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The University of Alabama

Four Students Named to USA Today’s All-USA College Academic Team

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Four students from The University of Alabama have been named to the 2007 USA Today All-USA College Academic Team.

The team includes Second Team members Michelle McGaha, a junior industrial engineering major from Albertville, and Jennifer Phillips, a senior chemical engineering major from Birmingham, as well as Honorable Mentions Jennie “Katie” Boyd, a senior dance and communicative disorders major from Pelham, and Kristi Wilcox, a senior English major from Tuscaloosa. Boyd was also named an Honorable Mention on the 2006 academic team.

With four students on the team, UA is tied with Washington University-St. Louis for the most team members of any school. This year’s team brings UA’s total for the last five years to 24, a figure that tops all other colleges and universities. UA had the most students on the list in 2006 with six and in 2005 and 2003, both with five. In 2004, with four students on the team, UA came in second only to Harvard.

The USA Today All-USA College Academic Team honors the “best of the best” undergraduate academic all-stars from across the nation. The team recognizes college students who not only excel in scholarship but also extend their intellectual abilities beyond the classroom to benefit society.

A total of 80 students nationwide were selected from more than 600 nominees for the 2007 team.

Michelle McGaha

Michelle McGaha

Michelle McGaha, USA Today All USA College Academic Team, Second Team
Hometown: Albertville
Major: Industrial Engineering
Career Goal: Consulting Engineer

Through the Computer-Based Honors program and working with Dr. Daniel Fonseca, associate professor of industrial engineering at UA, Michelle McGaha developed computer programs that helped determine the least hazardous travel route between two locations.

She gathered geographical and traffic related data on 53 major road segments and developed a formula that quantified all factors, including number of traffic lights, time of day and traffic volume, among others, into a meaningful, computational risk index. The program user selects a time of travel and up to four possible routes between two locations in Tuscaloosa. The program then displays a risk index for the selected routes, with the route with the lowest risk index being the optimal travel route.

“Ms. McGaha’s motivation for undertaking endeavors of such magnitude is rarely found in an individual her age,” Fonseca wrote in a nomination letter.

She was one of four UA students in 2006 to receive the prestigious and highly competitive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship.

“Michelle’s successes are not merely one-dimensional academic triumphs. Indeed, she embodies that most fortuitous and rare combination of abstract intellectualism and concrete compassion – she uses her gifts wisely and well for the betterment of those in need,” wrote Dr. Lesa Shaul, director of the Honors Academy at UA, in another nomination letter.

As a student leader in Alabama Action, a project organized and carried out by UA honors students to benefit the West Alabama community, McGaha leads classroom mentoring activities and ran a project group to construct a large-scale mosaic at a local elementary school.

The junior is a member of Phi Eta Sigma, Alpha Pi Mu and Tau Beta Pi honoraries and was named Computer-Based Honors Most Outstanding Freshman and Sophomore Student of the Year. She is also an Honors College Ambassador and an Ambassador of the College of Engineering, and is an active member of the Society of Women Engineers and president of the Institute of Industrial Engineers.

McGaha is the daughter of David and Sharron McGaha.

Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips, USA Today All USA College Academic Team, Second Team
Hometown: Birmingham (35216)
Major: Chemical Engineering
Career Goal: Physician and Medical Researcher

Jennifer Phillips is working with Dr. Duane Johnson, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, to research a new cancer treatment called magnetic fluid hypothermia. As part of her Computer-Based Honors project, the senior developed a computer program that models the heat transfer during magnetic fluid hyperthermia, which is a cancer therapy that directly injects a fluid containing magnetic particles into a tumor. The application of an alternating magnetic field causes the particles to become hot. The elevated temperature of the particles destroys the surrounding cancerous cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.

The results of Phillips’ project currently are being submitted as two different manuscripts to internationally peer-reviewed journals. She also presented her research at the biotechnology symposium at the national American Institute of Chemical Engineers conference during a session with graduate students and professors.

“In the classroom, Jennifer seeks to understand more than just what is required, and formulates insightful questions that keep professors on their toes!” wrote Dr. Chris Brazel, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, in Phillips’ nomination letter.

