UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on Courses and Programs
Mock Trial Team Faces Tough Cases and Competition
By Caperton Gillett
The prosecutor stalks before the judge’s bench, his opening statement thrumming with a quiet intensity. His delivery full of gravity but lacking in melodrama, he presents the case at hand: a young woman accused of killing a friend in a drunk-driving incident. The defendant sits across the room next to her three attorneys, unexpectedly unruffled for a woman facing time in prison (and somewhat underdressed for a day in court).
Luckily, casual attire notwithstanding, the defendant’s freedom remains unthreatened, and her friend is safe and sound—and fictional. The entire setup, from faux judge to pretend witnesses, is a practice round—a “scrimmage”—for UAB’s mock trial team. In April 2012, the team put in a strong showing at the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) national championships in Minnesota, earning Outstanding Trial Team Honorable Mention in the Hon. Edward Toussaint, Jr., Division and All-American honors for team members Valencia Jackson (witness category) and captain Grady Lowman (attorney category). (See a video of the team’s practice below and learn more about their performance at the national championship here.)
Body of Evidence
Mock trial is simply “addictive,” says team co-coach Joseph Dease, himself a UAB mock trial alumnus now in his final year at Cumberland School of Law. “Once you go to that first competition and understand why you’ve put in all the time and effort, you’re hooked.”
The drunk-driving case was provided by the AMTA and will be used by all competing teams throughout the year. Dease has a binder with the relevant materials: affidavits from witnesses and experts, receipts, and even, he says, “crime scene photos.” (Squad captains Grady Lowman, Brian Price, and Kimberly Jeter jump in simultaneously to object: Until the prosecutors have proven that a crime actually has been committed, the photos are merely “incident photos.”)
Teaching Medical Students to Keep Their Eyes Open
By Matt Windsor
As patients go, the African “power figure” on the second floor of the Birmingham Museum of Art is a lost cause. No innovative procedure or sophisticated new test can bring him to life. But the UAB medical students staring hard at the sculpture one afternoon last fall were still hoping to learn something. So one by one, they got out their pencils and started to draw.
The students were taking part in a weeklong course called Art in Medicine, developed by UAB internist Stephen Russell, M.D., as part of the School of Medicine’s Special Topics series. Russell, who practices internal medicine and pediatrics at UAB Health Center Moody outside Birmingham, was conducting something of an experiment: Could learning to appreciate art make his students better doctors?
What Dickens Tells Us at 200
By Matt Windsor
It has been exactly 200 years since the birth of Charles Dickens, the Victorian novelist who wrote a bookshelf of classics, including Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol. For the past 100 years, Dickens has been terrifying schoolchildren across the United States—at least as much for the sheer girth of his books as for the hair-raising adventures of Pip and his other hardscrabble characters.
Few Americans graduate from high school without some exposure to Dickens. Count Danny Siegel, Ph.D., UAB associate professor of English, among them, however. “I never read Dickens in high school,” he says. After he graduated, however, Siegel picked up a copy of Great Expectations, and he hasn’t been able to put Dickens down since.
“What sets Dickens apart for me is his love for idiosyncrasy, for oddness,” Siegel says. “A lot of writers try to create some kind of universal story with characters and incidents everyone can relate to. With Dickens, it’s often the opposite; he loves quirks, gestures, voices—the things that make people different from one another.
“When you’re reading a Dickens novel, the world starts to seem much less predictable and more interesting than it did before. Everything is very strange in a Dickens novel: People are strange, families are strange, cities are strange, evil is strange, even goodness is strange, which is hard to pull off. Ebenezer Scrooge is a weird guy, but Bob Cratchit is much weirder.”
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.”