Displaying items by tag: pspa alumni news

The College of Arts and Sciences is proud to recognize the achievements of our honorees. We are so very proud of their accomplishments, and we are grateful for their support.
While the world watches news headlines on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, UAB alumna Rachel Hicks is getting a much closer view — as a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) on assignment at the United States Embassy in the capital of Kyiv.
Ashton Johnson, a recent graduate (BA, Political Science), and two current Master of Public Administration (MPA) students, Jasmine Shaw and Tyler Slaton, were selected for the United Way’s Loaned Executive program.
For the past four years a UAB student has been chosen to participate in the weeklong training that focuses on ways to advocate in the global fight against poverty, hunger and injustice.
UAB alum Logan Talbot writes about his experience interning for the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
UAB's National Alumni Society (NAS) honored five people, including the Department of Government's Wendy Gunther Canada, at the 13th annual Alumni Leadership Recognition Awards Luncheon.
UAB alumna Kristal Quarker has been named the national field director for African American Initiatives for the Republican National Committee (RNC).
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox made headlines for his leadership after a tornado wrecked havoc in 2011, but his potential was recognized by the residents of the city years before the disaster. Even earlier than that, his potential was seen and applauded in the halls of the Department of Government.
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  • Magic City Data Collective a model for “City as Classroom” experiences

    On April 14, 2023, 16 University of Alabama at Birmingham students took the stage at the Alumni Auditorium in the Hill Student Center for the second annual Magic City Data Collective (MCDC) Demo Day.

    From left to right: Chattada (Pi ) Viriyaphap, Bryce Hampton, Emma Bocanegra (front), Dallas Blackwell, Philip Hyde, Laquandria Leatherwood, David Hedrick (project data guide, ThinkData Solutions Inc.), and Lauren Rast. Photo credit: ThinkData Solutions, Inc.On April 14, 2023, 16 University of Alabama at Birmingham students took the stage at the Alumni Auditorium in the Hill Student Center for the second annual Magic City Data Collective (MCDC) Demo Day. During the event, the UAB students—along with students from the University of Alabama at Huntsville, Samford University, and Lawson State Community College—presented data analysis projects to an audience that included faculty members, students, community partners, and entrepreneurs.

    For Philip Hyde, a senior studying computational physics, the experience illuminated the value of conducting work that might lead to real outcomes and change. “I found the MCDC experience to be profoundly beneficial. It gave me the opportunity to expand upon both my personal and professional development through the interaction with a real company and real data. Not only that, but the knowledge that the final product will be used for real world purposes also helped create a sense of reward and fulfillment upon completion,” said Hyde.

    The MCDC launched in the summer of 2021 and is a public-private partnership between UAB, the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), and other local stakeholders. Through MCDC, undergraduate and graduate students take on paid projects with local employers in business, tech, education, and philanthropy to work on real-world projects that require them to use their data analysis skills. Lauren Rast, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physics, serves as the project director and principal investigator (PI) for the initiative, which receives grant funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce). She views the MCDC as a multi-faceted experience through which students gain skills and a better understanding of how their work can impact the community.

    “I think it’s important when we teach our students data analysis, data science, and any data-driven discipline that they also get the side of data that is civic, and that they’re making a contribution to the public space,” said Rast. “That seemed to be the thing that impacted the students the most.”

    The April Demo Day featured the second official cohort for the MCDC. MCDC is supported by several businesses and organizations in Birmingham, including the Birmingham Business Alliance, Landing, Prosper, and ThinkData Solutions, Inc. The second cohort received both sponsorship and data from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA), a nonprofit organization that works to inform and improve the decision making of state and local leaders in Alabama through objective research and analysis. PARCA provided the students with a range of data sets all focused on a common issue: education in Alabama.

    “It’s one thing to read about and study the generalities from textbooks and journal articles, but it is an entirely different experience to dig into the nitty-gritty of real-world observations, where messy, contrary data points humble one’s confidence about the precision of policy-making assumptions,” said Joe Adams, Ph.D., research coordinator for PARCA. “It’s always better to examine outcome data to see how well our expectations match reality. With the understanding that comes with that experience, wiser policies can be crafted, grounded in a better understanding of reality. Data analysis can change policy conversations.”

    “I think it became very clear where the needs are in public education in the state of Alabama… and that’s something they can take with them as future leaders,” said Rast.

    The students in this MCDC cohort formed four teams to analyze the data, and they pursued the following projects: School Systems Budgets and School Performance; Failing School Performance, School Budgets, and County Population Demographics; School System Budget Tool; and School Performance Comparison Tool. Within each team, students brought varied perspectives, experiences, and disciplinary interests, ranging from computational physics to economics to world languages. For Rast, it is important to make sure the program is inclusive and welcoming to a diverse group of students.

    “The people who work in STEM and work in data really shape our future,” said Rast. “It’s very important that when students are doing data science that they have diverse perspectives, so that as the world is shaped it is shaped by a wide variety of people. Diverse problem solvers are better problem solvers.”

    After two successful cohorts, Rast is looking to the future with expanded goals in mind. Specifically, she hopes to reach more students with hands-on data analysis projects through a new course in the Blazer Core (titled “Community Data Research”) and further build out data infrastructure for the city of Birmingham. In addition, she aims to continue aligning the MCDC project with the labor force needs of the community and prepare her students for the opportunities and challenges presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And, given the experience of her most recent group of students, her approach appears to be working.

    “My experience with the MCDC and PARCA has demonstrated to me the influential role of data in shaping and enhancing public education in Alabama,” said Dallas Blackwell, a public health major who participated in the second cohort of MCDC. “Through data analysis, I witnessed the potential for impactful change and gained invaluable skills in collaboration and problem-solving as well as analysis tools like Tableau and Microsoft Power BI. This experience has enriched my career prospects and instilled a sense of purpose and passion for data-driven solutions in me."

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  • Baggiano made the most of UAB’s award-winning PR program

    Over the past two years, Dylan Baggiano earned some of the most prestigious public relations awards in the state of Alabama. But, surprisingly, his college career did not begin in communications.

    Over the past two years, Dylan Baggiano earned some of the most prestigious public relations awards in the state of Alabama. But, surprisingly, his college career did not begin in communications.

     

    Dr. Jacquelyn Shaia and Dylan Baggiano. Instead, while growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, Baggiano dreamed of a career in medicine. He attended high school at St. James School and considered himself a “science-oriented” student. So, when it came time to research his college options, he looked for institutions with renowned medical programs, leading him to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    He enrolled at UAB in 2017 and declared a major in biology, and, in his second year, he secured a rigorous summer internship in a faculty member’s research lab. It was through this experience that Baggiano began to reevaluate his skills and interests, prompting him to seek new academic opportunities at UAB.

    “[During the internship] we started a lab journal review series,” said Baggiano. “The other undergraduate [intern] and myself had to review a paper and present what was going on in that particular experiment and create a presentation on it. That’s when I started putting my communications skills to use. It made me realize I enjoy presenting, speaking, writing, and teaching.”

    This realization led Baggiano to the Department of Communication Studies. After researching the department’s programs, he decided to change his major to mass media communication studies (and, eventually, selected a concentration in public relations).

    “The storytelling component, the ethical component, and being the key communicator of an organization or group is what attracted me to [PR],” said Baggiano.

    In addition, he found a new mentor through the program: Jacquelyn Shaia, Ph.D., J.D., associate professor and director of the UAB Public Relations program.

    “The mentorship I received from Dr. Shaia is immeasurable,” Baggiano said. “For the skills I developed through working on projects with her and my classmates to better our community, I would not trade for anything. Through working with Dr. Shaia and other professionals in Birmingham, I’ve learned communication is truly a transformative tool that can be used to actualize the world we wish to create.”

    Soon after he declared his new major, COVID-19 emerged, challenging Baggiano and his classmates to find new ways to reach target audiences and network with communications professionals. Despite the challenges, Baggiano still found ways to gets hands-on experience and also take on a leadership role with the Public Relations Council of Alabama/Public Relations Student Society of America (PRCA/PRSSA) at UAB.

    “I really connected with the previous leadership of the [PRCA/PRSSA] chapter,” said Baggiano. “One former student really pushed me to have the confidence in myself and to set out and do what I wanted to do. And for the longest time, I was afraid of taking leadership positions, because I don’t really like to be the center of attention.”

