Arts & Sciences Magazine

Fall 2016

  • Class Notes

    We want you to share your accomplishments! Update your alumni information.
    We want you to share your accomplishments! Update your alumni information.

    Read more...
  • Keeping the Magic Alive

    Alumna Debbie Jo Severin remembers her days as a UAB undergraduate student as extraordinary. Her time here was instrumental in molding many traditions for future Blazers, and she continues to invest in the future of UAB students.
    by Kayla Jenkins

    Alumna Debbie Jo Severin remembers her days as a UAB undergraduate student as extraordinary.

    Her time here was instrumental in molding many traditions for future Blazers, and she continues to invest in the future of UAB students.

    “My freshman year was the year that they decided to bring the basketball program. And that was a magical time because we were defining what student life would be at UAB,” Severin said. “I was in the second group of ambassadors. I was the second Miss UAB. I can walk around the campus and see my own fingerprints here and what we as a group of students started to build.”

    Having originally planned to complete her bachelor’s degree in just three years, Severin decided to spend four years on campus and fully enjoy the student experience she had helped create for herself and others. Severin earned her B.S. in 1981 and her M.S. in 1983, both in mathematics.

    Her accomplishments, and the opportunities UAB afforded her, were instrumental in her later decisions and successes. “I look back and see that was really the start of the way I built my career, what I do today and how I think about life in general,” Severin said.

    The guidance of her professors and counselors during her time at UAB was instrumental in helping her build confidence, take risks, and orchestrate future decisions in her life, she said. 

    Years later, after building a successful career, Severin thought about the important role that UAB played in her life, from faculty who guided her to the experiences she had as a student. “I started hearing the voices of the professors and all the opportunities UAB gave me,” said Severin. “And I thought to myself, ‘I owe UAB.’”

    Severin was also motivated by her family’s own financial circumstances. When she was a student, Severin’s parents could have used help in getting her through UAB. She said her parents worked hard to instill the importance of an education and when they didn’t have much, they gave what they could to help her finish her degree.

    “My mom and dad didn’t have a lot of money. They worked hard to send us to UAB. After they passed away, it occurred to me to fund an endowed scholarship in their name,” remembered Severin. “So I love when I get the [thank you] letter every year because I know that my parents would be so thrilled that they not only put me and my sister through school, but in name they are helping somebody else go to school.”

    In honor of her parents and their passion for education, Severin and her husband Lars Gunnar created an endowed scholarship in her parents’ names in 2011. The James C. and Carol Warner Endowed Scholarship has allowed numerous students in the Department of Mathematics to set aside their financial burdens and focus on their academic and career goals.

    Five years after creating the scholarship in honor of her parents, Severin and her husband had a strong desire to play a part in helping UAB attract the best students and build its own prestige in the undergraduate ranks. The couple decided to create another endowed scholarship in the Department of Mathematics, this time in their own names.

    When asked what she hoped would be the outcome of creating the scholarship, Severin said, “A student who may not have selected UAB (or had the chance to go to UAB) will make that decision.”

    Read more...
  • Ireland Awards

    Dr. Frans B.M. de Waal was named the 2016 Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar, and Dr. Charles Amsler was named the recipient of the 2016 Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction.
    Renowned primatologist and 2016 Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Dr. Frans B.M. de Waal gave a public lecture entitled, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” on March 31 in the Hill Student Center ballroom. De Waal, who teaches at Emory University and directs the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, also signed copies of his newest book and visited with faculty, staff and students. A number of outside guests were also in attendance, including curators from the Birmingham Zoo.

    UAB polar marine biologist Dr. Charles Amsler was named the recipient of the 2016 Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction. Amsler, who works part of the year in Antarctica, studies the chemical ecology of ecosystems, and has a species of algae, Paraglossom amsleri, named for him.

    The Ireland prizes are funded by an endowment established by Charles P. and Caroline W. Ireland. Each year, the College names one visiting scholar and one faculty member as recipients of the awards.

    {loadposition irelandawards2016}

    Read more...
  • Spring and Summer

    From exhibits at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts to a Spring Commencement that is only growing in size and excitement, we had countless achievements to celebrate and numerous opportunities to come together as a campus community.
    Our activity level in the College increased right alongside the spring and summer temperatures. From exhibits at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts to a Spring Commencement that is only growing in size and excitement, we had countless achievements to celebrate and numerous opportunities to come together as a campus community.

    Our commitment to providing a world-class education to our undergraduates and graduate students is evident in our programming, our instruction, our advising, and our facilities. Everything we do is to ensure that our students are successful while they are here and long after they leave to pursue their careers. We encourage you to return to campus and be a part of today’s UAB. From lectures to music performances, from theatre productions to art exhibits, from films to cookouts, there’s something wonderful for you to experience.

    Spring Commencement

    {loadposition springcommencement2016}

    Summer Exhibits at AEIVA

    {loadposition aeiva-summer2016}

    Read more...
  • Opening Doors: A Lasting Gift Helps Fund Graduate Education

    This year, Dr. Mark Hickson celebrates 50 years in teaching, nearly 30 of which have been in the Department of Communication Studies.
    by Kayla Jenkins

    This year, Dr. Mark Hickson celebrates 50 years in teaching, nearly 30 of which have been in the Department of Communication Studies. Over the course of almost three decades, he has taught over 10,000 students—many of whom he still remembers and who certainly haven’t forgotten him.

    Dr. Hickson is one of those professors with a witty sense of humor and way of making class concepts relatable and interesting. Communication Studies alumna and former employee Marilyn-Padgett Greely fondly remembers Dr. Hickson. 

    “He is an outstanding person as well as a wonderful leader and teacher,” says Padgett-Greely. “He is a true scholar.”

    Padgett-Greely’s observation about Dr. Hickson’s scholarship is accurate. He received his B.S. and M.A. from Auburn University, then a second master’s degree from Mississippi State University. He received his Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University and went on to complete his J.D. at the Birmingham School of Law. An expert in non-verbal communication, Dr. Hickson received the Gerald M. Phillips Award for Distinguished Applied Communication Scholarship from the National Communication Association in 2014. In addition, Dr. Hickson has written numerous, well-regarded books, including “Talking Sports,” published in 2015.

    Dr. Hickson has also been recognized for the quality of his teaching. He received the UAB President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1994.

    THE POWER OF LEGACY GIVING

    Through careful gift planning, donors can help to secure and influence UAB’s future today. Legacy giving comes in many forms, from charitable trusts and retirement plan gifts to gifts in a will such as that given by Marilyn Padgett-Greely that will establish a scholarship for graduate students in Communication Studies. Regardless of the type of gift chosen, our legacy giving donors will all leave a lasting legacy at UAB. We invite you to consider what your UAB legacy will be.

    To learn more about legacy giving, visit uab.edu/legacygiving
    After several years as a professor at UAB, Dr. Hickson had a vision to expand opportunities for students and top-notch faculty by creating a Master of Arts in Communication Management graduate program in 2003. It was his hope to make graduate study more accessible not only as a way to recruit students to UAB, but also to give them the ability to complete their graduate degree here rather than relocating to other universities. But most of all, Dr. Hickson hoped students wouldn’t have to work three jobs to go to graduate school, understanding the vital role scholarship support would play in the success of the program. 

