Student Spotlight: Levi Sanford

Student Spotlight: Levi Sanford

Senior Levi Sanford changed his major and found both inspiration and a career path.

Photo: Macey HobsonChoosing one’s major, like making art, takes an open mind. Levi Sanford, a senior art major focusing on graphic design, knew he wanted to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham but his heart was not always set on graphic design. Before transferring to UAB, Sanford was a nursing major at Bevill State Community College.

Emily Schumann: You mentioned that you always knew you’d end up at UAB. Why?

Levi Sanford: I always saw myself going to UAB for their medical school. When I changed my major to general studies at Bevill, I decided I wanted to go into art as I got more into my creative side. I saw an ad for a graphic design program online and wondered whether or not UAB had one. I saw that they did and it felt right. It was what I really wanted to do and what I felt like I’d be a lot happier doing.

ES: Was there a particular class or teacher in CAS that was especially formative to who you are as a creative person?

LS: The first class I had at UAB was a Digital Imaging class, ARS 103, with Doug Barrett. I remember being really nervous for his class and he was a very helpful instructor. I mean, all of the instructors in the College of Arts and Sciences are so helpful, it’s amazing. They really do push you to be better. Before UAB, I had never opened Illustrator or InDesign and didn’t know anything about Photoshop, but now I can whip up shirt designs in Illustrator. It was so helpful and inspiring because they pushed me as a creative. I appreciate that now. Self-doubt is the biggest thing. You’re so hard on yourself but they help you push past that.

ES: How have you developed your professional eye and creative style at UAB?

LS: It’s definitely developed over time. I have friends in classes I [took in previous semesters]. It’s nice to see that I was once at that point, and now I’m able to help them. One of the biggest parts of being an artist is discovering your style. I’m a very retro, vintage-oriented person with a modern edge. A UAB t-shirt designed by Levi Sanford. Photo: Emily Schumann

Art is subjective, so what someone likes might not be what I like. It’s a trial-and-error process. That applies to most art. Most experiences, really.

ES: How has UAB helped you identify your career goals?

LS: When people first asked me what I wanted to do with my degree, I had a hard time answering because the possibilities are so broad. Hearing [faculty] experiences has helped me narrow my options. The variety of projects you complete also helps you sample different paths. Bloom Studio [run by Doug Barrett in the Department of Art and Art History] is technically a class but it’s like an internship because we work with real clients. We are currently helping rebrand Klein Arts and Culture, a non-profit based in Harpersville, AL.

Personally, I like the idea of working for one of the larger marketing/advertising agencies in Birmingham. It’s fast-paced, but the idea of constantly being able to put out work and different projects in an intense environment seems like a great way to gain experience.

ES: Would you say UAB was the right choice?

LS: UAB has been a great call. I don’t want to say everything happens for a reason because that’s such a broad thing, but I’m glad that this happened. It’s hard to picture where I’d be if I wasn’t here. I’ve grown so much as a person here and I’ve developed so many skills. The UAB campus is diverse and there are so many people to learn from and connections to be made. It’s not an art school, but I feel like you get almost the same education while saving the money you would spend at an art school.

Photo of book cover and artwork by Levi Sanford

ES: Do you have any advice for incoming UAB students?

LS: Be open-minded. Be open to hearing opinions from other people because it is so vital to hear what others have to say. Don’t assume your ideas are better than what others might have to offer. Come ready to learn, to be yourself, and be prepared to be humbled.

Interested in graphic design? Learn more about our majors and concentrations in the Department of Art and Art History.

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Campus walkway gives a boost, gets a lift

Campus walkway gives a boost, gets a lift

In 1975, UAB completed a pedestrian bridge crossing University Boulevard at 13th Street South to accommodate a quickly growing student population. This year, UAB art students brightened the footbridge with a UAB-themed mural.

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Arts and Sciences alumni honored at UAB Excellence in Business Top 25 event

Arts and Sciences alumni honored at UAB Excellence in Business Top 25 event

Ten alumni in the College of Arts and Sciences were honored as members of the UAB Excellence in Business Top 25 class of 2019.

Left to Right: Adam Aldrich, Brady McLaughlin, Julie McDonald, Kristen Greenwood, John Boone, David Brasfield, Carol Trull Pittman, Dustin Welborn, and Jennifer Smith (not pictured: John Burdett)On June 20, ten alumni in the College of Arts and Sciences were honored by the UAB National Alumni Society as members of the UAB Excellence in Business Top 25 class of 2019. The dinner and awards ceremony took place at the UAB National Alumni Society House.

