      The 2019 Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Service Learning goes to Dr. Samiksha Raut, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology. She deservedly receives this award for:

      • making an invaluable effort to connect the meaning of science to non-science majors. She has provided meaningful service learning projects and guest speakers for an engaging experience.
      • providing a greater picture of science’s impact for all majors.
      • helping students feel that they can make an environmental and scientific impact, giving them more reasons to explore a basic knowledge in science.
      • having so much passion and dedication for service-learning that she ensures that all students, not just STEM majors, are informed about how their actions impact the environment both short- and long-term.
      • consistently challenging her students, leading to greater networking opportunities, professional development, and presentation experiences, including a student who received an Honorable Mention at Posters on the Hill and presented at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR).
    • ""

      The 2018 Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Service Learning goes to Dr. Laurel Hitchcock, Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work. Hitchcock deservedly receives this award for:

      • working to incorporate service learning activities for the online and face-to-face courses in her area to enrich the experience of her social work students
      • organizing activities within the service learning opportunities to help her students reach out to the community and to help her students experience authentic social work challenges as part of their studies
      • working to assist other faculty in her department to have the same activities and online resources to be successful in their sections as well
      • collaborating with people across campus to gather the most effective resources for her students
    • ""

      The 2017 award for Faculty Excellence in Service Learning goes to Lourdes Sánchez-López, Professor of Spanish, and associate chair and director of the Spanish for Specific Purposes Certificate program in the Department of World Languages and Literatures. Along with service learning, a hallmark of her teaching, her research and teaching interests are: applied linguistics, Spanish for specific purposes (health and business), second language acquisition, phonetics and phonology, cultural studies, foreign language pedagogy, and engaged scholarship.

      She came to UAB in 2001 to develop and establish UAB’s Spanish for Specific Purposes program (health, business, and translation and interpretation), among the first programs of its kind in the nation. An integral component of this program is its signature capstone service learning course in which students participate in enriching, mutually beneficial experiential learning with a local community partner while engaging in meaningful service to the Hispanic community.

      Through her course and over the years, Sánchez-López has developed numerous and sustained internal (within UAB) as well as external (local) valuable partnerships. Recently she presented at the University of Rhodes in Greece, “Service Learning in Higher Education: In Search of Best Practices” and she has published articles about her work including: Service Learning Course Design in Languages for Specific Purposes Programs and An Analysis of the Integration of Service Learning in Undergraduate Spanish for Specific Purposes in Higher Education in the United States.

    • ""

      The Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Service Learning was presented to Dale Dickinson, Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health. Dickinson has been incredibly successful in creating and implementing transformational learning experiences for his students and serves as a dedicated mentor to his students, colleagues, and community partners.

      One of his student nominators wrote that Dr. Dickinson “impacted my life as an international student who first found it hard to approach professors. When I shared my dream to make my country's health sector world-class, he inspired me to dream big and to believe that there are no limitations.” Another student said that “his assignments enable his students to think beyond memorizing factual information and how to apply the knowledge and facts to real life situations. His classes have challenged me to think by pushing the boundaries, question the unknown, and form my own opinions.”

    • ""

      The 2015 award for Faculty Excellence in Service Learning goes to Assistant Professor Martha Earwood in the Department of Justice Sciences. Professor Earwood exposed students to the theory and practice of supervising criminal offenders in the community outside of prison walls. Through partnerships with the Shelby Country Veterans Court and the nonprofit group Aid to Inmate Mothers, students engaged in grassroots efforts to reintegrate and connect incarcerated offenders into the community. Numerous studies have demonstrated the value of maintaining parental bonds despite incarceration, and Martha’s students helped incarcerated women at Tutwiler Prison record video messages for their children, which helped them maintain relationships with their children.

      Through Professor Earwood’s innovative teaching, her students were able to see how their work in community corrections had a real and positive benefit, before they even graduated from college.