    As an alumna and colleague, Padgett-Greely remembers Dr. Hickson’s commitment to making this dream a reality. “During the time I worked there, he was working on getting the graduate program approved through the state. I saw him diligently work on that and balance teaching and the success of that program,” she says.

    Long after their time working together, Padgett-Greely has not forgotten the impact Dr. Hickson has made on her as a student, colleague and friend. She has designated a significant gift from her estate to support the graduate program in his honor, and will provide financial support to deserving graduate students pursuing training and a career in Communication Management.

    Padgett-Greely says the scholarship is in keeping with Dr. Hickson’s support of students. “He has an ability to see what people are capable of doing and opening doors for them,” she says. “With this scholarship, someone who would otherwise hit a wall after completing their undergraduate [degree] would have the opportunity to pursue their passions in graduate study.”

    Read more...
  • Myth Busters

    Here are the most common misperceptions of liberal arts majors and a breakdown of how valuable these degrees really are, as well as what UAB is doing to ensure our students find careers that are right for them.
    Everyone knows the liberal arts are dying. The traditional subjects of the classical academy: rhetoric, logic, grammar, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and the theory of music, were at the core of ancient Greek and Roman society, but aren't practical fields of study today. With a volatile global economy, rising student debt, and a digital future upon us, it doesn't make sense to pursue these antiquated fields, or even their modern iterations: the visual and performing arts, English, foreign languages, history, anthropology, sociology and philosophy. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are where the careers are. Or is that just a myth?

    THINK LIBERAL ARTS MAJORS CAN'T GET A JOB? THINK AGAIN.

    These commonly held opinions—that the liberal arts are a dead end—are more myth than fact. While we've made tremendous (and fruitful) investments in growing STEM education at all levels, graduates from the arts and humanities are critical to ensure our economy grows broadly. And there are good jobs available to them. Manufacturers need employees with cultural competency and language skills as more and more products are being built and assembled in countries all over the world. Insurance companies, real estate and investment firms, and banks need people who can explain their increasingly complex products and services. Healthcare organizations need people who can listen to patients and their caregivers, analyze information, and develop ways to communicate among the teams.

    Even tech firms are suddenly scrambling for graduates who can communicate, problem solve, and market the products. Sure, computer scientists can build hardware and software. But someone has to think about the ethics of a given technology, view it in the context of different societies and cultures, design the product and packaging, write everything from the instruction manual to the script for the commercials, score the soundtrack for the viral ad campaign, shoot the video and photos, and sell it to a worldwide audience. There are a whole lot of people behind that iPhone you use, and they're not all computer science folks.

    But still, the myths persist, and the pressures on high school students to find a high-paying job as soon as they graduate are tremendous. Here are the most common misperceptions of liberal arts majors and a breakdown of how valuable these degrees really are, as well as what UAB is doing to ensure our students find careers that are right for them.

    While these myths (and the realities) apply to all of the arts and humanities, we've focused on English as a representative major. We talked to Dr. Daniel Siegel, Associate Professor in the Department of English, Elizabeth Simmons, Assistant Director in Career and Professional Development (Liberal Arts, Public Health and Nursing), and recent graduates Kayla McLaughlin and Brodie Foster.

    MYTH 1:  THERE AREN'T ANY JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR LIBERAL ARTS MAJORS


    Daniel Siegel: If English was ever an impractical major, it looks to me like those days are gone. English majors are a natural fit for jobs in media and communication, marketing, public relations, corporate training, and research and analysis. English is also great preparation for pre-professional programs, including medical school.

    When I see lists of majors ranked by salary expectation—the average salary over the course of a career—English is usually somewhere in the middle. I assume this is because many English majors choose careers that they find meaningful.

    On the other hand, for English majors looking for lucrative careers, my sense is that their degree positions them to succeed in many industries and professions. They have talents that every employer needs. They know how to read carefully, write forcefully, do research, work creatively in independent directions, produce polished documents, engage in discussion and debate, understand different points of view, analyze cultural trends, and hear what people are saying.


    Elizabeth Simmons: Employers tell us every day that they need people who can communicate, who can think critically, and who can problem solve. They're looking for blended skills—people who can deal with more complexity.

    We know that careers are not linear. Our professional journeys have lots of twists and turns. And a liberal arts major is not a vocational degree. It's important to spend time exploring your options in college to decide what is meaningful to you and find out what you're good at. We're here to normalize the fact that not everyone knows what they want their career to be. Students tend to feel like everyone else has it together, but in fact they really don't. Take lots of classes, do several internships, work with your professors, your academic advisors and with our career counselors, and a path will emerge for you. Our liberal arts majors are in demand. They just need to learn how to sell themselves.


    Brodie Foster: This is the myth that I find the most nonsensical, to be honest. I switched from a pre-med psychology track to an English degree and ultimately found that the soft skills I had been developing throughout my undergraduate degree could apply to a number of different fields—particularly digital media and content strategy, which is where I found my post-college job.

    The way I always approached my career search was that through my liberal arts degree, I learned to be teachable and to communicate well. I knew that whatever career I pursued would come with hard skills that I might have to pick up, but my skills would be the ones that made me stand out to employers. Particularly because I work in the digital media industry, technology changes every few months but my ‘soft skills' in communication and creative conception can be applied to anything.


    Kayla McLaughlin: There are a lot of creatives out there, but creatives are in high-demand. Such high-demand, in fact, that getting the jobs they want is highly competitive. Experience and determination separates the hired from the rejected. Use what you know to get what you really want.

    MYTH 2: IF YOU DO GET A JOB, YOU'LL NEVER EARN ENOUGH TO JUSTIFY THE TUITION YOU SPENT ON YOUR DEGREE




    Elizabeth Simmons: If you go back to the original vision for a university education, these [liberal arts] majors were never designed to be vocational degrees. Our mission is to create whole human beings and citizens.

    I think as the economic pressures have intensified, we have all—especially parents—shifted to a mentality that you should go to college to ensure a lucrative and stable career. That's certainly a part of it, but that approach can be detrimental to students who are not pursuing professional degrees. We encourage liberal arts students to start pinpointing their strengths and weaknesses early on, then we can help them start thinking about what they can do with their degree based on that assessment. We also encourage them to do as many internships as they can. It's being more self-aware and more intentional in their choices. Employers want to know they can come into a job and contribute immediately. When our students are able to do that, they are on track for a very successful career, regardless of their field.

     
    Daniel Siegel: To students and parents, I'd say to choose a major based on what interests you and what you're good at. That's where you're going to make your contribution. Even if you want to be purely pragmatic in your decision about what to study, the most practical thing you can do is to build on your talents and talk to lots of people about how you can market and apply those talents. To those lucky enough to be good at different things, cultivate all of those talents in college. Get a double major, or at least take classes in different fields. It's that combination of skills, perspectives, and experiences more than your on-paper major that will set you apart in the working world.

    Our goal is to help our students learn about options they haven't thought of, find some clarity about their own priorities, connect with the resources that UAB and the community have to offer them, and leave with confidence about the next step.


