Alumni Spotlight: Billy Brown
Former Exercise Science Student Climbing to New Heights
by Gail Short
Billy Brown, 23, of Birmingham, says his love for the outdoors had a lot to do with his decision to earn a degree in exercise science at UAB.
While he enjoyed playing football and soccer in high school, Brown says rock climbing was his passion. In fact, rock climbing was a popular pastime in his hometown of Fort Payne, a city located in the Appalachian foothills of northeast Alabama, he says.
“Growing up, and in high school, although I played organized sports, climbing was the kind of thing my friends did,” Brown says. “We didn’t go out to movies or go partying or whatever the typical high school kids did. We would go on camping trips on the weekend. I grew up just down the road from Little River Canyon, which is a world-class kayaking and climbing destination.”
He says he enjoyed camping and climbing so much that when he enrolled at UAB in 2010 as a freshman, he chose environmental science as his major. But after just one semester, Brown switched his major to exercise science in the UAB Department of Human Studies.
“I worked in a research lab my first semester as a work study and absolutely hated it,” Brown says. “And honestly, I really had no idea what I was getting into in environmental science. I thought it would be a lot more field work. I have a pretty heavy sports and outdoors background, so exercise science seemed a lot more natural.”
Today, Brown, who graduated in 2014, says he is primarily a free climber. He uses his hands and feet to scale rock walls. He utilizes ropes only as a safety measure in the event of a fall.
As a professional climber, he has traveled around the country and even internationally to practice his sport, he says. Last fall, he placed first in the “Star-Chaser” category at the Triple Crown Bouldering Series competition at Horse Pens 40.
Brown used his interest in climbing as the focus of his honors research project during his senior year. For his project, Brown took a series of measurements to determine whether a power- or endurance-based training protocol was more beneficial for improving hand strength stamina in advanced climbers.
Associate Professor Jane Roy, Ph.D., who teaches kinesiology in the Department of Human Studies, helped guide him through the research, he says.
“Dr. Roy was the one who pushed me,” says Brown, ”and she was my faculty adviser on my honors research project and internship.”
Brown was among the UAB School of Education’s first class of honors students. He even started a rock climbing club at UAB.
Since graduating in 2014, Brown has been in business with his older brother. They buy and sell items like cell phone cases, sunglasses, and cell phone screens online, he says.
“It pays the bills and allows me to travel and climb pretty much on my own schedule,” Brown says.
Still, Brown says he hopes to become a student again someday and enroll in a graduate program in physical therapy. Looking back on his student days at UAB, he says he appreciates the education and training he received from his professors.
“I’ve still retained a lot of great material,” he says. “I was impressed with the level of professionalism and the way they (faculty) taught. They were invested in having students know and understand the material.”
Alumni Spotlight: Harriet Callahan
School of Education Grad Brings “CSI” to the Classroom
by Gail Short
When UAB School of Education alumna Harriet Callahan graduated from Murphy High School in Mobile in 1966, she planned to study pathology, she says. But her race toward a career in science took a detour after her freshman year in college when she married her husband, a fellow student.
The couple decided that he would finish school first, Callahan says. So, with her dream of becoming a pathologist on hold, she left the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and settled into her new life as a young wife.
Today, Callahan, 66, works as a middle school science instructor in Mobile. And, in a twist of fate, she teaches a popular forensic science course where students learn what it is like to be a crime scene investigator.
Callahan says her journey to becoming a science teacher started after she had children. Back then, she says, raising the couple’s two children kept her busy, and the family moved from city to city for her husband’s job. But as her children grew older, her desire to earn a college degree returned.
“As they grew up, wherever we were located at the time, I went to school to take a couple of classes,” she says. “I was taking most of the science classes that were offered like biology and chemistry, not really knowing which direction I was going in because I didn’t know that I could have a career.”
Eventually, the family moved to Birmingham, and Callahan enrolled at UAB in 1987. By then, she had decided to become a science teacher. She says that attending classes taught by Associate Professor Emeritus Joe Burns, Ed.D., in the UAB Department of Curriculum and Instruction gave her the desire to teach middle school science.
“Dr. Joe Burns was the one that zeroed in on different activities that children were so excited about,” she says, “and he was the one who led me in that direction.
“I could not have asked for a better group of gifted faculty members than those that I had with every class I took,” she says. “Very experienced. … The faculty there was outstanding.”
Callahan graduated from UAB in 1992 and scored her first teaching job at Jones Valley Middle School in Birmingham. While at Jones Valley, Callahan taught an advanced biology class, she says.
After four years at Jones Valley, Callahan and her family moved to Albany, Ga., where she taught school for a year before they relocated to her hometown of Mobile. In 1996, she started teaching the physical sciences at Lott Middle School in nearby Citronelle.
During her 16 years at Lott Middle School, Callahan specialized in presenting hands-on science experiences for her students. She even used her efforts to earn her pilot’s license as a way to teach her students about the laws of physics, she says.
Then in 2012, Callahan took a teaching job at Burns Middle School in Mobile. The principal at the time wanted her to continue teaching hands-on science as a STEM elective course, she says. This time, however, Callahan says she had an idea. She wanted to attend a summer forensic science workshop for teachers in Albany, N.Y., and teach the curriculum to her students.
“I explained it to him,” Callahan says, “and told him you couldn’t get any more hands on than that. It also filled many of the STEM objectives.”
