Forged by Faculty

Do you have a favorite professor?

Political science alumni often name professor Barbara Chotiner, who joined the UA faculty in 1978 and retired in 2014. Decades after they were taught by her, alumni still attest to her influence on their lives and careers.

As you know, faculty are the backbone of our enterprise. They are the innovators producing leading-edge research and scholarship; the creatives pushing themselves and their students to think and dream bigger; the leaders empowering students to be impactful leaders and to use their education for the betterment of humanity.

Thus, I was thrilled when I learned of President Stuart Bell’s plan to hire 300 to 400 more tenured or tenure-track faculty over the next five years. As you may know, he announced his vision last fall when he revealed The University of Alabama’s new strategic plan, which 100,000 students, faculty, staff, retirees, parents, alumni, donors, community members, and others helped to develop.

Our enrollment, as you know, has grown tremendously in both quality and quantity over the last decade. But what you may not know is that our faculty have grown only by a few hundred—even less so at the tenured and tenure-track level. Increasing the number of faculty on our campus is crucial to helping us continue the legendary success to which alumni like you are a testament.
As you think about your own favorite professors, I’d like to introduce to you just a few new faces we have on campus who are already making their marks on both the College and University levels.

Diana Dolliver, in criminology and criminal justice, has established herself as an expert in the burgeoning field of cybercrime. Her work has been featured in many national and international news outlets, including a Time cover story. (You can read her advice on how to improve your own cybersecurity on page 8.)

Cajetan Iheka, in English, received the Carnegie Africa Diaspora Fellowship supporting African-born scholars in the United States and Canada to contribute to higher education in African universities.

Kim Genareau, in geological sciences, received a National Science Foundation CAREER award of more than $600,000 to study the relationship between volcanic ash and lightning, a phenomenon that has only recently been studied in detail.

Rebecca Salzer, in dance, produces screendances that have been featured at festivals across the globe.

Kelly Shannon, in modern languages and classics, held a prestigious Loeb Classical Library Foundation Fellowship this spring.

George Hawley, in political science, has published a book nearly every year since joining the UA faculty in 2013, and he is routinely cited for his expertise by news media worldwide, including in The Guardian, in The Washington Post, and on National Public Radio.

Alabama-native Matthew Therrell, in geography, was among the College’s top 10 contact and grant recipients in fiscal year 2014, his very first year at UA.

There are countless stories like these all across campus. Moreover, all of these faculty were hired within the last five years. They embody the impact that The University of Alabama can have when we invest in our most precious resources. (In fact, go back just two more years, to 2010, and the list includes Samantha Hansen, in geological sciences, UA’s only Presidential Early Career Award winner, recognized by the White House for her research in Antarctica. She was awarded a Fulbright Award to work in Greece this fall.)
As anyone in higher education knows, being a faculty member is not an easy role to fill. Faculty members lead busy and high-pressure lives, balancing their own families and lives with teaching, research, and service.

I encourage you to think about the professors who have made an impact on your life, and to contact them to show your appreciation. I also encourage you to share stories of your favorite professors with us. Who are they? How have they advanced your career or transformed your life?

Send us a note online at or by mail at Box 870268, Tuscaloosa, AL, 35487. We love hearing from you.
Have a great fall, and I hope you’re able to visit campus again soon. ■