    Brodie Foster: To be honest, I never really considered salary when I was looking at job options. I found that my heart was in storytelling and digital media and never really considered what kind of salary situation I would be in, but haven't been disappointed by what I've found. I always had more of the mindset that once I found what I was good at and what I loved, the salary would fall into place. I always knew that no matter what happened with my primary career goals, I would always have a set of marketable skills that would get me where I needed to be.

     
    Kayla McLaughlin: I know many students—myself included—were able to acquire scholarships and grants that helped lessen that cost. Although I'm in an entry level position right now, I'll only get paid more from here. That has already justified the hard work I put into finding scholarships and graduating with honors.

    MYTH 3: PEOPLE IN THE LIBERAL ARTS ARE IMPRACTICAL, IDEALISTIC ROMANTICS


    Elizabeth Simmons:
    UAB students have real opportunities to add value to their degrees, and they are pursuing them. We have liberal arts students who take classes outside their majors to give them a few more skills that will make them marketable. Analytics or accounting classes in the School of Business, for example. The new Bachelor of Arts in Computer and Information Sciences is a fantastic new degree that will be a boon to a lot of students, because that is really what employers are looking for—that mix of skills. Liberal arts students who can code are incredibly attractive to employers.

    By the same token, we have students who are not liberal arts majors who are doing a minor in Professional Writing as a way to strengthen their communication skills. The students who can combine their courses and their skills are the ones who will have a path open up for them.


    Daniel Siegel: We've got to get our own students enthusiastic about courses in other disciplines. The job environment is difficult for all students these days, and over the course of their working lives, most college graduates will change jobs frequently and may even change careers. So it's absolutely crucial that we push our students to circulate throughout the university—what you learn by taking challenging courses in different fields is much more important than what you learn in a major. The power of a university education is that it gets you to be intellectually flexible, and every employer will tell you that they want to hire people with a diversity of skills and interests. I really worry about the degree to which students, and to some extent faculty and advisors, treat the major as the point of college—it hurts our students when they go out into the world and have to navigate complex work environments.

    Our alumni also play an important role. They let us know what they're doing so that we can give current students a diverse and realistic picture of what kind of options they'll have after college.

    We reach out to alumni a year after they've left the department and ask them to share their career experiences and advice with current students. Occasionally, we might connect one of our current students with a graduate who is working in a career field the student is interested in. I've put together a website that is a collection of job-related resources, both inside and outside of UAB, and information about previous graduates of the department, including their advice to current students.


    Brodie Foster:  Everyone always thinks that classes like art or creative writing are easy classes to breeze through and have no idea the kind of hard work it takes to do them well. There is an unreal amount of critical thinking, work shopping, communication, and reflection that goes into doing these things well. There's a certain impracticality to creativity, but we learn to balance that idealism with the articulation and execution of our ideas. We learn to take something from a concept to reality and really get into the process of completing a project.

    Everyone has to write. Everyone has to communicate. An English student, when brought up well like UAB's students are, emerge with a good grasp of research, writing, editing, communication, and reflection. They learn to take their idealism and make it a reality.


    Kayla McLaughlin: Some liberal arts students are impractical, sure. But so are lots of other people. Idealistic and romantic? I hope so! The liberal arts are what put meaning in everyone's world. Where would we find the whimsy, magic and meaning without the liberal arts?

    MYTH 4: UNIVERSITIES ARE NOT DOING THEIR PART TO PREPARE STUDENTS FOR CAREERS




    Daniel Siegel: Students weren't coming to us for help, and that was a problem. They seemed to see their studies as one thing and their career as the next thing. When a student was ready to graduate, and [faculty members in the Department of English] would ask him or her what was coming next, the student would often say, “I need to start thinking about that.”

    The great strength of an English major—its versatility—is also the source of dilemmas for a number of our students. English has many career applications, which means that there's no single career track that is the obvious choice for our graduates. Also, the intellectual rewards of English (and other majors as well) can cause students to underrate, or not even to be aware of, the practical skills they're learning.

    In the Career Services office and with the CAS Advisors, our students have tremendous resources to help them benefit from college and prepare their careers. But students don't always use those resources adequately. Also, as the people in the classrooms with our students, professors are uniquely qualified to say, “Here's what you've learned in our classes; here's why it matters; here are some things you can do well that you might not even recognize as talents you have.” That's why we felt it was important for our faculty to be directly involved in career mentoring.

    The impact of these efforts had been immediate. Coming out of the mentoring sessions and career events, students often say they have new ideas about what they might do after college, and we can frequently point them to specific resources or people to talk to. That's really what we're after.

     

    Top 10 Things Employers Look for in a Job Candidate


    1. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization

    2. Ability to work in a team structure

    3. Ability to make decisions and solve problems

    4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work

    5. Ability to obtain and process information

    6. Ability to analyze qualitative data

    7. Technical knowledge related to the job

    8. Proficiency with computer software programs

    9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports

    10. Ability to sell to or influence others

    (source: 2016 Job Outlook, ©National Association of Colleges and Employers)
    Elizabeth Simmons: A big part of our job is to help our students articulate to themselves what their skills are. We are in a competency-based market; employers want to know what applicants bring to the table. But our students don't always understand what they have learned how to do. They can upload their resumes and we can review them in a 101 session we call Motivational Interviewing where we go over those resumes and help them see for themselves what they've actually done. 

    For example, we had a student who had been very involved in an organization on campus and he had listed that under his extra-curricular activities. But as we asked him more questions about his role in the club, we found out that he had had a leading role in building the organization, marketing it, growing it, and developing the social media presence. We were able to talk him through that and help him see that he had gained real skills that should be included on his resume: leadership, team building, branding, and social media communications. They have to practice talking about what they've done, and that's what we offer in Career and Professional Development.

    We also work with faculty to design career fairs that can put their students in front of professionals in specialty fields. Last year we had a Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Career Day at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts and invited 30 employers to come. Our students were able to interact with them and hear first-hand that there were opportunities out there, sometimes in careers they might not have considered. And the employers could meet our talented students and learn more about what they could offer to their organization.

     
    Brodie Foster: This is one of the things I felt most supported in when I was a student. When I graduated, I had a resume and portfolio I was proud of and a prepared ‘elevator pitch' on why I was hirable and a valuable potential employee.

    I feel like you're as prepared as you choose to be, and there's a lot of work that you just have to do yourself (which is true of all majors, I think). However, I found plenty of opportunities to learn how to prepare myself for the workforce within CAS and the English department specifically.

    I did the Capstone internship where Dr. Cynthia Ryan taught a professional development course that dovetailed with my internship in my senior year. In that Capstone, we had resumé workshops, interview tips, reflections on career goals, and how best to present ourselves as marketable job applicants. There is a huge stigma about liberal arts students not having any concrete skills, so you have to work a little harder to prove that you're hirable, but our English department did a fantastic job of that for me.


