Arts & Sciences Magazine

Winter 2013

  • The Storyteller and the Artist

    Kerry Madden, M.F.A, UAB assistant professor of creative writing, took on the charge of writing about famed Southern storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham and renowned Alabama folk artist Charlie Lucas's friendship, collaborating with her artist daughter Lucy Madden-Lunsford to create a children’s tale.

    A Tale of Friendship and Tomato Sandwiches

    By Marie Sutton
    Illustrations by Lucy Madden-Lunsford

    Never underestimate the power of a tomato sandwich. For the late, famed Southern storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham and renowned Alabama folk artist Charlie Lucas, that was the meal that set in motion a years-long treasured friendship, one that is a shining example of love, acceptance, and kindness. The tale of the duo’s famed tomato tryst—as well as anecdotes of them hunting for stories, metal scraps, and Christmas trees; fishing along sandy riverbanks; and performing hair-comb kazoo concerts—will be told to children of all ages for decades to come thanks to Kerry Madden, M.F.A, UAB assistant professor of creative writing.

    Madden, a lauded storyteller herself, took on the charge of writing about Windham and Lucas’s friendship, collaborating with her artist daughter Lucy Madden-Lunsford to create the children’s tale.

    “They knew how to see the world together with love and curiosity and with eyes wide open,” Madden says of the two. “They explored back roads and city streets together like kids in a world full of possibility of discovery without the anvil of adult expectation and duty.”

    They picked tomatoes and ate them like
    apples in the Alabama sunshine.
    They loved to go fishing.
    Nothing fancy about Kathryn.
    Nothing fancy about Charlie.
    Plain and simple.

    (From Nothing Fancy)

    Windham, who died last year at 93, was a world-famous writer and master storyteller who penned nearly 30 books about everything from grits to ghosts. She captivated audiences with her colorful stories of life as a Southerner; many aired weekly on National Public Radio.

    “When you listened to her stories, you felt like a kid again,” Madden says. “She made you remember what it was like to be a wide-eyed child listening to a story. She made you feel loved.”

    Off the Beaten Path

    Lucas, a former maintenance man, prayed to God to give him a talent like no one else’s. Those prayers were answered. He spends his days searching the earth for old, discarded junk like busted car mufflers, railroad spikes, and metal scraps and then fashions them into magnificent statues and works of art that are sought by art lovers around the world.

    Although Windham and Lucas could have lived in big, fancy houses and gone about town touting their accomplishments, they chose to live humbly in a quiet Selma neighborhood in homes that sit side by side. At first glance, the two appeared mismatched: a petite white woman more than 30 years the senior of a tall, lanky black man. But their endearing simplicity and love for art and all things Southern made them twin souls.

    “For so many reasons, it’s an honor to be publishing Nothing Fancy,” says Ashley Gordon, the founder of Mockingbird Publishing in Fairhope, Alabama. “Kerry and Lucy have captured beautifully the magic Kathryn engendered and the remarkable friendship she and Charlie enjoyed.”  This spring, through a creative grant from the UAB College of Arts and Sciences, Madden and her daughter will set out on a book tour of rural and urban libraries across the South. “Kathryn and Charlie always veered off the beaten path to find interesting stories,” Madden says. “I wanted the tour to reflect that sense of adventure, to discover places where kids might not get to meet an artist or author every day.”

    Plus, Windham loved libraries, Madden says. The tour is a tribute to her. “She knew the library was the greatest place in Selma for children to go and learn to read and write and tell stories,” Madden says. In fact, all the proceeds from the book sales will go to the Selma-Dallas County Public Library, Windham’s favorite place.

    “Kerry and Lucy will use the book as a foundation for writing and art workshops for children to be held in libraries around the state,” Gordon says. “I hope readers will recognize the importance of libraries, books, authors, and artists in our communities and the transformative power they represent.”

    Madden had not planned to write a book about Windham and Lucas. It kind of just happened, she says. After assigning her children’s writing workshop students the task of writing a ‘friendship’ story, she decided to write a friendship story, too.