In her forensic science class, students learn skills such as taking tire impressions, fingerprinting, and analyzing bite marks. In addition, Callahan invites members of the local sheriff’s department’s crime scene unit and technicians from the medical examiner’s office to talk with students about real-life cases and how they conduct investigations. Callahan also talks to her students about related career opportunities they can explore such as computer forensics.
Her students’ reaction to the class has been positive, she says, and they have learned that real-life crime investigations are nothing like what they see on popular television shows like “CSI.”
“Initially, they’re very much intimidated,” she says, “thinking that it is going to deal with the morbidity of it all. But once they find out that they’re actually doing detective work and not dealing with the gruesome end of it, the students love it.”
The forensic science classes have become so popular that teachers at other local middle and high schools have expressed their interest in teaching the course, she says. As a result, she has begun talking to her supervisors about the possibility of someday hosting a summer forensic science workshop for educators.
Besides teaching, Callahan says she enjoys flying single-engine Cessnas and competing in triathlons.
“I had always been a road runner,” she says, “and I had been a cyclist when we lived in Denver. I was successful at it, and that will drive anybody. If you’re successful at something one time, you’ll keep pushing at it.”
Callahan, who is now a grandmother, says she is still driven to continue teaching her forensic science classes and has no plans to slow down.
“I don’t want to give this up yet,” she says. “I’m having fun. To see the wow look on the students’ faces. You can’t beat that.”
School of Education Celebrates Philanthropic Milestones
School of Education Celebrates Philanthropic Milestones
by Gail Short
UAB School of Education faculty are working hard every day to change the world.
They are instructing the next generation of highly qualified teachers and administrators, educating students to deliver community counseling services, and making new discoveries to enhance the health and well-being of children and adults.
It is through their efforts that the School is able to organize meaningful internships and field experiences to help our students advance their education. Our faculty are also collaborating with both urban and rural school districts in Alabama to implement research-based programs that are improving learning outcomes and preparing P-12 students for college success.
Many of the School’s educational programs and services are made possible with the help of generous donations from our community partners, alumni, and friends like you. Your gifts are helping to create scholarships, fund critical programs and deliver essential equipment and materials for important research that aims to make P-12 schools and communities better.
The following were important philanthropic milestones for the SOE in 2014:
- The Belk Foundation provided key support for UABTeach Mentor Teachers and student scholarships.
- AT&T invested in the Innovative Learning Collaborative, helping to launch a pilot program at Parker High School that will teach students how to use technology in preparing for reading and writing success. Watch the video.
- Memorial gifts helped create important financial support for The Maryann Manning Family Literacy Foundation.
- Planned gifts provided significant funding for several School scholarships.
- New scholarships for student tuition and financial support increased our scholarship offerings to more than 20.
- Dr. Mabel C. Robinson Memorial Endowed Scholarship
- The Early Childhood Education Graduate Student Award
Your Annual Gifts to the School not only provided scholarships, but also furnished a new meeting space for faculty, staff, and students.
- Health and wellness and education across the lifespan
- The study of diversity issues in the preparation of education, health, and wellness professionals
- Interdisciplinary collaboration
- Technology integration
We are grateful for your support because giving something CAN change everything.
Teaching in the Digital Age
Teaching in the Digital Age
by Gail Short
The popularity of online courses and degree programs at American colleges and universities has increased in recent years.
In fact, this trend was illustrated in a 2012 study by the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board that found that more than 6.7 million students in the fall term of 2011 took at least one online course. That number was up by 570,000 from 2010.
The UAB School of Education offers several graduate degree programs online, including Elementary Education, Early Childhood Education, Reading, Community Health Education, Physical Education and the Collaborative Teacher traditional master’s program in Special Education.
One popular online class is Language Development, a graduate-level course taught by Associate Professor Emerita Kathleen Martin, Ph.D., in the UAB Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
“This course usually fills quickly,” says Martin, “and some semesters we have to have two sections.”
Language Development is a required course for students in the Reading Specialist Master’s program and in the master’s level English As a Second Language program. Students in the ECE/ELEM master’s program, however, have the option of taking the class to fulfill their requirement for a child development course.
Martin’s class has 20 students. Most are in Birmingham, she says, although several live in other cities around Alabama. One student works as a school teacher in Shenyang, China.
Over the years, some university educators have criticized online classes for the lack of face-to-face interactions between students and instructors. Martin, however, says she has overcome that challenge by requiring her students to post their responses and reviews of the class readings as part of their grade. No one, she says, can “sit in the back of the room” and hope not to be called on. Some weeks she has as many as 300 posts to read through.
“We knew that we needed to move to online teaching,” she says. “It’s what our market wanted, and we had to figure out a way to do it. But, I was unwilling to develop courses that didn’t have the social element because I think that’s how we learn. I think that we learn when we interact with other people and when we interact with text.
“I think the largest benefit of teaching online is that I can think more deeply when I respond to students,” Martin says. “Additionally, both the students and I can revisit ideas. In a face-to-face class, all is in the moment. I sometimes leave a face-to-face class thinking, ‘I should have said this,’ or ‘Yikes! I forgot to make the connection between A and B.’ Online, I can always go back and develop an important point I may have missed.”
Martin says all online classes in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction are on the graduate level. Undergraduate students must take their courses on campus.
“We made the decision that we would not put any undergraduate courses online in our department,” she says. “That’s because students are going through that initial teacher certification, and we felt it was important to see the students in the classroom.”
Martin says that while a few students have said they prefer meeting on campus, online learning will continue to have a place in higher education.
“I know that [online classes] are not going away,” she says. “They will at least be a part of the way that we deliver a good university education.”