Birmingham Business Journal
2023 Leader in Diversity
What is your name and current title with the University of Montevallo?
Dr. Gregory Samuels, associate professor of secondary education since 2014 and chief diversity and inclusion officer since 2020.
Where are you from and what city do you currently reside in?
I am originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Currently, I reside in Helena.
If you hold any degrees, what are they in and from what schools?
I earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education social studies from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of South Florida and doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction and social science education from the University of South Florida.
How long have you worked here?
I have worked at Montevallo since 2014.
Did you hold any previous positions here? If so, what are they?
Before arriving at Montevallo, I was a high school social studies teacher for more than 10 years. I taught all levels in social studies throughout my career from general education to honors, and advanced placement in subjects such as African American history, U.S. history, government and law studies.
What brought you to Montevallo?
After enjoying teaching students and mentoring interns for more than 10 years in the classroom and earning my doctorate in education, I decided to position myself as a teacher educator in higher education. After a few interviews at institutions throughout the U.S., Montevallo was most like what I experienced in my time at an undergraduate institution and sought as a new professor: small class size, meaningful and authentic connections with faculty and staff and known for developing quality teachers. Soon after my visit and interviews with my now-colleagues, I decided to allow the University of Montevallo’s College of Education and Human Development to become a space for my future experiences and successes.
What’s the best thing about working for Montevallo?
The best thing about working at the University of Montevallo is the campus character. The look, the lengths through which this look is maintained and what others know about our look. I like that our small streets and sidewalks are carpeted by the “red bricks” and maintained beautifully by our skilled groundskeepers. I think it’s cool that we have an Olmsted-designed quad of tree placement which, in my opinion, balances the hard surfaces of the buildings and wrought iron gates. Equally as cool is the Greek, Gothic, and Victorian-style buildings that host a vast history of learning and successes on our campus. All of these things allow for deep, rich and fun-factual conversation when faculty and staff bring their friends and family to Montevallo…especially in the spring and fall when everything is completed by our fall foliage and brilliantly green Flowerhill. It’s the spaces that are my best thing! If our campus could speak, it would softly say, “Please stay for awhile as a student, visitor, faculty, staff or alum…I have a story to tell and sights to show you!”
What’s your proudest accomplishment since being at UM?
One of my proudest accomplishments since being at UM is receiving the award of University Scholar in 2019. Of course, I was honored to be nominated by my peers, allowed the opportunity to give words of appreciation and acknowledgement for those who supported me through the years and provided a platform to creatively tell my story behind my arrival to this point. However, I felt most spiritually present in the accomplishment during a silent moment to myself while walking along the back wall of Carmichael Library minutes before giving a keynote speech. Posted were portraits of others who have come before me since the creation of the award. At that moment, I was reminded of whose shoulders I stood on and what I am tasked to continue moving forward. The accomplishment was not necessarily the honor of being selected as University Scholar, but being given the task to continue a legacy of diligence, academic rigor and creativity, respect and loyalty among my fellow professors and a continuation to pave the way for all, especially those who look like me.
Why do you belong at Montevallo?
I belong at Montevallo because of the need for me to fully enjoy the academic freedom that is provided for all who walk on our red bricks. Professors like myself enjoy this academic freedom in my role as a professor seeking to balance teaching, research and service in a way that is creative and forward-thinking. I witness students enjoying this freedom as they critically engage with traditional and nuanced ideas and practices of a liberal arts education. I also enjoy operating within an institution managed by efficient staff and creative administrators that lead fearlessly to protect our academic freedoms aligned with our identity as the only public liberal arts institution in the state of Alabama.