    “I remembered how Charlie had made Kathryn a tomato sandwich, and I thought of the day I’d spent with them the previous spring, and I just started writing,” she says. As the story goes, Windham and Lucas, although both Alabama residents and seemingly cut from the same Southern cloth, had spent years on the cultural scene but had never met. It was in France, of all places, that the two crossed paths. They sat among artists and admirers at a fancy dinner when Windham mused that she would love to have a tomato sandwich. Lucas’s ears perked up. He’s a tomato sandwich kind of guy, too. He quickly got his hands on some tomatoes and bread, and together the two savored the sandwiches while also satisfying their appetites for down-home companionship.

    Charlie told Kathryn about collecting junk. Kathryn told Charlie about catching stories. Then they were quiet, gazing at the plum sky of sparkling stars over France. 

    The Storyteller’s Story

    Writing their story wasn’t easy. “I’ve written more than 100 versions of the story,” Madden says. She even gave a copy of an early draft to Windham for review. Slowly, the tale came together. Lucas offered Madden moral support and assured her that she would do their story justice. “You’re going to do it, girl,” he told her. “You will.”

    Madden’s own interest in writing surfaced in fourth grade when the teacher told her she was good at it. “Before that, I was simply the ‘nice, tall girl who listens well’ or the daughter who could ‘scrub a floor like nobody’s business.’

    “I was relieved when a teacher told me I was good at something that I cared about,” Madden says. “I loved books more than a clean kitchen.”

    Today, she is the author of several children’s books, including the Maggie Valley Trilogy. She also penned Up Close with Harper Lee, which made Booklist’s “Ten Biographies of 2009 for Youth.”

    Madden teaches aspiring writers at UAB and often shares the lessons she learned from Windham and Lucas with them. But even with her own literary accomplishments, she was initially nervous about meeting a literary legend, she says.

    But Madden’s fears were unfounded. When she went to Windham’s home, she was welcomed like an old friend. “I’ve been expecting you,” Windham told her, and she had the cornbread and sweet tea ready. “I felt like I had known her all my life,” Madden says. Later she introduced Madden to Lucas. “Their backyards were connected, and Lucas’s Trojan horse sculpture kissed Windham’s garden of tomatoes and sunflowers.

    “Charlie is pure love,” Madden continues. “He has a giant heart, and he loved Kathryn.” When Windham passed away last June, Madden said her heart broke a little. “I’m never going to stop missing her or her voice and laughter,” she says. “She swept us all up in her tales and love. I wrote Nothing Fancy to thank her for her stories.”

  • Super Center

    They may not wear spandex or leather boots, but the elite team of investigators at the College of Arts and Sciences’ Center for Information Assurance/Joint Forensics Research (CIA/JFR) do indeed have some unique superpowers.

    Meet the New Breed of Crimefighter at CAS's CIA/JFR

    By Matt Windsor
    Illustrated by Jin Chung

    They may not wear spandex or leather boots, but the elite team of investigators at the College of Arts and Sciences’ Center for Information Assurance/Joint Forensics Research (CIA/JFR) do indeed have some unique superpowers. John Grimes, J.D., a career U.S. Army veteran who only recently returned to the UAB faculty from Afghanistan where he helped coordinate U.S. intelligence, is now using his knowledge of intelligence analytics to hunt down nefarious groups attacking U.S. businesses and government agencies.

    He’s not the kind of man you want to cross. On the wall of his office are certificates from sniper school, paratrooper school, and a host of other elite military training recognitions and awards.

    One floor above in UAB’s University Boulevard Office Building is the office of forensic scientist Elizabeth Gardner, Ph.D., an expert on the chemistry of illegal drugs who once helped analyze the failure of deep space rockets for NASA. Students in Gardner’s labs have learned to detect microscopic traces of cocaine residue on dollar bills and sort out the dangerous chemical mixtures found in drugs sold over the Internet.

