Mayer named UA’s first Provost Faculty Fellow

Headshot of Dr. Carmen Mayer
Dr. Carmen Mayer

The University of Alabama’s Office for Academic Affairs has established the Provost Faculty Fellow Program, a professional development and leadership program for tenured faculty.

The first faculty member selected for this program is Dr. Carmen Mayer, associate professor of French in the Department of Modern Languages and Classics. She is also the campus representative for the Boren Awards, which support study abroad opportunities in countries considered critical to national security.

“The fellowship is an opportunity to learn from our leadership how to put my particular skills to work for more students,” said Mayer, whose specialty is 19th century French literature.

“I am partly drawn by the administrative training aspect, but the project development part of the fellowship is a great way to get creative about connecting more students with opportunities and reducing barriers to achievement. That’s exciting to me.”

The program’s initial focus is on the Project Rising Tide Student Success Initiative, a campus-wide effort designed to support the first goal of UA’s Strategic Plan. The initiative identifies best practices, develops campus resources, establishes pilot projects to assist students and works with faculty and staff to build environments to give all students the chance to succeed. This is part of what inspired Mayer to pursue the fellowship.

“The long and short of it is that I love working with and for students,” she said. “When I first read about the initiative, it was clear this is all about students and helping them achieve success here at the Capstone. My special field connects with the global perspective part, of course, but I also have a lot of experience working with scholarships, fellowships and international education.”

Through the fellowship, Mayer is focused on a project called Scholarship/Fellowship Access. She said it fosters a culture of achievement by making more students aware of internal and external funding opportunities for research and study abroad. She is also working on a new web portal for the Academic Resource Hub, which will merge information about award and funding opportunities.

“If we have a one-stop web location where these opportunities are showcased, we’ve addressed the first barrier, which is awareness,” said Mayer. “Another key consideration is timing. We need to connect students with information very early on for planning purposes, so it’s about getting the right information to the right people at the right time.” Mayer said she desires to see students from every corner of campus and academic background become expert opportunity seekers, and supporting this culture of achievement requires time and personnel resources. While many faculty members and advisors already spend countless hours writing letters of recommendations and helping students to polish their applications, she said this is a crucial collaborative effort and makes PRT a worthy investment.

“Current research on study abroad, for example, shows a direct and tangible correlation between international academic experiences and student success, including on-time graduation rates, particularly for underrepresented students,” said Mayer. “My longer-term hope is that UA will put resources behind this effort. In the shorter term, I’ll know I’ve contributed to the PRT initiative when more students than ever are applying for and winning awards.”