UAB helped student write her future

UAB’s community of honor students and artists drew aspiring poet to campus.

Ashley Jones knew about the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s reputation for churning out top scientists and physicians. As a rising high-school senior with aspirations of becoming a writer, though, she wondered if UAB would be a good fit.

Ashley_Jones_webAfter visiting the campus and learning more about the Department of English and the notable University Honors Program, Jones felt sure that the college would have what it takes to help guide her toward her literary goals.

Today, Jones is on her way. On Saturday, May 12, 2012, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing. She will leave UAB with experience writing award-winning poems, editing literary journals and with a prestigious fellowship to attend Florida International University in pursuit of a master’s of fine arts degree in poetry.

“UAB offers a close community of artists and a thriving city in which to display that art,” she says.

Jones will be the undergraduate commencement speaker for the 9:30 a.m. service.

The Birmingham native has been writing ever since she was in second grade, she says, when she was instructed to pen and publish (well, laminate) her own book. Jones officially became a writer in sixth grade, she says. That’s when her language arts teacher asked her to write poetry and she responded by musing about autumn, the African-American experience and even love.

“It is the truest form of expression,” she says. “Turns of phrases interest me; you can express life in a distilled form.”

Your mama
grew in
Alabama weeds,
tongue thick as
You can say
ain’t and it’s
all right.
You can turn
r’s like tumbleweed.
It’s all right.

(From “Rumba Baby” by Ashley Jones)

Jones went on to attend Alabama School of Fine Arts and studied poetry. She first set foot on UAB’s campus as part of a college campus tour. She approached the school thinking, “If you are not out of state then you are not going to college,” she says. But, when she visited the honors program that offered unique seminars, opportunities to work hands-on with world-renowned faculty and a community of talented and intellectually-curious students, it stood out.

“It was a small community of scholars like at ASFA,” she says. There, she would be able to get the university feel she craved but also the intimate embrace of a core of group of artists like herself.

She was sold.

“The strongest aspect of UAB’s English department, and, perhaps, the entire humanities program, is the community feel,” she says. “All of our professors know us and the way we write, and that makes growing as a writer so much more rewarding.”

Jones didn’t just learn how to write, she says; she was taught how to be a writer, a marketable one.

She interned with the Ada Long Creative Writing Workshop, and this summer she will be one of its faculty. Jones has worked with literary journals, including the student publication Aura, PMS and Birmingham Poetry Review. She has conducted literary research for a critically acclaimed book project and made presentations at honor conferences around the country.

After graduate school, Jones plans to teach and pursue a doctorate in higher education administration.

She’s such a fan of her UAB experience that she hopes to one day be its No. 1 wordsmith, as college president.

“I would absolutely love to,” she says. “UAB has done so much for me.”