• Oct. 26, “Human Rights in Time of COVID-19: The Continued Neglect of Migrants in Lesvos, Greece”

    UAB’s Institute for Human Rights will host a lecture to discuss the global impact of COVID-19 and the neglect of refugees.

  • $3 million grant expands research related to driving and concussion

    The grant will help UAB researchers evaluate the impact of mild traumatic brain injury on teen driving and develop guidelines on when teens can safely get back behind the wheel.

  • Type 1 diabetes: Tannic acid encapsulation protects transplanted islets from rejection

    Layers of tannic acid and another biopolymer delay allograft and autoimmune-mediated rejection in mouse models of Type 1 diabetes.

  • A Limitless World

    Makayla Smith wants to use poetry to create spaces of joy and representation for Black, queer audiences.

    Photo of Makayla by Tedric Davenport
    Illustration by Caitlin Du

    Makayla Smith wants to use poetry to create spaces of joy and representation for Black, queer audiences.

    Growing up in the rural South, Smith struggled to find her identity as a writer and as a person. But studying literature, creative writing, and African American Studies at UAB has clarified for Smith what role she wants to play in the world as an academic and creator. Now, as an adult and recent graduate, Smith has a clearer understanding of herself.

    “I feel like there aren’t enough works on the market really exploring that for my age group,” Smith said. “My sexual orientation is such a big part of my writing.”

    Smith also hopes to explore these realities without commodifying Black pain. She worries about the misconception that creating work is only profitable and valuable if the process is painful for the audience and creator.

    “[Writing] does not have to be traumatizing in order for it to sell and it will literally have the same impact,” Smith said. “I want people to feel joy. I want people to feel happy to be themselves and safe.”

    During her final semester at UAB, Smith compiled a poetry manuscript called I don’t believe in mermaids. In the manuscript, she uses her childhood and personal memories as a way to broach the topics of how community, family, and one’s surroundings can affect an individual’s relationship with their sexuality and perception of self. Smith writes about the experience of growing up with her grandparents, particularly her relationship with her grandmother and how that impacted her identity.

    “In poetry, you’re limited in some senses of style and formatting,” Smith said. “It was very meticulous [work] trying to convey a clear picture while also trying to not give it away at the same time, to be metaphorical.”

    Before attending UAB, Smith attended Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery. Smith had the opportunity to write with the Alabama Writers Forum and as a journalist for the Kentuck Festival of the Arts. Writing with and for her community confirmed for Smith that writing was what she wanted to do professionally.

    “Essentially, what I’m trying to teach people is that you don’t have to be in one specific place, like New York or San Francisco, to really learn about yourself or to be proud of your identity,” Smith said. “I want Black, queer people in general to feel proud of themselves.”

    In High School

    In high school, Smith had felt adamant that attending school or living in a major city was necessary to achieve a career in writing. She ultimately chose to attend UAB instead of going out of state since it was the best option financially. Looking back, Smith is grateful for how her time at UAB allowed her to grow as a writer and person.

    “It ended up being a very introspective, very needed last four years,” Smith said. “I didn’t need to go out of state to find all these great things out about myself.”

    Smith is especially appreciative of the relationships she was able to foster with her professors during her time at UAB. She describes the Department of English and the African American Studies Program as a family. Smith hopes to carry that dynamic with her as she continues in academia.

    “It felt safe and like I could show up 100 percent as myself. There was no white gaze to interfere with,” she said. “It feels good knowing that people are going to be there for you and stand up for you.”

    Smith is also thankful for the confidence that her African American Studies minor and literature studies has given her. Before UAB, Smith was unfamiliar with the idea of intersectionality. Exploring that, along with critical race theory, allowed Smith to understand herself better.

    “I was able to really analyze the systemic and historical context of my existence, of Black people’s existence. It makes sense why I am the way I am and now I can work on myself,” Smith said. “That’s the best thing both departments could have ever given me.”

    New Opportunities in New York

    Since graduating from UAB, Smith has flourished professionally and academically. Currently, Smith is attending the New School of New York for her M.A. She is also on staff at the school as a tutor and as an intern for “One Story,” a literary magazine based in Brooklyn. Over the summer, Smith also announced on social media that she won a Gilman Scholarship. The scholarship will cover her travel and living costs while she studies television and film production in London for three weeks.

    “I was with my brother at the time [of receiving the scholarship], screaming at the top of my lungs. I’ve never been overseas a day in my life, owned a passport, or anything like that so I’m just really grateful,” she said.

    However, Smith acknowledges that rejection is a large but often hidden part of the application process. In the same social media caption announcing her Gilman Scholarship, Smith admitted that receiving this award came after multiple rejected scholarship and job applications.

    “There are so many different ways to get to where you want to be,” she said. “That is my healthy way of dealing with being turned down from so many opportunities and scholarships.”

