Business Scholars Develop Smart Solutions for Birmingham's Growth

Business ScholarsBirmingham’s leaders have been listening to 22-year-old Ariel Smith’s advice for improving quality of life in the city’s neighborhoods. And the UAB student hasn’t even finished her senior year.

Smith was one of six students who took part in the UAB Collat School of Business Student Scholars Program, a two-week service-learning course that lets business students apply their classroom knowledge to help communities solve real-world problems from crime to poor housing and a lagging local economy. The scholars teamed up with nine high school students living in the community.

Last summer, the group analyzed housing, crime, business, education, health, culture, and recreation and entertainment in Birmingham’s Sixth District and developed a business plan for the area. The district, which borders UAB’s campus, includes the Glen Iris, Arlington-West End, and Woodland Park neighborhoods, among others.

“We’re looking at critical areas where we can give strategies for improvement,” says UAB business instructor Nathan Oliver, M.B.A., who led the project. “We canvassed the area and talked with people such as religious leaders, residents, teachers, and principals. We also canvassed local businesses.”

Adjusting the Wheel

Smith, a management major with a concentration in human resource management, heard about the Business Student Scholars Program after the group developed a marketing plan to attract new industries to Wilcox County, one of Alabama’s poorest counties, in 2011 and 2012. The scholars also researched the feasibility of having local farmers plant and sell bamboo, a resource used to make furniture, flooring, and other products. After Smith joined the program in 2013, the group studied the impact of the civil rights movement on Birmingham’s business community since 1963.

To prepare for the new project, the students learned how to research demographic and statistical data at UAB’s Sterne Library, Oliver says. The scholars used different business techniques such as a SWOT analysis to examine the Sixth District’s existing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. They also developed comparative profile matrices to evaluate Birmingham and similar cities and set benchmarks.

“That’s essential in business,” says Smith, a Birmingham native. “We implemented it to show people that a lot of the issues in the Sixth District are not unique to it, and that you don’t have to re-create the wheel. You just have to adjust it.”

The course also featured guest speakers, including Mayor William Bell, Councilwoman Shelia Tyson, the Birmingham City Schools superintendent, and representatives from the Birmingham Police Department. Meeting city leaders benefited not only the UAB business students, but also the high school students, including four who live in the Sixth District, Smith says. “We taught them that their opinions matter,” she says. “We took them to the City Council meetings, and they introduced themselves one by one. It means a lot when someone says, ‘I want to hear what you have to say.’”

Proposals for Progress

The students have presented their creative solutions for the Sixth District to city leaders, who are interested in implementing them, Oliver says. One proposal in their business plan would identify neighborhood churches with programs such as free parenting classes and basketball leagues that could benefit district residents.

“One of the most important suggestions encourages Birmingham police officers to make themselves more visible to younger children in the communities as a way to build rapport early,” Oliver says.

The students suggested that local businesses should do more to highlight and celebrate high school sports teams by displaying team banners and photos in stores. They also advised businesses to collaborate on special discounts for area shoppers as an incentive to buy locally.

“This program has taught me to not only break the mold, but also to question why there’s a mold in the first place,” Smith says. “That’s all about innovation. Innovation doesn’t neglect what we have, but it also wonders what else can be.”

By Gail Allyn Short

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UAB Brings Savings Lessons to Birmingham City Students

SOB green acresNearly 1,500 middle school students from Birmingham City Schools recently learned the importance of basic finances from University of Alabama at Birmingham faculty, staff and students during the national Teach Children To Save event.

Students from Green Acres Middle School, Huffman Middle School, Inglenook K-8 School, Phillips Academy, Smith Middle School, Wilkerson Middle School and Wylam K-8 School participated in the event, which supported Financial Literacy Month.

Faculty, staff and students from UAB’s Collat School of Business served as ambassadors for the Institute for Financial Literacy, whose mission is built upon community outreach efforts such as this event. The Institute’s ambassadors went into each of the seven participating schools and taught lessons that sought to lay the foundation for savings fundamentals for the students.


