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Students, professors receive awards

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Kirkland Back – Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

By Chandler Wright | Assistant News Editor

A Gadsden, Ala., native and one of the two student recipients of the 2014 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, Kirkland Back insisted that the award isn’t just hers.

“It was awarded to women all over campus and the city of Tuscaloosa who work tirelessly to find permanent solutions to the many cultural and societal problems we face here at Alabama,” the senior majoring in English said. “That recognition on the University’s behalf gives me great hope and a charge to continue in my work.”

According to the Premier Awards website, the Sullivan Award is considered the highest honor given by The University of Alabama. It is given each year to one man and one woman in the senior class.

Back most recently served as the fourth president of the Honors College Assembly, but she has been involved in various capacities ranging from SGA to Creative Campus. She also serves as the undergraduate student body representative on the Faculty Senate Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, created following allegations of racism in the University’s Greek system last fall.

In spite of her busy schedule, Back said she most enjoys simply spending time with friends.

“I have been so incredibly lucky to meet friends through Creative Campus and the Honors College that I’ll take with me through the rest of my life,” Back said. “It’s cliché but true. I love my friends. I just wish I was a little less busy and could hang out more.”

Following graduation in May, Back will move to Nashville, Tenn., to join the Teach for America 2014 Corps, where she will teach middle school English.


David Phelps – Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

By Chandler Wright | Assistant News Editor

Despite his impressive list of personal achievements at The University of Alabama, David Phelps, this year’s male student recipient of the Sullivan Award, credited much of his success at the Capstone to his peers and teammates.

“[This award] is a testament to the quality of leaders I’ve been blessed to work alongside,” Phelps said. “I could literally describe dozens of other compassionate, focused, bold peers who shaped each step of my journey.”

The Sullivan Award is considered the highest honor The University of Alabama offers, according to the Premier Awards website. It is given to graduating seniors to recognize excellence of character and service to humanity.

The New Orleans, La., native majoring in civil engineering and urban education also helped found Tide Talks, a dynamic speaker and artist series highlighting UA students, in addition to UnlockED, a student advocacy group aimed at reducing educational inequities.

“The feeling that really gets my emotions going is watching my teammates push beyond their perceived limits,” Phelps said. “The truest highlight [of my college experience] is probably all the hugs I’ve shared with teammates after we’ve all exhausted our energies for a common goal.”

Upon graduation, Phelps is moving to New York City to teach middle school math, where he said he looks forward to “building a classroom culture with vibrant sense of academic curiosity, hard work and constant encouragement.”


Margaret Garner – Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

By Taylor Manning | Staff Reporter

Margaret P. Garner, an associate professor in the College of Community Health Sciences, will be recognized as the faculty recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, which recognizes excellence of character and service to humanity.

Garner has worn many hats in the college since she began working at the University in 1977, including assistant dean for health, education and outreach and director of the department of health promotion and wellness.

“My entire professional life as a faculty member and practitioner has been at the University, with the exception of two years,” Garner said. “The University is my professional home. I just can’t think of a better professional life that I could have had. I’ve loved every minute of it. ”

She said the University has also been an integral part of her family life. All five of Garner’s sons are UA graduates, and her late husband, Robert Garner, served as professor emeritus of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Garner spearheaded a campuswide initiative that designed strategies for addressing health issues. The project spawned seven teams that cut across disciplines and focus on health problems such as eating disorders, alcohol and substance misuse and healthy relationships, among others, according to a UA press release.

“For the privilege of an education, the gift of learning, comes the responsibility of giving back,” Garner said. “Giving back means being a good servant in your community.”


Al Gilani – William P. Bloom Scholarship Award

By Andy McWhorter | Assistant News Editor

Al Gilani, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, is this year’s winner of the William P. Bloom Scholarship Award, which is given annually to a junior who has improved inter-group relations at The University of Alabama.

Gilani helped create Diverse Desserts in his capacity as director of the Diversity Branch of the Honors College Assembly. He said he created the program to bring together different groups and discuss diversity in a casual setting.

“When you really get to know another person as [a] human being that’s very similar to you, that common humanity is revealed, and you can actually promote that mutual understanding that you need to move forward,” Gilani said.

Gilani said the key to achieving lasting dialogue on campus is bringing different people and organizations together with one purpose.

