A lifelong Alabamian, Cost is a three-time Auburn graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, an M.Ed. in Special Education, and a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation and Special Education - Behavioral Disorders. Before her position at the University of Montevallo, Cost worked in the Auburn area in mental health and special education roles in the Lee County school system, East Alabama Mental Health and Lee County Youth Development Center, at Auburn University as a graduate teaching and research assistant and assistant director of the Summer Clinic program, and later as assistant professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas. At the University of Montevallo, Cost was professor of Special Education and responsible for program coordination, assessment and accreditation activities in the department. During her tenure, she launched the university’s service-learning program and developed two major civic engagement initiatives, “Falcon Scholars in Action,” a community outreach program with Shelby County non-profit agencies engaging university students, and the “Montevallo Connection” initiative which promoted collaboration between the university and the city’s public schools.
Cost’s community engagement and advocacy extended beyond campus to civic leadership, in which she served for more than 16 years as an elected Montevallo city council member and Mayor. In her two terms as mayor, she was responsible for all municipal operations including budget management, direct supervision of ten department heads, infrastructure maintenance and improvements, and overall promotion of civic engagement, social equity and inclusivity for citizens. During her administration she initiated a Students’ Institute, a Junior City Council, and a comprehensive recycling program among several other citywide initiatives.
A graduate of Leadership Alabama and Leadership Shelby County, Cost has received a number of educational, municipal and civic engagement certifications from the Alabama State Department of Education, the Alabama League of Municipalities, and Auburn University’s Community and Civic Engagement Imagining America Institute. She has a comprehensive record of disciplinary research, grant acquisition, publication and presentation across her special education, civic engagement, and community development dossier. Among her many notable scholarly and public recognitions, Cost was named a Kettering Foundation Research Fellow, the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Humanitarian of the Year, the Alabama Main Street Hero Award, Gulf-South Summit Outstanding Service-Learning Collaboration Award, and Auburn University’s Academy for Civic Professionalism Alumni Award. She has been active in community service at both the local and state level including board service with the Shelby County Chamber, Alabama Environmental Commission, Alabama League of Municipalities, Montevallo Sister City Commission and many other initiatives.