Minnix’s leadership for Blazer Core Curriculum bridges the gap between UAB students and the globe

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by Tehreem Khan

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Chris Minnix, Ph.D., director of the Blazer Core Curriculum and associate professor of English, has been a driving force behind the implementation of the new curriculum, emphasizing leadership, inspiration and innovation. His contributions to this initiative, a core component of the Forging the Future strategic plan, have culminated in the recent launch of the Blazer Core Curriculum this fall, marking a milestone in transforming students into global citizens, bridging generations at UAB.

As the former director of the Freshman Composition Program in the Department of English, Minnix has a strong commitment to general education, fueled by his experiences as a first-generation college student who had a limited understanding of educational and career pathways when he started his college journey.

“The vision behind the Blazer Core continues to be to establish a curriculum that inspires students,” he said. “The Blazer Core gives students opportunities to find majors and build lives that connect their passions and interests with opportunities for local and global impact. We want our students to not only gain knowledge but feel empowered to put that knowledge to work for personal and public good.”

Minnix: An epitome of collaborative and interactive leadership

Minnix has been at UAB for 11 years, and in light of his research expertise in the current movement toward global higher education, he was hired to implement the Blazer Core Curriculum in 2021.

“Chris was hired as director of Blazer Core Curriculum and was tasked to implement it by fall 2023,” said Scott L. Phillips, Ph.D., vice provost for Innovative Teaching and Academic Engagement. “He organized and led committees of faculty, students and staff to delineate and administer submission and approval processes to plan for future assessment. Thanks to Chris’ leadership and effort, Blazer Core is now live in the UAB catalog.”

“Academic units that never imagined themselves as delivering general education classes are now primed — and excited — at the idea of teaching their disciplines to first- and second-year students,” Chapman said.

Minnix personified collaboration by working with schools and departments to develop courses, align objectives and consider assessments that would complete the Blazer Core’s structure. He coordinated with the leadership of UAB’s colleges and schools, worked directly with department chairs and undergraduate directors, and collaborated with key UAB offices and units, including Student Affairs, Enrollment Management and many more.

According to Alison A. Chapman, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of English, Minnix’s philosophy of writing suggests “writing is not primarily a matter of rules and mechanics but a matter of ideas, imagination and intellectual development,” and this philosophy is echoed in his vision for fostering students’ intellectual and personal development.

In recognition of his collaborative work across campus, Minnix has earned the 2023 Sam Brown Bridge Builder Award, which recognizes a faculty member who engages in interdisciplinary, collaborative efforts across campus in ways that embody the vision, character and bridge-building talents vital to the future of UAB; he was recognized during the annual Faculty Convocation held Oct. 11. 

Minnix’s journey to Blazer Core

Since the implementation process involved intense collaboration across the massive institution that is UAB, Minnix's journey was not without challenges. The biggest was the time crunch to roll out the curriculum within two years, he says. 

However, the energy, enthusiasm and selflessness of the faculty — qualities he termed as a true “gift” — streamlined the process. He credits the administration of schools across UAB for making the debut of Blazer Core a joyful process. He especially commended the work of the Blazer Core Curriculum Committee, the Office of the Vice Provost for Innovative Teaching and Student Engagement, the Office of the RegistrarStudent AffairsAdvising, and many more units. 

“It means the world to me that faculty and staff took the time to nominate me,” Minnix said. “I accept and ‘share’ this award with everyone who has worked to make the Blazer Core Curriculum a success.”

Minnix’s secret to effective collaboration: Listening

Collaboration was critical to establishing a curriculum that is democratic, is immersive, and extends beyond the day-to-day teaching and understanding of concepts and the world. 

But collaboration is not easy. According to Minnix, one of the biggest challenges is understanding how the core curriculum impacts the work of academic schools, colleges, departments and offices in important and meaningful ways. 

Minnix's rules for collaboration

  • Humility and respect
  • Allowing space for disagreement
  • Openness to people’s perspectives
  • Taking feedback in stride
  • Self-awareness and knowing your limitations

To meet this challenge, “I really believe in collaboration and listening to people,” he said. “Give them the leverage to share their perspectives. Understand where they are coming from. Not being closed off to other perspectives and empowering people to speak up, for me, are the key to collaboration.”

Another aspect of strong collaboration is being open to constructive criticism and feedback, he says. 

“You don’t just need people to agree with you; you also need people who can tell you, ‘I don’t think you are doing this right. Here is the better way to do it,’” Minnix said. “Those are the people who not only keep you from making mistakes but push you toward true innovation.”

According to Minnix, the most fascinating aspect of the Blazer Core Curriculum is bringing the classroom and the Magic City together and providing opportunities for students to develop as innovative thinkers and reflective global citizens.

“My favorite courses are our signature City as Classroom courses that coincide with knowledge and community,” Minnix said. “These courses challenge students to connect what they learn to action in their community.”

According to Minnix’s nominators, the Sam Brown Bridge Builder Award is well deserved as he embodies the great qualities of Sam Brown as an engaged faculty member, bridge-builder and citizen of UAB.

“As Chris has navigated the successful implementation of the core, he has done so with patience in negotiation, respect and intelligence, and toughness coupled with humility,” Chapman said. “He provides a great example of the cooperative spirit that Sam Brown embodied and championed.”