    Currently, Smith is studying children’s literature at the New School and has workshopped several short stories. She hopes to publish more illustrated editions of her work in the future. She hopes that her experiences inspire others to persevere, even through rejection.

    “One person’s no will be another person’s yes. The world is limitless.”

    If I Could Buy Love in the Marketplace

    Grandma used to make tea cookies that left sweet fantasies in the air
    But the texture was brittle and bleak and rock-like as if it had been -
    apart of a canyon
    She used to say, "Do right by me and right shall follow"
    To which I respnded with irate sadness and irate confusion
    How dare she place God where they need not be?
    Between hard boiled cookies and my sweet, little fantasies
    But God was her love for all seasons and her love for all reasons
    And I, too, was fascinated with that idea of unconditional love
    From an unconditional savior like Jesus Christ
    But instead, I was warped with thoughts of buying vases of love
    In its glass cylinder as it refracted the Moon
    Christ had nothing to do with this equation
    And Grandma's tea cookes had left me toothless and heartbroken
    I, too, was to do right by myself

  • Walker is dedicated to ‘building bridges within the university and the community’

    Jeff Walker, professor and chair for the Department Criminal Justice, is the winner of the 2020 Sam Brown Bridge Builder Award for his interdisciplinary, collaborative efforts across campus.

  • Teaching in the time of COVID

    COVID-19 has changed not only our daily lives but also how we approach education. UAB English Instructor Halley Cotton has faced these challenges following a simple but meaningful maxim: “You give grace; you get grace.”

    COVID-19 has changed not only our daily lives but also how we approach education. In these uncertain times, professors are learning and creating new policies, procedures, and delivery modes at a breakneck speed to make sure students stay on track and engaged. UAB English Instructor Halley Cotton has faced these challenges following a simple but meaningful maxim: “You give grace; you get grace.” 

    Halley CottonHalley Cotton wasn’t always an English major. In fact, her passion for biology, science, and animals first took her to Jefferson State where she earned an associate’s degree in biology. A run-in with calculus, though, made her reassess her goals and career path. 

    “I knew I wanted to be an advocate, but I realized that I didn’t have to be out in the field collecting data to do so,” said Cotton. “I could be an advocate by being a writer and an educator. I ultimately chose UAB because it was close. I had no idea how wonderful their English department truly was and how kind, caring, and dedicated their professors are.”  

    Cotton first graduated from UAB in 2013 with a B.A. in English, concentrating in creative writing, then followed it up with an M.A. in 2016, completing a thesis in poetry. Once she taught her first course in fall of 2015, she never stopped. She currently teaches first-year composition writing courses in rhetoric and argument as well as 200-level literature courses, which cover topics ranging from literary forms to monsters to otherness. In a given semester, Cotton is responsible from 50 to 90 students. 

    Starting in Fall 2020, though, Cotton was forced to pivot not only her teaching style but also what she knew about classroom dynamics when she took on one remote class and two hybrid classes due to COVID. Her pedagogy relies mostly on creating a community within the classroom, which has been made more difficult now that one-third of her students are in-person and the rest are in a digital space. She’s combatted the distance by encouraging her students to get to know and learn from each other in weekly mini-sessions in breakout rooms. 

    Cotton also chooses compassion and transparency when it comes to her students, establishing both trust and expectations ahead of time. She tries to keep her focus on the ultimate goal: getting her students through the semester successfully. To do so, Cotton adapts and juggles deadlines when need be:

    “I remember what it was like to be a student juggling three jobs and taking classes full-time. It was a lot. Now, throw a global pandemic into the mix, and that really takes things over the edge. Students have a lot going on in their lives at the moment—professors, too. Now isn’t the time to be rigid and unforgiving. What’s meaningful to me is to be able to respond to students going through these difficult times with empathy. Is it really going to affect me if a student needs an extra week on a paper? Not really. But to them it makes all the difference. When I look back on my life it’s not going to matter to me if I had to grade a paper a week late. What will matter is how I responded to the students entrusted to my care.”  

    Admitting that knowing students and who they are is what ultimately motivates her, Cotton has faced her own struggles this semester in connecting with students and figuring out the best ways to teach in the new settings. 

    “I’ve had to be very intentional about my time,” said Cotton. “I'm learning right alongside my students, and I tell them that. Our UAB students really are so wonderful. I've remained open and transparent about my own challenges. We're all just trying to do our best and take things one day at a time. We’re all human. You give grace; you get grace.” 

    That same balance comes in to play for the mental health of her students as well as herself. Cotton checks in weekly with current and past students, providing both encouragement and a safe place for them to unload their worries. She also makes sure to disconnect from the screen and takes time for herself by exploring Alabama’s woods and trails. 