The annual Excellence in Business Top 25 program is designed to identify, recognize, and celebrate the success of the top 25 UAB alumni-owned or UAB alumni-managed businesses. In addition to our ten honorees, two alumni won top honors in Fastest Growing Companies Under $10 Million: John Boone of Orchestra Partners, 2198% growth; and David Brasfield of NXTsoft, 317% growth.

Congratulations to our deserving graduates!

  • Adam Aldrich, president and co-founder of Airship, graduated in 2008 with a B.S. in Computer and Information Sciences.
  • John Boone, principal of Orchestra Partners, graduated in 2010 with an M.A. in History.
  • David Brasfield, CEO of NXTsoft, graduated in 1984 with a B.S. in Computer and Information Sciences.
  • John Burdett, CEO of Fast Slow Motion, graduated in 2000 with a B.S. in Computer and Information Sciences.
  • Kristen Greenwood, executive director of GirlSpring, graduated with a B.A. and an M.A. in Art History in 1999 and 2006, respectively.
  • Julie McDonald, Ph.D., co-founder of McDonald Graham LLC, graduated with an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Psychology in 1993 and 1995, respectively.
  • Brady McLaughlin, CEO of Trio Safety CPR+AED, graduated with a B.A. in Communication Studies in 2009.
  • Carol Trull Pittman, founder and CEO of RedKnot Resource Group, graduated with a B.A. in Communication Studies in 2001.
  • Jennifer Smith, director of operations of Down In Front Productions LLC, graduated with a B.A. in Communication Studies in 2016.
  • Dustin Welborn, president of Down In Front Productions LLC, graduated with a B.A. in Communication Studies in 2013.

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Rich Gere named new chair of the Department of Art and Art History

Rich Gere named new chair of the Department of Art and Art History

Print media artist Rich Gere comes to UAB from the Department of Art and Design at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Photo: Edgar De La GarzaRich Gere has been named chair of the Department of Art and Art History. He will begin his new position on August 15, 2019.

Gere comes to UAB from the Department of Art & Design at Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi. He received his B.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and his M.F.A. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

After starting a career in finance and marketing, Gere co-founded a graphic design firm in Knoxville in 1998. While working as a professional designer, he taught courses at community colleges in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia; he also helped develop an adult education program with fellow faculty members at Tusculum College in Knoxville. In 2001, Gere joined the faculty as a professor of foundations and painting in the School of Fine Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) at their Savannah campus; in 2002, he transitioned to professor and director of printmaking at SCAD, Savannah. From 2006 to 2013, Rich was professor and founding chairperson of print media, as well a director in the School of Fine Arts for SCAD's new Atlanta campus. In that role, he was responsible for developing the B.F.A, M.A., and M.F.A. programs in print and digital media. In 2014, he was named professor and chairperson of the Department of Art & Design at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

As a print media artist, Gere explores alternative photo processes; works of paper, sculpture, and installation; and his work is currently centered around border issues and the ecology of South Texas. As a lecturer, artist, and co-investigator, he has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including funding from the Rauschenberg Foundation and a multimillion-dollar grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) which currently supports his research on integrating the visual arts as pedagogy into the nursing curriculum.

Gere has served on many national and international art boards and juries and appeared on a wide range of conference panels and councils. His recent conference activity includes presentations at SGCI (Southern Graphics Council International Conference); Southeastern College Arts Association Conference (SECAC); the College Arts Association Conference (CAA); and the Mid America Print Council (MAPC).

As an artist, he has appeared in more than 200 juried, solo, and group exhibitions, including recent exhibits at the El Paso Museum in El Paso, Texas; the Museo de Arte de Ciudad, Juarez, Mexico; SCOPE Basel, Switzerland; ArtHelix Gallery, Brooklyn, New York; and at the Toolbox Gallery, Berlin, Germany. His artwork appears in a number of public and private collections, and he is represented by Marcia Wood Gallery of Atlanta.

We look forward to working with Rich. We are also deeply grateful to Jessica Dallow, who has served as interim chair since 2017 and will return to the art history faculty.

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Award winning: What it takes for students to win major scholarships and awards

Award winning: What it takes for students to win major scholarships and awards

The number of College of Arts and Sciences students who win major national and international scholarships and fellowships grows every year. What does it take to win one of these major prizes?