    Kayla McLaughlin: I think this statement only is true for those who just attend class and don't do anything outside of that. You can't limit your college experience to the classroom and be prepared for a real-world job, because a classroom is not like the real world. Anyone can go into an interview and use what they've learned in poetry or flash fiction to speak about their own individual abilities, but that's just a cherry on top. Employers care about how much you did outside of class. How did a student combine their schooling with extracurriculars and internships to create their portfolio? How much research did they do prior to the interview? Essentially, how much did they care about what they wanted? UAB gives ample opportunity to do more, talk to the career center, talk to professors who know many more people and and have a lot experience more than you have. I think the College's liberal arts faculty is one of the best things about the university, and the students should take advantage of that. UAB gives students ample opportunity to do what they love and gain experience, most of the time without even stepping off campus. I think the people who disagree just aren't looking hard enough and aren't talking to professors, who are the number-one source for career help.

    HIRE A BLAZER

    UAB Career Services has launched a new online portal that connects students to internships, part-time jobs, career positions and work-study jobs. It also allows employers to create an account where they can post their opportunities.

    Read more...
  • Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee Speaks at UAB Institute for Human Rights Kickoff

    Gbowee gave a free public lecture at the Alys Stephens Center on September 29 at a kickoff event for the UAB Institute for Human Rights (IHR).
    When war devastated her home country of Liberia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Leymah Gbowee realized that it was often women who bore the brunt of the burden of the ongoing, deep-rooted conflict. Faced with systematic human rights violations and rape, women in Liberia struggled with the trauma and destruction associated with civil war. Gbowee mobilized an interfaith group of Christian and Muslim women to demonstrate together and organized sit-ins, non-violent protests, and sex strikes. Ultimately, she founded the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, which helped ending the civil war in 2003 and let to the downfall of Charles Taylor, the country’s then president.

    Leymah Gbowee (Photo: Michael Angelo)Gbowee’s efforts enabled a period of peace and stability in Liberia that paved the way for the election of her collaborator, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as first democratically elected female president of an African country. Along with President Sirleaf, Gbowee was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 “for … non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Her historic achievements were recounted in the documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” (2008) and her memoir “Mighty Be Our Powers” (New York: Beast Books, 2011, with Carol Mithers).

    Recognizing that women in leadership positions are effective brokers for peace, human rights, and social justice, Gbowee formed the Women Peace and Security Network (WIPSEN-Africa) based in Accra, Ghana. She is also the founder of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa in Monrovia, an organization providing educational opportunities to girls and women in Liberia. She is an Oxfam Global Ambassador and serves on the boards of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the PeaceJam Foundation, and is a member of the Ara Pacis Initiative and the High Level Task for the International Conference on Population and Development.

    Gbowee gave a free public lecture at the Alys Stephens Center on September 29 at a kickoff event for the UAB Institute for Human Rights (IHR). The IHR was established in the summer of 2014 and with the arrival of director Tina Kempin Reuter, Ph.D. in February of this year, has officially begun its operations. The IHR’s mission is to bring together scholars, educators, students, and activists to raise awareness, engage in education, foster research, and design initiatives for practical action resulting in the promotion and protection of human rights. Hosting public lectures and facilitating outreach programs involving the UAB community and beyond are part of the IHR’s mission to provide a forum for discussion and collaboration. The IHR is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences and will contribute to the College’s strategic goal of increasing the College’s international profile and to prepare students to succeed in an increasingly complex global environment.

    The selection of Gbowee as the Institute’s first keynote speaker is exemplary of what the IHR strives to achieve. “Leymah Gbowee is a role model for all of us who engage in human rights and peace work,” says Dr. Reuter. “Her activism for community building, peace, and women’s rights in Liberia is unparalleled and serves as an example of remarkable leadership and successful grassroots efforts. She represents what the UAB Institute for Human Rights has set out to do: to raise awareness and to educate, to research and to find practical solutions for the promotion of human rights and sustainable peace.”

    Gbowee’s lecture discussed her experience organizing a grassroots human rights movement to advocate for political change and social justice. Her talk addressed best practices of non-violent activism and focus on the lessons learned in Liberia and how they are applicable to other movements worldwide. This is a timely topic—not just for UAB, but also for Birmingham, Alabama, and the U.S., considering the city and country’s own civil rights history and the contemporary movements for social change. Local grassroots organizations can learn from efforts abroad, and vice versa, thereby establishing fruitful dialogue and cross-pollinating innovative solutions to our world’s most pressing issues.

    Gbowee’s lecture marks the beginning of the IHR’s public speaker and outreach program, which will feature other international human rights experts from around the world, including human rights advocate Ambassador Ahmet Shala, the former Minister of Finance and Economy of the Republic of Kosovo, and a panel discussing the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.

    The IHR is the home of UAB’s human rights education and research efforts. A variety of classes on human rights and human rights-related fields will be consolidated in a new undergraduate minor on human rights. In addition, the new master’s program on the anthropology of peace and human rights, which will give students the opportunity to engage closely with human rights topics, is being developed. The Institute for Human Rights serves as a platform for research on human rights with a particular focus on the struggle of vulnerable populations, including minorities, refugees, women, children, persons with disabilities, and people dealing with the consequences of poverty. Interdisciplinary research projects focus on human rights and peace, human rights and public health, human rights and civil rights and human rights and poverty. The IHR is particularly interested in bottom up approaches to human rights, studying best practices on how communities advocate for their human rights.

    To learn more about the UAB Institute for Human Rights, visit uab.edu/cas/humanrights

    Read more...
  • Connections: Using Neuroimaging to Map the Brains of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Dr. Rajesh Kana and his graduate students have collected a large database of about 150 children and adults with autism whom they’ve scanned. In two studies that he and his team have published, they used a computer algorithm to analyze the data.

    “This is your brain on drugs.”

    Perhaps no other analogy has done as much to illustrate brain function as the now-famous 1987 public service announcement aimed at reducing narcotics use. But Dr. Rajesh Kana, associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Director of the Cognition, Brain and Autism Laboratory at the Civitan International Research Center (CIRC), has a few metaphors of his own that explain how the brains of austistic people work.

    “When I give talks, I often tell people to think about airports,” he says. “Our research findings indicate that so much about Autism Spectrum Disorder is about the quality of the connections between different regions of the brain. For example, it’s easy to get from Birmingham to Atlanta, Memphis, or Nashville. But it’s harder to get from Birmingham to Amsterdam. So, the local connectivity of the Birmingham Airport is pretty good; whereas its long-distance connectivity is rather poor. In the same way, those long connections in the brain, from the visual cortex in the back of the brain to the front of the brain, can be easily disrupted in people with ASD.”



    “You can also think about the strength of those connections,” he continues.

    “You don’t want a connection that is too high with too many signals, or one that is too low with too little input. It’s like your mobile phone,” he says. “If the connection is too weak, then you won’t be able to receive calls. It has to be optimum. For people with ASD, their connections may be too high, or too low, resulting in disrupted connectivity.”

    Collecting Images

    Dr. Kana, who came to UAB from Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, was one of only a handful of neuroimaging researchers on campus when he arrived nine years ago. He was drawn to UAB for several reasons, including the opportunity to work with children with developmental disabilities, the interdisciplinary opportunities that were available between the Psychology department and the School of Medicine, the commitment to autism research by then-Civitan director Dr. Harry Sontheimer, and the availability of MRI scanners that could advance his research.