    In the SPIES (Security and Privacy in Emerging Systems) lab just across the road, the computer scientist Nitesh Saxena, Ph.D., is devising transformative ways to help users stay secure online, including turning password-based logins into a game as well as protecting new ways of making sensitive transactions, such as near field communication-based payments.

    Meanwhile, computer forensics expert Gary Warner is using the UAB Spam Data Mine to track the criminal gangs responsible for stealing millions of dollars in cyberspace. CIA/JFR, known as “the Center,” is directed by Tony Skjellum, Ph.D., chair of the UAB Department of Computer and Information Sciences. It now includes dozens of investigators from a range of specialties with a common goal—to stay at the cutting edge of crimefighting and share the fruits of their research with law enforcement, affected businesses, and consumers.

    “Our members work together to help create, prototype, test, implement, and refine tools to strengthen all defenses against any potential attacks,” Skjellum says.

    It’s important that the researchers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, adds John Sloan, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Justice Sciences and a cofounder of the Center. “Criminals work across interdisciplinary lines,” Sloan says, “and that’s how our research, development, and outreach works. There’s no other way to keep up and help law enforcement catch criminals.”

    Elizabeth Gardner, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Justice Science

    Specialty: Forensic chemistry

    Research Focus: Identifying emerging drugs of abuse; testing illicit drugs to determine the identity and concentration of common adulterants; testing clothing from clandestine labs for methamphetamine and other drugs; infrared spectroscopy of blood; laser analysis of trace evidence.

    “My work is all about the chemical analysis of organic compounds. There are very similar techniques that can be applied to everything from tracking oil spills in the Gulf to determining the composition of ‘ legal high’ drugs ordered off the Internet.”

    Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Computer and Information Sciences

    Specialty: Cloud computing and practical security

    Research Focus: Trustworthy data history, provenance, and accountability for cloud computing, file systems, and databases; mobile malware; secure social networking

    “Businesses are making a major push in cloud computing, with Amazon, Google, and Apple leading the way. But right now you don’t have any guarantees about what happens to your data when it goes into the cloud. I’m interested in how we can make those clouds more secure and protect privacy.”

    John Grimes, J.D., assistant professor, Department of Justice Sciences, director of intelligence analytics for CIA/JFAR

    Specialty: Human intelligence, counterintelligence

    Research Focus: Measurements and signals intelligence; imagery and geospatial intelligence

    “If you think of all things in cyberspace as dealing with ones and zeroes, my role is to round out the rest of the intelligence spectrum—the two through nine of an investigation, if you will. I focus on what a cyber-malefactor may do coming up to the keyboard and then what happens when they pull back. It’s not enough to know that a crime has happened; you have to know who has done it and prove that to the satisfaction of a judge and jury.”

    Nitesh Saxena, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of the SPIES lab

    Specialty: Computer security, user-centered security, and applied cryptography

    Research Focus: New security paradigms for computer systems, especially smartphones and other mobile devices

    “Users don’t have much intrinsic motivation to pursue security tasks online or act in a secure manner, but they do like games. So instead of entering a password, you might be prompted to play a quick game that would actually be establishing your identity or credentials.” 

    Gary Warner, director of computer forensics research at UAB

    Specialty: Computer forensics

    Research Focus: Cybercrime, especially phishing and malware; developing UAB PhishIntel database to provide comprehensive source of cybercrime evidence to law enforcement

    “More than 11 million people will be victims of financial crimes this year, and a great deal of that will include malware and phishing. We need better technology to detect these attacks and a better way to protect consumers. UAB PhishIntel is part of that. We can pinpoint the criminals who are responsible for thousands of phishing attacks, and in many cases we have their e-mail accounts and locations. We can go to law enforcement and tell them, ‘These are the ones you want to go after.’”

  • UAB's Digital Media Commons

    The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is at the forefront of helping students and other members of the UAB community get ahead of the information curve through creation of the Digital Media Commons—a hands-on, open resource advance the university’s plugged-in faculty, staff, and students.