The number of College of Arts and Sciences students who win major national and international scholarships and fellowships grows every year. What does it take to win one of these major prizes? And what does the achievement mean for our students as they pursue their goals?

Sarah Faulkner, a 2017 graduate with bachelor’s degrees in art with a concentration in art history and sociology.

When chemistry major Gunnar Eastep fell asleep early after his last final in fall of 2017, he never dreamed that he’d wake up to a nomination for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. “When I woke up, I saw the nomination and was pretty ecstatic about it,” he says. “All-around, it was a very surreal experience, especially since I had no clue what to expect.”

He had turned in the application about a month before he found out. “I spent a week writing terrible drafts and deleting them the next day,” he says. “I found it challenging to write a succinct and interesting personal statement without sounding overly clichéd.”

But this portion of the application wasn’t the only part that challenged Eastep. Outside of the personal statement and description of future goals, the application also requires students to write a research proposal detailing the work they’ve already accomplished as well as discussing what comes next. However, unlike most scientific journals, this proposal has to be written in the first person.

For Eastep, this portion meant detailing the research he’d pursued under Dr. Jamil Saad, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology, who has a secondary appointment in the Department of Chemistry. Here, he’d studied the role of a particular protein in certain portions of retrovirus replication. Before last summer, his work had focused on the protein’s role in replicating the avian sarcoma virus.

Eastep says the support he received from faculty was critical to his completion of the application, and his success in winning the Goldwater. “Without Dr. Saad and the experiences I’ve had doing research in his lab, winning the Goldwater scholarship wouldn’t have been possible,” he says. “It certainly gives me a lot of confidence moving forward.

”Dr. Gray in the chemistry department has been a great help for me, too,” Eastep adds. ”He was the professor for several of my chemistry courses and wrote one of my recommendations for the scholarship. Although he didn't mentor my research, he was so helpful in giving career advice and has undoubtedly been my favorite professor.”

OPTIONS

The science-focused Goldwater Scholarship is only one of the many prestigious scholarships and fellowships that College of Arts and Sciences students can apply for. These programs range widely from scholarships for students in specific disciples to fellowships, which provide short-term learning opportunities. These experiences also vary: some support research projects at specific universities, while others are aimed at developing independent research projects on a myriad of subjects.

Sources of funding for these programs are just as diverse as the offerings themselves. Some, like the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, are sponsored by federal government agencies to bolster international relationships. Other governmental agencies fund scholarships aimed at ensuring future public servants speak languages critical to international diplomacy.

From left to right: Anthonia Carter, Gunnar Eastep, and Ayla McCay

These few programs are only the tip of the iceberg. Yet other programs are financed by private trusts to encourage traditionally marginalized groups to participate in specific fields, and others include on-campus research programs sponsored by multiple organizations from various backgrounds.

In addition to strengthening recipients’ resumes, many of these programs also connect participants with their alumni networks, adding an additional level of value with professional connections.

Depending on a student’s major and interests, one or several of these programs may be a fit. But one thing is consistent across all of these offerings: the application process is rigorous. Writing essays, securing recommendation letters, and, if necessary, preparing for interviews is time-consuming, and requires long-term hard work and focus. Although the payoff is great, there is a significant time commitment involved in getting there.

RESEARCH

Recipients of the Goldwater Scholarship like Eastep receive a set amount of money each year to put towards books, living expenses, tuition, and other fees. Although Eastep believes he would be pursuing a very similar course of study and research if he had not been chosen, he calls the scholarship a big confidence boost. “Being awarded the Goldwater scholarship has been immensely gratifying considering how long I’ve been working as a student researcher,” he says. “It’s definitely a massive boon to my career prospects, and particularly graduate applications.”

Senior neuroscience student Jasmin Revanna

Other students benefit from the research opportunities afforded by fellowships rather than scholarships. One such program is the Amgen Scholars U.S. Program, which provides summer research opportunities at one of 10 universities around the country. Funded by the Amgen Foundation, this program connects participants from all over the world while also allowing them to undertake a rigorous research program under different faculty. Senior neuroscience student Jasmin Revanna attended the 2017 session at Caltech, and used her time in the fellowship to optimize a genetic editing tool to activate and deactivate targeted genes in nematodes.