“We have all these groups that popped up that are addressing diversity, such as SODEL and 2+2, which is something the SGA came up with, and Blend, and a lot of these have come up as a result of the recent elections and integration issues with our Greek system in general, and I just think the key to all that is collaboration, collaboration, collaboration,” Gilani said.


Brian McWilliams – John Fraser Ramsey Award

By Mark Hammontree | News Editor

Each year, a junior who displays a wide range of skills and interests in their academic pursuits is chosen for the John Fraser Ramsey Award. This year, Brian McWilliams, who is currently in the second of his three-year undergraduate degree program, was awarded the honor.

McWilliams, a junior majoring in biology from Wexford, Pa., works with Alabama Advocates for World Health to collect surplus medical supplies to be sent to areas of need in third-world countries. As the co-president in charge of logistical decisions for the group, McWilliams connects local hospitals and health care facilities with the groups working in underserved areas.

“I’m always hoping to find new ways to give back to the University that has given so much to me,” McWilliams said. “Even before this award, I feel like the University has given me so many opportunities and experiences and friendships, and there’s no other place I’d rather be in the world than where I am right now.”

McWilliams said that after he completes his MBA as part of the STEM program he plans to apply to medical school.


Joshua Moon – Catherine Johnson Randall Award

By Samuel Yang | Staff Reporter

Joshua Moon said he remembers being intimidated as a freshman by the idea of studying chemical engineering. Now, as a senior, he has been awarded the Catherine Johnson Randall Award, which recognizes the most outstanding graduating senior at the University based on GPA.

“I didn’t really think that at the end of four years I would be winning an award [saying] that I was at the top of the class at Alabama,” he said.

As an undergraduate, Moon has been involved with research on several topics, including “sweetening” natural gas, CO2 sequestration and magnetic hyperthermia, an experimental cancer treatment. He has used supercomputers, published papers and been recognized as a Goldwater Scholar.

Moon is currently choosing between graduate programs and plans to pursue industrial research or academia. Looking back at the four years he’s spent at the University, he said he remembers being told that he would be more than a number here. He would be an actual person.

“I’ve found that’s really been the case, more than I could have ever expected,” he said.


Caroline Fulmer – Morris Lehman Mayer Award

By Emily Williams | Staff Reporter

Caroline Fulmer dedicates her time to helping students plan their futures and develop their strengths, and she has been recognized for her hard work. Fulmer, an assistant professor of consumer sciences, is this year’s faculty recipient of the Morris Lehman Mayer Award, which recognizes a student and a faculty member who display service and leadership while making a difference in student life.

The award is named after late professor Morris Mayer, who was head of the department of marketing in the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration and served on more than 100 public committees.

“I am extremely humbled and honored to be the recipient,” Fulmer said. “I had Dr. Mayer as a professor as I pursued my undergraduate degree at The University of Alabama, and he was truly dedicated to teaching and student success. I could not imagine a higher honor than to be recognized with an award that bears his name.”

Fulmer has been teaching in the College of Human Environmental Sciences for more than 20 years. She teaches classes in personal finance and retirement planning, leadership development and management. In addition to teaching, Fulmer serves as chapter advisor and financial advisor for Alpha Chi Omega sorority.

Mary Sellers Shaw – Morris Lehman Mayer Award

By Mark Hammontree | News Editor

The Morris Lehman Mayer Award is given to one graduating senior and one faculty member who have displayed integrity, selflessness and leadership during their time at the University. Mary Sellers Shaw, a senior from Birmingham, was chosen for the student award.

“It’s such an honor, and it’s still very shocking, because I can remember freshman year, walking around and hearing about the Premier Awards and being like, ‘Wow, I wonder if one day I could even be close to being like one of these seniors,’” Shaw said. “So to be in this position now is just really amazing.”

Shaw, who is in New College, is involved in several organizations at the University, including organizing programs with the Community Service Center.

Shaw, who is majoring in communications studies and civic engagement, was also a co-founder and serves as president of Blend, a student organization designed to bring students from various backgrounds together over lunch for meaningful conversations.

Shaw is planning to take a year after graduation to do service work before going to graduate school and said she is thankful for the support and connections she has received while at the Capstone.

“I have been so amazed with the support the University has given,” Shaw said. “This is a place where — you know, when I came to college, I never expected to be able to walk into a dean’s office and sit down and have them give me a hug and know me by name. That’s something that I would really encourage students to take advantage of, the opportunities that we have here.”

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Students, professors receive awards