    Within a short six months his operation was up and running, and within a few years, several other researchers working in neuroimaging had joined UAB. “I think there were three or four of us when I started, and today there are 20 or more,” Kana says.

    Dr. Kana with his students. Front row, from left: Carla Ammons, Abbey Herringshaw, Haley Bednarz, Melissa Thye, Emma Sartin, Thomas DeRamus. Mary-Elizabeth Winslett, Niharika Loomba, Victoria Seghatol-Eslami, Rebecca DonnellyKana’s approach is to see the brain as a whole. “We’re looking at signatures, at those connections,” he says. “Traditionally, researchers in the field were looking for focal, isolated neural stamps or flags that one could identify as causes of autism. But there’s never been a consistent or clear focal marker. By focusing on parts, one may be addressing only half the story. We want to see parts as well as how the whole brain working together as a team—the crosstalk between regions and how those regions influence each other.”

    Kana looks at a few key areas in people who are on the higher end of the autism spectrum: the function of the brain, particularly during a social tasks such as mindreading; the brain’s mass, including the thickness and volume of the cortex; the white matter of the brain measured using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI); and the chemical composition of the brain, as measured by magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS).

    “For example, one way we measure the brain’s function—its connectivity and activity—is to ask children to infer emotion based on language or a scene from a movie clip,” he explains. “We will put them into a scanner and then show them a movie clip and ask them to tell us what the characters are feeling based on facial expressions and body language. Or we will run tests that challenge them to detect absurdity in language by giving them a series of sentences such as, ‘It is freezing cold outside. It may be a good idea to not wear a jacket while going out.’ Typically ASD individuals have a difficult time identifying those absurdities.”

    Dr. Kana and his graduate students have collected a large database of about 150 children and adults with autism whom they’ve scanned. In two studies that he and his team have published, they used a computer algorithm to analyze the data. “We apply our findings to a technique called machine learning,” he says. “We taught the computer certain algorithms to see features in a data set, and the computer then classified participants into groups based on key attributes, such as brain connectivity patterns or cortical thickness patterns. We found that the computer could classify data from participants with autism from that of typical controls with about 95-96% accuracy,” he says.


    Developing Interventions

     Autism researchers in the Department of Psychology


    Dr. Frank Amthor, Professor
    • Interim Director, Behavioral Neuroscience Graduate Program
    • Research interests: neural computation, retinal physiology

    Dr. Fred Biasini, Associate Professor
    • Director, Lifespan Developmental Psychology Program
    • Research and teaching interests: ASD, effects of parent-infant interaction on development, social development, children of substance abusers

    Dr. Kristi Guest, Assistant Professor
    • Disabilities Services Coordinator for UAB Head Start Program
    • Research Coordinator for UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics and UAB Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND)
    • Research interests: ASD, developmental psychology, infant and child development

    Dr. Maria Hopkins, Associate Professor
    • Director of Undergraduate Studies in Psychology
    • Research interests: ASD, social-emotional development in children

    Dr. Rajesh Kana, Associate Professor
    • Co-Director, Undergraduate Neuroscience Program
    • Director, Cognition, Brain, and Autism Laboratory
    • Research interests: social, cognitive and affective neuroscience, neuroimaging, autism spectrum disorders, brain and language

    Dr. Sarah O’Kelley, Assistant Professor
    • Director, ASD Clinic at UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics
    • Training Director, UAB LEND
    • Research and teaching interests: cognitive and behavioral phenotypes of children and adults with ASD, ASD screening and interdisciplinary diagnosis and treatment outcomes

    Dr. Laura Stoppelbein, Associate Professor
    • Research interests: stress and coping among children, adolescents and families; stress and anxiety among ASD-diagnosed children

    The question is, what are the impacts of these findings? One key long-term benefit is early diagnosis. Currently, an autism diagnosis is based on behavior, and those behaviors may not become evident until a child is age two or older. The earlier a child can be diagnosed, the better the outcome of intervention efforts since a young brain is extremely plastic and more receptive to therapy. “In 15-30 years we could be close to a clinical diagnosis during the first six months of a child’s life; and what we are trying to do is to investigate whether we can provide a biological index to help with this,” Kana says.

    “We already know that clinicians and educators can use their intervention and instruction to address these connectivity problems,” he says. “For example, reading comprehension can be a challenge for many people with ASD. They can read the words very quickly, but they may not understand the meaning of the passage they just completed. In one of our recent studies, we brought participants from across the country to UAB to participate in our MRI scans. Then they went back home to participate in an intense training program called Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking, which includes 200 hours of face-to-face intervention on reading comprehension. For example, here in Birmingham, participants work with the Lindamood Bell Learning Processes Center to complete the program. After those 200 hours of training, they come back and we scan them again, and we can see changes in the brain in terms of activity and connectivity after the second scan.”

    Building a Team

    Kana’s lab also has close collaboration with Auburn University MRI center. This is facilitated by a statewide collaborative initiative called the Alabama Advanced Imaging Consortium (AAIC) that connects Auburn and UAB, and other major research centers across the state. Co-directed by Dr. Thomas S. Denney, Jr., professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Auburn University, and Dr. Adrienne Lahti, the Patrick H. Linton Professor in the UAB Department of Psychiatry, the consortium provides project management and support among scientists and enables them to share equipment. Dr. Kana has access to the Auburn MRI Research Center and its Siemens 7T MRI machine and Siemens Verio Open-Bore 3T scanner; Auburn scientists in turn have access to UAB’s Siemens Prisma 3T MRI scanner. “That is a very important partnership for us,” he says. “We can reach out to the larger neuroimaging community and ask deeper and broader research questions as expertise is always available at one center or another.”

    Dr. Kana also has several Ph.D. students and three undergraduate neuroscience majors in his lab. “We have a lot of interest from students in what we’re doing,” he says. “We’re the only active lab at UAB doing neuroimaging research for autism spectrum disorders.”

    He also notes that a number of his recent graduates have gone on to secure high-level jobs at prestigious labs and institutions. Dr. Lauren Libero was the first author on a paper published last March in the journal “Cortex” that outlined the group’s multimodal approach. She is now a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California-Davis MIND Institute (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders). “That is an excellent center for autism research and Lauren is on the right tracks for a promising career,” Kana says.

    He adds that Dr. Amy Lemelman, who graduated recently, is now working in the lab of Dr. Catherine Lord, the director of the Institute for Brain Development at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Lord is renowned in the field of autism research and developed the tools that clinicians use to diagnose autism.

    And Dr. Donna Murdaugh, who graduated last year from Dr. Kana’s lab, is now doing a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric clinical neuropsychology through the Emory University School of Medicine Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Professional Psychology. Another graduate, Dr. Heather Wadsworth is a clinical psychologist at the Glenwood Foundation for Autism in Birmingham.

