Degree earned: B.S. in Criminal Justice
Graduation year: 2002
Current profession: Chief Joy Officer, Birmingham Education Foundation
In 2019, College of Arts and Sciences alumna Forte’ received the UAB National Alumni Society's Volunteer of the Year Award for dedicating her time and effort to improving the university. Currently, she works at the Birmingham Education Foundation as the “Chief Joy Officer” and assistant to the executive director. In her spare time, she leads the UAB National Alumni Society Black Alumni Chapter as its president, engaging alumni through service events, socials, and more. Forte’ is also a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1996 to 2006.
Congratulations on being the UAB Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal this year! What was it like?
The experience was phenomenal for #UAB50. Green and gold filled the streets everywhere. As the 2019 National Alumni Society Volunteer of the year, the honor will always be remembered. Even cooler? My team [at the Birmingham Education Foundation] participated in the parade.
Why did you decide to attend UAB and pursue a degree in Criminal Justice?
Growing up in the Black Belt region of Alabama, I had my own unique style. The style left me misunderstood by school leaders. In 8th grade, I committed to studying criminal justice and being the change I wanted to see. Education and crime have a complex correlating relationship. My goal is always to extend a helping hand and share hope with students. After living in Birmingham for a short time in high school, I knew I’d return home one day to attend good ole’ UAB.
How have your experiences at UAB helped you in your career?
Thanks to UAB and a job listing in the Kaleidoscope, I landed my first job in education 22 years ago. While at UAB, I stayed on campus the entire time and witnessed diversity at the core; I worked on a paid federal research project in the local jails. UAB is large; I learned to build networks and cultivate support systems. UAB is the gift that keeps on giving: I’m part of the Leadership UAB Class of 2016 and in 2018, I was selected as a Birmingham Business Journal Veteran of Influence.
What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their experience at UAB?
1. Please don’t graduate with a degree and no experience. The labor market is challenging and competitive.
2. I directly sought opportunities to distinguish me as the best candidate in the workforce, leveraged the UAB Career Center and attended versatile workshops across campus.
3. Creating meaningful relationships is key; my first full-time GEARUP teaching job was catalyzed by my UAB Math Professor. Go Blazers!
Dr. Stephen G. Odaibo of RETINA-AI
Sarah Randolph of Birmingham Audubon
Dr. Johnny E. "Rusty" Bates