Each of the Amgen schools has an individual application process. In addition to the traditional personal statements, transcripts, and letters of recommendation, Caltech also requires applicants to identify a researcher and work with them to write a research proposal for their time in the program, says Revanna. “This takes a lot of communicating back and forth, so starting early is always recommended.”

To continue her 2017 research, she applied to the 2018 WAVE Fellows Program at Caltech. This fellowship is designed to open the school’s research resources to demographics that are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, and Revanna applied in hopes of returning to the same lab to test the system she’d built the summer before.

Though her research focus ended up being different—there, she built more than 100 tools for the public to use to study the role of specific neurotransmitters in nematodes—she feels that both experiences were extremely valuable.

“These fellowships helped me discover what I want to do after graduation, which is go to graduate school,” she says. Revanna continues that these two fellowships have given her the confidence to apply to high caliber graduate programs to further her studies. But she’s not limiting herself to only one possibility: Revanna is also currently applying for a Fulbright fellowship to do research abroad.

INTERNATIONAL/GLOBAL

The Fulbright fellowship is arguably one of the most recognizable fellowship programs in the world. They award approximately 1,900 grants annually to students and recent graduates who want to do projects to study culture or science or to teach abroad. In 2018, six UAB students received the honor. Sarah Faulkner, who graduated in 2017 with bachelor’s degrees in art with a concentration in art history and sociology, applied to the program to study the textile art of the Lepcha, a cultural group indigenous to Sikkim, India.

During her time abroad, Faulkner will research and compile a record of the Lepcha’s crafts, study the local language, and begin studying local Buddhist art. “Due to both their integration with daily life and the history associated with them, Lepcha textiles represent a vibrant, fundamental facet of Lepcha heritage,” she says. “I aim to highlight both Lepcha culture and their arts, which go hand-in-hand. I hope to also learn more about the Lepcha’s folklore, performative arts, and language, which is an essential factor of the Lepcha identity.”

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

CATCHING UP WITH A FEW ALUMS

MUNA AL-SAFARJALANI

Class of 2017

Muna Al-Safarjalani graduated in 2017 with a degree in chemistry. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy.

REBECCA EGELAND

Class of 2015

After graduating with a degree in communication studies in 2015, Rebecca Egeland joined the Southern Company as a research communication specialist on the Research and Development Team. She also has a budding music career. In her free time, she’s a singer-songwriter, and can often be found at an open mic or playing a local venue with a ukulele in hand.

BRENDAN RICE

Class of 2012

Brendan Rice graduated with a degree in international studies in 2012 and he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in sustainable international agriculture at the University of Göttingen (Germany) as a Fulbright Scholar. Prior to this, Rice worked for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization in Sierra Leone and Italy. He also worked in Uganda with smallholder farmers to promote food security.

ALI MASSOUD

Class of 2017

Massoud graduated in 2017 with a degree in international studies. He currently works with CAIR Alabama (Council on American-Islamic Relations) as a government affairs coordinator, where he is charged with educating and engaging voters for increased civic participation.

Faulkner says she worked on her application every day for about four months. Though the process was rigorous, it was made easier because she had a clear idea of what she wanted to do. “Even so, I must have gone through at least three dozen drafts of my essays, which included a personal statement and a rather detailed outline of my research objectives and methods,” she says.

“You have to think in concrete terms and explain your plan and purpose unambiguously,” she continues. “The only advice I have for that is just to be well-read on the area you plan to stay in and culture you intend to study, your research, and other similar projects that could serve as guides for your own. I personally took inspiration from the work already being done by various government-sponsored institutes across India to preserve the country’s traditional arts and the methodology of the cataloging work that I had done in the past as an undergraduate.”

Another federally funded program open to about 600 students each year is the Critical Language Scholarship Program. Students who receive this scholarship undergo an eight-week language immersion in a language important to national security and economic prosperity. At the same time, students are also learning about and living in the culture they’ve studied to enhance their understanding.

For UAB Honors College Global Community Leadership program student Ayla McCay, the scholarship enabled her to study Korean as part of her goal to work in international human rights.

The application process, she says, was straightforward, but the impact the program had on her future plans was unexpected. “As a student from a low-income background, I never thought that studying abroad would be an option,” she says. “Because of CLS and the help of our fellowship office, my life is going in a direction I never thought would be possible.”

