By Leah Wilkinson
This article is part of a series of profiles on the new faculty at Bellarmine University.
Although a lot of what looks different on campus this semester is pandemic-related, there are also many new faces, including several new faculty members.
This article features one new faculty member, Dr. Abigail Hall Blanco, from the W. Fielding Rubel School of Business, as well as two new faculty members from the Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education, Dr. Tommy Wells and Dr. Ali Taylor.
Dr. Abigail Hall Blanco
Blanco is an associate professor of economics in the school of business.
Although this is Blanco’s first semester teaching at Bellarmine, she’s also no stranger to the campus community.
“I’m actually from Louisville, and I’m actually a Bellarmine alum,” she said.
Blanco said she earned her bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration, but then left Louisville to attend graduate school at George Mason University, where she earned her master’s and her doctorate in economics before teaching at the University of Tampa for five years.
“And now I’m here,” she said.
Although Blanco was a student at Bellarmine herself, she said certain aspects aren’t the same as when she was on campus.
“Being back at Bellarmine, there’s a big part of it that feels very familiar because I spent four years here as an undergraduate student, and at the same time I can tell that the campus, physically, has changed a lot,” Blanco said.
When not teaching, Blanco said she enjoys running and being outside with her family, which consists of her husband and her toddler, as well as listening to the occasional podcast.
“I really enjoy cooking, and I also really enjoy true crime, so I am totally on the true crime podcast wave,” she said.
On the professional side of things, Blanco said one of her biggest accomplishments is a 2018 Stanford University Press publication she co-authored titled “Tyranny Comes Home: The Domestic Fate of U.S. Militarism.”
“I think [that book] is probably the professional output I have that I am definitely most proud of,” she said.
Additionally, another big accomplishment for Blanco was receiving her doctoral degree.
“Finishing my Ph.D. is probably my largest educational accomplishment,” Blanco said. “It’s hard to do, and it’s something I had to work very hard for.”
Blanco said she’s faced challenges being in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
“I know that when I get, particularly women, who are interested in my field, it’s something that you feel kind of a really strong connection to ‘cause you’ve been in that position and you recognize that it’s challenging to be there,” she said.
Dr. Tommy Wells
Wells is teaching in the Master of Arts in Education, Trauma-Informed Practices program.
“The work with current teachers in this new program is a really exciting opportunity for me to share knowledge with them and help them improve their own schools,” he said. “I was really looking forward to becoming a full-time instructor because I really like teaching.”
Prior to his arrival at Bellarmine, Wells worked as a school counselor in Indianapolis for five years, primarily working at the middle school level. During that time, Wells was also teaching as an adjunct at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in its counseling program, although his interests aren’t just in education.
“As an undergrad I was a voice major, so a lot of my passions revolve around either playing piano, singing and enjoying [those] kinds of things,” Wells said. “I also have coached tennis at the middle school level the last few years, so I really like working outside of traditional academic settings with students as well.”
Wells said he’s taken advantage of interactive opportunities Bellarmine has provided during the pandemic.
“The school of education has a book club that I was a part of, and everyone was really welcoming and friendly and supportive,” he said. “It’s been a really good transition.”
Wells said he’s also been able to form bonds with students.
“I feel like I’ve been able to build some strong relationships, even though it’s been virtual,” he said. “I’m excited to see how those relationships continue to build.”
Wells said he feels the impact he’s had on his students’ lives is his biggest achievement.
He said he believes his greatest accomplishment is giving students access to whatever they need and feeling as if he’s made an impact on so many lives.
“I think that’s just giving myself to the students and giving them whatever they need to move on to the next transition in life,” he said.
Wells said he is not only a first generation college student but also a first generation doctoral student.
Dr. Ali Taylor
Taylor, an assistant professor of education who graduated from Bellarmine, has been on campus since being on the tenure track for the 2018-2019 school year.
“I absolutely love it,” she said. “It feels like a home away from home.”
Taylor taught in a different setting before her return to Bellarmine’s campus.
“I am from Indiana, and previous to my time at Bellarmine, I spent seven years as a special education teacher in [Greater Clark County Schools],” she said.
Taylor said she has been taken aback by the overwhelming welcome she’s received since coming back to Bellarmine.
“I got my undergrad and my doctorate here, so I knew that how I was treated as a student, and I figured as a faculty member I would be treated even better, and I was right,” Taylor said. “It feels like you’re still at home, surrounded by people who care about you.”
Taylor has a husband and a toddler at home, as well as a 100-pound golden retriever, Leo.
“He’s a mess,” she said. “He’s very spoiled.”
In addition to spending time with family, Taylor said she also likes to read in her spare time.
“I’m what I would call a chain reader — I like to read multiple books at one time — so it’s not uncommon to see like five books on my bedside table,” she said.
Although her all-time favorite book is “Wuthering Heights,” this she is currently re-reading the Harry Potter series.
Taylor said receiving her doctoral degree was also a big accomplishment for her, but her story had a twist.
“My greatest accomplishment is [having] my child when I started my dissertation, so I had a newborn baby, and I went into a classroom when she was six days old to do research, and I did research in that classroom for eight weeks, and I defended my dissertation when she was four months old and graduated with my Ph.D., so I would say that is my greatest accomplishment,” Taylor said.
As for challenges for Taylor, they hit close to home.
Taylor said she has a younger brother who has special needs, so growing up she saw the many challenges he faced.
“That’s why I became a special education teacher and why now I’m a special ed faculty member, but it was difficult being a primary caregiver for him along with my parents, so it’s just something you continually try to overcome every day when you are working so closely with someone who has so many exceptional needs,” she said.
It’s that same inspiration Taylor hopes to instill in her students.
“I love working with the school of education students,” she said. “I teach their very first education class, and I love meeting the students because I can just look at them and tell that they’re going to be amazing teachers one day.”