By Marcia B. Harris and Sharon L. Jones

1. Choosing a Career/Choosing a Major
Security vs. adventure. Accountant, Peace Corps volunteer, journalist, college professor. Ultimately, your son or daughter should make the choice. Of course, you may want to mention factors to consider, such as job market demand, salary ranges, long-range opportunities, skills required, etc. Just because an occupation is "hot" now does not mean it will be equally in demand in 10 years or that your child has the aptitude or motivation for it.

2. Choosing to Double Major/Choosing a Major and Minor
Most employers do not place a premium on a double major. It usually requires an extra one or two semesters to obtain a second major and does not particularly enhance a student's marketability. Exceptions would be a second major or a major and minor chosen for a specific career, such as English and chemistry for technical writing, or a health policy major and business minor for hospital administration. Of course, some students may choose to double major primarily for academic/intellectual purposes.

3. Grade Point Average (GPA)
Some students who get off to a rocky start eventually pull up their grades; however, this can be very difficult to do. Advanced placement credits and study abroad courses generally do not count in the computation of a student's GPA. Some employers use GPA cutoffs in considering applicants. Other employers stress the student's overall background: experience, number of hours worked during the school year to finance college, leadership activities, etc. Encourage your son or daughter to make academics a high priority beginning with his or her freshman year. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that it may take him or her a while to adjust to the rigorous academic demands of college.

4. Obtaining Marketable Skills
Most employers today put more emphasis on graduates' skills than on their academic majors. Encourage your son or daughter to develop strengths in at least two or three of the following areas:

• Computer skills (e.g., programming, word processing, spreadsheets, data base management, e-mail, Internet);
• Quantitative skills (e.g., accounting, statistics, economics);
• Communication skills (e.g., written and oral);
• Marketing/selling skills (e.g., sales, publicity, fundraising);
• Scientific skills (e.g., lab skills, scientific research);
• Foreign language skills (e.g., especially Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, or Russian);
• Leadership skills (e.g., supervisory, extracurricular leadership roles, teamwork/team leader).

5. Leadership Activities
Many employers rate leadership activities even more highly than GPA. Students who were very active in high school activities may be less involved in college extracurricular activities. However, employers regard high school as "ancient history" for a college senior. It is more valuable for a student to be involved in a few meaningful leadership roles on campus than to be in a "laundry list" of many campus clubs.

 6. Experience
You may want your son or daughter to work in his or her hometown every summer. However, the experience gained as a lifeguard or ice cream shop counter clerk does not compare to that which comes from an internship (paid or unpaid) in the career field that he or she aspires to enter. Future employers will seek graduates with relevant, realworld work experience. Some students have little to write about on a resume if their summers were spent in school, traveling, or working at low-level jobs. We strongly suggest that students seek career-related experience for their sophomore and junior summers even if they must live away from home or accept an unpaid internship. Students needing financial support can combine an unpaid internship with a paid job such as waiter/waitress, etc.

7. Graduating Early, Graduating Late
Some students graduate early through advanced placement credits, heavy course loads, and summer school courses. The advantages are lower educational expenses and the ability to start employment or graduate school earlier. The disadvantages may include the sacrifice of academic honors, work experience, and extracurricular and volunteer activities that may contribute to a student's maturity level and qualifications. Other students graduate late due to light course loads, academic difficulties, changing majors, poor academic advising, lack of direction, or reluctance to leave the cocoon of the college environment. Advantages to late graduation include the ability to improve grades with light class loads, extra time to change majors, the ability to take additional electives to improve marketability, and extra time to gain more career-related or leadership experience. Disadvantages to late graduation are increased college costs and possible disapproval of employers and graduate schools.

8. Planning for Graduate/Professional School
About 88 percent of the nation's college freshmen indicated in a recent survey that they plan to go to graduate or professional school, yet only about 24 percent do so within a year of completing their bachelor's degree. Students aspiring to graduate or professional school should: Be clear about the reasons they want to go on for further education; research the qualifications required for admission and be realistic about their chances of acceptance; and always have a "Plan B" or back-up plan in case they are not accepted. Students should discuss their interest in graduate or professional school well before their senior year with their academic adviser; the college's graduate or professional school adviser (e.g., the pre-law or pre-med adviser); and a college career adviser to obtain advice and guidance from three different perspectives.

