Department of Political Science and Public Administration

  • I am Arts and Sciences: Lisa Higginbotham

    Many Blazers donate to and engage with the Benevolent Fund, a charitable giving campaign that supports health and human service agencies, selected health-related charities, and University of Alabama at Birmingham employees through the Employee Emergency Assistance Program.

    Lisa HigginbothamMany Blazers donate to and engage with the Benevolent Fund, a charitable giving campaign that supports health and human service agencies, selected health-related charities, and University of Alabama at Birmingham employees through the Employee Emergency Assistance Program. Through the Benevolent Fund, UAB has distributed over $43 million to local nonprofit organizations and to UAB employees. The work changes lives, and it is a model of charitable excellence.

    One of the key people behind the Benevolent Fund is Lisa Higginbotham, a two-time graduate of UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences. Higginbotham earned both her Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Public Administration in the early 1990s, and, afterwards, she navigated a prolific career in nonprofit management across Alabama.

    “I fondly reflect on my time in CAS,” said Higginbotham. “From the friends I made who are now colleagues to working alongside Dr. Norm Eggleston researching discrimination in the workplace against people living with HIV or exploring ethical decision making with Dr. Mary Guy, it was all instrumental in me becoming the person I am today.”

    During her time in the nonprofit sector, Higginbotham worked for Childcare Resources; Girls, Inc.; and the Children’s Trust Fund. Often, she improved processes and structures to ensure the organizations and institutions could do their best work and maximize impact—a skillset she gleaned from her time in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration.

    When it came time to expand her family, Higginbotham decided to seek a part-time position, so she could achieve her desired work-life balance. Thankfully, at that time, UAB needed a new team member to support the Employee Emergency Assistance program—a perfect fit for Higginbotham.

    Higginbotham accepted the role, and, eventually, she became the fund manager for the Benevolent Fund. She deployed a systems leadership approach to her work and uncovered opportunities to do more than provide funding to local nonprofits. For example, under Higginbotham’s leadership, the Benevolent Fund expanded service-learning opportunities for UAB students, developed new systems for Employee Emergency Assistance, and launched Blazer Kitchen (UAB’s campus food pantry which has provided 400,000 meals in just over four years).

    “I launched Blazer Kitchen with a lot of help and support from our council and the UAB administration,” said Higginbotham. “We knew there were employees who needed help through our Employee Emergency Assistance program… and they could [also] benefit from access to healthy food.”

    Every step of the way, Higginbotham has leveraged data, best practices, and her past experiences and knowledge to ensure her work is people-focused and impact-driven.

    Over the past two years, the pandemic created numerous challenges for the Benevolent Fund, including limitations on grant-making and a pause on house builds with Habitat for Humanity, a long-standing nonprofit partner. That said, Higginbotham still encounters individual stories that illustrate the impact of her work—even during the pandemic. Recently, she worked closely with a UAB employee who experienced trauma and loss due to COVID-19. By highlighting UAB’s sick leave bank and counseling services offered by local nonprofits, Higginbotham was able to support the employee and help them navigate a heart wrenching moment.

    As Higginbotham reflects on her experiences during her 18 years at UAB, she notes her passion for connecting employees to resources in the community.

    “When I listen to nonprofits talk about the programs they have in the community, I think, ‘How can this help our UAB employees,’” said Higginbotham.

    Now that she is back on campus (and in a new building), she sees endless opportunities to continue pursuing that passion and to deepen partnerships with nonprofit organizations. She also aims to expand Blazer Kitchen’s operating hours and further engage with the Department of Social Work and its students. Moving forward, the horizon is bright as the Benevolent Fund steers through the pandemic and continues its life-changing work.

    “I encourage everyone—students, alumni, and employees—to reflect on where you are today, thank those who have helped you achieve your success, offer mentorship to the next generation of leaders, engage with your community to contribute to the public good, and stay connected to UAB,” said Higginbotham.

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  • Sullivan awarded $600,000 grant to support preservation of LGBTQ history

    A UAB doctoral candidate received a $600,000 grant to further her work in promoting the preservation of LGBTQ history.  

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  • Sumedha Bobba and Banks Stamp are Mr. and Ms. UAB 2022

    The 2021 winners were announced Saturday, Oct. 23, during halftime at the UAB Homecoming game.