    • ""

      Dr. Lynda Wilson, Professor of Nursing, received the 2014 Provost's Award for Faculty Excellence in Service Learning. She was recognized by students in Interprofessional Global Health Service Learning, an innovative new course, for her guidance, creativity and innovation in collaborating with students and community partners on projects that impact student learning and provide real community benefit.

      Wilson engaged students with community organizations to assess and develop plans that addressed community-identified problems. Besides helping create the course, she mentored a group of students who collaborated with the community group One Roof to create a Vulnerability Index. This index was vital to help the organization evaluate local homeless individuals for housing and other urgent resources.

  • Undergraduate Research
    • The Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research to Samiksha Raut.

      Raut has integrated cutting-edge, high-impact practices for STEM and non-STEM majors that have led to the involvement of more than 30 undergraduate and transfer students. Many students have co-written publications and won awards at national and international conferences, including the highly prestigious Posters on the Hill.

      “As a pre-health sophomore transfer student in my first semester at UAB, I remember Dr. Raut’s approaching me — not the other way around — to discuss my plans post-graduation,” a nominator wrote. “When she learned that I was first-generation and had no research experience, she encouraged me to conduct research with her. I have witnessed her take well over 20 undergraduate students under her mentorship, providing research opportunities to students who otherwise never would have, like myself — those students being ones from first-generation backgrounds, community college backgrounds and those experiencing financial difficulties. Dr. Raut not only opens doors for a student like me, but she tears down walls.”

    • Diane Tucker

      Dr. Diane Tucker is Professor and Director of UAB Science and Technology Honors Program. She earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology and has served on faculty for 36 years. Dr. Tucker is a member of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center and is one of the founding members of UAB Palliative Care. She has served as a psychologist with the Supportive Care and Survivorship Clinic since 2006 and has published in psycho‐oncology, breast cancer, and decision making at the end of life.

      “With 20 years at UAB, Dr. Tucker brings a wealth of interdisciplinary research and education experience to this position,” Capilouto said. “Her interactions throughout campus will help provide our best and brightest science and technology students with a broad array of knowledge, experiences and insights into creative science.” Dr.tucker continues to unite UAB’s most innovative minds to discipline and prepare students in areas of scientific research with the Honors College Science & technology (SciTech) program as the founder and director. She has been awarded the Faculty Excellence Award for 2021 in Undergraduate Research because of her work in offering undergraduate students in Alabama to work with meaningful scientific problems alongside peers and researchers.

      “Dr. Tucker is more than just a director within our program," said Perkins. “She is a teacher, mentor and a friend.”

    • ""

      The 2020 Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research goes to Dr. Burel Goodin, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology (College of Arts and Sciences).

      Gooden is known for offering undergraduates opportunities to get hands-on research experience and invest themselves in projects, actively ensuring students work directly with study participants in critical ways. He also creates fun and relaxed, yet productive and successful lab environments that promote open dialogue and friendship among students, many of whom he mentors personally.

      While some student researchers worry about feeling overworked or under-appreciated by their lab’s principal investigator, Goodin’s students consistently feel valued and encouraged by their work in his lab, a nominator wrote.

      “Dr. Goodin makes sure that each and every person who wants to learn leaves with great knowledge to go out into the world and share,” wrote another. “In the year that I’ve worked for him, I’ve gained more courage, higher self-esteem and a passion for my major.”

    • ""Dr. Suzanne Austin and Dr. Vinoy Thomas.

      The 2019 Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research goes to Dr. Vinoy Thomas, Assistant Professor of Material Sciences and Engineering. Some of the comments that accompanied his nomination include:

      "Dr. Thomas has been tremendous in furthering my knowledge in the field of polymer engineering. He has been an incredible mentor and has given me research opportunities that have helped pave the path I am now pursuing. While working under his leadership and guidance in the Polymers and Healthcare Devices Development research group, I was able to expand not only my educational goals but also my passion for polymer implementation in biomedical applications. He constantly challenged me and pushed me to achieve my goals both inside and out of the research lab. He valued my ideas and encouraged creative thinking while simultaneously providing constructive feedback. He is an excellent and dedicated mentor that actively encourages his students' growth."

