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Trailblazing Alumni CAS News January 28, 2020

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Newspaper reporter. Radio show host. Author. Mother. Minister’s wife. Magazine editor. Freelance writer. UAB graduate student. Blogger. Director of Student Media. Alumna Marie Sutton has worn a lot of hats throughout her educational and professional career. Her current one? UAB’s own Director of Marketing and Communication for the Division of Student Affairs. Sutton serves as the head cheerleader for transformative student events, programs, and initiatives.

“I get to tell the story of how students come to us all wide-eyed and new, and then slowly, but surely experience transformation into leaders, professionals, and community advocates,” said Sutton. “It’s wonderful to watch and to tell the story. I also get to mentor young people, which is a passion of mine.”

Not only does Sutton use her professional writing skills as a voice for UAB but she has also written books on the African American experience in the south. Her first book, A. G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham: A Civil Rights Landmark, delves into the hazardous traveling conditions African Americans faced in the 1950s. The A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham became a refuge for traveling African Americans entertainers, activists, and artists and the headquarters for Birmingham’s civil rights movement.

“While working for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, I learned about the motel and its significance,” said Sutton. “I was stunned that no one had ever written a history about it. I set out to write it. I pitched it to the publisher and they loved it. They asked me to write it in eight months, which was crazy, but I did it. I turned the manuscript in just shy of my fortieth birthday!”

Just recently, Sutton signed a contract to write a book on the historic Magic City Classic, the largest historically black college and university (HBCU) event in the country. Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University play in the annual battle that is bookended with a parade, parties, music, and food. This annual game is fast approaching its eightieth year and currently no book-length history exists.

Sutton believes that it is her English degree and writing ability that has helped move her career forward. Indeed, she calls the degree a “stamp of approval” that shows future employers and graduate schools that you can communicate and write efficiently and effectively. As a first-generation college graduate, Sutton found that her family was unable to help her navigate the world of academia:

“No one in my family had attended college before me. They didn’t speak the language and could not help me navigate that world or my dreams, which were foreign to them. The process of getting my degree gave me a voice – one that I have used to tell my story and the stories of others.”

She encourages current students to take advantage of all the resources that UAB offers including access to professors, built-in communities, and regular events to inspire and connect with others.

“While you are here, create a style of communicating that is signature and set apart,” said Sutton. “Work hard now. Create a brand that is so compelling that people will seek you out. Sleep after graduation (just kidding, but not really). And, good luck!”

Find out more about Marie Sutton at marieasutton.com.


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