    That fear faded quickly, though. After joining PRCA/PRSSA at UAB, Baggiano became the Vice President for Award Submissions, a role that allowed him to nurture his leadership skills, interpersonal skills, intrapersonal skills, and writing skills.

    “I knew that I wanted to improve my writing skills,” said Baggiano. “I was responsible for putting together a concept and theme for comprehensive annual reports… I quickly learned how to write a compelling program summary and really speak to all of the strengths of our chapter.”

    In addition to his responsibilities with PRCA/PRSSA at UAB, Baggiano was excelling in the PR program. According to Shaia, “Working with Dylan over the past several years has been a joy. He took an introductory class to see if this was something he might be interested in, and it was a delight to watch this student discover his true interest and then work as hard as he did to learn everything he could—and perfect his skills—so that he could succeed in a career in that field."

    Baggiano found the “Public Relations Campaigns” course to be particularly useful and engaging. Through the class, students research a community-based organization (generating an audit known as a “backgrounder”), develop a proposal for a campaign, execute a contract with the “client,” then implement the project.

    “I [developed] leadership skills, project management skills, and time management skills,” said Baggiano. “The most impactful class that I had in the program was definitely the ‘Campaigns’ course, because it gave you practical, on-the-job work experience that… provides you the foundation needed to excel in the public relations industry.”

    Through the course, Baggiano worked with Birmingham-based nonprofit Better Basics, an organization that aims to eradicate illiteracy among children in Central Alabama. Baggiano formed and led a team—known as Parma Public Relations (PR)—to support Better Basics, and, together, they proposed a plan to promote and support a community event titled “Blazers Read.” They actively listened to the organization to help them achieve their goals, and, as a result, the work garnered Baggiano and his peers numerous awards from the Public Relations Council of Alabama (PRCA), the Public Relations Society of America (Alabama Chapter), and UAB.

    “I won the PR Strategist Award from PRSA Alabama for the Fall 2022 campaign for Better Basics,” said Baggiano. “The medallions I was awarded from PRCA [Birmingham] were for the work of my team [Parma PR]. We were awarded a medallion award for the campaign as a whole, and then we won a medallion for Blazers Read, for a special event. We also won in the category of media relations.”

    In addition, Parma PR won the Judges’ Best in Show from PRSA Alabama, and PRCA/PRSSA at UAB won Chapter of the Year (from both PRCA and PRSA Alabama) and Outstanding Student Organization from UAB’s Office of Student Leadership and Involvement.

    Along with his responsibilities in the PR program and with PRCA/PRSSA at UAB, Baggiano also participated in two internships. First, he worked as a media intern with UAB’s University Relations team, then he secured a position with American Cast Iron Pipe Company (ACIPCO). Through both experiences, Baggiano discovered a passion for internal communications, which is what he aims to pursue after graduation.

    And, clearly, internal communications is a real strength for Baggiano. While at ACIPCO, he authored a feature story in the AMERICAN News Center highlighting the ways in which the company’s engineers create high quality products that support water and energy infrastructure. Unsurprisingly, the work sparked another award for Baggiano: the PR Wordsmith Award from PRSA Alabama. Shaia sees this award—and the many others Baggiano earned—as a sign that he has a long and fruitful career ahead.

    "The program is structured such that students receive as much individual attention as possible so that the student is allowed to focus on a particular segment of the public relations field—whether it be health, nonprofit, education, business, government, etc. This is done through one-on-one mentoring as well as internships and opportunities for volunteer work in different areas,” said Shaia. “Oftentimes, as in Dylan's case, the student will complete several internships (sometimes as a student for class credit as well as a volunteer without class credit). The mentorship, together with the internship experience and the regular contact with a client in the ‘Campaigns’ class allows the student to graduate with not just the hard skills in public relations—but the soft skills needed to succeed in any field."

    Baggiano graduated this past April, and he is looking to the future with excitement and optimism. As he evaluates his career options, he has a guiding principle that informs his approach to work and community engagement.

    “If you go somewhere and you’re in a role, you should always leave it in a better state than it was before you were there,” said Baggiano.

    Given all that he accomplished while at UAB, it’s safe to say that he left the PR program and UAB in a better state than when he arrived.

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  • Seven students receive 2023 Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate and Graduate Students

    Every academic year, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences receives departmental nominations for the Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate Students and Outstanding Graduate Students. The dean’s selection committee gives these awards to exceptional undergraduate and graduate students in the College who have made significant contributions to the UAB community.

    Every academic year, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences receives departmental nominations for the Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate Students and Outstanding Graduate Students. The dean’s selection committee gives these awards to exceptional undergraduate and graduate students in the College who have made significant contributions to the UAB community.

    After carefully reviewing the 2023 nominations, Dean Kecia M. Thomas, Ph.D., and her committee have selected three undergraduate students and four graduate students for the awards. At the upcoming 2023 commencement ceremonies, the College will acknowledge and celebrate the recipients.

    Congratulations to the following students for receiving this award:

    2023 Undergraduate Dean’s Awards

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    2023 Graduate Dean’s Awards

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  • PRCA/PRSSA at UAB wins Outstanding Student Organization

    The Public Relations Council of Alabama and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRCA/PRSSA) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham won Outstanding Student Organization at the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement’s UAB Student Excellence Awards Ceremony on April 1, 2023.

    Pictured left to right: Nathan Anderson (PRSCA/PRSSA at UAB Presiden), Ann Marie Stephens, Dylan Baggiano, Sam Adams, and Sam Pugh.The Public Relations Council of Alabama and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRCA/PRSSA) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham won Outstanding Student Organization at the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement’s UAB Student Excellence Awards Ceremony on April 1, 2023.

    PRCA/PRSSA at UAB is a student-led organization open to students across campus who are interested in public relations. The organization conducts workshops, hosts networking events and guest speakers, and offers service-based learning in the community. The student group is an extension of the public relations academic program in the Department of Communication Studies.

    The organization won the award for their effective and strategic support for Better Basics, a Birmingham-based nonprofit that works to eradicate illiteracy among children in Central Alabama. PRCA/PRSSA at UAB chapter members Dylan Baggiano, Anaya Yoakum, and Ann Marie Stephens formed Parma Public Relations (Parma PR) and—in partnership with Better Basics—established goals to increase community outreach to college students, develop public relations materials, create and update policy documents, and foster media relations.

    The students were able to realize these goals by supporting a Better Basics event titled "Blazers Read.” PRCA/PRSSA at UAB students crafted a press release, engaged with media, and assisted staff by recruiting volunteers and taking photos of the event for Better Basics’ social media channels.

    "It is our honor for our organization to receive this prestigious award,” said Baggiano, team leader for Parma PR and Vice President of Award Submissions for PRCA/PRSSA at UAB. “This organization is committed to serving our community. Our work for Better Basics this year has allowed our team to not only practice the skills we have learned but live the high principles instilled in us as ethical professionals and graduates of UAB.”

    Jacquelyn S. Shaia, J.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies and faculty advisor for the chapter, has led the program since 2016 and mentored the students throughout the duration of the project.

    “This student group is committed to not only following—but embodying—the UAB values which include service to our community,” said Shaia. “I am so proud of these students and particularly of the professional public relations campaign they developed and delivered for Better Basics.”

    You can learn more about the PR program and UAB PRCA/PRSSA by visiting the Department of Communication Studies website.

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  • Pursuing a social work path at UAB

    Throughout her college career, Maria Suter-Thallemer has maintained an open mind and a willingness to try new things.

    Maria Suter-ThallemerThroughout her college career, Maria Suter-Thallemer has maintained an open mind and a willingness to try new things.

    When she first arrived at the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”) after finishing high school in Biloxi, Mississippi, she was focused on cheerleading for the university and enjoying the small, college-town environment of Oxford. She also sought out and explored a range of academic experiences, prompting several changes in her major.

    “I switched my major, admittedly, six times,” said Suter-Thallemer.

    Eventually, she discovered social work, a discipline that stoked her passion for helping others.

    “[I study social work because of] my desire to really know the world. I think social works offers a really awesome opportunity to focus on diversity and inclusion,” said Suter-Thallemer. “[It makes you consider] what role you can play in adding to the progression of what our world is going to be in 20 years.”

    As her interest in social work grew and graduation neared, she began to evaluate Master of Social Work (MSW) programs. During this period, a dear friend unexpectedly encouraged her to take a brief trip to Birmingham to visit the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She embraced the advice, made the trip, and spent a whirlwind 11 hours in the city and on the campus.

