Category: Behind the Scenes: Meet our Staff & Faculty

You’ve Heard the Lecture, Now Read the Book

Sitting with Elephants

Dr. Ron Dulek’s newest book, Sitting with Elephants: Lessons in Humility from the African Bush, has just been released.  The book shares lessons Ron and his wife, Sally, learned while spending fifteen summers living in an African bush house.  As we would expect from Ron, the story tugs at both your heart and your funny bone. The book’s content includes significant content from Ron’s opening day lecture to EMBA’s in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa.

Proceeds from the sale of Sitting with Elephants will be directed toward an educational trust fund for African students desiring to attend the University of Alabama.

Dr. Dulek is the John R. Miller Professor of Management in the Culverhouse College of Business at The University of Alabama. Dulek teaches management communications in the EMBA Program. He is a devoted teacher and has received numerous awards and honors by his students, the college, and the university.

The book is available on-line at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, and Waldorf Publishing.

To become a part of our upcoming EMBA programs, contact Samantha Vasey at or 205-348-0954 to request more information and attend a virtual information session.

Meet New EMBA Staff Samantha Vasey

Samantha Vasey is the new EMBA Recruiter at UAHello! My name is Samantha Vasey, and I recently began working in the position of Manager of New Lead Development and Recruitment for the Executive MBA Program. I am originally from Phoenix, Arizona, where I earned my undergraduate degree in Business Management and subsequently, my MBA from the University of Arizona. While I miss authentic Mexican food and the beautiful desert, Alabama has been a wonderful place to call home! My husband and I decided to take a leap of faith and move to Alabama when he was offered a position with the UA Athletic Department. Since moving to Alabama, we have enjoyed getting plugged into the community, meeting new people, and exploring the South!

I am passionate about empowering others to pursue their career goals and aspirations, and I am looking forward to assisting prospective and current students through their MBA journey. The decision to pursue your MBA while working full-time is an ambitious and demanding commitment, but also an investment in your future. Yes, the studying is hard, the hours are long, and the classwork is rigorous, but the outcomes will be life-changing!

From my MBA experience, I have gained a solid network and community with my class cohort that has helped me throughout my professional career and personal life. The MBA program allowed me to form strong bonds with many of my classmates that I still maintain today. Several classmates were guests at my wedding, a classmate was a reference for my first job in Alabama, and my former accounting professor is co-teaching an online accounting class with my husband this summer.

The best advice I was given while pursuing my MBA was to learn how to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, and to take advantage of every situation. Think outside of the box, meet as many people as possible, and take time to learn and read about topics and subjects that may be foreign to you.

When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my husband Kyle and our two rescue dogs, Zoey and Sadie! You may also find us going to a concert at Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, trying a new restaurant around town, or cheering on the Crimson Tide at Bryant Denny Stadium.

Additionally, I serve as the Director for Church and Community Relations for a local non-profit called Tuscaloosa Angels. We are one out of fifteen chapters of National Angels which is based out of Austin, Texas. The heart of our mission is to walk alongside foster children and their caretakers through intentional giving, relationship building, and mentorship. Starting a non-profit from the ground up has been an amazing journey and learning experience. It is truly an honor to serve the local community in hopes of making a difference in the lives of others.

I look forward to meeting all the wonderful students, alumni, faculty, and staff that make up the Executive MBA family, and I am eager to help build a successful future. Please feel free to contact me at or stop by our offices and say hello! I’m also happy at any time to grab a cup of coffee with you and hear about your background, experiences, and stories! Thanks again and ROLL TIDE!

Manderson EMBA Welcomes New Associate Dean Sharif Melouk

By Laci Williams, January 18, 2019

Now that the holidays are over and we’re back in full swing to finish out the Spring 2019 semester, Manderson Graduate School of Business and the Executive MBA Program would like to share some exciting news! Please welcome Dr. Sharif Melouk as the new Associate Dean of the Manderson Graduate School of Business.
Dr. Melouk has been with Culverhouse College of Business since 2007 as a faculty member in the Operations Management program. He has taught the Business Spreadsheet Analytics course in the EMBA program since Spring 2013. Dr. Melouk also served as the doctoral program coordinator for the Operations Management program.

