Our Students.

December 4, 2007

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

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
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.

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.

As a student leader in Alabama Action, a project organized and carried out by UA honors students to benefit the West Alabama community, McGaha led 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.

Jennifer Phillips
USA Today All-USA College Academic Team, Second Team
Hometown: Birmingham
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.

Phillips is also involved in numerous organizations 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.

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.

Boyd, who graduated in the spring of 2007, was a Capstone Scholar and recipient of the Alumni Honors Scholarship. She was also a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, Student Government Association, Emerging Leaders, Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre and Dance Alabama!

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 (CCI), a student-centered project to expand and extend the impact of cultural arts on and off campus. 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.

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.