UAB Magazine Online Features
Studying the Environment’s Impact on Health
By Joe Rada
School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, jumped right in to help with spill-related research. “I worked with a fisheries group to review the process used to determine seafood safety,” she says, glad for the chance to contribute something positive during that unfortunate situation.When Julia Gohlke, Ph.D., moved to Alabama in 2010, she found herself on the front lines of a disaster. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill had just occurred, creating a primary health concern for the Gulf Coast states. So Gohlke, an assistant professor in the
Around that time she also met Fulbright fellow and UAB doctoral student Dzigbodi Doke from Ghana in West Africa, and the pair put their firsthand knowledge of the oil disaster to good use. “We conducted a seminar in Ghana on lessons learned from the spill,” Gohlke says. “A large group of stakeholders there is interested in the burgeoning deepwater oil industry in the Gulf of Guinea. That opportunity led to a collaboration with several Ghanaian researchers interested in environmental issues.”
UAB Student Sets Sail on Educational Voyage
By Marie Sutton
At times last year, 21-year-old Jessica Stephenson found it hard to keep her eyes turned toward the front of her classes. And who could blame her? The classroom window opened onto “miles and miles of ocean bliss,” says the UAB student and Oxford, Alabama, native.
Semester at Sea college credit trip, Stephenson attended classes on an old cruise ship remade into a mobile university that set sail along the coast of Central America. The decks included state-of-the-art classrooms, an 8,000-volume library, and a 24-hour computer lab.As part of a
For 26 days, the secondary education and math major joined fellow future teachers from across the United States on a journey to six countries while taking a semester’s worth of courses, teaching native students, and trying to squeeze in a little fun in the sun.
“I always dreamed of going on Semester at Sea, but could not believe it was actually coming true,” says Stephenson, a member of the UAB Global and Community Leadership Honors Program. “I remember seeing the ship for the first time and thinking, ‘How is this even possible? Is this really happening to me?”
Stephenson learned about the program while attending a high-school college fair and resolved to set sail someday. She entered UAB as a biomedical engineering student, but after working with a Memphis-based street ministry doing outreach to urban communities, she discovered her passion for teaching and changed her major.
Stephenson researched Semester at Sea programs and found one that would allow her to study various teaching methods abroad. Covering the cost of the trip, however, presented an initial obstacle, she says.
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.