    Though the current crisis remains ongoing, Cotton hopes that we will take away some lessons. 

    “I hope that we’ve learned forgiveness when it comes to attendance,” said Cotton. “I also think this may encourage us to establish policies where we record lectures for students that can’t be there. Overall, we’ve been faced with a challenge that asks us to make college more accessible for all, and I think that level of accessibility will be better for students in the long run.”

    Halley Cotton completed both her B.A. and M.A. in English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is the assistant editor of the Birmingham Poetry Review, poetry editor for NELLE, and the founding director of the SPARK Writing Festival. Her work has appeared in places such as The Greensboro Review, Poetry South, and Smokelong Quarterly, among others.

  • Watch UAB musicians perform chamber music in AEIVA art galleries Oct. 15

    Hear chamber music thoughtfully curated and performed by some of Alabama’s top musicians. The performances were prerecorded inside AEIVA galleries with minimal staff and strict adherence to UAB safety protocols.

  • UAB CFAR receives NIH grant to assess and expand COVID-19 testing for underserved communities

    UAB researchers will use existing knowledge and research to address urgent needs for rapid SARS-CoV-2 testing among underserved populations.

  • Five Questions with Alumni: Shelby Morris

    Shelby Morris earned her B.A. in Professional Writing with a minor in Spanish in 2016 followed by a M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition in 2018.

    Shelby Morris earned her B.A. in Professional Writing with a minor in Spanish in 2016 followed by a M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition in 2018. She is currently attending law school at Samford University, Cumberland School of Law.

    Why did you choose professional writing?

    Originally, I thought I would be going to Dental School and I had always enjoyed English in high school so I decided to major in English. It wasn’t until I took a Document Design class by Dr. Bacha that I realized I really enjoyed professional writing and decided to pursue that instead.

    I definitely get skeptical looks from people who believe you can’t get a job with an English degree, but I constantly look at the market and see how untrue that really is.

    What made you want to attend law school?

    My mother is a lawyer so it was always in the back of my mind as a career path, but it wasn’t until graduate school that I realized this was something I wanted to pursue. I didn’t really feel the part of a teacher and when volunteering at the literacy council, I realized I wanted to help others and advocate for those who couldn’t.

    What do you like best about law school so far?

    I really enjoy all my classes and how logic based everything is. Some very challenging things have been learning how to write in a legal sense. I’ve recently been able to take an intellectual property class and I really feel like this mixes the both of best worlds: creative arts and law. I feel like I’ve been able to apply principles I’ve learned in my professional writing classes to legal concepts I’m learning now.

    What advice would you give to current UAB students?

    Internships. Experience. These are some of the most important things to do before leaving college. Now is the time to find out what you really want to do and internships will really help with that. Experience in the field is necessary, especially when it comes to landing that marketing role. The English faculty is awesome and are there to help you in whatever capacity you need so don’t be afraid to reach out to them!

    What question do you want us to ask our next alumni we interview?

    Have you been able to use your degree or experiences from UAB in an unexpected way?

  • Faculty fellows to foster education-abroad experiences for students

    Nine faculty and staff selected for the 2020-21 Faculty Fellows in Education Abroad program will develop courses to promote active and ethical citizenship, cultural immersion and community engagement.

  • Alabama’s own Scott Peacock, James Beard Award-winning chef, will talk biscuits, Southern food live Oct. 20

    Chef Scott Peacock will talk about the role food plays in shaping our memories and cultural traditions for a virtual visit with UAB’s AEIVA.

  • Dr. John Maddox, assistant professor of Spanish, publishes first book

    Dr. John Maddox, an assistant professor of Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, has published, “Challenging the Black Atlantic: The New World Novels of Zapata Olivella and Gonçalves,” (Bucknell University Press). The book is Maddox’s first literary criticism.

    Dr. John Maddox, an assistant professor of Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, has published, “Challenging the Black Atlantic: The New World Novels of Zapata Olivella and Gonçalves,” (Bucknell University Press). The book is Maddox’s first literary criticism.

    We talked to Dr. Maddox about his research and how these novels, not well known outside of Latin America, are actually broadly relevant to the issues of race, identity, and justice, with which we continue to struggle in the U.S.

    Summer Guffey: What is your area of research and what inspired your pursuit of that subject? 

    John Maddox: I specialize in Afro-Latin American literature and culture. My areas of focus are the Hispanic Caribbean and Brazil, which also includes the Caribbean coast of Colombia. My subspecialty is contemporary historical novels about slavery, particularly those by Black Latin Americans. I was inspired by the fact that, unlike the United States, there are virtually no slave narratives in the region. The general silence in literature – and in many approaches to history – creates a desire in Afro-Latin American authors and critics to re-create or imagine the perspective of the enslaved through historical fiction. Thankfully, we live in a time when the academy is attempting to overcome its Eurocentrism and seek out what, at first, seem like the lost voices of the past both through archival research and historical fiction.