    “I walked around the campus by myself, and I was blown away by the diversity that UAB’s campus had to offer and Birmingham in general,” said Suter-Thallemer. “It was unlike any other place in the South... I’ll probably be here the rest of my life.”

    She was also attracted to the uniqueness of the university’s MSW program. Currently, UAB’s Department of Social Work offers one of the only Clinical/Medical MSW programs in the country, which piqued Suter-Thallemer’s interest.

    According to the department, “The mission of the Clinical/Medical MSW program at UAB is to educate students for careers in specialized, competent, and evidence-informed practice in health and behavioral health that responds to the complex needs of people and community in the face of an increasingly interconnected world.” It is a mission that aligns with Suter-Thallemer’s career aspirations and values, so, she enrolled in the program in Fall 2022.

    So far, the program has equipped her with new skills, experiences, and connections that will benefit her for years to come.

    “Our professors have so much background…in clinical and medical social work. While they’ve provided us with the tools to handle the realm of healthcare, they’ve also given us a lot of tools to figure out things that set our soul on fire for social work and different outlets and avenues for what this job can look like,” said Suter-Thallemer. “It’s been a huge gift to learn from them. [And] my cohort has been great.”

    Currently, Suter-Thallemer is navigating a 600-hour clinical placement at the UAB Center for Psychiatric Medicine. She focuses on adolescent psychiatric social work, while working alongside an interdisciplinary team of social workers, occupational therapists, doctors, and others. The experience has had a powerful impact on her.

    “It’s something I hope to pursue after graduation [in December 2023]. As of right now, I definitely plan to take the mental health care route,” said Suter-Thallemer.

    And, clearly, the department and its faculty have helped to illuminate that route for her.

    “One thing, specifically, that the MSW program is good at… is cultivating us to be people with our own personalities to go out and do a job that we really love to do. And, in doing that, I feel like they are able to really take what we have to say and turn it into something very meaningful. They’re able to prepare us for what’s to come after graduation,” said Suter-Thallemer. “It has been nothing short of perfect.”

    Learn more about the Clinical/Medical MSW program at UAB by visiting the Department of Social Work’s website.

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  • A World Away: Reflections from a UAB Blazer and Marshall Scholar

    I envision a world with sustainable, vibrant, and inclusive cities that have thriving economies, strong public transportation options, and an overall high quality of life for residents.

    The past few years have been a time of rapid change. In 2019, I began coursework at the University of Alabama at Birmingham as a neuroscience major in one of the UAB Honors College’s specialized programs, the Science and Technology Honors Program–known to us Blazers as “SciTech.” About halfway through my second year (and in the midst of a pandemic), I realized that I had followed a path drawn by others. I was proficient in my work, but I could no longer see myself pursuing a career as a physician or researcher. As the gravity of the 2020 presidential election weighed on my heart, I saw a need for healing in America, but I couldn’t accomplish this on my current path. I knew that there was a daunting road ahead, one that no one in my family had traversed before. After many conversations with advisors, faculty, and loved ones, I decided to switch my studies to political science and follow my heart. I’ve always been one to dream big, but the vision I hold for society compelled me to make these dreams a reality.

    I envision a world with sustainable, vibrant, and inclusive cities that have thriving economies, strong public transportation options, and an overall high quality of life for residents. I want to have a hand in the policymaking areas of government to relieve structural inequities and promote sustainability for current and future generations. A top priority of mine is to improve connectivity and empower economic mobility, all while also reducing carbon emissions.

    This vision led me to apply for the Marshall Scholarship, a program created by the British Parliament out of gratitude for American aid from the Marshall Plan in the early 1950s; this scholarship provides full funding to any university in the United Kingdom. The U.K. provides an environment that interacts with America and encompasses a broader scope of foreign and domestic affairs. Because of this, I knew that studying here would allow me to bring my unique skill set in intercultural communication, project management, and leadership to a nation grappling with effective public administration. As the U.K. experiences a national crisis over healthcare access, economic concerns from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and trade challenges from the Brexit deal with the European Union, government officials at all levels must seek out new strategies. I knew that undertaking graduate-level studies in the U.K. will place me at the forefront of the world’s most critical issues, strengthen my skills, and broaden my understanding of urban centers and policymaking. After a rigorous selection process, I received a call in November from His Majesty’s General Counsel to the Southeast United States, in which she informed me that the Marshall Commission chose me to be their next Scholar!

    My current endeavors testify to my ability to enhance relationships and policy. Serving in the Civic Design Team of the City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office, I have been an active change-maker in researching, planning, and implementing key policies for the Mayor’s Vision 2025 policy platform. I have been able to combine evidence-based policymaking with an inclusive design thinking methodology in numerous policy areas, including but not limited to transit-oriented development, urban resilience, sustainability, and economic development. In this role, I reside at the intersection of research, policymaking, social justice, and racial equity. My studies of American politics and political theory have amplified my ability to support historically underrepresented groups within Alabama via inclusive outreach, coalition building, and policy advocacy efforts.

    Given the numerous challenges present in public transportation, infrastructure, housing, and education, public administrators must be well-equipped to meet the moment of our time, especially as the world’s urban population continues to expand. I seek to attain an MSc in International City Planning at University College London (UCL). This course combines the scientific rigor of theory, research, and practice with that of public administration as well as compares existing complexities between cities. The Guardian’s (2022) recent data shows that of the six million people with non-British nationality living in the U.K., 35 percent live in London. As “London’s Global University,” UCL promotes the value of the city’s global diversity and pioneers progressive action across disciplines. By choosing to pursue coursework at UCL, I will be able to interact with the epicenter of contemporary England—an evolving city with rich history and a complex legacy of empire.

    Although there are many schools in America that have graduate city planning programs, none are as groundbreaking in practice as UCL’s International City Planning program. How cities are planned and the strategies administrators implement to spur development, connectivity, and economic growth have an impact on the livelihood of each nation’s economy (the first and fifth of the world). U.S. State Department data shows that every U.S. state has a connection or investment to a U.K. company and that over 1.5 million British citizens are employed by U.S. firms. Additionally, the City of London holds a wealth of knowledge on the successes and failures of diplomacy, as well as an extensive portfolio of bilateral relations with the United States. Residing here will be critical for my growth as a developer of public policy.

    I am entirely grateful to UAB’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration, as well as the UAB National Alumni Society, UAB Sustainability, and the wonderful team in UAB’s National and International Fellowships and Scholarships Office. The mentors, advocates, and allies along the way have helped shaped me into a motivated public policy professional with a tenacity for social change. For those at the Marshall Commission, the Mayor’s Office, and everyone else who has loved and supported me, thanks for believing someone like me can change the world!


    Banks Stamp is a 2023 Marshall Scholar, public policy professional, and Mr. UAB.

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  • CAS student selected to inaugural Obama-Chesky Voyager Scholarship cohort

    Junior Alexandra “Lexie” Woolums will be a member of the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service's inaugural class of just 100 students.

    Alexandra “Lexie” Woolums, a junior pursuing an individually designed degree in Environmental Sciences and a minor in English through the UAB College of Arts and Sciences with a minor in public health from the School of Public Health, has been awarded the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service. Lexie, who is also a part of the UAB Honors College and serves as a Solar House Policy Intern, will be a member of the scholarship’s inaugural class of just 100 students chosen from a pool of nearly 1800 applicants.

    The Obama-Chesky Scholarship, also known as the Voyager Scholarship, was created by the Obamas and Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO, to provide meaningful financial aid combined with transformational travel to students passionate about public service. The award includes up to $50,000 in “last dollar” financial aid for students’ junior and senior years, a $10,000 stipend and free Airbnb housing for a “summer voyage” work-travel experience, annual fall public service summits, access to a network of leaders through an ongoing speaker series, and a 10-year post graduation travel stipend.

    “It is exciting to see a Blazer among the first cohort of Voyager Scholars,” said Michelle Cook, Ph.D., director of UAB’s Office of National and International Fellowships and Scholarships. “This award presents a truly life-changing experience in that it empowers recipients with financial need to pursue service opportunities and internships that might otherwise be inaccessible to them. This is the perfect opportunity for Lexie to expand her public service portfolio in preparation for future award competitions, graduate school, and beyond.”

    How exactly did Woolums, a Mobile native, discover her interest in sustainability and find herself in the position to apply for and receive the Obama Voyager Scholarship? Read below to find out!

