Category: News

New Faculty Tour Introduces University/Community Collaboration

By Taylor Armer, Yiben Liu, and Kirsten Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistants

The University of Alabama’s Division of Community Affairs conducted its first New Faculty Community Engagement Tour of West Alabama counties Wednesday through Friday, May 10–12, 2017. The tour, “Exploring New Places, Meeting New People and Engaging New Communities,” was aptly titled, as before the trip most participants had only limited exposure to an area so important to the state’s history.

The tour was created to help researchers connect with community partners and bring together the interests of new faculty, along with key administrators and undergraduate and graduate students, to community needs through research partnerships. These partnerships help fulfill the University’s mission, which reads in part, “to advance the intellectual and social condition of the people of the state, the nation and the world through … an emphasis on quality programs in the areas of teaching, research and service.”

Day One

A diverse group of UA faculty and staff, graduate and undergraduate students boarded a charter bus at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 10. Across each county — Greene, Hale and Tuscaloosa — panelists expressed their pride in and demonstrated their knowledge of the different communities and institutions they represented. Again and again tour members expressed their appreciation for the chance to go on the tour, how much they learned and how enthusiastically they were welcomed at the different sites.

Dr. James Gilbreath, a UA reference and instructional librarian, spoke for many when he said that although he had lived in Alabama his entire life, the tour of landmark civil rights sites and the opportunity to observe so many effective examples of community-engaged scholarship in action constituted an “unforgettable experience.” The Birmingham native said, “I will carry the memories of the trip with me for the rest of my life.”

The first stop was Eutaw, where the group learned about initiatives from members of the county’s Children’s Policy Council (CPC). CPC supports children’s services in the areas of economic security, health, safety, education, parental involvement/skills and early care. Panelists were Phyllis Belcher, executive director of the Greene County Industrial Development Board; Dr. Carol Zippert, Greene County School System board member and co-publisher of the Greene County Democrat; Mildred Morgan, facilitator of the CPC Strengthening Family Program; Dr. James Carter, superintendent of the Greene County School System; and Julie Spree, Greene County probate judge.

Before the panel began, District Court Judge Lillie Jones-Osborne pointed the group’s attention to the large portraits of local civil rights activists that served as the panel’s background. The portraits were placed there as part of the county’s Annual Trailblazer Program, just one of many CPC successful 2016–2017 school year projects.

The Strengthening Families Program, a six-week series of parenting classes, was one of those projects, as described by facilitator Mildred Morgan. During these classes, entire families came together to engage in healthy communication, Morgan said, reinforcing the importance of family gatherings, especially for meals.

At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greensboro, the visitors listened to a panel led by Buzzy Barnette, owner of one of the town’s best-known stores, Barnette Furniture. Afterward, they shared a catered lunch and dessert from Greensboro’s famous Pie Lab, which has become an international destination. It was established in 2009 in an abandoned pool hall to promote social change over a delicious meal. As the groups soon learned, Pie Lab represented only one slice of the many active community-engaged projects in Greensboro — a town of about 2,500 people.

Other members of the panel were Laramie Long, director of the Greensboro Boys and Girls Club; Osie Pickens, member of the Hale County Board of Education; John Dorsey, director, Project Horseshoe Farm; Evelyn Chambers, member of the Greensboro City Council; Shay Fondren, CEO of Hale County Hospital; and Winifred Cobbs, board president of the Greensboro Opera House.

According to Dorsey, Horseshoe Farm has been a part of the Greensboro community since 2007. Among the many programs of this service and leadership development organization are its youth-based initiatives, such as the after-school program designed to improve local K–8 students’ academic performance on standardized math and reading tests. Its base of operations on Main Street is expanding into adjacent space to accommodate future medical residents coming to Greensboro and for classrooms and other uses.

Another group is working on the Opera House as a multipurpose cultural center. Built in 1903, the building sat empty for more than a half-century until Cobbs and her cohorts raised funds to purchase it. With additional grant funding from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the non-profit organization has restored the downstairs portion of the two-story building. Cobbs hopes to secure additional grants and funding to restore the upstairs theater so that Greensboro citizens can fully enjoy the cultural experience.

Before leaving Greensboro, the UA group gathered at the Safe House Black History Museum. The Museum, a modest, shotgun-style house, was the exact location where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sought refuge from the Ku Klux Klan in 1968. Enlarged quotes alongside photos and historical artifacts from that era are found throughout one of the property’s buildings. Theresa Burroughs, Safe House director, said the building encapsulates the struggle for civil rights in Alabama. An active participant of the Civil Rights Movement and friend of the King family, Burroughs walked the UA group down the “freedom” trail (a glass hallway) to the connecting “future” building, where several photos celebrate the movement’s achievements in Alabama and America.

After a 50-minute drive from Greensboro, the UA group reached its last stop of Day 1 at Holt High School, a county school northeast of Tuscaloosa. Members of the panel, reflecting community partners, UA faculty and local educators, shared their work on many projects in the Tuscaloosa and Holt communities.