Melouk earned his M.B.A. and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Oklahoma State University and his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University, but his path had some interesting bumps and turns. Dr. Melouk considered medical school but ultimately decided that academia was where he wanted to be. His research primarily employs simulation, modeling with applications in healthcare, transportation, emergency response, and production operations. Dr. Melouk is driven, passionate, and excited to continue the legacy of Manderson and all of its successes.

He is married to Dr. Burcu Keskin, a professor in the Operations Management program and who is also an alum of Texas A&M University. Dr. Keskin also teaches in the HEMBA and TEMBA programs at UA. They have two children, and Dr. Melouk is not only an Associate Dean and father but also coaches his children’s sports teams.

Dr. Brian Gray stepped down as Associate Dean on January 2nd of this year and returned to teaching. He is loving being back in the classroom and engaging more with students and faculty! He is actively working on his research and is enjoying having the extra time with his family and grandchildren.

For more information on the UA EMBA Program, contact Cheryl Altemara at or call 205.348.4501. To request information now, click here. 

Strickland Awarded the Sullivan Faculty Award Update (1)Dr. Lonnie Strickland, John R. Miller Professor of Strategic Management, is the 2016 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Faculty Award honoree. Considered the highest honor The University of Alabama offers. Recipients of the award have demonstrated the highest standards of scholarship, leadership, and service. The Sullivan Faculty Award recognizes the practical application of noble ideals and is based on excellence of character and service to humanity.

Strickland currently teaches Strategy Formulation and Implementation in the Tuscaloosa and Huntsville EMBA Programs. He began teaching at Alabama in 1969 and is one of the founders of and has taught in every EMBA class at Alabama since its inception 31 years ago. He has won every major teaching award the University has to offer. He is also ranked first, second, or third when graduating Culverhouse students are asked a version of the following question, “Name one person who has had a significant influence on your life at Alabama.”

A rigorous, demanding and passionate professor as well as a skillful raconteur who is held in high esteem by his students.  According to Jimmy Mauldin (EMBA 2002), Economic Counselor, U.S. Embassy-Accra Ghana, “Lonnie Strickland’s classes on strategic management always come to mind … even 13 years later.”
The impact of Strickland’s teaching is evident in the stories our alumni continue to tell. “We grew market share of a key product in a growing segment from 15% to ultimately 100% ($200M annual run rate) over a seven-year period using principles of Michael Porter’s 5-forces model taught in Lonnie Strickland’s Strategy class,” according to Kevin Morgan (EMBA 1998), Director of Cloud and Services Marketing, ADTRAN, “and along the way we put competitors out of business.” Strong testament to the power of a course and a professor who strives to make a difference in a student’s life.

“To Lonnie, teaching is a vocation, not a job,” said long time peer and friend, Dr. Ron Dulek, John R. Miller Professor of Management, and EMBA Professor of Business Communications. “I can assure you, as one who sees him daily either before he goes or after he returns from class, he is as excited about and dedicated to teaching well today as he was in 1969 when he started teaching at Alabama.”

Dr. Strickland entertaining EMBA students at his home at the end of his class.
Dr. Strickland entertaining EMBA students and spouses at his home for the annual EMBA End of Class celebration event in Tuscaloosa.

Strickland is co-author of the best-selling strategic management textbook, Crafting and Executing Strategy, which is currently used at 900 universities worldwide. Along the way he has served as National President of Phi Kappa Phi; served on various local, regional and national Boards of Directors, including two Fortune 1000 size companies: the Statesman Group and American Equity; co-founded a number of smaller companies and has been an advisor to countless students in their efforts to start small businesses or advance their corporate careers.

Dr. Strickland has been a tremendous supporter of the EMBA Program and continues to be an inspirational source for our students and alumni.  Congratulations Lonnie.