    How did you discover your interest in Sustainability and Public Health?

    I decided to take an extra science class during my junior year of high school. I ended up taking an AP Environmental Science class, and it absolutely changed my life. When I came to UAB, I was an undeclared major and I realized that anytime I got to choose a project topic, I choose something related to environmental policy and the human relationship with the natural environment. After being a public health major for a while, I designed my major with a focus on the human relationship with the natural environment.

    What would you say your specific interests or passions are within the field of Sustainability?

    My main interest is in improving environmental policy to preserve biodiversity and to improve human health. I am mostly interested in the way a healthy environment impacts humans. I am also interested in writing/communications about climate change and sustainability because much of the current discourse among the public surrounding it is incomplete or politicized, making it much harder to help Alabamians understand why protecting the environment is important and how our survival relies on a healthy environment.

    You’ve previously mentioned an interest in social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Most people have heard the word sustainability as it relates to the environment but may not have heard of social or economic sustainability. How do you explain these aspects of sustainability?

    When most people think of sustainability, they think about the images of saving endangered species or reducing their single-use plastic consumption. While those things are important, it is more important to consider the three pillars of sustainability, which are social, economic, and environmental. Sometimes, people refer to this as the 3 Ps instead: “people, profit, and planet.” Regardless, these three pillars are intertwined, and they are all important for long-term sustainable development. At the end of the day, the economy cannot exist without a society to support it, and society cannot exist outside of the natural environment. We see examples of social and economic sustainability everyday but may not recognize them as such. For example,

    Historically, many indigenous populations have been removed from their lands in the name of conservation, even though they protected the environment they lived in for centuries. Many other minorities have been forced to live in polluted areas due to government inaction or large businesses polluting the air and water. Each of these situations are examples where social sustainability is not included as a part of the conversation.

    Additionally, the United States has a fast-paced culture, valuing a quick profit over quality and long-term economic sustainability. We live in a culture dominated by fossil fuels, fast fashion, and a disconnect from the people and places that produce the food and products we purchase. Many of the current industries in the US are not able to continue growing even within the next twenty years. It is imperative that we invest in systems that can outlast outdated systems relying on substances that are becoming increasingly limited. These issues show how much work we still have to do in terms of economic sustainability.

    How have your experiences at UAB so far prepared you for the Obama Voyager application process and for future work within your field? Tell us a bit about your involvement.

    Two main experiences have critically impacted me and helped prepare me for the Voyager Scholarship application process.

    The first of these is my program within the Honors College, The Global and Community Leadership Honors Program (GCL). GCL students take a course called “Burning Issues,” which helps us identify what the issue we are most passionate about is. I took it in the spring of my freshman year, and the realization that hit me was how closely related all our Burning Issues were. We had projects about redlining, lack of mental health care access, limited sex education in Alabama schools, high maternal mortality in rural counties, food insecurity, wage discrimination, and the politicization of climate science (my project). As we presented, I realized how interconnected our issues were, despite that they outwardly appeared to be independent problems. Seeing how systems fail the communities who desperately need them made me angry. That semester, I decided I wanted to work to make Alabama’s environmental policy better.

    The other experience is my time interning at UAB Sustainability. I have been with them as the Solar House intern for about a year now, and I have learned so much about how environment-related policy functions in Alabama. That knowledge coupled with the professional experience of facilitating applications on behalf of the university are experiences I never expected to gain until after college. I am very thankful to have the experience with them and firmly believe it has helped prepare me for further professional experience.

    The Obama Voyager Scholarship not only provides tuition assistance but also provides a $10,000 stipend and free Airbnb housing for a summer work-travel experience. Have you already made plans for your travel and how you will use this funding to gain more experience in your field?

    So far, I am mostly considering interning in Washington, DC. Many of the environmental nonprofits there have a heavy policy focus due to their proximity to capitol hill. I hope to intern and volunteer with several nonprofits there to learn more about the way policy works in relation to environmental issues.

    What are your plans after graduation?

    As far as plans after graduation go, I’m still uncertain. I’ve looked into several Environmental Policy master's programs, and even considered some graduate programs at UAB. I would like to work in the nonprofit sector at a local environmental nonprofit. I’ve also looked into several internships with the EPA and other government agencies, which I think could be a good path for me too. In terms of the travel stipend provided through this scholarship, I am hoping to use it to travel abroad, since I have never been outside of the United States. Many other countries have much different approaches to the way they view the environment, causing different policies and attitudes towards preserving it, so I would like to be able to travel and learn more about the relationship other cultures have with the natural environment.


    If you are interested in learning more about applying for the Voyager Scholarship or other prestigious awards, contact the UAB Office of National and International Fellowships and Scholarships for application and essay assistance through email at fellowships@uab.edu or visit their website.

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  • Fan finds new research opportunities, mentorship in computer science Ph.D. program

    Before applying for Ph.D. programs, prospective students often weigh several factors and priorities.

    Ke FanWhen Ke Fan was evaluating computer science doctoral programs, she prioritized opportunities to work alongside faculty who were conducting research she found interesting. So, before submitting her application to UAB, she sat down and reviewed the CVs of every faculty member in the Department of Computer Science—no small task. Eventually, she discovered assistant professor Sidharth Kumar, Ph.D.

    “His research was fascinating and primarily focused on high-performance computing (HPC) and data visualization,” said Fan. “I emailed Dr. Kumar and received a response, fortunately. He then interviewed me to check if my knowledge matched his requirements and gave me a detailed overview of his research, which further piqued my interest in it."

    It was significant for Fan to consider a university in Birmingham, Alabama, because she was living and working in Shanghai, China, at the time. She grew up in China and earned her bachelor’s degree in communication engineering at the University of Hankou in Wuhan in 2014. She subsequently obtained an M.S. in software engineering from the University of Tongji in Shanghai, China. During that time, she joined a double exchange degree program that enabled her to earn a second M.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Pavia in Pavia, Italy. After that, she accepted a role as a software engineer in 2017, but, within a few years on the job, she made a significant discovery.

    "After two years of work experience, I realized that even though my industry job was promising, my knowledge was insufficient," said Fan. "I desired a deeper understanding of computer science and a better chance to engage in work that benefits science and humanity."

    That desire to continue learning prompted her to start exploring Ph.D. programs. She was aware of UAB because her partner was enrolled at the university—so, given the existing connection, she decided to consider its computer science doctoral program. Specifically, she was curious if any faculty members in the Department of Computer Science were researching high performance computing (HPC). That is when Kumar, and his impressive CV, came into the picture.

    "Think of a supercomputer as a giant computing machine made of hundreds of thousands of commodity computers connected by fast networks, all working together to solve computationally demanding problems from a myriad of fields, including climate, energy, reasoning, AI/ML, and medicine. As you can expect, executing large-scale applications on these supercomputers necessitates a significant amount of data transfer and complicated communication over networks," said Fan. "These machines are large, heterogenous, and complex. Dr. Kumar's long-term aim is to develop infrastructure that makes it easier for users to run applications on supercomputers by optimizing data movement and communication patterns.”

    After speaking with Kumar, Fan decided UAB was a good fit, so she enrolled in 2019. Now, Kumar serves as her advisor, and she has worked on myriad research projects, including parallel I/O, optimizing collective communication, and performance visualization. These research results have been published in HiPC, HPDC, and SC, all of which are top-tier HPC venues.

    Fan was able to delve deeper into research through a grant that Kumar received from the National Science Foundation in 2022. The grant provided Fan the opportunity to serve as a summer intern at the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. Her 2022 summer culminated in a training program with 73 other researchers. The training program—which is titled the Argonne Training Program on Extreme-Scale Computing (ATPESC)— "provides intensive, two weeks of training on the key skills, approaches, and tools to design, implement, and execute computational science and engineering applications on current high-end computing systems and the leadership-class computing systems of the future.” Overall, Fan thoroughly enjoyed both the internship and the training program.

    “The three months at the Argonne National Laboratory were extremely productive. Not only did it facilitate direct collaboration with HPC experts, but it also gave me a sense of belonging to a large, supportive HPC community,” said Fan. “In addition, seeing the large supercomputers in the lab was a treat I never grew tired of. I anticipate returning to the lab and continuing to collaborate with it.”

    In addition, Fan got the chance to network with other researchers from across the country, hear from influential speakers, and deliver a presentation highlighting her research on HPCs.

