UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on Courses and Programs
Foreign Language Learning Opens Doors At Home and Abroad
By Meghan Davis
From Spanish to Chinese to Arabic, UAB students are using their language skills to further diplomacy across the globe and to help businesses around the corner.
“Society is changing rapidly and drastically,” says Lourdes Sánchez-López, Ph.D., associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. “Students prepare furiously for a globalized job market that is open to anyone in the world. Often, the decisive factor for an employer is the multi-linguistic and multicultural qualifications of applicants.”
Many students are attracted to languages for reasons beyond their resumes, of course. “I first enrolled in Chinese class because I was interested in the character-based writing system,” says junior Devin Thorne. “Writing characters is like drawing for me.” Thorne is one of the six UAB students who have won the U.S. State Department’s prestigious Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) in the past three years.
Online Global Health Certificate Appeals to Professionals, Students
By Matt Windsor
From an apartment in central Asia, Birmingham ophthalmologist C. James McCollum, M.D., dialed home for assistance. “I was working in the area of childhood blindness,” says McCollum, a 1988 graduate of the UAB School of Medicine and current director of the emergency department at UAB’s Callahan Eye Hospital. But as he treated patients in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, McCollum realized something was missing.
“I have long been interested in working overseas,” he says. “I feel it is something God put on my heart at a young age. That desire shaped many of my educational choices, including the decision to study ophthalmology after medical school, but I had no background in public or global health.”
Looking for a “knowledge base, tools, and perspective that would help me better serve the people in those countries,” McCollum discovered the online certificate program in global health studies offered by the UAB School of Public Health. He enrolled in the 15-hour program while still working in Uzbekistan and completed his coursework after he returned to Birmingham.
UAB Students Get Animated and Interactive
By Caperton Gillett
Digital graphics and animation used to be known as “new media” back when they really were new. Today they appear on screens of every size under the name of “time-based media,” reflecting the fact that these works have a beginning and an end and often involve input from the viewer.
UAB’s time-based media program lives in the Department of Art and Art History, where it harnesses technology to create a new kind of fine art. A key focus is animation—both hand-drawn and 3D—but that’s not the only emphasis, says Christopher Lowther, M.F.A., assistant professor of time-based media.
The students “are very engaged in contemporary practice,” he says. “We’re doing investigations in interactivity using sensors and circuit boards.” The 3D animation even has a virtual-reality component—something that other programs often don’t have, Lowther says.
UAB’s nationally recognized time-based media program consists of seven courses: introductory, intermediate, and advanced time-based media; 3D computer modeling; 3D computer animation; Emerging Technologies; and a capstone seminar. To learn more, visit http://www.uab.edu/art/programs_timebased.php
From Flipbooks to 3D
Lowther goes back in time to teach the basics of the field, beginning with what he calls “pre-cinematic devices”—frame-by-frame animation using flipbooks and zoetropes—and progressing through more traditional 2D animation and stop-frame animation in the style of movies like Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and current Oscar nominees Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Other courses concentrate on object-based art; in them, students have used a preprogrammed circuit board called a MaKey MaKey to connect with a computer and make their artwork interactive. The technology grows more advanced from there. In fact, Lowther’s 3D computer modeling course brings the art out of the computer and into the real world, where students can interact with their objects in the School of Engineering’s VisCube, a fully immersive 3D multiscreen display; print them out on the art department’s 3D printer; or create entire virtual-reality environments.
English Composition Students Combine Service with Style
By Rosalind Fournier
UAB Highlands Hospital, and Thompson listened as his companion, a World War II pilot, recalled an aerial adventure. “His blue eyes gazed off at nothing in particular,” Thompson later wrote in his journal. “It seemed that he was re-living his days of flying through the air for his country.”UAB freshman Kyle Thompson made a new connection over lunch recently. It was mealtime at the Acute Care for Elders (ACE) Unit at
Thompson was taking part in the hospital’s SPOONS program, in which volunteers visit with patients at mealtimes, helping them eat or simply providing companionship. But his lunch plans weren’t simply a matter of good will—they were a part of the curriculum for his freshman composition course.
Cassandra Ellis, Ph.D., an assistant professor of English at UAB, was looking for new ways to teach basic English composition when she heard about SPOONS. Inspired in part by volunteer work she did herself as an undergraduate at Syracuse University, Ellis saw SPOONS as a way to get students involved in the larger Birmingham community—and as a rich source of inspiration for writing assignments. “It’s an opportunity for them to turn off their cell phones and engage in a real conversation,” Ellis says. “They’re in a situation where they’re not texting their friends and are instead completely focused on being of service to someone else.”
After piloting a similar curriculum a few years ago, Ellis recently received UAB’s official “service learning” designation for the fall 2012 course, a first for the English department. Fifty students in two sections of basic English composition are now taking Ellis’s course, which follows the theme “age, memory, and identity,” she says. In addition to their volunteer work, students watch films and read memoirs that deal with the issues of aging. The semester culminates with a research paper, and many students choose their topics based on experiences they have had in SPOONS, Ellis says.
UAB’s System for Scholarship Success
By Matt Windsor
Things that are easier than earning a Rhodes scholarship: getting selected in the NFL draft, getting elected to Congress, hosting your own TV show, winning an Oscar, recording a hit single.
Rhodes Scholars, who win funding for up to three years of study at Oxford University in England, have done each of these and more. There aren’t many of them: Only 32 are selected each year, but they make an outsize impact on the world. Rhodes alumni include politicians Bill Clinton and Bill Bradley, football player Myron Rolle, pundits Rachel Maddow and Bill Kristof, Hollywood director Terrence Malick, and singer Kris Kristofferson. The list also includes UAB’s own Neel Varshney—who won in 2000, went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School, and is now a venture capitalist in Chicago—and Josh Carpenter, who won the Rhodes scholarship in 2012.
You have to be a scholar to win a scholarship, but grades are not enough. Neither are energy, activism, or a killer list of extracurriculars. The secret is in the story. “All of your fellow applicants will be smart and engaged—just like you,” says Carpenter, who is currently studying comparative social policy at Oxford’s St. Hilda’s College. “You have to identify what it is that makes you unique.”
Investing in Success
A scholarship is essentially an investment, Carpenter explains. “The committee wants to find the person who will give them the best return on that investment, and it’s important that you be able to articulate why you are that person.” (For more advice from UAB scholarship winners, see “Scholar Tips,” below.)