Department of Political Science and Public Administration

  • Five UAB students selected for prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program

    Five Blazers will work, live with and learn from people in their host countries during their time in the Fulbright program.

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  • MPA alumnus wins award for nonprofit work

    Trey Gordon is passionate about his community and aims to do everything in his power to serve the people within it.

    Trey Gordon, co-founder of Adjacent SpaceTrey Gordon is passionate about his community and aims to do everything in his power to serve the people within it. So much so, he co-founded Adjacent Space, a nonprofit that is committed to advancing public spaces into more visual-tactile accessible and equitable places for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and Deafblind communities. 

    Now, Gordon—an Alabama native who self-identifies as fully Deaf—is receiving public recognition for his impactful work with Adjacent Space. In February, the Birmingham Business Journal honored him as a 2022 Leader in Diversity, an achievement that further elevates his work and leadership.

    Gordon is an alumnus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Master of Public Administration program, and he views the skills and knowledge he developed in the program as vital to his growth as a nonprofit leader.

    “My professors loved and cultivated the idea of Adjacent Space, and the support was incredible and propelled me and my team to go for it,” said Gordon. “Their understanding and advice created a path I could walk through.”

    Gordon discovered the MPA program while living in New Delhi, India. “I was… working for a Deaf-led nonprofit organization focusing on empowering Deaf Indians in learning basic English and job skills, connecting with Deaf leaders, and teaching Deaf culture,” he said. That passion prompted him to research MPA programs with course offerings on nonprofit management, which led him to UAB’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration.

    “I saw that UAB had a great fit for my interest,” said Gordon. “And UAB is such a lovely university located in a vibrant, growing city in Birmingham.”

    Gordon excelled in the program, and he remains proud of his experience at UAB.

    “I feel like I'm an ambassador for UAB when working with people, and a lot of lessons I learned in classes really came through during my work around the community, so I'm a grateful Blazer,” said Gordon.

    Gordon often sought advice from his faculty mentors while at UAB, so, now, he finds opportunities to share his wisdom with students who are currently preparing for the future. In Gordon’s opinion, it’s important to be present and focus on the moment at hand.

    “[I]t’s really important for me to not think too much about what I should be doing,” said Gordon. “Just be—you’re more than enough…things will come.”

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  • Celebrate 15 books authored by CAS faculty in 2021

    Writing a book isn’t easy, but faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences produced more than a dozen in 2021. Thirteen faculty from eight departments wrote books on rhetoric and the Dead Sea Scrolls, pandemic bioethics, medical epigenetics, world politics and more.

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  • 2022 Padma Award recipients named

    The Padma Award recognizes UAB faculty, staff and students who go the extra mile in support of underrepresented populations.

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  • Stamp named finalist for national graduate scholarship

    UAB junior, Banks Stamp, was named a finalist for a 2022 Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

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  • Five Blazers accepted to Clinton Global Initiative University

    Clinton Global Initiative University engages student leaders in developing innovative solutions to campus, community or global challenges.

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  • Ten UAB students, one alum named Fulbright semifinalists

    Eleven Blazers have been named semifinalists for an international exchange program.

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  • I am Arts and Sciences: Charles Scribner

    Charles Scribner exemplifies school pride when he reflects on his time at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    Charles Scribner addresses the crowd at a Black Warrior Riverkeeper event.Charles Scribner exemplifies school pride when he reflects on his time at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    “UAB is very important to me and my family,” said Scribner. “I’m proud that UAB is such an engine for the state [of Alabama].”

    Scribner, born and raised in New York City, credits his wife and his career for bringing him to Birmingham. While earning his Bachelor of Arts in History and a Certificate in Environmental Studies at Princeton University, Scribner met his future wife Elizabeth Yates—a native of Birmingham and UAB Mathematics Ph.D. now named Dr. Elizabeth Scribner—who envisioned returning home after Princeton. As their relationship flourished, Scribner was also developing a passion for the international Waterkeeper movement and authoring a 100-page senior thesis about the history and effectiveness of Waterkeeper Alliance. Through his research, he met the team at the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a Birmingham-based nonprofit that is “dedicated to promoting clean water for the sake of public health, recreation, and wildlife habitat throughout [its] patrol area, the Black Warrior River watershed.”

    “I interviewed the staff, and, in the process, they offered me the job of director of development,” said Scribner.

    So, after graduating in 2005, Scribner—and Elizabeth—moved to Birmingham, and he began his journey with the Black Warrior Riverkeeper. According to Scribner, it is especially exciting and important to support the waterkeeper effort in Alabama.

    “We’re number one in freshwater biodiversity,” said Scribner. “And, beyond that, we have a very… outdoorsy population that loves to cool off in our rivers and lakes and go fishing—it’s a great American tradition, particularly a great Alabama tradition.”

    After working in his role as director of development for a few years, Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s Board of Directors promoted Scribner to executive director. Scribner was determined to build new skills and knowledge so he could further support the mission of the organization. He researched programs that focused on nonprofit leadership and management and found a graduate certificate program available through UAB’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration. When he reviewed the course offerings, he discovered that every course was applicable to his work at the Black Warrior Riverkeeper.

    “I realized a background in environmental studies and a great passion for protecting the environment are not the same as being trained to run an organization,” said Scribner. “I knew what I wanted to do, and I wanted to do it better.”

    Scribner enrolled in UAB’s Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management program in 2010, and, soon after completing it, he decided to pursue his Master of Public Administration.