    Fan is now back at UAB and working through her fourth year in the computer science doctoral program, alongside Kumar. As she looks to the future, she hopes to graduate in Spring 2024, then seek a postdoctoral fellowship with a national lab.

    “I hope to pursue an academic position after graduating from UAB," said Fan. "I would like to continue my current research directions while exploring new areas in HPC, targeting challenges pertaining to increasing heterogeneity and scale of modern supercomputers. I would also like to find new application domains that could potentially benefit from HPC.”

    Based on her work to date, she appears to be well-poised to achieve that goal.

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  • Williams selected as a 2022 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar

    Taylor Williams of the Department of Biology was recently named a 2022 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar by the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

    Photo Courtesy of Taylor Williams. Taylor Williams, a doctoral student in the Department of Biology, was recently named a 2022 Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

    According to NOAA, the competitive Nancy Foster Scholarship Program provides support for independent graduate-level studies in oceanography, marine biology, or maritime archaeology, particularly to women and students from underrepresented communities.

    This year, the organization selected seven graduate students from across the country for the scholarship. Each scholarship recipient will receive an annual stipend of $30,000 and up to $12,000 annually as an education allowance. Additionally, recipients may receive up to $10,000 to support a 4–6-week research collaboration at a NOAA facility.

    Williams, who is from Orcutt, California, is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biology under faculty advisor Stacy A. Krueger-Hadfield, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biology. Her research will focus on a cryptogenic alga that is acting invasively within the boundaries of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM), a U.S. National Monument and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. According to Williams, Chondria tumulosa is a red macroalga that was found growing in dense mats and smothering the coral reefs at Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll) and Kuaihelani (Midway Atoll) within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawai’i. She will be using a combination of population genetic analyses and laboratory experiments to assess the reproductive system of this alga.

    "The Nancy Foster Scholarship provides me the opportunity to work directly with our NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries Program to use our science to best meet the needs of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument while also bridging the gap between science and place-based community outreach," said Williams.

    Williams completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa where she first became involved with the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as a scientific diver. She then earned her Master of Science in Marine Biology at the College of Charleston under Dr. Heather Spalding before coming to UAB.

    “The Nancy Foster Scholarship will afford Taylor the exceptional opportunity to continue work on Chondria and collaborations with researchers in Hawai'i and at the College of Charleston,” said Krueger-Hadfield. “We will be gaining valuable data with direct benefits to understanding the natural history of organisms in the PMNM as well as population genetics in organisms that undergo both sexual and asexual reproduction. Surprisingly, we don't have good tools for this and the Chondria data Taylor generates during her dissertation research will be invaluable to testing theoretical predictions in different biomes and ecosystems.”

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  • UAB History Students Present at Statewide Antisemitism Conference

    Eve Wright presents her research at the Rosa Park Museum at Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama.

    By Eve Wright

    Eve Wright presents her research at the Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama. Antisemitism is often called “the longest hatred,” yet few of us have a knowledge of it that extends beyond Nazi Germany and the Second World War. Therefore, when I was given the opportunity to take a semester-long class on the prejudice and discrimination that has faced Jews throughout their history, I leapt at the chance.

    The class, which was taught by five experts across the state of Alabama, considered the history of antisemitism from the medieval period to present. We were introduced to a range of sources, including plays, films, and historical documents, which we analyzed prior to class and on a discussion board, allowing for more comprehensive discussions in our weekly seminars. The opportunity to have five professors with expertise in various areas allowed for a class experience which I have not had before. Each professor employed a different teaching style, which kept the class engaging and vibrant.

    As an exchange student from England majoring in American and Canadian Studies, I found the latter weeks the most fascinating as they focused heavily on antisemitism in the United States. Most notable for me was the consideration of the relationship between African Americans and the Jewish community, which led me to write my final research paper on whether Jewish-Americans earned or chose their whiteness and how this affected Antisemitism in the African American community in the latter half of the twentieth century.

    The class culminated in a conference held in Montgomery, Alabama, with each student giving a 15-minute presentation on the research paper they had written for the class. Topics ranged from contemporary antisemitic conspiracy theories and how they are rooted in historic anti-Jewish tropes to Jewish-Muslim relations in the Middle Ages. This opportunity was extremely exciting for me as an exchange student, given my home university does not offer such team-taught opportunities.

    This class truly changed me as a student. It pushed me to critically approach sources in a way that I had not before, whilst building my confidence in my own knowledge and work.

    Eve Wright is an exchange student and American & Canadian Studies major from University of Nottingham, UK.

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  • UAB’s Pre-Law Program making an impact outside of the classroom

    Students who participate in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Pre-Law Program in the Department of Criminal Justice have access to pre-law advising, an academic minor, and activities designed to build pre-professional competencies, including legal research and critical thinking.

    Students who participate in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Pre-Law Program in the Department of Criminal Justice have access to pre-law advising, an academic minor, and activities designed to build pre-professional competencies, including legal research and critical thinking.

    UAB’s Pre-Law Program partnered with Redemption Earned, Inc. for the new Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Pre-Law Student Initiative. Clockwise from top left: Brandon Blankenship, Paul Littlejohn, Martha Earwood, Darrius Culpepper, Shae Thomas, Sue Bell Cobb.According to Brandon Blankenship, J.D., assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and director of the Pre-Law Program, these skills—along with many others—consistently prove to be valuable when practicing law or working in careers in law. In addition to the core competencies, Blankenship also emphasizes community engagement and restorative leadership with his pre-law students.

    “[We’re] proactively building community,” said Blankenship.

    Engaging Students

    For Blankenship, community-building often begins with engaging middle and high school students in hands-on learning experiences.

    One of the longest-standing experiences available through the Pre-Law Program is Journey to Attorney, an innovative summer camp for rising high school juniors and seniors that includes mock mediation and mock trials. During the camp, UAB pre-law students support camp participants as they retry a historic case (the last camp focused on the Scottsboro Nine case). Attendees dig into the facts of the case and aim to achieve a just result—an effort that often requires 12-hour days and intensive preparation.

    As the students retry the case, they also examine ways in which they can restore justice in the community. The experience builds knowledge, relationships, and empathy, and, often, inspires participants to become life-long learners. Although the camp will not take place in Summer 2022, it will reemerge in Summer 2023.

    Along with engaging high school students in hands-on summer learning experiences, Blankenship and his team also find opportunities to reach students in classrooms. Megan Edwards, an AmeriCorps VISTA with the program, recently helped coordinate and facilitate a digital learning experience for middle school students in Shelby County for Law Day 2022.

    The American Bar Association (ABA) annually sponsors Law Day on May 1. According to the ABA, the program aims to celebrate the role of law in our society and to cultivate a deeper understanding of the legal profession. To support the mission of Law Day 2022, Edwards recruited judges and district attorneys from across the state of Alabama to record engaging video presentations for Shelby County students based on the following theme: “Toward a More Perfect Union: The Constitution in Times of Change.” Edwards also made the videos available to the Alabama State Bar, so the organization could share the content with schools outside of Shelby County.

    According to Blankenship, Judge Bill Bostick—the presiding judge on the Circuit 18 court in Shelby County—delivered one of the most compelling video presentations. Bostick shared insights with the students and also gave them a virtual tour of his courtroom. For Blankenship, this kind of exposure to the legal profession is a driving force behind the community engagement work of the pre-law program. And, based on the feedback he received from one of the teachers who shared the video presentation with her class, it’s working.

    "My 7th- and 8th-grade students thoroughly enjoyed the Law Day 2022 experience. The program was well produced and offered such a variety of speakers,” said Julie P. Kennedy, social studies teacher at Oak Mountain Middle School. “It was intriguing to hear from our county and state judges, attorneys, and state representative and the impact they have on the lives of our community. Hopefully, their words inspired my students to give back to their communities when they are older."

    JEDI

    Exposure can take other forms too. In the case of the newly-established Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Pre-Law Student Initiative, UAB students get the opportunity to develop competencies that will help them in law school, while also supporting community organizations and attorneys that have limited resources and staff. Blankenship developed the service-learning program in partnership with Brandon Wolfe, former Assistant Vice President for Campus and Community Engagement in UAB’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The program is now managed by an undergraduate student, Parth Sharma, who is majoring in criminal justice and mathematics and serving a Fellowship in Restorative Justice and Leadership. The fellowship was made possible by the LifeCrafter Foundation, a strategic partner of the Pre-Law program that provides substantial support in the form of scholarships and AmeriCorps VISTAs.