    Kana has two pending papers on the language intervention studies that will be published as soon as they finish the peer-review process. And he continues to scan the brains of participants to find new ways to understand, diagnose and treat autism. “We have excellent graduate and undergraduate students and hence the lab has been very productive,” he says. “Our work just rolls on. Our long-term goal is to expand the lab to a larger center for autism where research, clinical, and educational activities can be converged. We need all levels of support for achieving this.”

    Local high school student raises funds for Dr. Kana’s lab

    Shanden Fifer, a student at Indian Springs School in Birmingham, learned about Dr. Kana’s work and was motivated to embark on a fundraising project to support him. We asked him a few questions about his experience and his passion for autism research at UAB.

    1. How did you learn about Dr. Kana’s Autism Research Lab?
    My initial connection with Dr. Kana and his research was when my grandmother responded to an autism research study advertised in The UAB Reporter. My brother has autism and participated in Dr. Kana’s study.  

    2. Why did you choose to raise funds and awareness for Dr.  Kana’s Autism Research Lab?
    As an eighth grader at Highlands School, I completed a yearlong capstone project. My primary focus was on autism awareness. I decided to interview 10 autism researchers to try to learn more, and Dr. Kana was one of them. Through my research, I also learned that autism research is not funded as much as some other diseases, so I wanted to help.  In my final report, I indicated that my objectives were to continue to raise community awareness about autism and to conduct a two-year fundraiser to help support some facet of autism research.

    • Year One - Donated $1,190 to the Autism Society of Alabama. I also presented my comprehensive report at Highlands School and I developed a web page and flier that were made available to the community.

    • Year Two - Raised $1,135 to support Dr. Rajesh Kana, Autism Research Lab, UAB Department of Psychology.  I also presented an autism presentation to the Irondale City Council, and they made a very generous contribution of blue light bulbs to light up the community for National Autism Awareness Month.

    3. What do you hope will come of his research?
    I have been acquainted with Dr. Kana for more than seven years.  He is very passionate about his work.  Each time I see him, he is excited about an autism research project that is in the works. I am convinced that one day he or someone else in the autism research field will solve the puzzle about autism.  A breakthrough will come… a breakthrough that will help my brother and many others.

    Read more...
  • Dr. Jeffrey Walker Awarded MITRE Seed Grant

    Jeffery Walker, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Justice Sciences, has been awarded an $18,284 seed grant from The MITRE Corporation’s National Cybersecurity Federally Funded Research and Development Center and the University System of Maryland.
    Jeffery Walker, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Justice Sciences, has been awarded an $18,284 seed grant from The MITRE Corporation’s National Cybersecurity Federally Funded Research and Development Center and the University System of Maryland.

    The grant will support Walker as he works to identify which types of businesses embrace or overlook the importance of cybersecurity, capture best practices and develop strategies to increase the adoption of cybersecurity technologies.

    Walker is one of five academic researchers to receive a seed grant. The grants, totaling nearly $293,000, went to researchers at universities in Alabama, Maryland, Texas and Virginia. Each awardee represents a university member of the NCF Academic Affiliates Council, a network of cybersecurity experts from academic institutions across the country.

    UAB was one of nine universities chosen by MITRE in 2014 to serve on the Academic Affiliates Council. The council was formed to support the not-for-profit company’s operation of the nation’s first federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) solely dedicated to enhancing cybersecurity and protecting national information systems. The FFRDC is sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

    Read more...
  • Dr. Sarah Parcak Discovers New Monument at Petra, Jordan

    UAB archaeologist Sarah Parcak, Ph.D., and Christopher Tuttle, executive director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, announced the discovery of a massive, previously unknown structure in Petra, a 2,500-year-old city in southern Jordan.
    In a paper recently published by the American Schools of Oriental Research, UAB archaeologist Sarah Parcak, Ph.D., and Christopher Tuttle, executive director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, announced the discovery of a massive, previously unknown structure in Petra, a 2,500-year-old city in southern Jordan that was the capital of the ancient Nabataean kingdom.

    Parcak is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is also a National Geographic Fellow and winner of the 2016 TED Prize.

    The city of Petra is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, located in Jordan’s southwestern desert. Petra is half-built, half-carved into rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. In 1985 it was designated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage site and named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

    The structure—a platform that is roughly the length of an Olympic-size swimming pool and twice as wide—is located about half a mile south of the center of the ancient city. Given its size, shape and prominent location, Parcak believes the site was a public structure and possibly had some sort of ceremonial function.

    Read more...
  • Dr. Ragib Hasan Named Senior Member by Association of Computing Machinery

    Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, has been named a senior member by the Association of Computing Machinery.
    Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, has been named a senior member by the Association of Computing Machinery.

    Hasan is the director of the UAB SECure and Trustworthy Computing Lab and 2014 recipient of the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award for his research on trustworthy cloud computing. He is also the founder of Shikkhok.com, an award-winning free education platform in the Bengali language, and the coordinator of the Bangla Braille project, aimed at creating educational material for visually impaired children in South Asia.

    The Association of Computing Machinery is the largest society devoted to educational and scientific computing and gives senior member status to those who have at least 10 years of professional experience and five years of continued professional membership in the society. The senior member designation was established 2006 to recognize the top 25 percent of the society’s members for their demonstrated excellence in the field.

    Read more...
  • Dr. Cristin Gavin Named Recipient of National Advising Award

    Cristin Gavin, Ph.D., co-director of the Undergraduate Neuroscience Program and assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology, has been selected as the recipient of a National Academic Advising Association award.
    Cristin Gavin, Ph.D., co-director of the Undergraduate Neuroscience Program and assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology, has been selected as the recipient of a National Academic Advising Association award.

    NACADA named Gavin the 2016 winner of their Outstanding New Advisor Award in the Faculty Academic Advising category. Gavin was nominated for the award by colleagues in the Department of Neurobiology and the Undergraduate Neuroscience Program and neuroscience students.

    “This award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated qualities associated with outstanding academic advising of students and who have served as an advisor for a period of three (3) or fewer years,” the NACADA said in a news release. “The Faculty Academic Advising category includes those individuals whose primary responsibility is teaching and who spend a portion of their time providing academic advising services to students.”

    Gavin, who is also co-director of the UAB Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP), teaches for the Undergraduate Neuroscience Program, the Science and Technology Honors Program, and the Graduate School.

    Read more...
  • Provost’s Office Honors College Faculty

    Wendy Gunther-Canada, Ph.D. and Erika Hille Rinker, Ph.D. were named as this year’s recipients of the Provost’s Awards for Faculty Excellence. Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D. was named as the recipient of the Sam Brown Bridge Builder Award.
    Wendy Gunther-Canada, Ph.D. and Erika Hille Rinker, Ph.D. were named as this year’s recipients of the Provost’s Awards for Faculty Excellence. Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D. was named as the recipient of the Sam Brown Bridge Builder Award.

    Wendy Gunther Canada
    Erika Rinker
    Yogesh Vohra

    Gunther-Canada, chair of the Department of Government, was recognized for her efforts to promote and encourage undergraduate research. Rinker, assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, was recognized for her efforts to engage students in education abroad opportunities.