      "I visited the University of Alabama at Birmingham as a student trainee in the Physics Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. As a biology major, I immediately felt out of place amongst engineering and physics students from around the nation, and I felt lost as we toured labs that explored astrophysics and lasers. Yet I felt a strange connection to Dr. Vinoy Thomas’s materials science lab. His graduate students worked with biopolymers, 3D printers, and plasma modifications (none of which I learned about in my microbiology labs), but Dr. Thomas accepted me as a student anyway. After discussing my interests and taking into account that I had never done research before, Dr. Thomas suggested a project which incorporated aspects of biology and physics. I often felt discouraged by the results of my experiments, but Dr. Thomas constantly reassured me of my progress. Although my spirits were high towards the end of the program when I presented along with other REU students at the UAB expo, I never expected my project to place in the engineering division. Dr. Thomas’s confidence in me and translated into my love for the thrill of answering scientific questions. My time spent with Dr. Thomas has contributed much to my educational trajectory. Despite having aspirations for medical school upon arriving in Birmingham, my time with Dr. Thomas has opened my eyes to the joys and rewards of research. As a result, I plan to forgo pursuing a medical degree and instead attend graduate school so as to gain more experience in research aligned with bioengineering and health sciences."

      "When I first entered Dr. Thomas’s lab as an undergraduate researcher, I did not have high expectations. I had heard horror stories from fellow classmates that had already joined labs about being a dishwasher, simply cleaning the glassware of the graduate students in their lab without being allowed to do any experiments of their own. Dr. Thomas quickly relieved me of my apprehension surrounding undergraduate research; he made me feel welcome in his lab. I was given an orientation of the lab and introduced to all the researchers working with Dr. Thomas. After a week or two of getting accustomed to working in the lab, I was given a choice of several projects to work on. The fact that I was given a choice of what my project in the lab would be greatly impressed me and solidified my belief that I was going to enjoy my time working with Dr. Thomas. Once I chose my project, Dr. Thomas highly encouraged me to be independent in my research; material choice and procedures for my experiments were not simply handed to me. I was expected to read through papers and do my own literature searches. This process vastly improved my understanding of what I was doing in the lab. If I ever came across a problem I was unable to solve, though, Dr. Thomas was readily available to assist me with his wealth of knowledge. Dr. Thomas often offers his input on my work; he constructively suggests different methods to use and/or different directions to take in my work that help broaden my thinking or introduce me to new issues I had not previously thought of. Dr. Thomas has changed my opinion of undergraduate research for the better and has immensely helped me improve my skills as a researcher."

    • ""Dr. Joel Berry and Dr. Pam Benoit (Dr. Wingo not pictured).

      The 2018 Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research goes to Dr. Joel Berry, Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Director in the UAB School of Engineering in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Dr. Nancy Wingo, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing.

      Dr. Berry and Dr. Wingo deservedly receive this award for the following:

      • Their initiative, Solution Studios, equips undergraduate students to devise creative, research-based solutions to clinical problems. Clinical partners present issues they are facing, students research these issues further, and then they work in teams to devise solutions that can be prototyped and marketed to improve patient care. In this way, Solution Studios touches upon all four pillars of UAB's mission: education, research, community engagement, and patient care.
      • They believe in the potential of undergraduate researchers to make meaningful contributions if provided with sufficient supports and scaffolding.
      • One of the inaugural research teams developed a surgical device to facilitate better patient outcomes for individuals needing an ostomy bag. Dr. Jeff Kerby, director of UAB Hospital's Division of Acute Care Surgery, commented that their device had the potential to change the standardization of care for patients.
      • They have elevated the status of undergraduate researchers by demonstrating that students can make substantive, innovative contributions to UAB's research endeavors.
      • Dr. Berry and Dr. Wingo are a great example of faculty members who present students with opportunities to engage in research.
    • ""

      The Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research award goes to Dr. Stephen A. Yoder, Assistant Professor and Executive in Residence in the UAB Collat School of Business. Dr. Yoder deservedly receives this award for:

      • actively guiding students’ research, providing guidance, and mentorship;
      • maintaining the highest expectations and standards; and
      • pushing students to present at conferences and apply for scholarships and fellowships.