    This past academic year, the JEDI program created an opportunity for Eshandae (“Shae”) Thomas—a pre-law student who is majoring in criminal justice and minoring in legal affairs—to work alongside Redemption Earned, Inc., a nonprofit organization that identifies, assists, and represents incarcerated individuals worthy of parole or work release. Sue Bell Cobb, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, serves as the executive director of Redemption Earned, Inc. and sought out meaningful opportunities for Thomas to support the organization’s work.

    “All of us were so excited when Professors Brandon Blankenship and Martha Earwood informed us that Redemption Earned, Inc. would be given the opportunity to work with a UAB pre-law intern,” said Cobb. “Shae Thomas was simply extraordinary and completely dedicated to our efforts to assist worthy ‘aged and infirmed’ incarcerated individuals with gaining parole. Shae helped us synthesize and manage reams of data from the Alabama Department of Corrections. She provided valuable insight as we developed processes to be able to chart a new path to fill this huge gap in the criminal justice system. Her help was invaluable.”

    Thomas conducted research and developed a system to identify potential clients for Redemption Earned, Inc. Along the way, Thomas also received mentorship and guidance from Darrius Culpepper, a law fellow at Redemption Earned, Inc., and Paul Littlejohn, a subject matter expert who experienced incarceration for 35 years.

    “My time with Redemption Earned has shown me how time can change people,” said Thomas. “It's something we hear all the time, but I got to experience it firsthand.”

    That experience led her to present at UAB’s Service Learning and Undergraduate Research Expo. Thomas created a poster highlighting her research and work with Redemption Earned, Inc., and she went on to win first place in the Social and Behavioral Sciences for Online Poster Presentations.

    Moving Forward

    As Blankenship reflects on Thomas’ research and accomplishments, he acknowledges the value of students “building a body of work” and doing work that energizes them. Now, Blankenship’s vision for experiential learning has uncovered a new priority for future community engagement efforts within the program. Moving forward, Blankenship and his team plan to focus their attention on ensuring that students in Alabama are reading on grade-level by the fourth grade. At first, some may wonder how literacy fits into the community work of the Pre-Law Program—for Blankenship, the answer is clear.

    “I see pre-law as cradle to grave. I really think our pre-law journey, as far as UAB’s concerned, really starts with elementary-level reading,” said Blankenship. “If our [pre-law] students can participate in helping students be on grade-level with their reading by fourth grade, then those fourth graders have an opportunity to one day practice law… if that’s what they want to do.”

    And, perhaps, that is the overarching goal of the UAB Pre-Law program. Connecting students of all ages with learning experiences and community partners to ensure anyone who wishes to pursue a career in law can do so. Thankfully, the program is getting closer to achieving that goal each day.

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  • Seven students receive 2022 Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate and Graduate Students

    Each academic year, the UAB College of Arts and Sciences receives departmental nominations for the Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate Students and Outstanding Graduate Students.

    Each academic year, the UAB College of Arts and Sciences receives departmental nominations for the Dean’s Awards for Outstanding Undergraduate Students and Outstanding Graduate Students. The dean’s selection committee gives these awards to exceptional undergraduate and graduate students in the College who have made significant contributions to the UAB community.

    After carefully reviewing the 2022 nominations—which include detailed recommendation letters from faculty members and mentors—Dean Kecia M. Thomas, Ph.D., and her committee have selected four undergraduate students and three graduate students for the awards. At the upcoming 2022 commencement ceremonies, the College will acknowledge and celebrate the recipients.

    Congratulations to the following students for receiving this prestigious award:

    2022 Undergraduate Dean’s Awards

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    2022 Graduate Dean’s Awards

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  • Applied Professional Spanish students build awareness and skills through service-learning partnership

    Students are applying their knowledge and skills in real-world settings through a collaborative service-learning partnership between the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and the Alabama Interfaith Refugee Partnership (ALIRP).

    Students in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) College of Arts and Sciences are applying their knowledge and skills in real-world settings through a collaborative service-learning partnership between the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and the Alabama Interfaith Refugee Partnership (ALIRP).

    In Fall 2021, Lourdes Sánchez-López, Ph.D, professor of Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, taught SPA 485 Spanish for Leadership at the Workplace, a capstone course for the Applied Professional Spanish major concentration. In the course, students develop leadership skills, explore career pathways, and practice their applied professional Spanish through service-learning. Since the course has a strong emphasis on service-learning, Sánchez-López connects students with well-established community partners to explore and transform Birmingham’s linguistic landscape. By doing so, the students—alongside the community partner(s)—make public spaces more accessible, inclusive, and welcoming to the Spanish-speaking community.

    In the fall, Sánchez-López connected 15 of her students with the ALIRP, an interfaith group of religious leaders and laypersons who help refugees and asylum-seekers. Throughout the semester, students translated the organization’s website and other resources to Spanish to make the information accessible to ALIRP´s Spanish-speaking refugee families—many of which are from Central America—as well as for Spanish-speaking volunteers.

    “This service-learning project is meaningful, and it contributes greatly to the transformation of Birmingham´s linguistic landscape,” said Sánchez-López. “The Applied Professional Spanish students made an important contribution in our joint journey to more equitable access to resources for all. I am very proud of each one of them.”

    One of the course objectives for SPA 485 is for students “to acquire a more profound understanding and appreciation of one´s own community.” According to Lindi Deboer, a recent UAB alumna who participated in SPA 485, the course clearly achieved that goal.

    “My time working with the ALIRP was a humbling and rewarding experience. I was able to learn about the pressing issues impacting immigrant families, as well as the support the ALIRP gives them,” said Deboer. “As a Spanish major, being able to help Hispanic immigrant families by translating the ALIRP’s resource guide was very special. I could not have done it without such an amazing team—Lisandra Carballoza Quesada, Dalton Scott, Jane Vines, Lynda Wilson, Katherine Fulcher, and Dr. Sánchez-López—who were very encouraging, attentive, and compassionate.”

    The team at the ALIRP also viewed the experience as a success. Specifically, Lynda Wilson, president of the ALIRP, believes the partnership helped the organization reach more people and deepen its impact.

    “These resources will be extremely helpful for ALIRP volunteers and asylum-seeking families that we serve,” said Wilson. “Thanks to this wonderful collaboration, the ALIRP will be able to expand its reach to the Spanish-speaking community in Birmingham and beyond. We are extremely grateful to Dr. Sánchez-López for her leadership in developing this collaboration!”

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  • History students author stories for “Alabama Heritage” blog

    Kaye Cochran Nail, instructor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of History, is finding innovative ways for her History of Alabama (HC-116 2C) students to craft and share public history stories with audiences across the state.

    Kaye Cochran Nail, instructor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of History, is finding innovative ways for her History of Alabama (HC-116 2C) students to craft and share public history stories with audiences across the state.

    Prior to the Fall 2021 semester, Nail connected with Rebecca Minder, director of Alabama Heritage magazine, to co-create a new learning opportunity for undergraduate students at UAB. Minder quickly noted that the magazine—which is officially co-published by UAB, the University of Alabama, and the Alabama Department of Archives and History—has a popular blog that regularly needs well-researched and engaging content. Together, Nail and Minder decided the students were well-positioned to support this valuable storytelling effort.

    “It has turned out to be a great way for our UAB students to join with other students to publish blogs on interesting topics related to Alabama history,” said Nail.

    So far, her students have published eight blogs on topics including the Tuskegee syphilis study, the Battle of Mobile Bay, and Lewis Smith Lake. Throughout the remainder of the semester, students will continue to author and publish pieces for the website.

    "We are honored and excited to be working with the young scholars in Kaye Cochran Nail's Alabama history course this semester,” said Susan E. Reynolds, Ph.D., editor of Alabama Heritage magazine. “Their contributions to our blog have been valuable to our readership, and we think it is wonderful that these students are taking an interest in our state's history. We hope to continue this partnership in the future so that more students will be able to engage in the Alabama history community.”

    Moving forward, Nail hopes to deepen the partnership with Alabama Heritage magazine and create more opportunities for students to obtain hands-on experience with public history.

    According to Jonathan Wiesen, Ph.D., chair of the Department of History, “It is inspiring to see our students so engaged in Public History with these blog entries. This is exactly the kind of community engagement that I love to see at UAB—students using their knowledge of history in service of educating our fellow Alabamians.”