    A Hands-On Technology Lab

    By Tyler Greer

    Today's digital revolution is like the 1990s Information Highway on steroids. More than 1.5 billion people are now connected to the Internet via computers, not to mention more than 5 billion feature phones, 500 million smartphones, and 60 million tablets and e-readers globally—and those numbers climb daily.

    These staggering data give new meaning to the term “digital literacy.” Fortunately, the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is at the forefront of helping students and other members of the UAB community get ahead of the information curve through creation of the Digital Media Commons—a hands-on, open resource advance the university’s plugged-in faculty, staff, and students.

    “Digital and media skills are as important as writing ability in today’s wired world, which is ultimately why the lab and classroom were created,” says Rosie O’Beirne, director of digital media and learning, a new CAS entity that includes the Digital Media Commons and a variety of digital initiatives that benefit faculty and students.

    Student Collaboration

    Thanks to support from CAS benefactors, full digital editing options are available at the DMC. Faculty, staff, and students can edit videos using Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere 6, and Avid Media Composer—all industry standards in documentary filmmaking and Hollywood studio productions.

    “We have a full menu of multimedia applications unlike any other lab on campus,” O’Beirne says. “The lab’s combination of sophisticated applications makes it unique.”

    Homewood native Colin Albea, a senior majoring in film and history who completed an internship at Duncan Scott Productions in Santa Monica, California, this past summer, vouches for the DMC’s advanced tools. “The lab has the necessary equipment to make students competitive in the job market,” Albea says. “A large part of my internship involved editing, and thankfully I was able to jump right in due to the experience I had gained at UAB with both Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro. I can say with certainty that the software and programs available in this lab prepare students for realworld jobs in the film and media world.”

    The new media classroom, which is available for use by any media-based class on campus, bears little resemblance to the rigid teacher-student classrooms of old. Kevin Franks, a junior civil engineering major from Hayden, says the setup of the open-resource lab and classroom encourages students to work together. “All of the classes we take in this area are interdisciplinary and so hands-on,” Franks says. “You really do need people around to help you. This environment makes it so much easier on the students for that experiential learning. It makes sharing with one another so much easier.”


    • Heritage Hall rooms 342 and 334, open-access resource lab for faculty, staff, students

    • 20 fully loaded multimedia Mac stations

    • Latest editing software, including Avid, Final Cut X, Adobe Suite 6

    • Collaborative breakout room with five-person Mediascape, Skype, virtual conferencing, voiceover and storytelling recording booth

    • Staffed equipment room

    • HD cameras and other digital tools

    • Media classroom

    • Laptops loaded with media applications

    • Rechargeable laptop cart

    • Four Mediascape stations for collaborative learning

    • Flexible and collaborative design that redefines student-teacher interaction

  • Standing Up for Social Justice

    UAB alum Brendan Rice: "My interest in social justice is grounded in the profound belief that my generation must and will play a central role in fixing the broken systems of our world."
    By Brendan Rice

    My interest in social justice is grounded in the profound belief that my generation must and will play a central role in fixing the broken systems of our world. For me, this translates to the broken global food system that leaves nearly a billion people without enough to eat. Based on this core value, I have structured my college experience around acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to be a leader in the global effort to eliminate hunger and poverty.

    As a high-school student, I attended a leadership camp through the Alabama Poverty Project, where I learned about social-justice issues affecting Alabama and the nation. After receiving a letter from Dr. Bob Corley, then director of the Global and Community Leadership (GCL) Honors Program, I visited the UAB campus and sat in on a class with Rosie O’Beirne, co-director of the media studies program. At that point, I knew that UAB would be the place where I would have the nurturing support to pursue my goals. I saw the GCL program as a curriculum path for me and other students to develop our desire to make a difference in the world as wellgrounded leaders in our chosen fields. We use the phrase “passion to action” a great deal in the program. This has characterized my time at UAB, as I seek experiences that translate my genuine interest into a well-grounded leadership.