9. Taking Time Off
Many students want to take time off after college graduation from college before attending graduate school or taking a career-related job. Future employers will want to know how the student has spent the intervening time. Do activities during this period demonstrate relevance to future career goals and/or a good work ethic? While short-term travel may be personally broadening, it does not increase a student's marketability to employers unless it is seen as career related. Therefore, the time off may result in a longer job search. For example, management trainee programs, which often begin shortly after graduation and hire large numbers of new graduates, may be filled by the time your child is ready to begin a job search.

10. Using the College Career Services Office
Students should begin using their campus career office no later than their sophomore year. Virtually all career offices provide individual career counseling/advising, career planning workshops, internship assistance, and career fairs and programs-these services are specifically for underclassmen. Your son or daughter should seek help early with choosing a career and preparing for it. Competition for good jobs, particularly in certain fields, is stiff. The career office can advise students about how to become a strong candidate for their field of interest.


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UAB News

  • Theatre UAB presents Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child” from Feb. 24-28
    Sam Shepard’s 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning dissection of a Midwestern family, “Buried Child,” ranks with “The Glass Menagerie” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” as an evocative, haunting American masterpiece.
    Assistant Professor of Theatre Jack Cannon as Dodge, Antonio Mitchell of Phenix City as Tilden and Carla Smith of Birmingham as Halie in Theatre UAB’s production of “Buried Child."

    Theatre UAB will explore Sam Shepard’s dark vision of a twisted American dream in “Buried Child,” with performances from Feb. 24-28 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    Theatre UAB is the performance company of the UAB College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Theatre. The department’s season includes five main-stage productions each academic year. All plays in the season are performed in UAB’s own Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center.

    Directed by Professor of Theatre Karla Koskinen, “Buried Child” is Shepard’s 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning dissection of a Midwestern family. When Vince brings his girlfriend home to visit, she at first likens the farmhouse to a Norman Rockwell painting. Things change as she meets the ranting, violent inhabitants, and gradually a dark secret emerges. Shepard’s radical, macabre treatment of the inescapability of the familial bond ranks “Buried Child” with “The Glass Menagerie” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” as an evocative, haunting American masterpiece.

    Theatre UAB will present “Buried Child” at 7:30 p.m. nightly Feb. 24-27, with a 2 p.m. matinee Feb. 28, in the Alys Stephens Center’s Sirote Theatre, 1200 10th Ave. South. Tickets are $12 and $15, student tickets are $6, and UAB employee and senior citizen tickets are $10. This play contains strong adult language and themes. Call 205-934-3236 or visit the department online at www.uab.edu/cas/theatre.

    The mood of the play has a great deal of humor, but it’s the kind used as a survival mechanism, says Koskinen. The audience is like people who drive by a somewhat deserted farmhouse, and wonder what goes on inside. They are invited into the stark, uncomfortable world, abandoned by comfort, love and any sense of home.

    Shepard uses symbols and opposites throughout the play: the decaying house and land magically come back to life; the American dream becomes a nightmare of despair; the prodigal son returns, but no one recognizes him. The farm was at one time thriving, producing milk and plentiful crops; but now it has dried up. When life does return, vegetables grow at the wrong time of the year. The rain that brings the crops also washes away the dirt and exposes the family’s long-buried secret.

    The cast is Carla Smith of Birmingham as Halie; Antonio Mitchell of Phenix City as Tilden; Terrance Campbell of Leeds as Bradley; Dai’Sean Garrett of Childersburg as Vince; Gracie Brazeal of Birmingham as Shelly; Assistant Professor of Theatre Jack Cannon as Dodge; and Joseph Baude of Arab as Father Dewis. The crew is Lauren Edwards of Stockton, California, stage manager; Hannah Mueller of Chelsea and Aaron Duncan of Bessemer, assistant stage managers; and Bliss Bailey of Tuscaloosa, assistant director. Assistant Professor Marlene Johnson worked with the cast as vocal coach. Additional assistant director for the show is Gemma Peris of Bonrepós i Mirambell, València, Spain.

  • School of Health Professions online bachelor’s ranked in top 10 by SuperScholar
    UAB’s School of Health of Professions has made SuperScholar.org’s list for top online bachelor’s programs in health care administration, ranking ninth.

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Health Professions has been ranked ninth on SuperScholar.org’s list for top online bachelor’s programs in health care administration.

    The School of Health Professions offers an online degree program for a Bachelor of Science degree in health care management. This program prepares students for mid-level management positions in a variety of health care settings.

    Curriculum for the degree includes five options:

    1. Long-term care administration track
    2. Pre-professional track
    3. Health care management/occupational therapy fast track
    4. General manager track
    5. Clinical manager track

    The “smart choice” ranking by SuperScholar was developed to help prospective students find high-quality online programs that fit their schedules and their budgets. Schools were evaluated based on market reputation, flexibility, student satisfaction, accessibility and affordability.