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  • I am Arts and Sciences: Alex LaGanke

    When Alex LaGanke, staff attorney at Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, left her hometown of Cullman to attend UAB, she quickly started to see the world through a new lens.

    Alex LaGanke (left) walking at Railroad Park with Ron McKeithen (right) and University of Alabama Law Intern Allen Slater (center) after filing a petition for a client who was subsequently released in June 2021.When Alex LaGanke, staff attorney at Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, left her hometown of Cullman to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she quickly started to see the world through a new lens.

    “I moved to UAB and gained perspective—I was surrounded by… so many different people, perspectives, and conversations,” said LaGanke. “I developed a better understanding for how the world works.”

    As her worldview expanded, she developed a passion for humanitarian work and decided to pursue a B.A. in International Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

    As she approached graduation, LaGanke was determined to find a career path where she could help people meet their basic needs. Thankfully, during her final semester at UAB, she got the chance to work on an innovative pilot program with the Alabama Association of Nonprofits (AAN), a membership-based organization that supports Alabama's nonprofit sector.

    During the pilot, AAN matched students with nonprofit organizations that were pursuing the Standards for Excellence endorsement—an endorsement that consists of a series of benchmarks that ensure high ethical standards within organizations. LaGanke was paired with the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program (CASA), a program in Jefferson County which trains community volunteers to provide support and advocate for dependent children involved in neglect or abuse cases. Through this experience, she developed a longstanding connection with CASA, a keen understanding of the value of the AAN’s website (specifically, the jobs board), and a newfound interest in public administration.

    “[After graduation] I knew that I wanted to do nonprofit work,” said LaGanke. “I would look on AAN’s jobs site, literally daily. One day, I stumbled across a program coordinator position for M-Power Ministries in Avondale.”

    M-Power is a nonprofit that provides education and health services to people impacted by poverty, and, at the time, the organization needed someone to coordinate direct services for learners participating in the adult basic education program. The organization selected LaGanke for the role, and she quickly learned the value and importance of relationship-building.

    “I processed 160 students throughout my time there. I realized if I’m going to build relationships with these people, I couldn’t just focus on education,” said LaGanke. “I had to connect people with resources so they could be successful in their education.”

    Between LaGanke’s experience with CASA and M-Power, she started to uncover a vision for the future. She knew she wanted to serve the people of Birmingham, and, to do so, she believed she needed to focus on law and policy reform. Her realization led her back to UAB—specifically, the Department of Political Science and Public Administration.

     “I’m such a proud UAB alum,” said LaGanke. “I didn’t apply anywhere else. I didn’t want to leave Birmingham.”

    LaGanke enrolled in the Master of Public Administration/Juris Doctorate Dual Degree Program (a partnership between UAB and Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law). While studying in the program, LaGanke learned to analyze and communicate about data—a skillset that serves her well in her current role as a staff attorney with Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit that works to achieve justice and equity for all Alabamians.

    “My work revolves around Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act,” said LaGanke. “Combatting excessively punitive laws in the State of Alabama is challenging, but UAB’s MPA program has provided me with the basic skills and tools necessary to approach complex policy issues effectively and strategically.”

    LaGanke’s casework and research with Alabama Appleseed has sparked life-changing outcomes for four people, including Ronald McKeithen. McKeithen was convicted of first-degree robbery in 1984 and sentenced to life in prison. Through LaGanke’s efforts—and the work and support of many others—McKeithen was released from prison, and, in December 2020, he successfully re-entered the community. Now, he is working with Alabama Appleseed on its re-entry efforts and also creating art, which will be featured in the Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration exhibit at UAB’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts.

    A detailed account of McKeithen’s journey is available here.

    LaGanke also supports community re-entry efforts for people who were formerly incarcerated. Her varied responsibilities include everything from helping people as they get a new Social Security card to replacing a flat tire. In this work, she continues to see the importance of policy reform and the need for additional research and advocacy.

    “I’m really proud that our organization is able to funnel resources and time towards helping our clients be successful beyond our legal representation,” said LaGanke.

    As she looks to the future and seeks systemic change through casework, research, advocacy, and policy reform, she continues to emphasize an essential skill she nurtured during her time at UAB and with M-Power—building relationships.

