Teaching in the time of COVID

By Dena Pruett
COVID-19 has changed not only our daily lives but also how we approach education. UAB English Instructor Halley Cotton has faced these challenges following a simple but meaningful maxim: “You give grace; you get grace.”

COVID-19 has changed not only our daily lives but also how we approach education. In these uncertain times, professors are learning and creating new policies, procedures, and delivery modes at a breakneck speed to make sure students stay on track and engaged. UAB English Instructor Halley Cotton has faced these challenges following a simple but meaningful maxim: “You give grace; you get grace.” 

Halley CottonHalley CottonHalley Cotton wasn’t always an English major. In fact, her passion for biology, science, and animals first took her to Jefferson State where she earned an associate’s degree in biology. A run-in with calculus, though, made her reassess her goals and career path. 

“I knew I wanted to be an advocate, but I realized that I didn’t have to be out in the field collecting data to do so,” said Cotton. “I could be an advocate by being a writer and an educator. I ultimately chose UAB because it was close. I had no idea how wonderful their English department truly was and how kind, caring, and dedicated their professors are.”  

Cotton first graduated from UAB in 2013 with a B.A. in English, concentrating in creative writing, then followed it up with an M.A. in 2016, completing a thesis in poetry. Once she taught her first course in fall of 2015, she never stopped. She currently teaches first-year composition writing courses in rhetoric and argument as well as 200-level literature courses, which cover topics ranging from literary forms to monsters to otherness. In a given semester, Cotton is responsible from 50 to 90 students. 

Starting in Fall 2020, though, Cotton was forced to pivot not only her teaching style but also what she knew about classroom dynamics when she took on one remote class and two hybrid classes due to COVID. Her pedagogy relies mostly on creating a community within the classroom, which has been made more difficult now that one-third of her students are in-person and the rest are in a digital space. She’s combatted the distance by encouraging her students to get to know and learn from each other in weekly mini-sessions in breakout rooms. 

Cotton also chooses compassion and transparency when it comes to her students, establishing both trust and expectations ahead of time. She tries to keep her focus on the ultimate goal: getting her students through the semester successfully. To do so, Cotton adapts and juggles deadlines when need be:

“I remember what it was like to be a student juggling three jobs and taking classes full-time. It was a lot. Now, throw a global pandemic into the mix, and that really takes things over the edge. Students have a lot going on in their lives at the moment—professors, too. Now isn’t the time to be rigid and unforgiving. What’s meaningful to me is to be able to respond to students going through these difficult times with empathy. Is it really going to affect me if a student needs an extra week on a paper? Not really. But to them it makes all the difference. When I look back on my life it’s not going to matter to me if I had to grade a paper a week late. What will matter is how I responded to the students entrusted to my care.”  

Admitting that knowing students and who they are is what ultimately motivates her, Cotton has faced her own struggles this semester in connecting with students and figuring out the best ways to teach in the new settings. 

“I’ve had to be very intentional about my time,” said Cotton. “I'm learning right alongside my students, and I tell them that. Our UAB students really are so wonderful. I've remained open and transparent about my own challenges. We're all just trying to do our best and take things one day at a time. We’re all human. You give grace; you get grace.” 

That same balance comes in to play for the mental health of her students as well as herself. Cotton checks in weekly with current and past students, providing both encouragement and a safe place for them to unload their worries. She also makes sure to disconnect from the screen and takes time for herself by exploring Alabama’s woods and trails. 

Though the current crisis remains ongoing, Cotton hopes that we will take away some lessons. 

“I hope that we’ve learned forgiveness when it comes to attendance,” said Cotton. “I also think this may encourage us to establish policies where we record lectures for students that can’t be there. Overall, we’ve been faced with a challenge that asks us to make college more accessible for all, and I think that level of accessibility will be better for students in the long run.”

Halley Cotton completed both her B.A. and M.A. in English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is the assistant editor of the Birmingham Poetry Review, poetry editor for NELLE, and the founding director of the SPARK Writing Festival. Her work has appeared in places such as The Greensboro Review, Poetry South, and Smokelong Quarterly, among others.