    During Scribner’s time in graduate school, he uncovered opportunities to apply his new knowledge at Black Warrior Riverkeeper. As the organization celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, Scribner acknowledges the numerous legal and advocacy victories his team has achieved along the way. That said, he is particularly energized about an emerging volunteer cleanup program. The program is prompting meaningful, hands-on participation from the public, and, to top it off, the outreach coordinator who is facilitating the effort, Katie Fagan, is an alumna of UAB’s Department of Anthropology. This enduring UAB connection—and many others—is particularly important to Scribner (Learn more about Fagan and her journey at UAB).

    “The networking that takes place [at UAB] creates incredible connections that have been as valuable to my career as the classes I took in the MPA program,” said Scribner.

    Although he finished his graduate degree in 2015, Scribner still finds plenty of opportunities to stay connected to UAB and the MPA program. In 2017, he won the College’s Alumni Service Award, and, in 2018, he became president of the UAB National Alumni Society’s MPA Chapter.

    “I really enjoyed the process of working with other board members to turn the alumni society into something really organized and impactful,” said Scribner. “That’s easy to do when you’re working with other MPAs.”

    As he looks to the future, it’s clear that he will continue to find ways to collaborate with his fellow UAB alumni and give back to the MPA program. Also, if you attend a UAB football game at Protective Stadium, you’re likely to see Scribner with his wife and four children cheering on his beloved Blazers.

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  • College of Arts and Sciences offering two new minors

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) College of Arts and Science is offering two new minors for undergraduate students.

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) College of Arts and Science is offering two new minors for undergraduate students.

    The Department of Political Science and Public Administration recently launched the Public Management and Policy Minor. According to Rob Blanton, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration (PSPA), “The department’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program has a long history of providing graduate and professional students some of the necessary skills to succeed in the management of public and nonprofit organizations, two large and vibrant sectors within our economy.” PSPA faculty reflected on the MPA program’s successes and established a clear goal for the new minor: to build some of the same key skills and competencies for undergraduate students. The minor can thus provide a strong foundation for future graduate work in public management or give students valuable skills to help them in their career journeys.

    The College is also excited to announce the new Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies Minor. This minor is focused on material, intellectual, sociopolitical, literary, and linguistic approaches to the Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance periods. According to Walter Ward, Ph.D., professor in the Department of History, “Students will learn current theories and methods for working with a range of source materials and objects, from archaeological finds and architecture to historical documents and poetry.” The interdisciplinary program combines the fields of history, literature, archaeology, anthropology, art history, philosophy, cultural studies, economics, and more to understand the premodern world. All courses are taught by faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences.

    You can learn more about both programs by visiting the Undergraduate Course Catalog Addenda. Also, for more information about the Public Management and Policy Minor, you can email Dr. Blanton at rgblanton@uab.edu. For more information about the Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies Minor, you can contact Dr. Ward (wdward@uab.edu) or Dr. Clements (jclements@uab.edu).

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  • UAB panel dives into the Ukraine crisis

    A panel including experts from across UAB will discuss the Ukraine crisis and its implications for geopolitics and human rights.

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  • Navigating life after prison is ‘nearly impossible.’ These faculty are challenging civilians to try.

    Humanities and social sciences unite to build an app that brings to life the struggles faced by former offenders in order to make the case for change. The project was made possible by funding from the College of Arts and Sciences’ Interdisciplinary Team Proposal program.

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  • MPA graduates participate in prestigious Presidential Management Fellows Program

    The U.S. Office of Personnel Management facilitates a valuable leadership development experience known as the Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF).

    The U.S. Office of Personnel Management facilitates a valuable leadership development experience known as the Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF).

    Through the prestigious and competitive PMF program, graduate students who aim to pursue careers in government participate in a two-year appointment with a government agency. During the appointment, participants receive leadership training, full salary and benefits, and active mentorship.

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration (PSPA) has an impressive record with the PMF program. As of January 2022, eight of the department’s MPA alumni have served (or will serve) as PMFs:

    • Mason Beale
    • Rachel Hicks Shabani
    • Tiffany Brown
    • Misha Manzy
    • Elizabeth Hendrix
    • Amy O’Dell
    • Kaia Greene
    • Ollie Davison

    In December 2021, Davison received a notification from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management letting him know that he was selected for the program. It proved to be a life-changing moment.

    “As a boy from Prichard, Alabama, I never would have imagined my journey would include becoming a Presidential Management Fellow,” said Davison. “I am so grateful to represent UAB and the MPA program during this prestigious fellowship. I cannot wait to show Washington D.C. what a boy from Prichard, Alabama can do to make a tangible difference for all Americans."

    According to Rob Blanton, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, the PMF program is a substantial achievement worthy of celebration.

    “The Presidential Management Fellowship provides an invaluable experience to students in that it includes employment at a federal agency as well as multiple opportunities for future professional development and growth. It is a very prestigious and competitive program, the number of applicants is generally over 10,000 and only five percent are accepted,” said Blanton. “We are very proud to have such a high number of Presidential Management Fellows, as it attests to the ability of our students, as well as to the quality of the educational experience and mentoring that our students receive.”

    You can learn more about the department’s MPA program by visiting the Master of Public Administration webpage.

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  • What does the 2020 Census data and remapping of districts mean for Alabama?

    With new population data on record for Alabama, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences explains how redistricting of electoral boundaries will impact the state moving forward.

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  • 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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