For Ameena Batada, associate professor of health and wellness at UNC Asheville, teaching is about connections: connections between them and the material, between her and the students, among students, and between the university and communities in Asheville and beyond. It’s her dedication to creating those connections, and helping others create those connections for themselves, that earned her the prestigious UNC System Board of Governors’ 2019 Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Learning to make those connections has resonated deeply with many of Batada’s students. “Thanks to Ameena, I began to see issues in my community not on a PowerPoint slide but first hand,” said alumna Ella Ferguson ’16, who is finishing up her first year at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. “Health Parity was the most important and influential class I took at UNC Asheville, and I am so thankful to have had Ameena be part of my academic career. Her commitment to student learning is unmatched, and her devoted guidance and approachable manner will not be forgotten.”
“Every week in Ameena’s class I felt myself growing more and more engaged,” said alumna Hillary Murphy ’13, who obtained a Master of Public Health from UNC-Chapel Hill and is now a project officer with JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc. “I was developing new language and making connections about the impacts of policy, race, poverty, and gender, feeling like I was learning a whole new way to conceptualize health… Ameena was the first person in my life who made me feel like I was capable of affecting change. She introduced me not only to the field that is my passion, but also gave me confidence to trust that my voice has value.”
Kevin Rumley ’15 credits Batada with helping him to find his calling as a social worker and coordinator for the Buncombe County Veterans Treatment Court. “As a combat wounded Marine veteran, I suffered for years from unaddressed PTSD and addiction to opioids,” Rumley said. “Dr. Batada was the first professor to recognize a ‘light’ within me. Her support and belief in my capacity to generate ‘meaningful change’ in the community ultimately served as the catalyst to my own change-preparedness and recovery.”
Originally published May 16, 2019.