  • Winners of the 2020-2021 “Building a Multicultural Curriculum” grants

    Congratulations to the winning proposals for the 2020-2021 academic year.

    This fall, all tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-earning College of Arts and Sciences faculty were invited to submit proposals for a new grant titled, “Building a Multicultural Curriculum.” The goal of these awards is to support faculty in developing new courses or revising existing classes in order to expand the College’s offerings that will support students’ diversity awareness and build their multicultural competence.

    Congratulations to the winning proposals for the 2020-2021 academic year.

    • Dr. Erin Borry, Department of Political Science and Public Administration: “Isms in Public Administration”
    • Dr. Olivio J. Clay, Department of Psychology: “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Research and the Workplace”
    • Prof. Michele Forman, Department of History: “Our Histories: Documentary Film and Public History in Birmingham”
    • Dr. Reginald Jackson, Department of Music: “African American Music from 1619-Present”
    • Dr. Dione Moultrie King, Department of Social Work: “The Health and Well-being of Black Americans: A Social Work Approach”
    • Dr. Angela Lewis-Maddox, Department of Political Science and Public Administration: “Social Justice and Pop Culture”
    • Dr. Samiksha Raut, Department of Biology: “Building a Multicultural Curriculum”
    • Prof. Ana Maria Santiago, Department of English: “Themes in Lit with a Latina-o-x American Identity Focus”

    Read more...
  • COVID-19 can't stop Into the Streets volunteers from safely serving Birmingham community

    For the 21st year of Into the Streets, a student-led day of service at UAB, 84 volunteers gave a combined 168 hours of service, working at 12 sites with seven community partners, while safeguarding against COVID-19.

    Read more...
  • A Limitless World

    Makayla Smith wants to use poetry to create spaces of joy and representation for Black, queer audiences.

    Photo of Makayla by Tedric Davenport
    Illustration by Caitlin Du

    Makayla Smith wants to use poetry to create spaces of joy and representation for Black, queer audiences.

    Growing up in the rural South, Smith struggled to find her identity as a writer and as a person. But studying literature, creative writing, and African American Studies at UAB has clarified for Smith what role she wants to play in the world as an academic and creator. Now, as an adult and recent graduate, Smith has a clearer understanding of herself.

    “I feel like there aren’t enough works on the market really exploring that for my age group,” Smith said. “My sexual orientation is such a big part of my writing.”

    Smith also hopes to explore these realities without commodifying Black pain. She worries about the misconception that creating work is only profitable and valuable if the process is painful for the audience and creator.

    “[Writing] does not have to be traumatizing in order for it to sell and it will literally have the same impact,” Smith said. “I want people to feel joy. I want people to feel happy to be themselves and safe.”

    During her final semester at UAB, Smith compiled a poetry manuscript called I don’t believe in mermaids. In the manuscript, she uses her childhood and personal memories as a way to broach the topics of how community, family, and one’s surroundings can affect an individual’s relationship with their sexuality and perception of self. Smith writes about the experience of growing up with her grandparents, particularly her relationship with her grandmother and how that impacted her identity.

    “In poetry, you’re limited in some senses of style and formatting,” Smith said. “It was very meticulous [work] trying to convey a clear picture while also trying to not give it away at the same time, to be metaphorical.”

    Before attending UAB, Smith attended Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery. Smith had the opportunity to write with the Alabama Writers Forum and as a journalist for the Kentuck Festival of the Arts. Writing with and for her community confirmed for Smith that writing was what she wanted to do professionally.

    “Essentially, what I’m trying to teach people is that you don’t have to be in one specific place, like New York or San Francisco, to really learn about yourself or to be proud of your identity,” Smith said. “I want Black, queer people in general to feel proud of themselves.”

    In High School

    In high school, Smith had felt adamant that attending school or living in a major city was necessary to achieve a career in writing. She ultimately chose to attend UAB instead of going out of state since it was the best option financially. Looking back, Smith is grateful for how her time at UAB allowed her to grow as a writer and person.

