UAB Magazine Online Archive
Chilapa, Mexico, was a world apart. Located in the state of Guerrero, halfway between Mexico City and Acapulco, the small commercial and service center in an otherwise agrarian region was—like many of its kind—isolated by a simple lack of paved roads.
This changed in the 1960s and ’70s as the Mexican economy grew through protectionist policies and state-subsidized industry, funded largely by foreign investments and petroleum revenues in a time of inflated fuel prices. Finally, the pavement—poorly maintained though it was—reached communities like Chilapa, bringing the country’s problems with it.
“My original work centered on what happens when an unconnected area becomes connected,” says UAB anthropology professor Chris Kyle, Ph.D. Trained as an ethnographer, Kyle has been studying the economic and political environment of Chilapa and the surrounding river valley for nearly 20 years, including three years of living and working in the town itself that resulted in his 2008 book, Feeding Chilapa: The Birth, Life, and Death of a Mexican Region. His research offers some insights into the growth of the drug wars between the Mexican government and regional drug cartels. In fall 2012, Kyle will teach a course on politics and drug violence in Latin America.
More Money, More Problems
“The patch of territory beyond where I worked is one of the most indigenous and poorest regions in Mexico today,” Kyle says. “Within Mexico, the state of Guerrero had received very little scholarly attention and had a reputation for being violent and inhospitable to outsiders. When I first visited it seemed charming and inviting, and the disconnect between my experience and that state’s reputation further intrigued me.”
Alumna in Australia Offers a Boost to U.S. Schools
By Matt Windsor
Citizen Schools, a Texas-based organization that designs and implements interventions for low-performing schools across the United States.You may think you have a killer commute, but this is ridiculous: It’s roughly 10,000 miles from Mandy Haeuser Gandin’s house in Perth, Australia, to her workplace in Texas. Luckily, the 2004 UAB graduate usually gets to phone it in—or Skype it in, to be precise. Gandin, who moved to Perth because of her husband’s job with a major American energy company, is a consultant for
This isn’t exactly how Gandin envisioned her career path. She came to UAB in 2001 as an elite synchronized swimmer from Texas and earned a spot as captain of the university’s synchronized swimming team in 2003 and 2004. She led the squad to a third-place finish at the national championship meet and won three All-American awards. Out of the pool, Gandin was a member of the University Honors Program and president of the Economics Club. She earned an economics degree with a mathematics minor in three years, graduating summa cum laude.
Instead of a career in banking or finance, however, Gandin returned to Texas to teach fourth-grade science and social studies in a low-performing elementary school. She was the first student from UAB accepted into the prestigious Teach for America (TFA) program, which recruits recent college graduates to spend two years teaching in low-income communities across the country.
It’s a tough job for a young person just beginning his or her career, but there are plenty of eager applicants. Although roughly 50,000 students apply each year, less than 15 percent are admitted. Gandin was a trailblazer; to date, 11 additional UAB students have been selected for TFA, including Ebony Hinton in 2012.
Gandin is proud of that legacy and eager to share her enthusiasm for the transformative power of education.
From UAB Student to Toy Engineer
By Caperton Gillett
Wendy Sudsinsunthorn gets paid to play. The 2007 UAB School of Engineering alumna and native of Pell City, Alabama, has applied her creative and technical skills as an intern with Harley-Davidson and in a research and development job with Birmingham-based Summit Toys. Now she has moved to the big time—and the big city—with a position in the Thomas & Friends division of Fisher-Price toys in New York City, where she works with the design, marketing, and engineering groups to manage toy projects “from concept phase to first shipment.”
You’ve worked with Harleys. You’ve built toys. And now you’re living in New York and hanging out with Thomas the Tank Engine. Question: Awesome job, or awesomest job ever?
Student Caregivers Help Underserved Patients
By Meghan Davis
UAB School of Medicine, she was intrigued by the opportunities students had to work in the state-of-the-art facilities at UAB Hospital and The Kirklin Clinic. But what attracted her most was the chance to work in a far less well-equipped building a few miles east of campus.When Marielle Baldwin was interviewing for a place at the
Baldwin previously served in AmeriCorps in Colorado, working as a health educator at a pediatric primary care clinic, which sparked an interest in primary care and in the larger issues of health care access and affordability. When she found out about Equal Access Birmingham (EAB), a student-run volunteer organization at the UAB School of Medicine, she was eager to get involved.
“It was important to choose a medical school where I could not only learn to become a physician but also interact with my community and take a public health approach,” says Baldwin, now a second-year student and EAB president.
Now in its seventh year, EAB has steadily added members, expanded its services to reach more local communities, and increased its fund-raising. By the end of the summer, the group plans to be able to open a free student-run clinic of its own. From its inception, EAB has planned a sustainable, freestanding clinic to ease the burden on the city’s emergency services and clinics and offer students a chance to help their community, says Baldwin.