Faculty & Staff Attention Helps Student Realize Graduation Dream

Chelsea Burke (right)  and Andrea PoundThere was a point during her studies at UAB when Chelsea Burks didn’t know if she would graduate.

She was a freshman studying human resources management, eager to devour all UAB and the Collat School of Business had to offer. But a bout of mononucleosis turned out to be not as common for her as it usually is for other students.

Chelsea’s mono triggered a slew of life-threatening health problems that required numerous hospitalizations and nearly crushed her academic dreams.


Collat Professor Jack Recognized for Quality Online Instruction

Jack AveProfessor Ave Jack in the Collat School of Business submitted her online course for review through a nationally ranked program - Quality Matters. The program has gained national attention for its faculty peer review process which utilizes three Quality matters (QM) certified reviewers.

In order to earn recognition, a course must meet each of the 21 essential standards, based on research, and receive a minimum of 84 (out of 99) points on the QM rubric. Professor Jack was one of the first of five in the state to earn this recognition.

“Going through the review process confirmed the excellent work our instructional design team has been doing in the Collat School of Business for years,” says Ave Jack.

Dr. Elizabeth Fisher, Director of Academic Outreach and the UAB QM Coordinator for the Division of eLearning and Professional Studies noted, “The QM process is very collegial and student centric. Professor Jack clearly cares about student success evidenced by her hard work and willingness to seek and embrace continual improvement of their courses.”

Honors Program Students Represent Collat School of Business at UAB’s Spring Commencement

graduationThree members of the class of 2015 cohort of the Collat School of Business Honors Program had key roles at the April 25, 2015 UAB commencement ceremonies. Alicja Foksinska and Ameen Barghi were the undergraduate speakers. A third participant in the 2015 cohort of the program, Abeda Iqbal, was selected by the faculty to represent the school as its banner bearer for the ceremonies.


What's Next for Recent Business Graduates?

SpgGrad DanielleWhere are undergradutes from Collat School of Business heading after college? Take a look at a few of our upcoming graduates and find out where they have decided to apply their business skills in the next phase of their career or academic education.


UAB Collat Student Wins ISA Buffington Memorial Scholarship


Gary KhodanianThe Industrial Supply Association (ISA) announced today that University of Alabama at Birmingham student Gary Khodanian was chosen to receive the 2015-16 Gary L. Buffington Memorial Scholarship.

Khodanian is majoring in Industrial Distribution at the UAB Collat School of Business, and is scheduled to graduate in April 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Distribution and an Entrepreneurship Certificate.

"I cannot begin to describe my immense gratitude to the selection committee and to the ISA Educational Foundation for choosing me as the recipient of this award. I will diligently work to spend every day of my academic and professional career living up to the merits of this wonderful distinction and the prestige of Gary L. Buffington himself,” Khodanian said.


Collat MISQ Advisor Receives UAB's 2015 Outstanding Advisor Award

Pound AndreaCollat advisor Andrea Miller Pound was honored April 13 with UAB's 2015 Outstanding Advisor Award.

Andrea has advised students in the Department of Management, Information Systems & Quantitative Methods since 2010, when the business school moved all of the dedicated student support services to be housed within the departments. Being embedded in the MISQ department allowed Andrea to get to know her students, and better focus on student recruitment and retention, student engagement and industry connections for students.


Collat Students Present at Undergraduate Research Expo

Twenty-one undergraduates in the Collat School of Business recently joined other UAB undergraduate students to present the results of their independent research projects at the Eighth Annual UAB Undergraduate Research Expo on April 10, 2015.

There were over 200 presentations made at the Expo, with over 300 presenters, in the categories of arts and humanities; biological, life, and physical sciences; business, financial, and international studies; social, behavioral and health sciences; and service learning.

Four of the business students, all participants in the Collat School of Business Honors Program, won awards for their presentations from the Expo organizers:

• Rami Elsharif (Marketing), for his poster presentation, “Good Vibes: How the Leader’s Mood Can Influence the Group” (Dr. Christopher Biga, Department of Sociology, faculty advisor). 
RE Elsharif