UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on Courses and Programs
UAB Language Professor Teaches Air Force Cadets
By Matt Windsor
UAB foreign languages professor Sheri Spaine Long, Ph.D., is no stranger to culture shock. For two decades, she has introduced UAB students to the wonders of Europe and Latin America on Study Away excursions. But when she took a post as a distinguished visiting professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy in fall 2011, Long had to learn a whole new way to communicate.
“I’m on my own Study Away program—in the military,” Long says. “I’m still teaching Spanish, just as I was at UAB, but things are very different here.” For one thing, Long, who lives on the vast Air Force base on which the Academy’s campus is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has to pass through two checkpoints to get from her house to her classroom. And she knows that each lecture will bring her students to their feet.
“They don’t have to salute me because I’m a civilian,” Long says. “But when I walk in, all of my students stand at attention and say, in Spanish, ‘All present and ready to learn.’ They do that for all their classes. It’s a great way to break with whatever they’ve been doing and reminds them why they’re in the class in the first place.”
Trained to Teach
Long heard about the visiting professorship positions from a colleague. Faculty members invited to the program must have a national reputation in their field of study; Long’s role as editor of the academic journal Hispania and her leadership on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese made her a perfect fit. She was intrigued by the chance to build new research partnerships—and explore a completely different culture.
Alumnus Helps UAB Go Green
By Grant Martin
Jon Paolone wants to know what’s in your trash. Chances are, there is something in there that could be recycled.
“I’ve always appreciated nature and been passionate about the environment,” he says. It’s a passion that he turned into a unique career path. Today, Paolone directs the UAB Recycling Center and coordinates a campuswide program to recycle paper, certain plastics, and aluminum cans.
As a UAB student, Paolone earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental studies—a major that he designed himself.
“I joined the Air Force after high school, and part of my time there was spent as a bioenvironmental engineer,” Paolone says. “I was focused on protecting the health of Air Force and civilian workers in an industrial area, but it was really like combining occupational health and safety, radiation safety, and water protection in one job.”
After leaving the Air Force, Paolone studied at UAB, where his future path became clear. “My interest in biology, my love of animals, and my Air Force experience worked together to help give me a sense of direction,” he says. “I decided to design an environmental studies major, and a couple of advisors helped me pick the classes I would need to get a degree that I felt meant something and that would be useful to my future.”
Examining Physicians’ Roles in Film and Fiction
By Matt Windsor
Not many professors of medicine get to teach a course starring Cary Grant—and Sinclair Lewis. But the Doctor in Film, Fiction, and History is no ordinary class.
Each fall, H. Hughes Evans, M.D., Ph.D., the chair of the Department of Medical Education at the UAB School of Medicine, offers busy students the chance to put down their textbooks in favor of novels and popular films. Evans’s class is one of a growing number of Special Topics courses developed by faculty members at the School of Medicine; the weeklong courses are offered to students four times per year. Entertainment is not the object, however; Evans’s curriculum is designed to help students learn what society—that is, their future patients—expects from them as doctors.
“It’s easy to forget what it is like to be a patient,” says fourth-year student Erinn Schmit. “I thought this would be a good way to learn a little bit about my patients’ perspectives on what a doctor’s role should be.”
Douglas Barrett, who has been working as a graphic designer for two decades, embodies the “designer as author” ethos. His latest work is an ode to Japanese commuting culture—a collection of original paintings called “Stations of Tokyo” that depicts each of the 29 stops on that city’s Yamanote Line. The circular railway system girdles Tokyo and is reportedly one of the most heavily traveled sections of track on the planet.
“It is an amazing piece of human engineering and in my opinion a world wonder,” Barrett says. “It circles Tokyo much like a clock, and I began to see Tokyo as a clock face, tied together by the stations.” But “Stations of Tokyo” isn’t really about trains, Barrett says—it’s a graphical hook, a “visually poetic map” on which to hang his meditations on the street life and character of each neighborhood the train visits. “Each area of Tokyo serviced by the Yamanote has its own personality and is known for its contributions to Tokyo’s culture and economy,” Barrett explains.
[Click the arrows below to see a slideshow of Barrett's "Stations of Tokyo" paintings.]
The series reflects Barrett’s longstanding fascination with Japanese design and culture—an appetite he feeds on the four- to six-week trips he takes to the country each year. “Anyone who has done design work eventually looks at Japanese design, because it is so well thought out,” says Barrett. “As a graduate student, I went to Japan for a few weeks and really fell in love with the architecture, the public spaces, the advertising.”
Each of these elements is represented in “Stations of Tokyo,” which debuted at a hip community gallery in Tokyo last summer. Many of the pieces have already sold, Barrett says. But the best compensation is being able to share his original images and ideas, he says. “These illustrations tell my own story in a way that client work cannot.”
Students Help Redesign the Designer’s Role
By Matt Windsor
The advertising world may follow the maxim “image is everything,” but in reality designers are often relegated to a secondary role in the creative process, says UAB assistant professor of art Douglas Barrett, M.F.A.
“We’re often given projects after the big idea has happened, and we just style what someone else has created,” Barrett says. But UAB art faculty are helping students explore a new paradigm in design, he notes. “There’s a new catchphrase of ‘designer as author,’” Barrett says. The idea is to encourage designers to express their own ideas and show what they can contribute to the creative process. “We want to be there when the big idea happens and have a seat at the table.”
To prepare students for these roles, Barrett has tinkered with UAB’s graphic design curriculum. “We still spend plenty of time on traditional projects, such as setting type or creating brochures,” he says. “But at least once a semester, I try to do a project where the student is the author. In typography class, for example, I had each student choose a saying about time, and then they drew the text of that saying by hand.”
This work gives students “something in their portfolio that not everyone has,” Barrett says. “Someone hiring graphic designers wants super-creative people who are doing more than just typical graphic design work.”