Published : Tuesday, December 8, 2015 | 2:11 PM
In November, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, in conjunction with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, named Dr. Omar Ali ’88 the North Carolina Professor of the Year. Ali, the interim dean of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s (UNCG) Lloyd International Honors College, has earned distinction for his development of classroom methods that “inspire student interest and learning,” according to UNCG Provost Dr. Dana Dunn. Prior to receiving state-wide recognition, Ali was also honored with UNCG’s 2014 Senior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award.
Ali is a professor, historian, and community organizer in North Carolina. After graduating from Poly, he studied political economy and cultural anthropology at the University of Michigan before graduating from the London School of Economics and Political Science and receiving his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. Among his many academic accomplishments, Ali taught for a year at Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá on a Fulbright Scholarship and spent time as a Library Scholar at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. In 2010, he joined the faculty at UNCG, where he has since co-founded the Islamic Studies Research Network, an educational research network to promote awareness and understanding of Islamic history and culture.
In his acceptance speech for the North Carolina Professor of the Year award, Ali likened teaching to “a kind of creative performance in which we relate to each other as constantly growing.” He also implements improvisational methodology in the classroom, a developmental learning technique he adapted later in his career but for which the seed was first planted at Poly. Despite the strong emphasis on theatre techniques in the classroom, Ali wasn’t as active in theatre during high school as one might expect. His main involvement at Poly was with the football team, where Ali’s natural teaching ability shone through. Teammate Jordan Wallens ’90 remembers, “Omar was also an elite caliber high school football player whose exquisite technical form tackling served as an effective teaching tool for generations of players who followed.”
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