College of Arts & Sciences Recognizes Outstanding Faculty


Posted on November 4, 2021
Marcomm


The University of South Alabama College of Arts and Sciences hosted it’s 40th Annual Dean’s Lecture and Faculty Awards Ceremony November 3, 2021. Seven faculty members were recognized for their achievements. Clockwise from top left: Dr. Sinead Ni` Chadhain; Thu Olsen; Dr. Philip Carr; Dr. Susan McCready; Dr. Kelly Urban; Dr. Jeremiah Henning; and Dr. Brian Whitener. data-lightbox='featured'
The University of South Alabama College of Arts and Sciences hosted it’s 40th Annual Dean’s Lecture and Faculty Awards Ceremony November 3, 2021. Seven faculty members were recognized for their achievements. Clockwise from top left: Dr. Sinead Ni` Chadhain; Thu Olsen; Dr. Philip Carr; Dr. Susan McCready; Dr. Kelly Urban; Dr. Jeremiah Henning; and Dr. Brian Whitener.

The University of South Alabama College of Arts and Sciences hosted its 40th Annual Dean’s Lecture and Faculty Awards Ceremony on Nov. 3 in the Grand Lobby of the MacQueen Alumni Center. Seven USA faculty members were recognized for their achievements.

“The Arts and Sciences Dean’s Lecture is the longest uninterrupted tradition in the college, and this year we celebrate its 40th anniversary,” Dean Dr. Andrzej Wierzbicki said. “This great event allows the members and friends of the college to recognize the excellence of our faculty members in teaching, research and service. The award ceremony also allows us to meet and socialize, which is very important for a college of our size with 18 departments and one school housed in 13 different locations on the USA campus and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.”

The College of Arts and Sciences is at the center of academic life at the University of South Alabama. With approximately 250 full-time faculty members in nineteen departments, the members of the Arts and Sciences faculty teach the core of the liberal arts curriculum for all majors at the University. The dynamic and dedicated faculty members are committed to helping students reach their full potential.

The Dean’s Lecture Award is given to a full-time full professor in the College of Arts and Sciences who has been employed at South for at least seven years in recognition of excellent scholarship or academic achievement throughout the faculty member’s career. This year’s recipient is Dr. Phillip Carr, professor of anthropology and Chief Calvin McGhee professor of Native American Studies in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work

Carr has served at the University of South Alabama for 22 years. He is an archaeologist specializing in the prehistory of the Southeast United States. Carr’s research particularly involves understanding prehistoric hunter-gatherer lifeways and stone tool technologies. His recent research has included simulating the formation of prehistoric lithic assemblages, expanding an organization of technology approach, and an examination of the stone tool assemblage from 22LI504. He currently serves on the editorial board of the University of Alabama Press.

“I love working at South because we provide so many opportunities for our students,” Carr said. “Anthropology majors can help lead tours at the USA Archaeology Museum, learn excavation techniques in an archaeological field class and analyze the artifacts they find in the lab. I have the opportunity to work alongside students as they learn and most universities do ot provide those opportunities.

The Teaching Excellence Award is given to full-time or part-time faculty members of the College of Arts and Sciences in recognition of excellence in teaching. One of this year’s recipients is Thu Olsen, who serves as a full time instructor in the Department of Earth Sciences. Olsen has served at South for two years. She has developed a capstone data collection and analysis laboratory involving the on-campus groundwater well field at the Glenn Sebastian Nature Trail as a model exercise used for general education assessment. Most recently, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Olsen developed interactive online exercises including virtual field trips to explore important deposits and outcrops on Earth and Mars. She is currently developing a field trip lab exercise at Three Mile Creek on campus to provide more hands-on learning experiences for her Earth History students.

“South has the most beautiful campus and it has a great faculty-to-student ratio that provides our students excellent college experiences,” Olsen said. “I really enjoy teaching geology at South, and I am thankful for the opportunity to teach and help our students develop academically.”

Dr. Jeremiah Henning, who serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology, also received the Teaching Excellence Award. Henning has served at South for three years. He recently served as a senior author on a paper published in Nature Communications titled “​​Nitrogen and Phosphorus Fertilization Consistently Favor Pathogenic over Mutualistic Fungi in Grassland Soils.”During his time at South, Henning has received two National Science Foundation grants that investigate diversity, equity and inclusion issues. He received a $299,839 grant in October 2021 titled “Envisioning Equitable Biology through Open-Source Course Modules.” Acting as the lead researcher, Henning also received a $348,000 grant in August 2020 for the proposal titled “Understanding How Students’ Identities Shape STEM Retention.”