  • UAB researchers identify protein that plays key role in brain cancer stem cell growth and survival
    New UAB research study shows therapeutic promise in targeting MLK4 in brain cancer patients.
    Ichiro Nakano

    A team of physicians and scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham discovered that a kinase protein, mixed lineage kinase 4, also known as MLK4, plays a crucial role in survival of patient-derived brain cancer stem cells in pre-clinical animal models. The findings suggest that MLK4 could potentially be a useful target for cancer treatment.

    Of the approximately 12,000 people who are diagnosed with GBM annually in the U.S., half will die within a year, and the rest within 3 years. Currently, the only treatments that stretch survival limits are exceptionally invasive surgeries to remove the tumor and radiation treatment with the maximum tolerated dose - all of which leads to a painfully low quality of life. Because of this, researchers are racing to find better therapies to stop or slow GBM.

    In the Jan. 1, 2006 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research, Gelsomina "Pupa" De Stasio, professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her colleagues report on research into using a new radiotherapy technique for fighting GBM with the element gadolinium. The approach might some day lead to less invasive treatment and possibly a cure of this disease.

    Protein kinases are key regulators of cell function that constitute one of the largest and most functionally diverse gene families. Until recently, MLK4 was considered a poorly characterized kinase. The UAB team, however, identified this gene from a stepwise screening of molecules that are elevated in cancer stem cells isolated from brain cancer patients.

    The findings, published this week online in Cancer Cell, nailed down the novel molecular mechanisms for which MLK4 is essential in cancer stem cells and not in normal cells in the human body. Most importantly, brain cancer patients with higher MLK4 expression have shorter survival despite the current intensive therapies including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Nonetheless, there are no MLK4-targeting therapies or clinical trials currently available for patients.

    “There is no doubt that society desperately needs new and effective therapies for this life-threatening brain disease. Improvement of patient survival for the past 50 years has been counted by months and not years,” said Ichiro Nakano, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the UAB Department of Neurosurgery and principal investigator of the study. “We, as an international collaborative team centered at UAB, focus on cancer stem cells as a therapeutic target in brain cancers.”

    In early 2000, Nakano was involved in a team that isolated cancer stem cells from brain cancers at the University of California at Los Angeles. This discovery gained attention from physicians and scientists because accumulating evidence suggested that cancer stem cells are relatively therapy-resistant and appear to contribute to re-generation of recurrent tumors that subsequently kill affected patients.

    Sunghak Kim

    “Cancer stem cells share many of the properties of normal stem cells but have also gained transformed cancerous phenotypes,” said Sunghak Kim, Ph.D., an instructor in the UAB Department of Neurosurgery who has led much of the research. “We have been trying to identify the cancer stem cell-specific Achilles heel that could make all the difference.”

    While conducting this study, the investigators also found that MLK4-high tumors appear to have Mesenchymal signature, considered to be one process cancers use to become aggressive and therapy-resistant.

    “Approximately 35 to 40 percent of glioblastoma patients appear to have Mesenchymal signature. It is also interesting that some non-Mesenchymal cancers seem to shift their phenotype to a Mesenchymal one after therapeutic failure,” Kim said. “We are still collecting more data on this additional piece of information to prove that this is a universal event in brain cancers.”

    It is important to note that MLK4 is not expressed in all brain cancers. But now that research indicates that MLK4 is elevated in a subset of brain cancer patients and plays a key role in brain cancer stem cell growth, the next step is to identify targeted therapies that affect the MLK4 in the cancer stem cells.

    “We have begun to collaborate with Southern Research Institute to screen drug candidates that selectively target MLK4 in brain cancers,” said Nakano, also a senior scientist at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Targeting strategies for MLK4 may work for other cancer types, as we already know that MLK4 is highly expressed in some other malignant types of cancers.”

    Nakano added, “Ultimately, we want better outcomes for patients with brain cancer. There’s no question that this is not an easy battle. But by further understanding the molecular mechanisms and applying new targeted therapeutic strategies including MLK4, we are hoping to provide brain cancer patients with more promising and tailored therapeutic approaches.”

    Collaborative participants on this project include M.D. Anderson, Ohio State University, University of Texas, Northwestern University, Cincinnati Hospital Medical Center, and a variety of German and Japanese research departments and institutes.

    The work was supported by the American Cancer Society, the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and Takeda Science Foundation.

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