    SG: How does this book relate to your area of research and other publications of yours? Is this your debut book?

    JM: “Challenging the Black Atlantic” compares the most important novels of Afro-Colombian Manuel Zapata Olivella and Afro-Brazilian Ana Maria Gonçalves. Both works are monumental sagas: They total over 1,700 pages. As I read, I noticed that their work encompassed a much greater area and timespan than the most popular model of African diaspora history, Paul Gilroy’s “Black Atlantic,” hence the title. Gilroy’s book was published in 1993 and popularized an interpretation of African-American writers that wrote outside the United States, making his “Black Atlantic” a term critics use to describe the study of Black culture in a post-modern, trans-national framework—but it has limitations

    SG: What do you hope to accomplish with this book? 

    JM: I hope every reader knows that, by far, most Black people outside of Africa live in Latin America, not the United States. Both Zapata and Gonçalves display unique versions of W.E.B. DuBois’s notion of Black consciousness (a combination of Western and non-Western beliefs), the key theoretical concern of Gilroy. Both authors display a greater emphasis on women and even LGBTQ characters than Gilroy. The novels matter for the future, since they show that Black people have influenced Latin America throughout its past and, certainly, will do so for years to come. 

    What does the prefix “Afro-“ mean in academic scholarship?

    “In 2000, the UN Human Rights Council hosted a conference that united Black leaders from throughout the Americas (the U.S. did not attend). There, the terms, ‘afro-descendant’ and ‘afro-descent’ were agreed upon because they emphasize a person’s cultural background over their skin color. They also link disparate movements under a framework that promotes human rights and anti-discrimination.

    In 2011, UNESCO created the Year of Afro-Descent and, eventually, the Decade of Afro-Descent. We likely would not have as many opportunities to know about ‘Afro-Latin America’ without these UN efforts. And consequently today, you see many conferences and publications working to preserve Afro-Latin American history and culture and decry continued racism.”

    - John Maddox

    SG: How do the experiences of the people in this book apply to society and events today, both in the U.S. and globally?

    JM: The authors deal with some of the most vital issues of our time. Police brutality toward and mass incarceration of Black people are discussed in Zapata’s novel, which includes the United States. Both authors look to the United States for inspiration in their struggles in Latin America. Of course, their setting is different. Generally speaking, the dominant outlook in Latin America is that slavery was not as brutal as the United States and that, since virtually everyone is mixed-race, there is no racism in the region. These authors show the violence of slavery in the past and the continuation of racism. Their novels are relevant today throughout the Americas, with implications for Africa and Europe, since all three regions became tumultuously intertwined by colonialism, which continues today in different forms.

    SG: Who is the intended audience?

    JM: While my primary audience is literary and culture critics of Latin America, I hope scholars and students in other fields will read it as well. Since the novels are long, I include useful summaries of the plots and virtually everything written on the works, so that should help graduate students and those who want a general introduction. Monolingual English speakers in African American studies can access Gonçalves’s text for the first time, since it has not been translated. Scholars in English, literature, history, cultural anthropology, sociology, and religion will also find it useful.

  • From renovations to new construction, these 9 spaces are transforming UAB’s campus

    UAB continues to implement its Campus Master Plan through new facilities and renovations to enhance instruction, research, technology and student life.

  • Xavier Turner and Angela Lee named Mr. and Ms. UAB 2021

    Started in 1981, the Mr. and Ms. UAB Scholarship Competition is one of UAB’s longest-standing Homecoming traditions.

  • Experiencing quarantine fatigue is more common than you think

    A UAB expert explains why you might be struggling with work-life balance.

  • Online firearms educational tool receives funding for development and implementation

    A $1.95 million grant will allow UAB researchers to develop an online tool to help educate children on firearms safety.

  • Meet 3 students encouraging Blazers to stay safe, compliant during pandemic

    UAB’s campus safety specialists are engaging with students, faculty and staff to boost compliance with health and safety precautions through education and accountability.

  • UAB PRCA awarded six Medallion Awards, four Awards of Merit and 11 awards of Excellence

    The student-led UAB Public Relations Council of Alabama chapter won six Medallion Awards, the highest award of achievement available to students.

  • $4.5 million grant awarded to UAB to continue aging research

    The UAB Nathan Shock Center received a $4.5 million grant renewal from the National Institute on Aging to further engage in cutting-edge research focused on comparative bioenergetics and aging.

  • Graduate student receives Society for Public Health Education/CDC fellowship

    A College of Arts and Sciences graduate student has been selected for a 2020-2021 fellowship with the Society for Public Health Education.  


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