    “It ended up being a very introspective, very needed last four years,” Smith said. “I didn’t need to go out of state to find all these great things out about myself.”

    Smith is especially appreciative of the relationships she was able to foster with her professors during her time at UAB. She describes the Department of English and the African American Studies Program as a family. Smith hopes to carry that dynamic with her as she continues in academia.

    “It felt safe and like I could show up 100 percent as myself. There was no white gaze to interfere with,” she said. “It feels good knowing that people are going to be there for you and stand up for you.”

    Smith is also thankful for the confidence that her African American Studies minor and literature studies has given her. Before UAB, Smith was unfamiliar with the idea of intersectionality. Exploring that, along with critical race theory, allowed Smith to understand herself better.

    “I was able to really analyze the systemic and historical context of my existence, of Black people’s existence. It makes sense why I am the way I am and now I can work on myself,” Smith said. “That’s the best thing both departments could have ever given me.”

    New Opportunities in New York

    Since graduating from UAB, Smith has flourished professionally and academically. Currently, Smith is attending the New School of New York for her M.A. She is also on staff at the school as a tutor and as an intern for “One Story,” a literary magazine based in Brooklyn. Over the summer, Smith also announced on social media that she won a Gilman Scholarship. The scholarship will cover her travel and living costs while she studies television and film production in London for three weeks.

    “I was with my brother at the time [of receiving the scholarship], screaming at the top of my lungs. I’ve never been overseas a day in my life, owned a passport, or anything like that so I’m just really grateful,” she said.

    However, Smith acknowledges that rejection is a large but often hidden part of the application process. In the same social media caption announcing her Gilman Scholarship, Smith admitted that receiving this award came after multiple rejected scholarship and job applications.

    “There are so many different ways to get to where you want to be,” she said. “That is my healthy way of dealing with being turned down from so many opportunities and scholarships.”

    Currently, Smith is studying children’s literature at the New School and has workshopped several short stories. She hopes to publish more illustrated editions of her work in the future. She hopes that her experiences inspire others to persevere, even through rejection.

    “One person’s no will be another person’s yes. The world is limitless.”


    If I Could Buy Love in the Marketplace

    Grandma used to make tea cookies that left sweet fantasies in the air
    But the texture was brittle and bleak and rock-like as if it had been -
    apart of a canyon
    She used to say, "Do right by me and right shall follow"
    To which I respnded with irate sadness and irate confusion
    How dare she place God where they need not be?
    Between hard boiled cookies and my sweet, little fantasies
    But God was her love for all seasons and her love for all reasons
    And I, too, was fascinated with that idea of unconditional love
    From an unconditional savior like Jesus Christ
    But instead, I was warped with thoughts of buying vases of love
    In its glass cylinder as it refracted the Moon
    Christ had nothing to do with this equation
    And Grandma's tea cookes had left me toothless and heartbroken
    I, too, was to do right by myself
    Amen

    Read more...
  • Teaching in the time of COVID

    COVID-19 has changed not only our daily lives but also how we approach education. UAB English Instructor Halley Cotton has faced these challenges following a simple but meaningful maxim: “You give grace; you get grace.”

    COVID-19 has changed not only our daily lives but also how we approach education. In these uncertain times, professors are learning and creating new policies, procedures, and delivery modes at a breakneck speed to make sure students stay on track and engaged. UAB English Instructor Halley Cotton has faced these challenges following a simple but meaningful maxim: “You give grace; you get grace.” 

    Halley CottonHalley Cotton wasn’t always an English major. In fact, her passion for biology, science, and animals first took her to Jefferson State where she earned an associate’s degree in biology. A run-in with calculus, though, made her reassess her goals and career path. 

    “I knew I wanted to be an advocate, but I realized that I didn’t have to be out in the field collecting data to do so,” said Cotton. “I could be an advocate by being a writer and an educator. I ultimately chose UAB because it was close. I had no idea how wonderful their English department truly was and how kind, caring, and dedicated their professors are.”  