    Huge Energy for Ending Hunger

    Through GCL, I worked on service projects with Jones Valley Urban Farm and Alabama Possible. Service is incredibly important for college students. It helps us meet community needs, and, perhaps even more important, starts to build our framework for understanding complex societal issues.

    When I attended the Universities Fighting World Hunger (UFWH) summit at Auburn University my freshman year, my interest in food security and previous experience in service suddenly made sense in the larger context of the global phenomenon of hunger, an issue that affects nearly one out of seven people on this planet.

    The UFWH movement now includes more than 300 colleges and universities where students have taken the initiative to make fighting hunger a core value of their institutions. The magnitude and energy of this effort was made real at the summit, where equally passionate students were coalescing around the common goal of ending hunger.

    When I returned to campus, I helped start the UAB chapter of the organization, which is growing in members and visibility. This past year, the group organized a number of events, including a World Food Day potluck conversation and a refugee camp simulation, which shared the stories of the world’s most marginalized in context of UAB. The World Food Day potluck combined a celebration of food with a discussion on our broken global food system—one that allows for hunger in a world of plenty.

    The issue of hunger and the growing movement of people who care about it will be reflected in the work UFWH continues to do on campus. Universities Fighting World Hunger at UAB provides a space for students to see how their stories and interests fit in with the broader narrative of a world moving toward the ability to ensure that everyone has enough to eat.

    In the spirit of shameless self-promotion, if you are a student, I urge you to get involved in this important work and join the UFWH. My story is woven into the work of ensuring that the scourge of hunger does not persist in a world with as much exhilarating possibility as ours. What is your story? My bet is that your narrative, in all of its uniqueness and vitality, is not only compatible with but absolutely essential in the broader work of all of us working together to end hunger.

  • A River Runs Through It

    Selling a product is one thing—but how do you market a region in need of revival? If you're a graphic designer, like UAB assistant professor Doug Barrett, M.F.A., you approach it like any other commodity: Talk to the client, develop a true understanding of the product, and perhaps most important, find the story that will sell it.

    A Compelling Story Sells It

    By Caperton Gillett

    Selling a product is one thing—but how do you market a region in need of revival? If you're a graphic designer, like UAB assistant professor Doug Barrett, M.F.A., you approach it like any other commodity: Talk to the client, develop a true understanding of the product, and perhaps most important, find the story that will sell it.

    That's what Barrett did as a graduate student at the University of Florida, when he worked with Mayan villagers in Mexico to help them develop a sustainable economy around local honey and orange juice. And that's what he's now teaching his students to do for Bibb County, Alabama—tour the area, meet the people, and discover the unique qualities that can help revive an economically struggling county—with the help of well-designed brochures, signage, and marketing collateral.

    AIGA, the professional organization for graphic designers in the U.S., calls it "Design for Good." Barrett calls it an independent study class, which is by invitation only. Through this class, students come together to work in a student-run design studio called Bloom Studio, where they take the design process beyond the standard in-class curriculum, using what Barrett calls the "graphic design toolset" to solve social problems and benefit their community. The final result will be a tangible product for the client to put to use and the students to add to their portfolios.

    The goal of their current project is to promote tourism in Bibb County—an effort that has involved weeks of research, numerous visits and interviews, and lots of questions. "Who is their audience? Who is their competition? And what does Bibb County have that we can leverage into something interesting people might want to come see?" Barrett says, characterizing Bibb County's assets and attractions as "the story behind the brand. What is the story, and how do we get the story out there?"

    The class's project last fall was to create marketing material for the Cahaba River Society (CRS). Barrett's students designed a collection of three brochures—graduated in size and designed to nest artistically—promoting the river, including basic river excursions, canoeing safety, the Children Linking with the Environment Across the Nation (CLEAN) Program for children, and of course membership in the nonprofit CRS. They also designed a license plate benefiting the society that will be available for purchase next year. This work resulted in the award of a Sappi Ideas That Matter grant of $47,000 to create a book to tell the story of the CRS.


    The students' work with the CRS led them to the Friends of the Cahaba, for whom they developed a Web site. One of those friends was Matthew Hartzell, Bibb County extension coordinator, who had an idea for the students' next client.