Donna Blackburn, Director, EMBA Program
For more information on The University of Alabama Executive MBA Program contact Cheryl Altemara at 205.348.4501, or

Behind the Scenes: New Faculty Joining EMBA Program

At the Culverhouse College of Commerce Executive MBA Program we are always evolving, always looking for what is happening next in business and how to make our program more relevant and challenging for our executive students. The faculty members who teach in the EMBA Program at The University of Alabama are leaders in their fields. Joining the EMBA team this year are four new faculty who are leading the way in the fields of data mining, global business and leadership. Uzma Raja will be teaching MIS 541 Business Analytic Support Systems beginning Fall 2015 in Huntsville. Raja, an Information Systems Statistics and Management Science associate professor, focuses her research on investigating information systems evolution and the organizational factors that impact the long-term success of these systems. She has specifically focused on investigating Open Source Software project evaluation and evolution. With expertise in data and text mining, her areas of research include software evolution, open source software and health information systems.

Raja is an active member of the IS research community and has presented research at various conferences and recently had a report published in the prestigious Institute of Industrial Engineers’ flagship journal, IIE Transactions. The report focused on fuel-switch decisions in the electric power industry is a testimony of the application of data-driven analysis in today’s business climate. She is also a member of the advisory council of the Business Intelligence Congress III, and a member of AIS, IEEE, INFORMS and ACM. Prior to academia, she had extensive experience in systems development and maintenance during her seven years at a global consulting company.

Changes are also being made to the IBA 550 International Business course. Two new faculty will be coming on board to teach the IBA 550 course in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa: Drs. Jack Clampit and Peter Magnusson. The IBA 550 course will have an expanded format and broader focus on cross culture with a more in-depth focus on the countries students will visit on their international trip. Jack Clampit is assistant professor of marketing and global business. His research focuses on relationships between the institutional characteristics of markets that firms operate in and firm conduct/performance (e.g., market location choice and entry mode). This includes the study of distal links, such as institutional antecedents (e.g., the interaction of culture, historical path dependencies, and cognitive bias) and societal outcomes (e.g., poverty alleviation, sustainable development). Dr. Clampit has authored numerous book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles (including publications in two of the world’s top three international business journals: Journal of World Business and Management International Review). He has also won numerous Best Paper and reviewer awards.

Magnussonp picDr. Peter Magnusson is joining the Culverhouse College of Commerce as an associate professor of International Marketing in the summer of 2015. Peter grew up in Sweden, earned his Ph.D. in Marketing and International Business from Saint Louis University and comes most recently from Florida International University. His research specializes in the areas of international marketing strategy and international consumer behavior, with a particular interest in the influence of culture and institutional factors on cross-cultural differences in consumer behavior and international marketing strategy. He has published his research in various academic journals and serves on several marketing and global boards. Dr. Magnusson has taught in Medellin, Colombia; Paris, France, and led multiple study-abroad programs throughout Europe.

We are also thrilled to have Dr. Filippo Passerini, former CIO and president, Global Business Services at P&G, to join our EMBA Program. Passerini will be teaching the final Leadership workshop component in the fifth semester in Huntsville. Dr. Passerini will be discussing the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) problems faced by business. He will cover solutions and describe how P&G operates in a VUCA world through the use of business analytics for decision-making, in particular the visualization of big data with decision cockpits and Business Sphere environments. Passerini will also cover a variety of managerial topics including leadership characteristics for success, the five situational leadership styles that managers must employ for success, the importance of storytelling for business leaders, a framework for business models, and frugal innovation in developing markets. Filippo holds a Doctorate in Statistics and Operating Research from the University of Rome.

For more information on the EMBA Program, visit the Culverhouse EMBA website at or call 205.348.4501.

Brian Gray Named Interim Dean for Culverhouse College of Commerce

130721_ZR_107_Manderson_Faculty_StaffDr. Brian Gray has been named interim dean of the Culverhouse College of Commerce at The University of Alabama effective July 1. Gray will fill the interim role while UA carries out a national search for a new dean to replace Dr. J. Michael Hardin who steps down June 30 to become provost at Samford University in Birmingham.

“Brian has a wealth of administrative, teaching and research experience and will be an effective leader during this important, transitional period for the College,” said Dr. Joe Benson, UA interim provost, in making the announcement.