    Cotton first graduated from UAB in 2013 with a B.A. in English, concentrating in creative writing, then followed it up with an M.A. in 2016, completing a thesis in poetry. Once she taught her first course in fall of 2015, she never stopped. She currently teaches first-year composition writing courses in rhetoric and argument as well as 200-level literature courses, which cover topics ranging from literary forms to monsters to otherness. In a given semester, Cotton is responsible from 50 to 90 students. 

    Starting in Fall 2020, though, Cotton was forced to pivot not only her teaching style but also what she knew about classroom dynamics when she took on one remote class and two hybrid classes due to COVID. Her pedagogy relies mostly on creating a community within the classroom, which has been made more difficult now that one-third of her students are in-person and the rest are in a digital space. She’s combatted the distance by encouraging her students to get to know and learn from each other in weekly mini-sessions in breakout rooms. 

    Cotton also chooses compassion and transparency when it comes to her students, establishing both trust and expectations ahead of time. She tries to keep her focus on the ultimate goal: getting her students through the semester successfully. To do so, Cotton adapts and juggles deadlines when need be:

    “I remember what it was like to be a student juggling three jobs and taking classes full-time. It was a lot. Now, throw a global pandemic into the mix, and that really takes things over the edge. Students have a lot going on in their lives at the moment—professors, too. Now isn’t the time to be rigid and unforgiving. What’s meaningful to me is to be able to respond to students going through these difficult times with empathy. Is it really going to affect me if a student needs an extra week on a paper? Not really. But to them it makes all the difference. When I look back on my life it’s not going to matter to me if I had to grade a paper a week late. What will matter is how I responded to the students entrusted to my care.”  

    Admitting that knowing students and who they are is what ultimately motivates her, Cotton has faced her own struggles this semester in connecting with students and figuring out the best ways to teach in the new settings. 

    “I’ve had to be very intentional about my time,” said Cotton. “I'm learning right alongside my students, and I tell them that. Our UAB students really are so wonderful. I've remained open and transparent about my own challenges. We're all just trying to do our best and take things one day at a time. We’re all human. You give grace; you get grace.” 

    That same balance comes in to play for the mental health of her students as well as herself. Cotton checks in weekly with current and past students, providing both encouragement and a safe place for them to unload their worries. She also makes sure to disconnect from the screen and takes time for herself by exploring Alabama’s woods and trails. 

    Though the current crisis remains ongoing, Cotton hopes that we will take away some lessons. 

    “I hope that we’ve learned forgiveness when it comes to attendance,” said Cotton. “I also think this may encourage us to establish policies where we record lectures for students that can’t be there. Overall, we’ve been faced with a challenge that asks us to make college more accessible for all, and I think that level of accessibility will be better for students in the long run.”

    Halley Cotton completed both her B.A. and M.A. in English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is the assistant editor of the Birmingham Poetry Review, poetry editor for NELLE, and the founding director of the SPARK Writing Festival. Her work has appeared in places such as The Greensboro Review, Poetry South, and Smokelong Quarterly, among others.

    Read more...
  • Five Questions with Alumni: Shelby Morris

    Shelby Morris earned her B.A. in Professional Writing with a minor in Spanish in 2016 followed by a M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition in 2018.

    Shelby Morris earned her B.A. in Professional Writing with a minor in Spanish in 2016 followed by a M.A. in Rhetoric and Composition in 2018. She is currently attending law school at Samford University, Cumberland School of Law.

    Why did you choose professional writing?

    Originally, I thought I would be going to Dental School and I had always enjoyed English in high school so I decided to major in English. It wasn’t until I took a Document Design class by Dr. Bacha that I realized I really enjoyed professional writing and decided to pursue that instead.

    I definitely get skeptical looks from people who believe you can’t get a job with an English degree, but I constantly look at the market and see how untrue that really is.

    What made you want to attend law school?

    My mother is a lawyer so it was always in the back of my mind as a career path, but it wasn’t until graduate school that I realized this was something I wanted to pursue. I didn’t really feel the part of a teacher and when volunteering at the literacy council, I realized I wanted to help others and advocate for those who couldn’t.