    Vohra, associate dean of research and professor in the Department of Physics, is the seventh recipient of the Sam Brown Bridge Builder award, named in honor of Dr. Sam Brown and given to faculty members who have demonstrated a deep and abiding commitment to building collaboration and partnerships across the university in ways that enhance research and/or teaching activities.

    These three outstanding faculty members, as well as Doug Barrett, associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History and recipient of the UAB President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching; and Alison Chapman, Ph.D., chair and professor in the Department of English and winner of the Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award, were recognized at the Faculty Awards Ceremony on September 12.

    Read more...
  • Sociology Alumnae Recognized for Achievements

     Julie Locher, Ph.D., director of the UAB Translational Nutrition and Aging Program, received the Gerontological Society of America 2016 M. Powell Lawton Award. Akilah Dulin Keita, Ph.D., who received her doctorate in Medical Sociology in 2007, has been named the Manning Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences in the Brown University School of Public Health.
    Julie Locher, Ph.D., director of the UAB Translational Nutrition and Aging Program, received the Gerontological Society of America 2016 M. Powell Lawton Award for her contributions in gerontology research.

    Locher received her doctorate in Medical Sociology in 1999. Her current research focuses on how social support and community and health care practices and policies affect eating behaviors and nutrition-related health outcomes in older adults and in cancer patients and survivors.

    This distinguished award recognizes a significant contribution in gerontology that has led to an innovation in gerontological treatment, practice or service, prevention, amelioration of symptoms or barriers, or a public policy change that has led to some practical application improving the lives of older persons. It is sponsored by the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life’s Polisher Research Institute and is named in memory of M. Powell Lawton, Ph.D., for his outstanding contributions to applied gerontological research.

    Akilah Dulin Keita, Ph.D., who received her doctorate in Medical Sociology in 2007, has been named the Manning Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences in the Brown University School of Public Health.

    Dr. Dulin Keita came to UAB as an undergraduate in 2000 with plans to study political science, but finished with majors in sociology and Spanish and a minor in criminal justice.

    In her four years at Brown, Dr. Dulin Keita has worked on identifying and exploring the community dynamics that affect diet and health, including how urban revitalization policies and public health efforts impact behaviors and outcomes. She also continues to work with her UAB colleagues. “UAB is a powerhouse,” she says.

    Read more...
  • Alumni Honored at UABExcellence in Business Top 25 Event

    Four College of Arts and Sciences alumni were honored as members of the 2016 class of the UAB Excellence in Business Top 25 on Friday, June 24, at the UAB National Alumni Society House.
    Four College of Arts and Sciences alumni were honored as members of the 2016 class of the UAB Excellence in Business Top 25 on Friday, June 24, at the UAB National Alumni Society House.

    Dr. Johnny Bates, Mr. Joseph Meadow, IV, Ms. Joy O’Neal and Mr. Tim Stephens were among 25 UAB alumni recognized for their success at a company they founded, owned, or managed. Bates and Stephens also received additional awards in the Top 3 Fastest Growing Companies category. Bates was named No. 3 in the category of Top 3 Fastest Growing Companies with revenue under $10 million, and Stephens was named No. 1 in the category of Top 3 Fastest Growing Companies with revenue above $10 million.

    Johnny Edward Bates, M.D.
    Bates is founder, president, and CEO of Quality Correctional Health Care (QCHC) in Birmingham. He received his Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1978 before completing his Doctor of Medicine in 1983.

    Joseph Meadow, IV
    Meadow is an owner and partner of TJC Mortgage in Birmingham. He earned his Bachelor of Science in marketing and industrial distribution from UAB in 2001 and completed his Master in Public Administration from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2014

    Joy O’Neal
    Joy O’Neal is the executive director at The Red Barn in Leeds. After completing her Bachelor of Arts in History from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1990, she earned her Master of Public Administration in 2010.

    Tim Stephens
    Stephens is the vice president of Strategic Partnerships for SportsManias in Miami, Florida.  He completed his individually designed Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2015.

    Read more...
  • Professors Discover Sponge Effective Against MRSA

    In a recent paper, Department of Biology researchers explain that the defensive mechanisms of Antarctic marine algae, sponges and other invertebrate species hold promise for humans, too.
    Endowed University Professor of Polar Biology James McClintock, Ph.D. and fellow professor Chuck Amsler, Ph.D., both of the Department of Biology, have published a paper in the journal “Organic Letters” with their colleague Bill Baker, Ph.D., professor at the University of South Florida. In it, the researchers explain that the defensive mechanisms of Antarctic marine algae, sponges and other invertebrate species hold promise for humans, too. The scientists isolated a compound from Dendrilla membranosa that is remarkably effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

    In lab tests, the compound, which the researchers named “darwinolide” after the sponge’s family name, Darwinellidae, killed 98 percent of MRSA cells. “It’s a defensive compound against microbes with some very interesting properties,” McClintock said, adding that the next step is to synthesize darwinolide in the lab.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 80,000 invasive MRSA infections are diagnosed in the United States each year, and more than 11,000 patients die from MRSA-related complications.

    The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

    Read more...
  • Theatre Alumna Stars in “Underground”

    Andrea Frankle, 1998 graduate of the Department of Theatre, plays Suzanna Macon, the cruel plantation mistress on the hit WGN America show “Underground.”
    Andrea Frankle, 1998 graduate of the Department of Theatre, plays Suzanna Macon, the cruel plantation mistress on the hit WGN America show “Underground.”

    “Underground” is the story of a group of slaves in 1857 who plan a daring escape from the Macon plantation to cross 600 miles to freedom, fighting to survive all the way.

    Frankle, originally from Montgomery, was auditioning for Birmingham’s Summerfest as a teenager when she was spotted by a scout from the UAB Theatre, who convinced her to come in and audition for a scholarship.

    “They prepared me so well,” Frankle says of the Theatre faculty.

    Frankle also appeared in the second season of “True Detective” on HBO. The new season of Underground began filming this summer and will air in 2017.

    Read more...
  • Graduate Bliss Chang Wins Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship

    Bliss Chang, who graduated in 2015 with degrees in biology and biochemistry, has won a 2016 Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship.
    Bliss Chang, who graduated in 2015 with degrees in biology and biochemistry, has won a 2016 Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship. This award, worth $5,000, is one more accomplishment in a long line of achieve­ments by the Montgomery native that include his undergraduate education at UAB, a fellowship in Germany, and now, the joint M.D./Ph.D. program at Harvard Medical School.

    The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Chang is among 57 students nationwide to receive a Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship this year.

    Since its creation in 1932, the Fellowship Program of Phi Kappa Phi has become one of the Society’s most visible and financially well-supported endeavors, allocating $345,000 annually to deserving students for first-year graduate or professional study. Currently, 51 Fellowships of $5,000 and six of $15,000 are awarded each year.

    Read more...
  • Blazer Booster: New College Alumni Board President Wesley Calhoun May Be Our Biggest Cheerleader

    Wes Calhoun, president of the new Arts and Sciences Alumni Board, sees growth and opportunity ahead for his alma mater and his hometown.
    Photos by Nik Layman 

    Wes Calhoun knows that when it comes to UAB, seeing is believing.