To expand her research capabilities, Phillips participates in the Cooperative Education Program and has worked three semesters with the Southern Research Institute. The Co-op Program is a special academic program in which students alternate periods of full-time study with periods of full-time employment.

Phillips is also involved in numerous organizations at the Capstone including Ambassadors of the College of Engineering, Honors College Ambassadors, and UA’s chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Phillips is a member of XXXI Honor Society and Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society. She also volunteers with the American Cancer Society and with two local elementary schools as a tutor.

In 2005, Phillips received a Goldwater Scholarship, a national award for outstanding mathematics, science and engineering students. At UA, she was selected as the University’s Outstanding Junior in 2006 and as the Chemical and Biological Engineering Student of the Year in 2005.

Phillips is the daughter of Marty and Pam Phillips.

Jennie “Katie” Boyd

Jennie “Katie” Boyd

Jennie “Katie” Boyd, USA Today All USA College Academic Team, Honorable Mention
Hometown: Pelham
Major: Dance
Career Goal: Pharmacist

A two-time USA Today All-USA College Academic Team member, Jennie “Katie” Boyd encourages people to “Take 5.” Boyd created the “Take 5-Educational Program for the Awareness of Peer Pressure in Middle School,” an anti-smoking program for fifth graders in 2003. It has now expanded to the “Take 5 Pledge,” in which students sign pledge cards to serve as reminders not to smoke; “Take 5 Competition,” a creative competition in which students create tobacco free hats; “Take 5 Challenge,” a national mentoring program where fifth graders challenge high school students to remain tobacco free; and “Take 5 Promise,” in which parents promise to raise their children in a tobacco-free environment.

She sent the plan for the original “Take 5” mentoring program to every state board of education in the United States. Missouri, New York, Oklahoma and Virginia have already approved the plan.

She serves as the state spokesperson for Tobacco Free Alabama with the Department of Public Health. She records public service announcements and speaks to civic and religious organizations and schools encouraging tobacco-free lifestyles.

Boyd is a Capstone Scholar and recipient of the Alumni Honors Scholarship and a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, Student Government Association, Emerging Leaders, Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre and Dance Alabama!

As the 2004 Miss University of Alabama, Boyd participated in the Miss Alabama pageant and was named a top 10 and community service finalist. Boyd is the daughter of Danny and Laura Boyd.

Kristi Wilcox

Kristi Wilcox

Kristi Wilcox, USA Today All USA College Academic Team, Honorable Mention
Hometown: Tuscaloosa
Major: English
Career Goal: Arts and Cultural Policy Leader

Kristi Wilcox is co-founder of and senior intern for the Creative Campus, Creative Community Initiative, a student-centered project to expand and extend the impact of cultural arts on and off campus. She helped create the idea of Creative Campus in an arts and the public purpose course taught by Dr. Scott Bridges, now director of the UA Creative Campus Initiative.

Five student-led departments have been established to accomplish the initiative’s mission: Creative Campus, Creative Community, Creative Education, Creative Economy and Creative Leadership.

On campus, the CCI plans to develop and promote Crimson Arts, a brand name for the cultural arts program activities of the campus. One of the first priorities is a centralized box office for all campus arts events. The CCI will also develop e-commerce opportunities that allow students, faculty and staff to share their work.

Off campus, the CCI will work with the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, the cities of Northport and Tuscaloosa, and the Tuscaloosa metro region to develop a cultural arts plan.

In nominating Wilcox, Bridges wrote, “She has an amazing ability to tailor her leadership to the task at hand. In a creative sense, then, she is able to undertake problems, consider multiple solutions, select the best, and through her leadership, turn them into action.”

At the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit in Philadelphia this past summer, Wilcox presented a case study on the panel “Higher Education: Shaping the Creative Economy.” She also presented a case study on UA’s Creative Campus Initiative at the Southern Association of College Student Affairs Conference in November.

Wilcox serves on the Honors College Board of Visitors and on The University of Alabama Arts Council as a student member. She is also the recipient of the 2006 John Fraser Ramsey Award, a national finalist for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship and is a member of the XXXI Honor Society, the Anderson Society and Sigma Tau Delta, an international English honor society.

Wilcox is the daughter of Thomas and Mary Wilcox.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Cathy Andreen or Deidre Stalnaker, UA Public Relations, 205/348-5320,