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  • Departments host Constitution Day experience

    The overarching theme for this year was “Public Health and the Constitution.” 13 student teams participated in the event representing 38 students.

    On Friday, September 17, 2021, in honor of Constitution Day and to fulfill the requirement of Public Law 108-447 (enacted in late 2004, which requires an educational institution receiving federal funds to hold an education program on the United States Constitution on this day for its students) the Department of Political Science and Public Administration and the Department of Criminal Justice sponsored a scavenger hunt across campus. The overarching theme for this year was “Public Health and the Constitution.” Thirteen student teams participated in the event representing 38 students.

    Students were provided questions and a resource bank ahead of time to prepare for the event. Students competed in teams of three. Stations were posted throughout campus. Participating units included:

    At each station, students were asked a specific question for which they were required to provide the correct answer to advance. Station masters initialed the team’s score card before the team could leave for the next station. To avoid guessing, students received reduced points for each attempt at the question. Students also received points for their finishing time.

    One team was a clear winner with both the number of correct answers and the fastest time. That team was Maya Crocker, Roshan Dahale, and Anthony Venesia. Two teams tied for second place and three teams tied for third place. The 17 students representing the winning teams are invited to an educational encounter with Judge Elisabeth French. Judge French will make a presentation on her path to the judiciary and will be available to answer questions from the students. All students who participated, as well as station masters, received a pocket Constitution, which contains the entire Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Each member of the first-place team will also receive a Black’s Law Dictionary. All student participants enjoyed Steele City Pops on the Campus Green after the event.

    Students commented that this event was fun, made constitutional law relevant to current events, and provided an opportunity for them to see parts of campus that they had not seen before. We also noted the significant exercise that students received in accumulating approximately 7,600 steps in completing the scavenger hunt. Professor Brandon Blankenship, director of UAB’s Pre-Law Program, stated, “I can't imagine an area of American life that is not impacted by the Constitution. It was encouraging to see students engage it in an energetic and physical way, some for the first time.”

    Stacy Moak, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, commented, “I wanted students to see the Constitution in a practical way with a significant contemporary issue. Each of the 10 questions dealt with some issue of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as with federalism, separation of powers, and individual rights.”

    The departments intend to make this an annual event. The theme will change from year to year depending upon current events.

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  • UAB professor named senior Fulbright specialist at World Learning

    Akhlaque Haque, Ph.D., will educate professionals in India on the ethical use of technology and its implications in the developing world.

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  • Two UAB students selected to attend international conference on foreign relations

    Arshnoor Grewal and Banks Stamp will attend the Young Leaders Initiative in Washington, D.C., to connect with ambassadors and learn from other foreign policy experts.

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  • Changes to the Child Tax Credit relief bill explained by a professor

    A UAB professor breaks down details of the Child Tax Credit relief bill and who should be eligible for the upcoming July 15 payment release date.

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  • Remote partnership improves care, cultural understanding amid pandemic

    A virtual internship enables students to be part of change here and abroad and help develop better outcomes for adolescents in Nicaragua.

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  • I Am Arts and Sciences: Ellyn Grady

    As Ellyn Grady embraces retirement and looks back on her storied career, she does not call attention to her impressive and incomparable fundraising achievements. Instead, she reflects on and celebrates the people with whom she connected, learned from, and worked alongside over the course of her 30 years in Birmingham.

    As Ellyn Grady embraces retirement and looks back on her storied career, she does not call attention to her impressive and incomparable fundraising achievements. Instead, she reflects on and celebrates the people with whom she connected, learned from, and worked alongside over the course of her 30 years in Birmingham.

    Her Birmingham journey began at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Master of Public Administration program in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Political Science and Public Administration.

    For Grady, the decision to pursue her master's degree emerged after an early career in community education in Fairfax County, Virginia. She learned a lot from her time as an educator, and, during that period, she uncovered a clear passion for the administrative side of the work.

    So, when her husband told her about an opportunity to move to Birmingham, she offered an appropriate caveat. “I said, ‘Look, if I’m going to go to Birmingham, Alabama, I want to get my master's degree,'” said Grady.

    And that’s exactly what she did. After an inspiring conversation with Dr. Mary Ellen Guy (former chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration), Grady decided to earn her MPA. And, as she has done with everything in her life, Grady dove into the experience head first and quickly developed lifelong friendships with her professors and fellow students.