    Barrett and his students worked in conjunction with the Alabama Innovation Engine (AL Engine), which is a collaboration between Auburn University and The University of Alabama that supports the AIGA's Design for Good initiative. "Our contact at Alabama Engine is Matt Leavell, who has done a ton of work finding those in need and those with the skills to help," Barrett says.

    In touring Bibb County, talking with locals, and exploring local attractions, the UAB group discovered that the county's main draw dovetailed nicely with another project supported by the AL Engine: the development of a Cahaba Blueway, a watery trail with points of interest for canoers and kayakers that flows right through the center of Bibb County.

    But the tourist attractions in Bibb County extend beyond riparian pursuits. Barrett and his students visited the Brierfield Ironworks, the West Blocton coke ovens, the Cahaba National Wildlife Refuge, and other dry-land destinations that could make up a full day's visit—if visitors know where to go. "Sometimes people think, 'Just highlight everything in Bibb County,' but that's kind of tough," Barrett says. "If you're just driving in, it's difficult to enjoy everything they have, and there isn't a lot of infrastructure." The solution? A collection of day trips to promote to tourists, based on attractions already available in the county, with signage and maps to direct visitors around the area.

    Some of the most curious new tourists, Barrett says, were the students themselves, many of whom have lived in Jefferson County all their lives without visiting the Cahaba River or Bibb County. "It's an eye-opening experience and very worthwhile," he says. "The important thing is not just coming from the outside and trying to effect change, but also getting local people interested in effecting the change."

    The students who choose to participate in this course come preloaded with an interest in the world around them. "They're interested in preserving natural beauty and preserving culture, whether that's outside the United States or in a small town in Bibb County," Barrett says. "They recognize the significance of culture, history, and community, and how important it is to preserve those things."

    For those students, the end product is a better understanding of and appreciation for their community, a chance to use their developing skills in a real-world application, and a portfolio of completed work to take out into the world after graduation. "The students get really thrilled by it," Barrett says. "The power of this is that they're not just doing work in a class, in a vacuum. They actually get to meet the client, work with the client, and do real projects that end up getting produced. It's a real professional experience."

    Branding A River

    The Cahaba River has been recognized nationally and internationally for its biodiversity and has been named one of the 19 and 52 most important places to preserve in the next decade by the World Wildlife Fund and the Sierra Club, respectively. Barrett's students are working with the coordinators of the Cahaba Blueway Project and others to develop interest around the river and highlight resources that can help sustain the local economy. "It's interesting to think that we're trying to brand a river, with a logo and type palette and color palette—and that goes into things like signage along the take-outs and put-ins of the river, and T-shirts, and books and maps and wayfinding applications," Barrett says.

  • Creating a Culture of Peace

    Sharyn Jones, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology, recently returned from a three-week sojourn to India with 11 UAB students; the trip was the first study-away opportunity offered as part of the UAB College of Arts and Sciences' new minor: Peace, Justice, and Ecology (PJE).

    Students Study Nonviolent Conflict Resolution in India

    by Glenny Brock

    "People are sick, people are in poverty, it's 120 degrees in Delhi—and this is where you study peace?" Sharyn Jones, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology, offers this rhetorical question with a lilt of laughter. Jones recently returned from a three-week sojourn to India with 11 UAB students; the trip was the first study-away opportunity offered as part of the UAB College of Arts and Sciences' new minor: Peace, Justice, and Ecology (PJE).

    "You are educated in an entirely different way when you are immersed in the sights and smells of a place, where the language is different and the customs are different," Jones says. "Trips like this allow students to spend time with people in other cultures and to actually engage them."