    Read the Alabama Heritage blog.

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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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  • Supporting a global classroom

    A world traveler’s planned gift helps students embark on journeys of transformation.

    William Doggett III, M.D., had an insatiable desire to travel and to learn. In fact, he believed that traveling was learning, says his brother David Doggett.

    “Foreign travel was not just a vacation or adventure to Bill,” David says. “It was a way to explore and understand more of the world and more about himself, and knowing how to speak even a little of another language helped him do that.”

    Study abroad was a critical component of William’s education. He spent a semester in France while pursuing his undergraduate degree, and after earning his medical degree from UAB, he attended summer institutes in England and France. William, who passed away in 2012, spent 35 years as an internist and pulmonary specialist in Birmingham. During his career, he took more than 40 courses at UAB on all sorts of topics—German language, Russian literature, piano, art, astronomy, and more. “His learning experiences at UAB were probably his greatest source of delight,” David says.

    To share his passions and to thank UAB for the many ways it contributed to his quality of life, William left a bequest to establish the Dr. William E. Doggett III Endowed Support Fund for the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and to support the existing Grace Lindsley Waits Endowed Scholarship, which he had previously established. “My brother wanted his gift to enable others to expand their experience of the world through the study of language,” David says.

    The fund is accomplishing that goal, says Erika Rinker, Ph.D., assistant professor of German at UAB. “Dr. Doggett has given a gift greater than the monetary value of international airfare when he made possible the transformative experience of a summer, a semester, or a year in another country,” she says.

    “Students who feel supported in their study of another language, and especially those who enjoy the privilege of enriching their educations abroad, serve as ambassadors and return as advocates voicing their own support for the very initiatives and priorities identified by the College of Arts and Sciences,” Rinker notes. “They become our most genuine global citizen-scholars, and I am grateful to be able to work with the Doggett family to help extend our students’ worldviews.”

    Two students who have benefited from William Doggett’s generosity describe experiences abroad that have advanced their education and prepared them for successful careers:

    Leah Perz: Study abroad in Paris, France

    “My first study abroad experience was a month in Paris on a UAB faculty-led trip. I was awarded the Dr. William E. Doggett III Endowed Study Abroad Scholarship in Foreign Languages and Literatures, and that helped make the trip a reality by offsetting many expenses. My mornings were spent in French classes at a language institute in the heart of the city, and I had the afternoons to explore Paris and immerse myself in the culture.

    During my last full day in the city, I explored the area near the Arc de Triomphe. I walked along the Champs-Élysées and located the underground tunnel that gives access to the Arc, which sits on an island surrounded by four lanes of traffic. To get to the top, I climbed the tiniest spiraling staircase, which was full of people—and I can get claustrophobic. But I was rewarded with the most incredible view of the city. A lot of people think the view from the Eiffel Tower is the best, but I loved this panoramic view because I could also enjoy that iconic landmark while taking in the City of Lights.

    That month made me realize how much I want to improve my language learning and spend more time in France. In the fall, I’m planning to spend a semester in Lyon, France. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to afford the trip, but then I was awarded the Dr. William E. Doggett III Endowed Scholarship for Foreign Languages and Literatures. It will be my main source of financial aid during the semester and has allowed me to feel comfortable making this decision. Because of Dr. Doggett’s generosity, I can keep working toward my goal of fluency and a greater understanding of another culture.”

    Leah Perz graduated May 2020 with a B.A. degree in international studies and a B.A. in foreign languages with a French concentration. She’s from Moody, Alabama, and plans to pursue a master’s degree and eventually work in transnational anti-human trafficking endeavors.

    Meghan Ballard: Study abroad in Salamanca, Spain

    “I spent five weeks in Salamanca this past summer, thanks to the Dr. William E. Doggett III Endowed Study Abroad Scholarship in Foreign Languages and Literatures. I had taken about five years of Spanish, but I wasn’t sure how I would do talking with people who didn’t speak any English. I got to live with a host family, and that experience helped me tremendously. I feel a lot more accomplished and able to speak confidently now.

    My roommate and I—another UAB student who ended up becoming one of my best friends—would have lunch and dinner with my host family every day. And on the weekends, we occasionally would join them on hikes. One was especially memorable. It was 12 miles long—quite far for us, but for my family who is used to walking everywhere, it was nothing. By the end of the hike, my friend and I were exhausted. We could barely move. But I’ll never forget that day because we got to see parts of the Spanish countryside we’d never seen before. And we got to experience what my host family does for fun.

    I had been saving money to make this trip happen, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to afford it until I received the scholarship. Living abroad gave me an education I never would have had in the classroom. I experienced food, people, culture. Plus I improved in my Spanish-speaking abilities. I would highly recommend studying abroad to anyone studying a foreign language.”

    Meghan Ballard graduated in May 2020 with a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in foreign languages with a Spanish concentration. She's from Arab, Alabama, and plans to pursue a career in federal law enforcement or intelligence.

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  • Translating with the future in mind

    During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lourdes Sánchez-López, Ph.D., professor of Spanish in the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, received an unexpected invitation.

    Lourdes Sánchez-López, Ph.D.During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lourdes Sánchez-López, Ph.D., professor of Spanish in the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, received an unexpected invitation.

    At the time, public health experts and campus communicators across UAB were working swiftly to share information about the emerging pandemic with faculty, students, staff, and the community. The effort — now known as UAB United — was instrumental in raising awareness of the pandemic and prompting people across UAB and beyond to take measures to limit risk and exposure to the virus. That said, the team behind the campaign recognized one substantial gap in its communications assets — everything was in English.

    Sánchez-López is an avid proponent of making Birmingham a more equitable and inclusive community for Spanish-speaking residents. So, when UAB reached out and asked for her assistance in translating the COVID-19 messages for those residents, she did not hesitate to offer her expertise and support. She, along with her colleague María Antonia Anderson de la Torre, Ph.D., translated the website content and signage in a relatively short period of time and learned a lot along the way.

    Through this experience, Sánchez-López was inspired to take a broader, systems level view of the issue presented by the UAB United campaign. As she contemplated future translation projects, she looked to her service learning courses (FLL 333 – Foreign Language Service Learning and SPA 485 – Spanish for Leadership in the Workplace) in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. Historically, the courses included significant capstone projects where students worked alongside nonprofit organizatiosn to address a challenge or opportunity — clearly, there was a need to reimagine the capstone component of the courses during the pandemic.

    "I knew students could not be in the community due to COVID-19," said Sánchez-López. "I decided to ask my students to help nonprofits that serve the Latinx community and translate their website content, therefore addressing the disparity in our linguistic landscape."

    Emma Kate Sellers was one of the students in Sánchez-López's Foreign Language Service Learning class and is also pursuing her Spanish for Specific Purposes Certificate. For her capstone, she translated content for the 1917 Clinic at UAB, the largest HIV health care unit in Alabama and one of the country’s leading HIV clinics. Sánchez-López encouraged Sellers to work with the 1917 Clinic because she knew the institution aligned with Sellers's interests and passions. Her project was entitled, "Improving Access to HIV Care for Spanish-Speakers at UAB's 1917 Clinic," which she presented at the 2021 UAB Expo and garnered her the first place award in the service learning category.

    "Service-learning allows students to apply the content we learn in the classroom to real-life situations, which is what I was able to do by working with the 1917 Clinic to translate their website," said Sellers. "In class, we covered the importance of translation and interpretation in making healthcare more accessible to non-English speakers, which I was able to apply through my service-learning project."

    Other students in the Spanish for Leadership class partnered with nonprofit organizations outside of UAB, including the Coosa Riverkeeper, Cahaba Valley Health Care, and the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.

    For each student, Sánchez-López aimed to illuminate potential career pathways.

    Through the capstone projects, some students, including Sellers, actually discovered they do not wish to pursue careers in translation, which, according to Sánchez-López, is a valuable insight to uncover before graduating and entering the workforce.

    "While I do not want to be a translator in the future, this course did solidify my passion for health equity and collaborating with community partners, and I am grateful that myself, the clinic, and patients all benefitted from this partnership," said Sellers.

    According to Sánchez-López, these first-ever website translation projects deepened relationships with community partners and catalyzed long-term change for Spanish-speaking residents in Birmingham and the community’s linguistic landscape. "It's a sustainable approach," said Sánchez-López.