All of the students are shepherded through the application and selection process by Ashley Floyd Kuntz, Ph.D., fellowships director and assistant professor in the UAB Honors College. Dr. Kuntz says that all of the students applying for fellowships and scholarships, regardless of whether they are members of the Honors College or not, have a tremendous support system around them—one that goes all the way to the top. "We are fortunate to have the strong support of President Watts," she says. "Dr. Watts makes time each fall to meet with nominees and learn about the projects they’re proposing. He advises students to be themselves, even when facing intimidating interview panels, and he encourages students to believe in their potential to compete at the highest levels. Few university presidents take such a sincere interest in getting to know students and celebrating their successes."

POST-GRADUATE

Some of these programs support recent grads’ graduate studies. Anthonia Carter, who graduated with degrees in mathematics and art, applied for and received the Fulbright Study/Research grant to pursue a degree in multidisciplinary innovation at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. The application process was pretty standard, she says. “I chose to pursue this because I come from a multidisciplinary background of mathematics and art. I’m passionate about giving back and teaching kids that anyone is capable of learning and giving them the confidence to learn.”

The hardest part, she continues, was opening up to write her personal statement. “The easiest thing to do is to talk about my academic background. It was harder to open up and let them see what motivates me—to tell them that I was raised by a single mom who said that if I didn’t do well, she wouldn’t pay for college.”

During her time in the program, she has learned a lot about identifying and solving organizational, systemic, and creative problems in many industries. All of this, she says, is in preparation to get her Ph.D., and to one day open a youth-focused community center.

CHANGED LIVES

For some of these students, the award has only solidified their future plans. But for a few of them, this experience has completely changed the trajectory of their lives. “My time in Korea has definitely changed my plans for the future,” McCay says. “[While] applying for CLS, I thought that Korean language and culture would only be a small part of my career going forward with international human rights. Now, I cannot see a future that does not involve going back to Korea.”

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Common threads: The value of interdisciplinary partnerships

Common threads: The value of interdisciplinary partnerships

Our university enables faculty to make connections across various disciplines, schools, and centers, and being a part of the College of Arts and Sciences provides my colleagues and me with a broad platform to support this kind of effective interdisciplinary work.

Our university enables faculty to make connections across various disciplines, schools, and centers, and being a part of the College of Arts and Sciences provides my colleagues and me with a broad platform to support this kind of effective interdisciplinary work. Even in the short time I've been at UAB, I have developed three interdisciplinary courses that have service learning goals and ongoing research endeavors.

By working with willing faculty members from the Departments of History and Art and Art History, we developed a "Birmingham Neighborhood Studies" course that involves student examination of four specific Birmingham Neighborhoods from a historical perspective, a contemporary perspective, and an artistic perspective. In that course, students complete a project-based final portfolio. Their projects range from architectural histories of places to walking tours of women buried in Oak Hill cemetery.

This year, in a joint effort between the Departments of Social Work and Criminal Justice, we have enhanced an existing "Community-Based Corrections" course—making it interdisciplinary and including both team-based learning and service learning elements. Students in the course participate in re-entry simulations in which they experience what it is like to be a person returning to the community after a period of incarceration. The U.S. Attorney’s office developed this curriculum and the Department of Social Work has taken a lead role in bringing the simulations to our campus. Last year, we received a Quality Enhancement Plan grant to continue the simulations and to conduct research around their effectiveness. Students also work with women incarcerated at Tutwiler Prison and Birmingham Work Release to produce holiday greeting videos for their families, as well as with Jefferson County Veterans Court to recruit veteran volunteers to support court efforts.

Last year, I developed a study abroad course that examines women’s rights and health in Kenya. This year, the social work course will be team-taught with Dr. Tina Kempin-Reuter, director of the UAB Institute for Human Rights, and will involve international service learning in which students create health-based lesson plans and assemble reusable feminine hygiene supplies that they deliver in rural Kenya. Since last year’s successful trip with 12 students, we have written a grant to support the continuation of the women’s hygiene project and the addition of a micro-business sewing initiative. All of these efforts will be evaluated through community partners in Kenya.

The common thread through all of these courses are that they all involve social work principles that advance human rights as well as social, economic, and environmental justice. And they are all led by female faculty and directors from across the College.

As service learning is considered a high-impact learning tool, these courses are expected to strengthen student learning and engagement in multiple ways outside of the course content. And just as women are leading the efforts to craft these high-impact courses, women are benefitting from them as participants—as student and as community collaborators.

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