UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on Courses and Programs
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.”
—Thoughts from UAB foreign language instructors and alumni
1. Languages broaden perspective. Being able to speak directly with people from other countries is a powerful tool. Knowing subtle differences in words and phrasing promotes better communication and cultural understanding.
2. Language training should start early. Studies show that children exposed to foreign languages do better in school and get higher SAT scores. One reason may be that languages help children learn to decode and recombine unfamiliar information. UAB offers a yearly summer camp where children can learn Spanish.
3. Languages provide good brain exercise for all ages. Research shows that learning languages helps promote memory and healthier brains in older adults. Despite having more marked accents, seniors can learn languages fairly easily.
4. Languages should be used whenever possible. Take advantage of every opportunity to read, write, speak, or listen. Unused skills get rusty.
5. Language is a lifetime process. Be realistic, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t learn a language in 30 days. Even native speakers are constantly learning.
The Secrets of Teaching Foreign Tongues
By Shelley Stewart
Carli Lindley-Hamlin, who teaches at Thompson High School in Alabaster, won the 2011 Promising New Foreign Language Teacher Award from the Alabama Association of Foreign Language Teachers (AAFLT). She stresses the practical advantages to being fluent in more than one language.
Three of Alabama’s top foreign-language teachers share something in common—besides a proficiency in Spanish. All three began their careers as undergraduate students in UAB’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
Malinda O’Leary, Ph.D., now an assistant professor at UAB, and teachers Breanne Holland and Charli Lindley-Hamlin have each won a statewide award for excellence from the Alabama Association of Foreign Language Teachers (AAFLT) in 2011. In fact, UAB-connected teachers have swept the category for the past three years. So what is UAB’s secret to teaching foreign languages so effectively?
Immersing students in a different culture is essential, says Sheri Spaine Long, Ph.D., UAB professor of foreign languages. “Language is only the starting point for discovering the music, the books, the people.” Indeed, the department requires its students to participate in UAB’s Study Away program to help instill the love and use of language. “We help each student arrange a trip that meets his or her time and financial requirements because there’s no substitute for speaking the language day to day,” Spaine Long says.
The high level of fluency that students acquire enables them to converse with ease—and gain confidence. The three award-winning teachers demonstrate their confidence by advocating for foreign-language education with parents and local communities, Spaine Long says. “Good teachers tend to be leaders,” she notes.