Currently Gray is serving as associate dean of the Manderson Graduate School of Business in the Culverhouse College of Commerce. He is also the Harrison Family Teaching Excellence Faculty Fellow and professor of statistics in the department of information systems, management science, and statistics. Gray joined UA in 1990 and began teaching statistics in the Executive MBA Program in 1993.  He has received multiple teaching awards, including the UA National Alumni Association Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award in 2006 and most recently the 2014 Executive MBA Faculty Excellence Award. Although he will be assuming the new position very soon, he plans on continuing to teach in the EMBA Program.

According to Gray, he is looking forward to serving as interim dean of one of the top ranked business schools in the nation.  “Knowing that we had a great team in place in the Manderson Graduate School of Business and the Executive MBA Program made the decision to accept the position easier,” said Gray.

His research interests include applied statistics, exploratory data analysis, data mining, business analytics, regression analysis, statistical computing and statistical graphics. He has published his research in various academic journals, and co-authored two books, “Basic Statistical Ideas for Managers (Second Edition)” and “Business Cases in Statistical Decision Making: Computer Based Applications.”

Prior to joining UA, Gray served seven years as a faculty member in the department of finance and decision sciences at Texas Christian University.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, with minors in business administration and computer science, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1978. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematical sciences from Clemson University in 1980 and 1983, respectively.

Behind the Scenes: Meet Associate Dean Brian Gray

Behind the scenes of the Culverhouse College of Commerce Executive MBA Program is a remarkable team of staff and faculty dedicated to transforming leaders and broadening professional growth. Inspired by their devotion, we have decided to highlight our EMBA staff and faculty members in our new series, Behind the Scenes. The first edition of the series features Associate Dean of Graduate Programs and Professor of Statistics Brian Gray.

A first-generation scholar, Dr. Gray earned his B.S. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Mathematics from Clemson University. Upon graduation, he began teaching statistics in the business school at Texas Christian University. Seven years later, he returned to his native Alabama because he and his wife missed the culture, climate, and geography of the Southeast. Dr. Gray has since been honored with multiple research and teaching awards, including the 2014 EMBA Faculty Excellence Award selected by this year’s graduates.

The Gray family in Hong Kong
The Gray family in Hong Kong

A dedicated man, Dr. Gray invests most of his free time back into the College and his teaching and research; however, he does occasionally break out his clubs for a round of golf. From riding to UAB with his high school golf coach in his first summer of college to teeing off 3-4 times a week with his sons when they were growing up, the sport of golf will always hold a special significance in the life of Dr. Gray. Although he doesn’t make it out to the course as much as he used to, he still fondly reflects on the days he spent on the course with his sons – especially with Fathers’ Day quickly approaching. This year, Dr. Gray will miss the company of his older son, daughter-in-law, and new granddaughter, who live in Hong Kong, but will be visiting – and playing golf with – his younger son and daughter-in-law who live in Nashville.

Dr. Gray with Shane Underwood
Dr. Gray with Associate Professor of Finance Shane Underwood

Since his Statistics for Business Applications course is taught during the first semester of the EMBA program, Dr. Gray has the opportunity to welcome each new class of EMBAs to The University of Alabama. His organized teaching style provides the structured environment EMBAs need to reorient themselves to life as students. To help them learn the material and feel comfortable in the classroom, Dr. Gray advises EMBA students to creatively associate their coursework with their work and careers.


Dr. Gray’s course includes a data analysis project that requires students to analyze data from their employers as well as case studies that provide real-world examples in applying statistics. He also encourages interactions among students to help familiarize each other with even more explanations and applications of statistics.

According to Dr. Gray, around 90% of incoming EMBA students have some statistical knowledge, either from previous courses or firsthand. Whether it was positive or negative, this experience helps EMBAs appreciate the subject, which Dr. Gray finds refreshing – especially compared to undergraduate and traditional MBA students, who usually have little to no experience in the field. Previous experience can also prove to be a challenge, however. Since some students are more familiar with statistics than others when they enter the course, Dr. Gray must find a balance in difficulty of material to maximize each student’s learning potential.

For more information about the Executive MBA Program at The University of Alabama, contact Cheryl Altemara at or (205) 348-4501.