Picture of Sara McDaniel

Dr. Sara McDaniel has been named the 2020 recipient of the Frederick Moody Blackmon-Sarah McCorkle Moody Outstanding Professor Award.

The Blackmon-Moody Award is one of the most prestigious awards given annually by UA. It is based on a specific accomplishment that is innovative, creative, useful, or captures the imagination.

The award was created by Frederick Moody Blackmon, of Montgomery, to honor the memory of his grandmother, Sarah McCorkle Moody, of Tuscaloosa.

McDaniel joined UA in 2016 and she has been busy.  Dr. McDaniel is a Professor in the Department of Special Education ad Multiple Abilities and Executive Director of the Alabama Positive Behavior Support Office at The University of Alabama.  She won the APBS E. G. Carr Initial Researcher Award (2015-2016), which is given to an early career researcher whose work in positive behavior support reflects conceptual sophistication, applied relevance, and promise of substantial contribution to the field.

Dr. McDaniel earned her Ph.D. from Georgia State University in special education (mild disabilities). She teaches methods, assessment, and behavior management courses.

Dr. McDaniel’s research involves the three-tiered model of prevention known as positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) ranging from early intervention through secondary and includes alternative education settings. Dr. McDaniel focuses on both behavioral and academic interventions and supports for students with challenging behavior.

She is a national leader in research on preventing and treating behavior problems and improving student outcomes and school climate. In 2015, she established the Alabama Positive Behavior Support Office, a statewide center for training and coaching Alabama schools and districts on evidence-based positive behavior support practices.

“One McDaniel’s most innovative projects involves a large R01 research grant funded last year by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.  She recruited and led a team of investigators from across the country to design and test whether culturally-appropriate adaptations to two evidence-based violence prevention programs (one offered to all children and the other to targeted at-risk youth) can lead to reductions in discrimination and associated behavioral and emotional outcomes in middle school children. These creative program adaptations will include new objectives and activities focusing on implicit biases and perceptual distortions of teachers, students and parents…The focus of this grant emerged from McDaniel’s research on institutional racism and racial inequities in school discipline approaches, which excessively target Black youth,” stated Dr. Kagendo Mutua.

In 2019, the Board of Trustees approved establishing the research-designated Center for Interconnected Behavioral and Mental Health Systems, or CIBMHS, which combines existing research and service efforts on campus under one organization to boost schools and prepare educators who can implement the methods.  McDaniel serves as director of this center as well.

The center integrates methods and interventions from across different disciplines to improve behavior and mental health prevention and treatment for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The CIBMHS will conduct rigorous, federally-funded research in the areas of positive behavioral interventions and supports and school-based mental health, also known as Interconnected Systems Framework.