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UA Experts Available to Discuss Issues Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Faculty at The University of Alabama are available to discuss aspects of the coronavirus pandemic. This list will be updated, so check back often for new sources. For assistance with reaching any of these sources or for topics not highlighted, please contact Shane Dorrill, assistant director of communications, at

Topics Related to Health Care

Social Distancing and Substance Abuse Recovery

Dr. Tricia Witte, associate professor of human development and family studies, said individuals in recovery from substance use disorders are at an increased risk for potential relapse during this time of social distancing. “Routines and schedules have been disrupted, social support has been reduced and isolation at home can cause changes in mood or interpersonal conflict that can serve as triggers for relapse.” Witte is available for interviews and can be reached at

Rural Alabamians Particularly Vulnerable

Dr. Avani Shah, a gerontologist and health psychologist in the School of Social Work, can discuss the importance of social distancing for rural Alabamians. Shah said certain chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease — both related to COVID-19 complications — are higher in Alabama, especially in the rural Black Belt counties. “Unfortunately, with closures of our rural hospitals, transportation issues, financial issues and fewer health care providers, rural older Alabamians with chronic health conditions may face a double hardship in accessing COVID-19 testing and treatment,” Shah said. “If you are a grandparent raising grandkids or a caregiver, each member of your family should be staying at home to protect one another.” Shah is available for interviews on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and can be reached at

Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Emotional/Mental Health

Dr. Sha-Rhonda Green, assistant professor of social work and a licensed mental health therapist for the last 19 years, can talk about how the coronavirus and related guidelines such as social isolation impacts people’s mental and emotional health. She can also discuss how to cope. Green can be reached at She can speak with media Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Parental Stress

Dr. Karly Downs, licensed marriage and family therapist and assistant professor and clinical director for concentration in marriage and family therapy in the human development and family studies department, can talk about the stress families can experience during this time when normal support is difficult. “Parents need to remember that nothing is normal and that that is OK, not ideal, but OK,” she said. “Don’t judge yourself as a parent. Instead, focus on the moments of joy throughout the day, make sure to take time — even a few minutes — to calm your emotions and reflect on what brings you hope.” Downs is available for interviews and can be reached at

Staying Aware on Summer Vacation

Dr. Lea Yerby, associate professor and vice chair in UA’s Department of Community Medicine and Population Health, is available to discuss being mindful of COVID-19 while on a summer vacation. To arrange an interview, contact Yerby directly at

Topics Related to Education

Distance Learning

Dr. Lisa Matherson, clinical assistant professor and coordinator for continuous improvement in the College of Education, can discuss the value of technology and education. “Today, more than ever, those in the world of education have been forced to quickly see how the school is more than brick and mortar. Having to rapidly prepare for distance instruction has many educators adopting and embracing new ways of doing things. In distance education, classroom educators become more of a facilitator than a disseminator of information. Many factors must be considered in the complexity of distance education, such as the best technology platforms and tools to use. Distance education allows students many new facets through which to engage as they continue their learning. Through distance education, students will be afforded the opportunities to continue moving forward in meeting the disciplinary standards and not fall behind.” Matherson is available for interviews and can be reached at

Kindergarten and Early Education

Dr. Kimberly A. Blitch, assistant professor of human development and family studies, can talk about what parents of incoming kindergarten students should consider when approaching the decision of attending school, using virtual school or possibly delaying school a year. “Parents have a lot to consider and configure, but one constant is the need for enriching experiences that enhance children’s learning and brain development by age 5,” Blitch said. “Communicating with the child’s teacher and/or school administrator – about what to expect, what procedures will be in place, what curriculum will look like, and how their child will be engaged to learn – can be helpful in determining the best program, mode of delivery, or course of action for individual families.” Blitch is available for interviews and can be reached at

Gifted Education

Dr. Jennifer Jolly, professor and program coordinator of gifted education, can discuss what parents of gifted children should consider when weighing whether to opt into virtual school, send their child to school or transfer into a home school model. “A virtual school can be a good fit for gifted kids,” she said. “It all depends on the needs of the child and a parent’s ability, typically the mother, to facilitate the learning process. Parents should ask if virtual school teachers have training and background in gifted education and ask how open they are to a child accelerating through the content? Families considering home school this year should consult state regulations, communicate with other home school families and take advantage of the flexibility home school can offer. Since many parents have already been schooling at home, many have discovered that schooling doesn’t necessarily have to take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” she said. “However, a schedule is important, but can be flexible to meet the family’s needs and allow time for extracurricular activities, for example.” Jolly is available for interviews at

Remote Instruction in Higher Education

Dr. Claire Howell Major, professor of higher education, teaches technology in higher education. “We are having to shift en masse to emergency remote teaching. We have faculty who have been teaching on campus in a face-to-face mode who are having to figure out how students can connect around content and learn for the remainder of the semester using internet tools available to them.” Major is available for interviews and can be reached at

Topics Related to the Economy

Analysis on State, National Economy

Economists with the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Culverhouse College of Business are available to offer insight into the effect COVID-19 will have on the national and state economy. For more information, contact Dr. Sam Addy, associate dean for economic development outreach and senior research economist, at and Dr. Ahmad Ijaz, CBER’s executive director and director of economic forecasting, at

K.C. Conway, director of research and corporate engagement for the Alabama Center for Real Estate at UA, is available to discuss the pandemic’s effects on the economy, logistics infrastructure, and commercial real estate. He posts regular insights on ACRE’s website and ACRE posts articles related to the pandemic, as well. He can be reached through Cherie Moman, ACRE’s director of education, marketing and communications, at

Coronavirus’ Effect on Transportation

Steven Polunsky, director of the Alabama Transportation Policy Research Center, is available to talk about how COVID-19 has impacted the transportation industry including public roads, public transportation, ride-sharing services, freight traffic and air traffic. To arrange an interview, contact Polunsky directly at 205-348-4574 or

Coronavirus’ Impact on the Hospitality Industry

Dr. Kimberly Severt, director of UA’s hospitality management program, is available to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted the hospitality industry and how long it will take to recover. To arrange an interview, contact Severt directly at

Financial Planning During a Pandemic

Dr. Richard Stebbins, assistant professor of consumer sciences, is available to discuss financial planning. “Many have seen their personal businesses decline or have been furloughed or laid off by their employers, and it’s difficult to know when there will be a return to normalcy. Financial planning adjustments for many should be making a new spending plan to make dollars last through this unknown.” To arrange an interview, contact Stebbins directly at