People with shovels at groundbreaking ceremony

UA’s RISE Center Breaks Ground on Upcoming Addition

Dean Stuart Usdan, Andi Gillen, Dana Garmany and Gene Stallings breaking ground at RISE
Dr. Stuart Usdan, Andi Gillen, Dana Garmany and Gene Stallings break ground on the upcoming sensory suite.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama’s RISE Center hosted a groundbreaking ceremony today for an addition that will house a state-of-the-art sensory suite.

The suite will include an infant classroom, a multipurpose therapy room and a sensory room. The use of a multi-sensory environment in therapeutic and educational settings allows children to benefit from adequate stimulation to excite the brain, improve the organization of the brain and increase functional activity.

“We’re excited to see the RISE Center evolve and meet the needs of children in our community,” said Andi Gillen, director of UA’s RISE Center. “We will be able to serve more children with the addition of a new classroom, provide state-of-the-art therapy in the new sensory room and be creative with additional therapy options in the multipurpose therapy room.

“The latest research in early intervention, child development and early childhood special education is guiding our decisions about what the children in our community need to reach their maximum potential.”

The new wing is made possible by the generosity of a College of Human Environmental Sciences’ graduate, Dana Garmany. The Garmany family has developed an appreciation for RISE’s inclusive early childhood special education program. Garmany and his wife, Amanda, have a special needs grandson, Mason Ray Garmany, for whom this addition is to be named, pending approval of the Board of Trustees.

“The more I learned about RISE, the more I wanted to be involved,” said Garmany, who serves as executive chairman of Troon. “Having a special needs grandson made the donation even more rewarding.”

The event was held under the portico of the Stallings Center, located at 600 Johnny Stallings Drive, which is the home of RISE. Those in attendance included members of the Garmany family; Gene and Ruth Ann Stallings; Dr. Stuart Usdan, dean of UA’s College of Human Environmental Sciences; and special guests who have supported the RISE Center.

The RISE Center, part of UA’s College of Human Environmental Sciences, is a nationally recognized program that provides an early childhood education that enriches the lives of infants and preschoolers with and without special needs. RISE is also dedicated to excellence in service, research and teaching. The program not only benefits families in the community but also serves as a practicum and internship site for students from UA and other higher education institutions.


Tabby Brown, UA College of Human Environmental Sciences, 205-348-9848,


Andi Gillen,