“I love living on the Gulf Coast,” Henning said. “Having access to the beach and, at the same time, having access to one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in North America with the Mobile-Tensaw Delta is an incredible place to live and conduct research.”

Dr. Kelly Urban, who serves as an assistant professor of history, also received the Teaching Excellence Award. Urban has served at the University for three years. Her current research manuscript, “Politicosis: Tuberculosis, Health Activism, and the State in Twentieth-Century Cuba,” is under advance contract with the University of North Carolina Press. To support the research for this project, she was awarded the Albert J. Beveridge Research Grant for Research in the History of the Western Hemisphere from the American Historical Association and the Faculty Development Council Grant from the University of South Alabama.

“Mobile historically belonged to networks in the U.S. South, the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic World,” Urban said. “This rich history connects easily with my own research on the history of medicine and race relations in the Caribbean. In the classroom, my students make such interesting observations when they compare the history that happened in their ‘backyard’ with places like Havana and Rio de Janeiro.”

The Junior Faculty Award for Scholarship and Academic Achievement is given to an early-career faculty member (assistant professor or associate professor) to recognize excellent scholarship or academic achievement. This year’s recipient is Dr. Brian Whitener, who serves as an assistant professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature. Whitener has served at South for six years. After working on his book “Crisis Cultures: The Rise of Finance in Mexico and Brazil” for eight years, the final copy was published in 2019 and has been well received. Members of the Sally Steadman Azalea Chapter of Mortar Board Honor Society at the University of South Alabama named Whitener as a Top Professor, also known as “Top Prof,” in 2017, 2020 and 2021. 

“I enjoy working at South because the University has so many engaged and intelligent students and my colleagues in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature are innovative teachers and researchers and wonderful people,” Whitener said. “I love working with students at South, so it means a lot when they say I have made a difference to them.”

The Outstanding Service Award is given to any full-time faculty member of the College of Arts and Sciences who has been employed full time at USA for at least seven years in recognition of career achievements in service to the department, college, university, community, and academic or disciplinary profession. This year's recipient of the award is Dr. Susan McCready, who serves as a professor of French and chair for the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature. McCready has served at South for 23 years. She has authored two books on French theatre titled “The Limits of Performance in the French Romantic Theatre” and “Staging France between the World Wars: Performance, Politics, and the Transformation of the Theatrical Canon.” During her time at South, McCready previously received the Arts and Sciences Teaching Award and the Arts and Sciences Dean's Lecture Award. She also served as president of the Faculty Senate from 2019-2020.  

“South is special because it is a major research university with a medical center and, at the same time, a place with outstanding student-focused teaching,” McCready said. “My colleagues and students make this a great place to work.”

The Excellence in Directed Study Award is given in recognition of outstanding faculty performance in undergraduate directed studies or similar directed learning courses, such as undergraduate senior thesis courses. The award is intended to recognize faculty undergraduate instruction that is not a part of a faculty member's standard teaching load. 

 This year’s recipient is Dr. Sinéad Ní Chadhain, who serves as an associate professor of biology. Ní Chadhain has worked at South for 13 years. His research focus is in microbial ecology, biochemistry and genomics. Ní Chadhain’s group primarily studies how bacteria can break down various pollutants including oil. During her time at South, Ní Chadhain has been selected as a “Top Prof” four times. He has developed multiple undergraduate research experience courses where students engage in real world research as part of class. Most recently, Ní Chadhain was funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, along with Dr. Brandi Kiel Reese and Dr. Ruth Carmichael, to study sources of microbial contamination in Mobile Bay.

“I love the students at South,” Ní Chadhain said. “Like myself, many are the first in their families to go to college, so we have a lot in common, even though I grew up in another country speaking a different language. I love that our upper level biology classes are small enough that I really get to know each of my students. I also love living in Mobile. I grew up in a rural area in the west of Ireland where visiting with your neighbors is part of the fabric of everyday life; midtown Mobile has a similar friendly culture.”


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