Sarah Randolph is the outreach and communications director at Birmingham Audubon, a 72-year-old non-profit organization and chapter of the National Audubon Society that is dedicated to the enjoyment and conservation of birds, their habitats, and the natural world. She spent some time with us recently to talk about her education at in the College of Arts and Sciences and how it prepared her for her career.
Randolph graduated from UAB in 2008 with a degree in communication studies and a concentration in communications management. She minored in marketing in the Collat School of Business. A transfer student, she transitioned to UAB in 2003 after starting her degree at Jefferson State Community College.
"I started out a business major at Jeff State, but as I was transferring to UAB, I was becoming more environmentally conscious," she says. "This career that I now have at Birmingham Audubon, I had really sought it for 10 years. As I learned about climate change and other issues, I wondered how could I use my strengths in English and math to help a cause, because not only can you market products, you can also market ideas. Communications is a very versatile degree, it's prevalent in everything and if you can learn how to master communications, then you can excel in any field."
Journey to Audubon
Randolph says the training she got in the Department of Communication Studies prepared her well for the work she does today, as did some of the jobs she took before landing her position at Birmingham Audubon.
"I've used my degree in many facets of my career: communications marketing, some public relations, some event coordination," she says. "I worked my way through college in the back office and then in the marketing and communications office of Pro-Equities, which is a broker-dealer for Protective Life. After that, I moved out West and was the marketing manager for the Arapaho Basin Ski Area, but I came back to Alabama because I didn't like the cold!"
Another opportunity returned her to UAB—this time as an employee, not a student. "After I moved back to Birmingham, I went to work for UAB in development because I was looking to get into the non-profit sector after spending most of my career in the private sector," she says. "I could see the potential in having a development background tied in with my communications and marketing experience and how that could launch my career in yet another direction."
Alabama—Sweet Home for Birds
That direction pointed her to Birmingham Audubon, where Sarah is charged with communicating the organization's goals and impact, as well as working to connect it to the city and state. "Our mission is to promote conservation and a greater knowledge of birds through habitat and the natural world," she says. "So, anything we can do to promote the state's Forever Wild program, saving some of Alabama's last natural resources through habitat, and improving natural habitat for birds are our goals."
With Randolph's help, Birmingham Audubon has recently partnered with Putnam Middle School on a habitat restoration project. "We're hoping to continue to steward the land there for the next 10 years because it's a great habitat for brown-headed nuthatches, and there are some white-eye vireo, red-shouldered hawks and other birds there as well," she explains. "The school also has a nature trail and an outdoor classroom, so it's improving the lives of the students there, which is a big push for us as well. We had about 60 people attend that event, including Mayor Woodfin."
Birmingham's Chimney Swifts
Randolph says that, even with the hundreds of bird species native to and migrating through Alabama, sometimes the best approach is to focus on an individual bird—especially one with an urban habitat. "We've been trying to support the chimney swift with a lot of conservation efforts, like building chimney swift towers throughout Birmingham," she says. "We recently installed a tower on top of the McWane Science Center parking deck. We have three 'Swift Nights' a year [where people can watch the birds flying above the city]. Most people don't realize those flights are happening. They are an amazing species: they migrate to the headwaters of the Amazon every year and then they come back, but they're losing habitat we're losing a lot of these old chimneys that they've been roosting in because of all of the new development in Birmingham."
"It's so rewarding when people can make that connection and say, 'That's a cool urban bird that we have here and I don't know much about them and I want to learn more,'" she says. "My goal is to find ways to engage more people and to get a broader more diverse community going to these events, caring about birds, learning about nature. It's great to be able to use my communications degree and experiences to help make that happen."
To learn more about Birmingham Audubon, visit birminghamaudubon.org. Photos courtesy of Birmingham Audubon.