    “I think a lot of people haven’t experienced or seen the growth that I’ve seen in the past two months as I’ve taken campus tours. I’m like ‘Wow, this is all here?’ People have their blinders on and they’re going through their day to day and they haven’t had a chance to look at what UAB is doing. So one of the things I’m looking forward to as part of our new board is getting people to campus and excited about what’s going on here.”

    As a 1986 criminal justice graduate and longtime Birmingham businessman, Wes has the perspective, the connections and the enthusiasm to champion the College of Arts and Sciences. He purposely chose UAB despite longstanding family connections to the University of Alabama, at a time when many of his friends were heading to Tuscaloosa, Auburn or out of state. “My father wanted me to go to UA, but I didn’t want to go to Tuscaloosa,” he says. “I grew up going down there to homecoming and football games my whole life, but I wanted to stay here in Birmingham. I took a few classes at Alabama one summer and I made good grades, but I wanted to come home. I never really felt like I was missing anything by not going away to school.”

    Part of the UAB’s appeal for Calhoun was that it offered a flexible class schedule that accommodated his heavy workload. His grandfather had started Calhoun’s Shoes in Homewood in 1950, which, by the time Calhoun graduated from high school, had grown to seven retail locations under his father’s leadership. He was able to work days or nights, depending on when his classes were available. But he says it wasn’t easy. “It was tough because I was working more than 40 hours a week, and I was in school taking three classes, sometimes four classes at a time. So it took me five and a half years to graduate.”

    By then, he says, he was ready to finish school, and he followed good friends through the criminal law program, a part of theDepartment of Justice Sciences in the early-mid 1980s. “Many of my friends were going to go to law school, they were all criminal law majors,” he says. “I rode their coattails through that program and I actually got my degree in criminal justice with a minor in studio art. My father didn’t want me to get a Bachelor of Arts degree; he said I had to have a Bachelor of Science degree. So that was the compromise.”

    In hindsight, Calhoun can see how his degree choices worked out as he built his own career. “In a way it’s ironic, because five years after graduation I took a break from the family business because I wanted to use my studio art degree, and that’s when I started my advertising agency, Calhoun Communications,” he says.

    Building a Career, Cheering for UAB

    Calhoun decided to forge his own path in marketing and communications rather than assume a role in the family-owned company. But as he built a two-decade career in advertising—eventually representing more than 100 clients—he remained close to his father, who was also adapting the family shoe business into something else.

    “He ended up letting all the leases run out on all seven stores,” Calhoun recalls. “The final one was at Century Plaza, and when my father let that one expire, he started looking at government contracts. That’s when he started Shoe Corp. He used American manufacturers and slowly won contracts and wrote specs for prison shoes, which have no metal so you can’t make a weapon. This was before the Internet, so he would get all the major newspapers and look in the back where they had bids for prison shoes and he started slowly bidding on them.”

    Years went by, and father and son each became successful—side-by-side. Calhoun kept his dad up-to-date on Calhoun Communications, and his father kept him abreast of developments at Shoe Corp., but they never worked together—until 2008.

    “That’s when he asked me if I would come back and help him. He had offers to sell the business, but he wanted his children and grandchildren to take it over,” Calhoun explains. “My sister has always been with Dad and worked with Dad, so he said ‘Let’s pass this business on.’ It wasn’t that sexy to me, like advertising, so I was doing maybe 15 hours a week and slowly year after a year got more and more involved. He came to me about two years ago and said, ‘Hey Wes, I’m going to retire in the next year or two. What do you want to do? Do you want to sell the company?’ And I said, ‘Dad I hate to tell you this, but I’m really enjoying it.’”

    And as Calhoun points out, now that he’s working with government contracts, that criminal law degree has come in handy after all. 

    At the same time Calhoun was transitioning back into his family’s business, UAB was transitioning, too. Growing rapidly and establishing a thriving campus culture, as well as successful new academic and athletic programs, UAB was no longer the school Calhoun attended in the 1980s. He heard the UAB siren call after the football program was canceled and then re-established. The old passions he felt for his school as a student had been rekindled as an alum, and now as president of the new Arts and Sciences Alumni Board.

    “One of the things I’m excited about as part of our new board is the chance to have events leading up to football coming back,” he says “Getting people to campus and excited about campus is going to be so important. Because if you don’t come down here and see it, you don’t even know what we’re talking about. Planning events that will get alumni back down here, that’s going be the first step.”

    Calhoun sees even more growth and opportunity ahead for his alma mater and his hometown. “The exciting thing is we’ll have football back next year, and in the South football reigns. And that just really coincides with the growth of Birmingham with the [Regions] ballpark and Railroad Park. I’m hearing more and more that the kids when they’re graduating, they don’t want to leave Birmingham, and that’s different than it was 20-30 years ago. They are slowly sticking around, and that’s going to make a huge impact on UAB and Birmingham.”

    Telling the College Story

    When asked why more of his peers aren’t as engaged, Calhoun says the explanation is pretty simple. “I think they don’t know,” he says. “We have close to 30,000 College of Arts and Sciences alumni to connect with. Nineteen departments fall under this CAS umbrella. There’s so much to talk about—so much that’s happened in a short time. It’s incredible.”

    “Reaching out to classmates I had at UAB who have gone and moved away, to get them back into it, that’s what I’m looking forward to,” he adds. “Back to my fraternity brothers, people here in our own backyard. So many people have just turned 180 degrees from their college experience. That’s a challenge for us, but that’s exciting to get people down here and see what UAB is doing, and get their children down here to go to school here.”

    “You know, we say that the Atlanta Braves are America’s Team, but UAB is Birmingham’s Team. We’ve got a gem in our backyard, but you’re not going to know about any of these things unless you come down here. And I’ve already started spreading the word about how amazing this place is.”

    Read more...
  • Message from the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

    The fall semester is always an exciting time as our returning students come back to campus and our freshmen experience our dorms and classrooms for the first time.
    Dr. Robert E. Palazzo The fall semester is always an exciting time as our returning students come back to campus and our freshmen experience our dorms and classrooms for the first time. The energy is palpable from the hallways of our academic buildings to the bookstores, coffee shops and dining areas across campus. The students are happy to be back, and our faculty have worked hard to prepare courses that will be rewarding, challenging and fulfilling.

    This fall is especially exciting as we welcome the largest freshman class to ever enroll at UAB. In fact, total enrollment in the College is up 10% over last year—a remarkable achievement. Thanks to the efforts of our colleagues in Enrollment Management, University Relations and senior administration, we have been able to tell the powerful story of UAB to more potential students than ever before—and they have responded in spades. We are drawing a talented and committed group of young people to our university from area high schools and from across the nation and the globe. They see what we already know: students can get a world-class education here for an affordable price. And with a UAB degree in hand, their opportunities are boundless.

    Please continue to support the College as we work to educate more young people than ever before. Your gifts and your time are so valuable to us. Learn more about our opportunities. And if you’re an alumnus, be sure to join us during Homecoming Week, October 17-21. I look forward to seeing you on campus. We appreciate your attention and your support!

    Go Blazers!
    R.E. Palazzo, Dean

    Read more...