    What do you like best about law school so far?

    I really enjoy all my classes and how logic based everything is. Some very challenging things have been learning how to write in a legal sense. I’ve recently been able to take an intellectual property class and I really feel like this mixes the both of best worlds: creative arts and law. I feel like I’ve been able to apply principles I’ve learned in my professional writing classes to legal concepts I’m learning now.

    What advice would you give to current UAB students?

    Internships. Experience. These are some of the most important things to do before leaving college. Now is the time to find out what you really want to do and internships will really help with that. Experience in the field is necessary, especially when it comes to landing that marketing role. The English faculty is awesome and are there to help you in whatever capacity you need so don’t be afraid to reach out to them!

    What question do you want us to ask our next alumni we interview?

    Have you been able to use your degree or experiences from UAB in an unexpected way?

    Read more...
  • Enjoy “A la carte: A Visual Exploration of Our Relationship with Food,” presented by UAB’s AEIVA

    “A la carte” features more than 30 renowned contemporary artists whose works utilize food to explore relevant contemporary social and cultural issues. Tour the exhibition virtually.

    Read more...
  • The Perz family legacy continues: Sally Anne Perz will graduate summer 2020

    Sally Anne Perz follows her daughter’s footsteps as a UAB Blazer alumni.

    Read more...
  • Faculty with ‘an opportunity to rethink everything’ share lessons from spring semester

    Pro-style teaching videos, interactive Canvas modules, Zoom breakout rooms: Four faculty adapted their courses in innovative ways to boost engagement and collaboration — and they plan to continue using these techniques.

    Read more...
  • Leah Perz, graduating student, begins family legacy as UAB Blazers

    Honors College student Leah Perz will graduate this Saturday, May 2, with her parents following her footsteps, for all to be a part of the UAB Blazer community.

    Read more...
  • Honoring the 2020 winners of Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

    Congratulations to Drs. Danny Siegel (English), Renato Camata (Physics), and Jason Linville (Criminal Justice)
    From left: Dr. Renato Camata, Dr. Danny Siegel, and Dr. Jason Linville.

    The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes full-time regular faculty members of College of Arts and Sciences who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. The individual must have held faculty status at UAB for a minimum of three years and may receive the award only once in any three-year period. The 2020 winners were chosen from these three distinctive areas and departments:

    • Arts and Humanities: Art and Art History, Music, Theatre, English, Foreign Languages, History, and Philosophy
    • Natural Sciences and Mathematics: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Physics, and Mathematics
    • Social and Behavioral Sciences: African American Studies, Anthropology, Communication Studies, Criminal Justice, Political Science and Public Administration, Psychology, Social Work, and Sociology

    The awards were based outstanding accomplishments in teaching as demonstrated by criteria including:

    • Broad, thorough knowledge of the subject area and the ability to effectively convey difficult concepts to students.
    • Exemplary classroom instruction as evidenced by student and peer evaluation.
    • Fairness, open-mindedness, and accessibility to students in and out of the classroom setting.
    • Effective use of innovative teaching methods and assurance that his/her courses stay abreast of current theory and use of modern technology.
    • Ability to infuse students with a commitment to life-long learning and professional development.

    The three winners, who were selected by the CAS President's Award for Excellence in Teaching Committee, will be considered for the final College of Arts and Sciences nominee for the President's Award of Excellence in Teaching. 

    Arts and Humanities: Dr. Danny Siegel, Associate Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of English

    Natural Sciences and Mathematics: Dr. Renato Camata, Associate Professor, Undergraduate Program Director, Department of Physics

    Social and Behavioral Sciences: Dr. Jason Linville, Teaching Assistant Professor, Department of Criminal Justice

    Read more...
  • Catch up on your reading with one of these 13 books authored by CAS faculty

    Do you have more time on your hands while social-distancing? Faculty and staff in the College of Arts and Sciences published 13 books in 2019 on subjects ranging from lifestyles and aging to advancements in satellite archaeology.