    “Who you meet at UAB inspires you to learn more," said Grady. "I tell my students, ‘It’s the people in these seats who will be your network throughout the rest of your life and career.'"

    Grady earned her MPA in 1992, and, soon after graduation, she was hired to serve as executive director for Girls Inc. of Central Alabama. Girls Inc. is a nonprofit organization that offers programming that equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers, and grow up healthy, educated, and independent. When Grady started leading the organization, she briefly wondered if she was ready for the responsibility.

    "I realized I was responsible for 2,000 girls and the staff responsible for serving them," said Grady. "I asked myself, ‘Can I do this?’"

    Thankfully, Grady's uncertainty waned quickly, and she began to leverage the critical thinking and problem-solving skills she built during her time in the MPA program. "UAB gave me the starter set. It gave me the confidence to walk through the door and make one decision after another," said Grady.

    She successfully led Girls, Inc. for seven years, then pivoted to a career with the United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA). While serving as Senior Vice President of Agency Impact at the UWCA, Grady brought a transformational mindset to her role in development. She found success by focusing less on the dollars and more on the people.

    "It wasn’t really about raising money," said Grady. "It was about raising awareness and matching donors with community needs, so they could make a difference. I had a front-row seat to the generosity of this community."

    Grady eventually became Senior Vice President of United Way of Central Alabama’s Resource Development Department and retired in 2019. Today, as a practitioner teaching for the MPA program, she continues to impart her knowledge and wisdom on UAB students.

    When mentoring students who are making plans for the future, she offers thoughtful advice that is rooted in service and her love for the City of Birmingham. Regardless of her students' career plans, she encourages all of them to serve on nonprofit boards and advisory boards.

    "The service side of the College of Arts and Sciences is the heart of the university," said Grady.

    Read More: Ellyn Grady awarded the 2020 Alumni Service Award

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  • Celebrate 23 books authored by CAS faculty in 2020

    Writing a book isn’t easy, but faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences produced nearly two-dozen — for the second year in a row. Twenty faculty from 13 departments wrote books on police violence, John Milton, democracy in Bangladesh, addiction, postcommunist theatre and more.

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  • 2021 winners of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Awards for Excellence in Teaching

    The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes full-time regular faculty members of University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. Award winners 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 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes full-time regular faculty members of University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. Award winners 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 CAS President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Committee selected the 2021 award recipients from each of the following disciplines:

    • Arts and Humanities: Art and Art History, Music, Theatre, English, Foreign Languages and Literatures, 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 2021 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching winners include:

    [widgetkit id="78" name="2021 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching winners"]

    Also, in the near future, one of these winners will be awarded the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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  • Gaspar awarded an internship from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute

    UAB undergraduate student earns an internship with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute for its 2021 summer intern program.

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  • CAS grants spur interdisciplinary research

    Pilot funds enable cross-campus collaborations focused on mobility with disabilities and older caregivers with HIV.

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  • More than 1,100 employees to be honored with annual service awards

    This year, the university recognizes 50 years of service by Jeanne Hutchison, Ph.D., and Ferdinand Urthaler, M.D., and 45 years of service by Robert Kim M.D., and Joseph Lovetto. In addition, 294 employees with 20 or more years and 904 with five, 10 and 15 years will honored for their longevity.

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  • Diversity in Leadership lunch series to launch Feb. 17

    A new monthly series from UAB will highlight leaders who are people of color, women, differently abled or part of LGBTQ+ communities.

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  • Social Justice Café examines U.S. Capitol insurrection Feb. 23

    Social Justice Café will host a virtual conversation on Feb. 16 to discuss motivators and facilitators of the attack of the U.S. Capitol.

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  • Multicultural curriculum grants spark fresh perspectives in Arts and Sciences

    Dean Kecia Thomas, Ph.D., and four faculty explain how new and revised courses made possible by a new grant program will help students become better leaders, practitioners and citizens — and further UAB’s strategic goals.

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  • 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”

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  • The 2020 presidential election: Everything you need to know about voting

    Two UAB experts explain what we need to understand pertaining to voting in the upcoming Nov. 3 United States presidential election.

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