      His efforts result in students being prepared for graduate school and their professional careers. Here is an exemplary story from a student:

      “I am pleased to be able to nominate Dr. Steve Yoder for the Undergraduate Research award. Steve carries a heavy load in the Collat School of Business and is the director of the School of Business Honors Program. As the instructor for the BUS 496 class, Steve has worked as a team with faculty to mentor over 100 student independent research projects. Each of these projects has been presented at the UAB Undergraduate Research Expo or the UA System Honors Research Conference. Many of these students have won awards for their projects. Steve spends a significant amount of time mentoring students in the Business Honors Program and many of his students continue their studies and programs of research. Two of his students have received Rhodes Scholarships. In addition to mentoring students while they are a part of the program, Steve also recruits, screens, and helps select these future business leaders and researchers.

      In summary, Steve Yoder has a passion for helping students achieve their goals. He is a great example of a faculty member who presents students with an opportunity for research and helps to guide them through their process. Many of these students would have never had such an opportunity were it not for Steve’s efforts. Therefore, I strongly recommend that Mr. Steve Yoder be recognized with this award."

    • ""

      The Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research award goes to Dr. Wendy Gunther-Canada, professor and chair of the Department of Government in the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Gunther-Canada is a deserving recipient of this award because of the exceptional guidance and direction she gives students. Here is an exemplary story from a student:

      “I first met Dr. Wendy Gunther-Canada in her 100-level Introduction to Political Philosophy class. I would often stay after class to ask her opinion on whether I should enroll in the Political Science Honors program and write a thesis or add an Economics minor. ‘Why not both?’ she asked. Did she think that I had the stuff to go to law school — ‘Absolutely!’ I have to admit, I was skeptical. I was an academic junior in ROTC with a family, after all. However, I did it all because the Chair of the Department of Government believed in me. I added an Economics minor, and I enrolled in the Political Science Honors program and started my thesis — and Dr. Gunther-Canada volunteered to invest the personal time and energy to be my thesis advisor.

      As I approach the end of my journey through my thesis, I realize that I take more pride in that work than anything else I have done in my academic career. Meanwhile, I've been accepted to law school — something I never dreamed I could do. And I owe these accomplishments to Dr. Wendy-Gunther Canada. But I am just one student. Dr. Gunther-Canada provides mentorship and personal direction to enable a whole department of undergraduate students to research the issues they care about, to contribute to the field, to say something, to pursue graduate education and to be something — and all while mentoring the graduate students and faculty in her department. She just asks one thing of her students: to be educated and active citizens. And still, she signs her emails simply, ‘Wendy.’"

    • The 2015 Provost’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research goes to Dr. Suzan Nozell, Associate Professor in Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology (CDIB) in the School of Medicine.

      Dr. Nozell’s laboratory has a research and clinical interest in the role of inflammation and inflammatory mediators in the pathogenesis of glioblastoma. This is of direct clinical significance as this correlates with poor patient prognosis and independently predicts patient survival. Nozell continues trains many undergraduate and graduate students at UAB, within and outside the Honors program, with both research and clinical perspectives. This diversity in training ability contributes to UAB achievements whereby, recently, a UAB Honors Program undergraduate research student in her lab has been accepted for a Ph.D. program at Harvard University. Further, she also mentors professional research staff in her team.

      In addition to her primary appointment as an associate professor in CDIB, she holds two secondary appointments, also at the associate professor level, in Medicine (Center for Cardiovascular Biology) and at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

      Nozell has multiple scientific papers and reviews published with nearly 1,000 citations and over 500 downloads in various journals to include high impact journals such as Oncogene, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Nature Publishing. She is also a member of the American Association of Cancer Research, the American Society of Cell Biology and the Society for NeuroOncology.

      Dr. Nozell, in the laboratory and in the office, is known for her approachability, communication skills, accuracy, calm and certainly her expertise.

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