    Visit the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures website to learn more about the Spanish for Specific Purposes Certificate.

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  • Parker Rose, UAB’s first Beinecke Scholar, accepted to UCLA's doctoral program in philosophy

    On May 1, Parker Rose graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham's College of Arts and Sciences. Rose navigated rigorous coursework and built long-lasting relationships while pursuing her degree – those experiences, according to Rose, substantially impacted her approach to living and learning in the world.

    On May 1, Parker Rose graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham's College of Arts and Sciences. Rose navigated rigorous coursework and built long-lasting relationships while pursuing her degree – those experiences, according to Rose, substantially impacted her approach to living and learning in the world.

    During her time at UAB, Rose served as president of the UAB Philosophy Club for two years, was the student representative for the Department of Philosophy, and was also an opinion columnist for Kaleidoscope, UAB’s student-run news outlet. Rose plans to pursue her Ph.D. in philosophy and was accepted into the esteemed doctoral program at UCLA beginning this fall.

    Rose credits UAB for providing an environment that ensures the growth of its students.

    "It was this environment that really allowed me to flourish and in which I learned what I was truly capable of," she said.

    Rose made a profound impression on faculty members across the Department of Philosophy, including department chair David Chan, Ph.D. and Brynn Welch, Ph.D., a recipient of the 2021 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

    "Parker is exceptional in every way: brilliant, hard-working, reflective, and just such a wonderfully kind person," said Welch, assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy. "I'm over the moon about her success but not the least bit surprised by it. UCLA is very lucky to have her. We certainly have been."

    Rose was awarded the prestigious Beinecke Scholarship in 2020 to pursue graduate education, becoming UAB’s first-ever Beinecke Scholar. The scholarship provides awardees $4,000 immediately before entering graduate school and an additional $30,000 while attending graduate school.

    The Beinecke Scholarship Program encourages and enables exceptional students to pursue a graduate course of study in the arts, humanities, or social sciences. Each participating institution in the Beinecke Scholarship Program may nominate only one student and Rose was chosen as UAB’s 2020 nominee.

    Rose also expressed thanks to her mentors and advisors in the Department of Philosophy and the College of Arts and Sciences.

    "My mentors in the philosophy department taught me the value of collaboration, openness, and encouraging one another towards getting to the truth over winning an argument," said Rose. “In my experiences at UAB more broadly, I was consistently impressed by the level of care and attention that advisors put into ensuring an ideal environment for the growth of their students.”

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  • Double major Veronica Mixon has a passion for mental health advocacy

    Pursuing a double major requires focus, effort, and passion. Add a global pandemic to the situation, and the experience becomes even more complex.

    Pursuing a double major requires focus, effort, and passion. Add a global pandemic to the situation, and the experience becomes even more complex.

    Veronica Mixon, a graduating senior in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences who will earn a Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology this spring, navigated the experience with grace.

    “Since I’ve been at UAB, I’ve learned the importance of self-care and community. I’m on the spectrum for Autism, and, before UAB, I always felt isolation and exhausted from masking 24/7,” said Mixon. “However, I learned how to manage my self-care and create boundaries that made it easier to feel comfortable in social settings. My experiences in the African American Studies Program really helped lay the foundation of my growth through the support I received from my mentors, professors, and friends.”

    According to her professors and mentors, Mixon did in fact lay a strong foundation from which she grew and thrived. Her hard work garnered her both praise and scholarship opportunities throughout her tenure at UAB. She is a McNair Scholar and earned both the College of Arts and Science’s Dean’s Leadership Scholarship and the African American Studies Director’s Award. Also, she won the 2021 College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Dean’s Award and the Outstanding Student Award for African American Studies, and, last April, she was initiated into the historic Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

    “Veronica is passionate about learning and an advocate of social justice. She is not afraid to speak out on issues affecting the quality of life in our society or show compassion towards those who need a ‘voice,’” said Kathryn Morgan, Ph.D., director of the African American Studies Program. “In my academic career, I have encountered students who are certain to succeed and sure to make a difference. I find myself grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the educational experience of these students. Veronica is one such student.”

    Alongside her academic pursuits and achievements, Mixon is also the President of the African American Studies Organization, a Research Assistant in C.L.A.Y.S Lab in the Department of Psychology, and a mental health advocate. Her commitment to and interest in mental health will lead her to become one of the first students to attain the Certificate in Mental Health from the Department of Psychology this spring. Also, as a result of her work as an intern, mentor, and suicide prevention advocate, UAB’s Student Counseling Services named her a Mental Health Champion.

    Through courses like Black Psychology and an emphasis in global health and justice studies, Mixon has found numerous points of intersection between African American studies and psychology. Recently, she shared her insights at a panel entitled “Breaking Down Barriers: Supporting Marginalized Communities During COVID-19,” which was sponsored by Kognito, a health simulation company. By building her critical thinking skills with an interdisciplinary focus, she is now in a position to pursue her career goals.

    Mixon looks to the future with both optimism and excitement. “After graduation, I will be attending the Community Psychology Master’s Program at Florida A&M University,” said Mixon. “I plan to do a thesis and focus on mental health, racial identity, and social connectedness among people of African Descent. After my master’s, I plan to apply to clinical psychology Ph.D. programs!”

    Dr. Morgan is also optimistic about Mixon’s future. “She achieves excellence in everything that she does, and I know, without reservation, that she will be excellent in her future endeavors,” said Dr. Morgan.

    As Mixon prepares to graduate magna cum laude with distinguished honors and reflects on this past year, she has many thoughts regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think UAB students did an amazing job of being resilient,” said Mixon. “It’s important for us to give ourselves grace and not put ourselves to an unrealistic standard when we had so many negative things come our way. I genuinely believe that everyone overcame the semester in the best way they could.”

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  • Musical Theatre grads look to the future

    This academic year has been unlike any other. Students and faculty have navigated unprecedented complexity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and, over the course of the past 14 months, they have exemplified resiliency and creativity.

    Justine Grace Nelson, Laurel Floen, and Diego Villanueva

    This academic year has been unlike any other. Students and faculty have navigated unprecedented complexity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and, over the course of the past 14 months, they have exemplified resiliency and creativity.

    In the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Theatre, three graduating seniors are preparing for their next steps, while taking some time to reflect on their experiences over the past year.

    "Obviously, this was not the senior year any of us had planned,” said Justine Grace Nelson, a senior who will earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre this spring. “We have taken advantage of technology and created professional online presences showcasing our work and learned so much about the business side of the industry this year.”

    By leveraging technology and an adaptable spirit, the faculty in the Department of Theatre have ensured students still receive a world-class educational experience even when they are remote and/or wearing masks and socially distanced.

    “I have been so inspired by these strong and resilient students and artists,” said Valerie Accetta, Head of Musical Theatre at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “This is not at all the senior year they envisioned when they started at UAB, but even in the midst of a global pandemic, they have continued to do committed work and claim their unique artistic voices.”

    One of Accetta’s inspiring students is Laurel Floen. As she approaches graduation, Floen recently reflected on her experience in the musical theatre program and uncovered an eye-opening discovery. “When we turn the spotlight off ourselves and use it to shine light outwards through our work, that’s when we hit gold,” said Floen.

    Floen also feels a deep and unwavering bond with her fellow musical theatre seniors, including Nelson and Diego Villanueva.

    For Villanueva, the pandemic did not stop him from envisioning a future that is dynamic and bright. “Once I graduate, I will be headed to Rehoboth, Delaware joining Clear Space Theatre in their summer season,” said Villanueva. Afterwards, he will participate in a year-long apprenticeship with the Florida Repertory Theatre in Fort Myers, Florida, then he will be off to New York City.

    Nelson is also pursuing her dreams in the Sunshine State. “I am currently in Florida already working on my first professional post-grad production as Peppermint Patty in ThinkTank’s production of Snoopy," said Nelson.

    In August, Floen plans to move to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to start an internship with Good to Go Theater. Philadelphia also presents Floen with an added benefit – proximity to New York City. “I might even take the two-hour train ride to New York City to visit friends and audition more once everything opens again,” said Floen.

    All three students note their appreciation for the faculty in the Department of Theatre for providing immense support and mentorship during this unpredictable year. For Accetta, creating such a nurturing environment was a pleasure. “Laurel, Justine, and Diego are simply beautiful humans, and I feel so lucky to have shared in their journey,” Accetta said.

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