Faculty Service Leadership Awards honor dedication

Posted on April 14, 2021

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Aerial view of campus and the downtown Greensboro skyline.

Spring is a time of celebrations at UNC Greensboro – the special acknowledgement of past achievements and the ushering in of new beginnings. One such celebration focuses on highlighting the faculty who have made outstanding contributions to teaching, research, and community service and engagement.

Dr. Rebecca MacLeod was honored this year with the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award, several faculty members were recognized with Mentor and Advising Awards, two were honored with Research Excellence Awards, and four were honored with the additional campus-wide teaching awards.

The Excellence in Leadership Service Awards awards are another way in which our Spartan teachers and researchers are recognized for their impact on communities and lives that extend across the University and well beyond.

View their video feature here and read about their work below.

Dr. Rebecca G. Adams

Gladys Strawn Bullard Award
Dr. Rebecca G. Adams, Professor
, Gerontology Program, Department of Social Work

“One of the great things about UNCG is that it supports service, and it’s possible to make a difference,” Dr. Adams says. “My advice to faculty who want to get involved in serving UNCG is to think about what passions they have that will sustain them, and to find ways of integrating their research and teaching with their service.”

“The most rewarding thing about serving UNCG has been watching it change, as many committed faculty, staff, students, and alumni have worked on making it a more diverse, a more inclusive, and more accessible place.”

Adams is the faculty recipient of the Gladys Strawn Bullard Award, which is given to those who show commendable initiative and perseverance in their leadership and service roles, including those who quietly guide “the few”, as well as those who are more conspicuous and develop creative ideas and programs that advance the University, and whose contributions have significantly promoted the purposes of the University to provide an environment which encourages and nurtures the development of people.

Adams has been successful in establishing GROWTH (Gerontology Research, Outreach, Workforce development, and Teaching Hub), which works to bring together people from UNCG and Guilford County who are invested in making aging-friendly communities the norm.

In addition to being the Gerontology Undergraduate Coordinator, Adams has chaired the Interdepartmental Studies Gerontology Program (1984-93), chaired College Council (1988-89), was Secretary of the Faculty Senate (1996-97), served as Assistant to the Dean of Continual Learning (1999-2000), was faculty coordinator for UNCG’s SACS accreditation reaffirmation (2000-2003), served as Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Planning (2004-2005), chaired the Faculty Senate (2008-2009), oversaw the development of the UNCG Strategic Plan 2009-2014, directed the Gerontology Master’s Program 2013-2017, and coordinated the Another Year of the Dead events (2018-2019).  

Dr. Andrea Hunter, professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, and Chancellor’s Fellow for Campus Climate, says of Adams:

“Dr. Adams’ leadership is a critical part of the continued growth of shared governance on our campus, and she has been an important voice in our progressive evolution in areas of equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

Dr. Justin Harmon, assistant professor of Community and Therapeutic Recreation in the School of Health & Human Sciences, says of Adams:

“From my first encounter with Dr. Adams, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to know, through today, where I’m certain about what it is I’m after in my scholarship, she has evidenced true leadership and service, not just broadly applied across the University and her field, but to the community – of yesterday, today, and the future.”

Dr. Stephen Sills

Holshouser Award for Excellence in Public Service Nominee
Dr. Stephen Sills, Professor, Department of Sociology

“I am very conscious of the racial justice elements of the work that I do,” Dr. Sills says. “I try to be the best ally I can. The neighborhood associations, the residents, and groups that we’re working with really are invested in improving their communities.”

“The East Greensboro apartment complex has shown a dramatic, statistically significant drop in cases of asthma. Over the course of two years, that’s the immediate, tangible results – improvements in quality of living, improvements in housing, improvements at the policy level, and at the economic level. So we’re really working at multiple levels of impact.”

Sills has been nominated for the Governor James E. Holshouser, Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service, which was established by the UNCG Board of Governors in 2007 to encourage, identify, recognize, and reward public service. The award recognizes those who have demonstrated distinguished service and sustained achievement in improving the quality of life for citizens of North Carolina.

Sills is director of the Center for Housing and Community Studies. His research centers around housing, health, and labor – especially pertaining to minorities and immigrants.

Sills’ numerous community-based participatory research and development studies across North Carolina range from an analysis of community and family resilience in High Point, to a report on fair housing in Surry, Yadkin, Stokes, and Davie Counties, to a study of the quality of life in Southern Appalachia. An innovative educator, Sills created an International Service-Learning Study Abroad Program titled “Global Servants,” which allowed students to conduct applied research in Taiwan and the Philippines. The students studied global labor migration first-hand while conducting ethnographic work with factory workers and returning migrants.

Dr. Terri Shelton, Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement, and Carol Jenkins Mattocks Distinguished Professor, had this to say about Sills:

“Dr. Sills work really exemplifies what it means to UNCG to be a public research university. By working with community partners to identify concerns and generate solutions, conducting and translating research into practice, and involving undergraduates and graduate students in this cutting-edge work, Dr. Sills’ body of research has tangibly improved the quality of life for the citizens of North Carolina. The work serves as an exemplar for community-engaged scholarship and a model that can be applied to other communities as well.”

Dr. Omar Ali

O. Max Gardner Award Nominee
Dr. Omar Ali, Dean, Lloyd International Honors College

“We all have the unlimited capacity to grow and develop,” says Dr. Ali. “The question is, how can we support each other to do that. What I try to do is give people the tools, the approach. It’s a methodology that I practice, which can be characterized as ‘yes, anding’ people.”

Ali explains the concept. “‘Yes, and’ is the powerful, intentional, and creative practice of building with other people. The name comes from improvisational theater. It includes first: paying attention, second: affirming what others have said, and third: building on what others give you.” 

Ali is nominated for the O. Max Gardner Award, which is the highest faculty honor awarded by the UNC Board of Governors, given annually since 1949. The award was established by Gardner’s wish to recognize faculty who have “made the greatest contributions to the welfare of the human race.” Those chosen in the past have made notable contributions of national or international scale.

Ali is a historian of the global African Diaspora who serves as Dean of Lloyd International Honors College. Through archival and ethnographic research, he documents and explores how people of African descent have shaped and exercised power across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds from the early modern period to the present.

Ali was elected as The Carnegie Foundation North Carolina Professor of the Year and recently appointed Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Palmes Académiques. A former member of the Castillo Cultural Center artist collective and a grassroots independent political organizer in New York City, he previously directed a community-based initiative in Greensboro – the Community Play!/All Stars Alliance – offering free cultural events, classes, and workshops that support learning and development through performance and play. His cultural-performatory approach to learning and development infuses his teaching and broader community organizing.

Dr. Rebecca Muich, Associate Dean of the Lloyd International Honors Colleges, says of Ali:

“One of Omar’s great strengths as a scholar, administrator, and public servant is his impetus to create community wherever he is. He understands the power of individuals coming together to affect change, and so he strives to always organize as many voices, hands, and hearts in whatever project he is working on.”

“As someone who has team-taught with him, I find his openness, his lack of pretension, and his community-first mindset to be the most meaningful factors in all of his successful collaborations. He wants to say yes, and to build on what his collaborators have to offer. This particular gift is an act of service in any space, academic or otherwise; this unconditional affirmation and guaranteed support has deeply affected the way I think about my own teaching, research, and administrative work.”

Story assembled by Matthew Bryant, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications


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