    Read more...
  • Learn how female anger is political fuel at the “Good and Mad” lecture March 10

    New York magazine writer Rebecca Traister will hold a lecture for the UAB community to discuss how women’s anger has been channeled and perceived over the years.

    Read more...
  • Linguistics alumni profile: Jeff Hodges

    Words matter. No one knows that better than alumnus Jeff Hodges who has made a career out of helping others, most recently in his role as Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion Talent Program Manager for Regions Bank.

    Alumnus Jeff Hodges never would have imagined that his English degree in linguistics would take him into the world of human resources. And, yet, he has made a career out of helping others, most recently in his role as Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion Talent Program Manager for Regions Bank. He maintains that he wouldn’t be nearly as effective without his linguistics background.

    “Words really matter,” said Hodges. “One of the things we talk about a lot in my line of work is impact versus intent. So often, we may mean to say something, but the way we said it impacted someone differently than what we intended. Choosing words — all of that — is rooted in the foundation that I have in English.”

    His career path started in college while working at CVS, where he began as a tech. When an opportunity came to train others, he jumped on it. Working his way up at CVS, he was able to develop his experience in all aspects of HR and earn his Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification. Hodges, who originally intended to attend law school, encourages others to also follow opportunity and embrace learning:

    “When I was in school, I never would have envisioned that I would be doing what I am now. It didn’t exist yet. Most of the jobs we have now will be obsolete in the future, so don’t get too hung up on what you want your career to be. Plan instead to be a lifelong learner — that is what has positioned me to evolve my career to where it needed to go.”

    By 2019, having transitioned to Regions Bank in HR, Hodges was ready for a change. This coincided with Regions Bank ramping up their efforts to support diversity and inclusion. Now Hodges is focused on implementing strategies to attract and develop diverse talent. He works to tear down barriers to people’s success and build strategies so that everyone may have fair and equal opportunities.

    “We’re spending a lot of time building new programs, which allows me to be creative,” said Hodges. “I get to move the needle on things that haven’t been in place before.”

    One of his team’s more recent projects include Regions Military Recruiting, which supports military hires through veteran-to-veteran mentoring and other services. They have also already begun work on building out employment programs for people with disabilities. For Hodges, his role is all a part of that lifelong learning process.

    To continue his professional growth in diversity and inclusion, Hodges also recently completed the Georgetown University Executive Diversity and Inclusion Management Program, an intense six-month graduate certificate program.

    “What I love about what I do is that you can never know everything there is to know about diversity and culture,” said Hodges. “This has helped me to continue to grow and learn things that I didn’t know about myself and others, meet new people, and be a better person in how I walk through the world.”

    Read more...
  • Workshop to help writers discover voices they didn’t know they had

    Poet Ann Fisher-Wirth, Ph.D., and photographer Maude Schuyler Clay will tell how they learned to combine their art forms and read from their joint title, “Mississippi,” during events Feb. 25-26.

    Read more...
  • Professional Writing alumni profile: Marie Sutton

    Alumna Marie Sutton has worn a lot of hats throughout her educational and professional career.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Find out more about Marie Sutton at marieasutton.com.

    Read more...
  • A $2.2 million investment transforms UAB Libraries into 21st-century learning spaces

    The multimillion-dollar commitment has been invested in collections, resources, personnel, physical renovations and other improvements during the past several years.

    Read more...
  • Why I Give: Robert Collins, Ph.D.

    Many of our donors give to the College as a way of showing their appreciation for the people who inspired and guided them to academic and professional success. We asked a few of our supporters to share their stories of why they give and how investing in the College will ensure the success of our future students.

    Many of our donors give to the College as a way of showing their appreciation for the people who inspired and guided them to academic and professional success. We asked a few of our supporters—including Emeritus Associate Professor Robert Collins, Ph.D.—to share their stories of why they give and how investing in the College will ensure the success of our future students.

     

    Arts & Sciences magazine: What do you do for a living?