    The study-away course, the Culture of Peace in India, included major sightseeing stops—the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Qutb Minar, and the Bahá'í Lotus Temple in Delhi—but the Active Nonviolence Education Center (ANEC) in Dharamsala was perhaps the most important site on the itinerary. During almost three weeks of daily workshops, the students learned from and worked with Tibetan refugees who offered instruction in nonviolent conflict resolution. They learned about the lives of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. They learned how the concept of peace is perceived in a variety of different cultures. Since the PJE program focuses on real-world strategies for social justice and environmental sustainability, the chaos and tumult of India provided a vibrant—almost overwhelming—context for students to consider these inspiring concepts.

    "Issues of peace, conflict, and social justice have always been a part of the study of anthropology," Jones says. "But our students constantly encounter problems in the real world without knowing how to fix them. One of the goals of this minor is to show students ways to change the world on a small level but ultimately to make a large impact."

    Life Lessons Via a Major Minor

    As a CAS interdisciplinary program, the PJE minor evolved from what was the environmental studies minor. The new program is the brainchild of Jones and Lori Cormier, Ph.D., program director for the master's degree in anthropology. It gives students the opportunity to examine themes of ecological adaptation and sustainability as well as investigate environmental health and human rights in local, cross-cultural, and global contexts, and then use scientific, philosophical, and ethical reasoning in developing solutions to problems. The point is to provide students with a broad learning experience in human-ecological interactions and biocultural diversity. Put another way, the minor offers deep digging in what it means to be human.

    The PJE minor has attracted students majoring in biology, chemistry, and international studies as well as students with individually designed majors. For Genevieve Begue, a senior pursuing a double major in international studies and conflict resolution and the Middle East, the travel opportunities afforded through the PJE minor make for particularly potent learning experiences. Begue, who wants to work as a "peace builder" in the Middle East, traveled to Israel during her sophomore year at UAB, but she says even that life-changing trip didn't fully brace her for India.

    "I left Birmingham with few expectations and a bunch of fears," Begue says. "I purposely tried to avoid getting much information on India and on Dharamsala. I wanted this trip to be a culture shock as much as possible, although I couldn't help talking about it as we got closer to departing and my excitement grew. I packed every kind of wipe and hand sanitizer and had planned to cover myself from head to toe. I must admit I was a little scared. "Despite leaving with few expectations," she says, "India kept catching me by surprise. I had been warned that no matter how much I tried to prepare myself, India would just blow my mind. Indeed, it did!"

    Begue often felt numerous contradictory emotions all at once. "I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions: fear, love, hate, apprehension, amazement, irritation, compassion, gratefulness (a lot of gratefulness), sadness, joy, disgust, and fascination," she says. "The best part of India is that even when something is disappointing, you probably can find the very opposite as well."

    Begue's travels have convinced her that study-away trips should be a part of every student's college experience. "I learned so much about the cultures of the countries I visited, and learned from and with the people I met," Begue says. "I simply came back a different person. Immersed in other cultures, I was able to understand firsthand some of the political issues I had studied in class."

    Peace Through Nonviolence

    According to Jones, the students were challenged not only to absorb and confront concepts of peace in the endless upheaval of India, but also to strategize on how they might bring that peace home. "How you make the world a more peaceful place was a major focus of the trip," Jones says. Daily interactions with Tibetans taught Begue that peacefulness through nonviolence is a way of life. "I learned one Tibetan expression, 'Tashi Delek!'—a greeting for which the translation may vary from 'May everything be well!' to 'Auspicious greetings.' The expression is a key that opens a smile-box, bringing full, bright smiles to their faces, which stay long after you pass by." Begue explains.

    "Tibetans cherish and celebrate life in every form, the smallest insect being of great significance for simply being alive," she says. "From Dharamsala, I brought back a sense that peace can only live as we cultivate and nurture it. Peace takes work in every instant—a work of education and tolerance, of love and of patience."

    Begue's numerous unique personal experiences represent the transformative power of immersion learning. "In our discipline, we aim to observe different cultures from an insider perspective," Jones says. "We often see students very quickly transformed by their new surroundings. "One of them—one of us, any of us!—may be saying, 'I'm different than these people. It's hot. The food tastes different.' But as you get really engaged with people," she says, "the less intense those differences become."