    Robert Collins: I have been retired from the Department of English for almost a decade. Before I retired, I taught American literature and writing, including creative writing, for thirty years in the English Department at UAB. While serving as an English professor, I co-founded Birmingham Poetry Review with Randy Blythe, Ph.D., and directed the creative writing program for almost ten years. Since retiring, I have published two volumes of poetry, Naming the Dead (FutureCycle Press, 2012) and Drinking with the Second Shift (Word Tech, 2017). I am currently working on another collection of poems.

    A&S: Did you benefit from scholarships when you were a student?

    RC: Yes, I did. I attended Xavier University in Cincinnati on a presidential scholarship.

    A&S: What made you decide to make a gift to the College of Arts and Sciences?

    RC: I had several reasons for making a gift (the Collins Family Scholarship in Creative Writing) to the College of Arts and Sciences at UAB. First, I wanted to honor a worthy student with the gift of time, so precious to any writer, and to raise the status of creative writing, which is as demanding a discipline as any other in the arts and sciences. Second, I wanted to express my gratitude for the position I held in the English Department at UAB, which gave me the opportunity “to pursue my talents in the direction of excellence” as John F. Kennedy, one of my heroes, observed when asked why he wanted to be president. Third, and most importantly, I wanted to honor and express my gratitude to my parents John and Veronica Collins for the way in which they stressed the importance of education, especially higher education, which they rightly believed to be the key to a better life.

    A&S: Where do you see the College of Arts and Sciences in the next ten years? Fifty years?

    RC: So many physical changes have taken place on campus in the ten years since I retired that I hesitate to say anything about what might happen in the next ten, let alone fifty. I can speak, however, to what I would like to see happen in the next decade. Primarily, I'd like to see UAB redirect its resources to assure that faculty are secure, prosperous, and not overworked. Since enrollment at UAB has increased so dramatically in the past decade, I’d like to see the university focus on hiring many more faculty members in tenure-track positions and compensating them commensurate with the heavy load they carry. The colleagues I worked with during my 30 years at UAB were the smartest and hardest working people I knew.


    Donor support is invaluable in ensuring that our students receive the quality education that, regardless of their course of study, will set them on the path to success. For additional information regarding gifts to the College of Arts and Sciences, please contact Camille Epps at camilleepps@uab.edu or call (205) 996-2154.

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  • Professional Writing alumni profile: Luke Richey

    Alumnus Luke Richey believes being open to new experiences and change will help you decide your path.

    Alumnus Luke Richey believes being open to new experiences and change will help you decide your path — it certainly served him well in deciding his. When Richey started at UAB, he was on track to major in Psychology, but eventually found that he was much more at home in the English Department, working toward a degree in Professional Writing. Richey found classes with Associate Professor Jeffrey Bacha to be particularly memorable.

    “Definitely listen to Dr. Bacha,” said Richey. “He is one of the best teachers! He teaches practical skills that really prepare you for both graduate school and a career.”

    Following UAB, Richey was accepted to graduate school at Auburn University, where he earned a Master’s of Technical and Professional Communication (MTPC) and served as a Communications and Marketing Assistant at the Harbert College of Business. Currently, Richey is a Copywriter and Content Strategist at McNutt & Partners, LLC, a local ad agency, where he drafts copy for multiple clients on a myriad of social media platforms. The job allows him to not only be creative but also critically analyze a variety of different topics for a wide audience.

    “Writing is like a puzzle,” said Richey. “I have to find the best words and phrases that are coherent and compelling to get people to take action. I would be bored to tears not getting the chance to be creative. I don’t know how others do it. I get to do what I love every day.”

    This creativity has led to big opportunities. Though his English degree provided a great foundation, Richey has learned a lot on the job, from HTML to JavaScript to using the best tags in social media writing to get optimal views. In just the past two months, the team that Richey is a part of was able to onboard 30 new clients. Looking ahead, Richey hopes to eventually springboard his current position into being a creative or content director, managing a team. He advises current UAB undergraduates and graduates to also keep an eye on their future.

    “When you graduate, you might not immediately get the job you want, but always look toward the future and your goals. Search for internships to diversify your skill set and make connections inside and outside of academia. Try to get as much as experience as possible, and be open to taking chances.”

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