Panelists were Amanda Waller, executive director of Tuscaloosa’s One Place; Debbie Crawford, principal of Holt Elementary School; Helen Sides, chair of Holt in Action; Aundrea Thomas, president of Holt Community Partnership; UA Professor of geropsychology Dr. Rebecca Allen, representing Project SOAR; Dr. Jen Nickelson, associate professor of Health Science, representing Holt Community Partnerships Health Lab; UA Associate Professor of developmental psychology Dr. Jeff Parker, working with local schools to stem pet overpopulation and other projects; UA Assistant Professor of social work Dr. Tania Alameda-Lawson, Alabama TOPS, a program for at-risk youth; and Jay Logan, director of community outreach for the Tuscaloosa County Parks and Recreation Authority.

It quickly became evident that many of the panelists had partnered together in some capacity within the Tuscaloosa, Holt and surrounding communities. For example, Alabama TOPS is a University/community-school partnership among Holt Elementary School, Tuscaloosa’s One Place, and UA’s College of Education and School of Social Work. The two-pronged program teaches personal and social responsibility through a sports-based after-school program that has reached 70 participating students this school year, according to Alameda-Lawson.

The family and community engagement component helps families within the community, many of whom live well below the poverty line. A Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) seed grant will expand this program to parents with children in Davis-Emerson Middle School during the 2017–2018 academic year.

Waller called attention to the parenting program Changing Habits and Making Parents Stronger (CHAMPS) as a Holt community program that has helped non-custodial fathers interact positively with their children. “We believe that stronger families make stronger communities,” Waller said, and that these programs provide needed resources to families.


Day Two

On May 11, the tour visited Pickens County Medical Center and Pickens County Courthouse; Hill Hospital and Coleman Center for the Arts and Culture in Sumter County; and Judson College and Marion Military Institute in Perry County.

At the Pickens County Medical Center, the UA group attended a panel discussion made up of representatives of Pickens County. Dr. Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs at UA, opened the discussion by introducing the main purpose and mission of the tours. Panelists then described some of the key engagement projects being implemented in the area and the possible partnerships they hoped to attract from UA. Partners with unique talents, such as experts in nutrition and health care, were mentioned as those needed the most.

Dr. Michele Montgomery and Dr. Paige Johnson from the Capstone College of Nursing said that starting with seed fund grants from the Council on Community-Based Partnerships, initiatives have been implemented that focus on health promotion and disease prevention, as well as engaging the students with rural areas surrounding the University.

Montgomery discussed an earlier initiative of health screening of cardiovascular risk factors for the pre-school children in Carrollton (Pickens County) and Tuscaloosa. Johnson said the College of Nursing is planning to extend the screening process to all of Pickens County. Johnson assured those in attendance that UA “is not going to go away. We’re going to be here!”

Jim Marshall, CEO of Pickens County Medical Center, described cooperative efforts to increase the volume of business of the hospital. According to Marshall, communication and education are very important to a rural hospital like Pickens County Health Center because people’s lack of information of what the hospital can do not only affects their health, but also results in loss of patients for the hospital. He said he hoped future partnerships with UA would focus on information dissemination and follow-ups beneficial to the hospital.

Other panelists were Tony Junkin, District 3 county commissioner; Gordo Mayor Craig Patterson; Superintendent of Pickens County Schools Jamie Chapman; and Courtney Rentas, a 2016 UA graduate and Goldwater Scholar and now a University of Alabama/Pickens County Partnership Fellow.

After touring the Pickens County Medical Center, the group visited the Pickens County Courthouse. Patti Presley-Fuller, County Extension coordinator, told the visitors the famous ghost story of former slave Henry Wells’ image etched in one of the windows of the building. The story of “The Face in the Courthouse Window” became one of author Kathryn Tucker Windham’s famous ghost stories. Some in the group claimed they could see the famous image etched in a windowpane on the upper level of the building.

At Sumter County, the group first visited Coleman Center for the Arts and Culture, a local museum and art education center for grassroots artists. Jackie Clay, director of the Center, said that the center is holding a multi-disciplinary summer camp and is always looking for new partners. The group attended a second panel discussion at Hill Hospital.

Tommie Campbell, chairperson of Sumter School Board, said, “Good things are happening in Livingston Sumter County school system.” She and Tramene Maye, Livingston Junior High School principal, cited a growing reputation for high achievements by students, new facilities and initiatives in process and the ongoing programs aiming to increase student standardized test scores.

Loretta Wilson, administrator of Hill Hospital, stressed the need to maintain partnerships with different organizations to deliver medical services to the community. According to Wilson, with the new federal value-based payment system, the role of prevention has become more important in medical service delivery. Networking with organizations like UA, she said, helps in these goals.

Other panel members were Marcus Campbell, District 2 county commissioner; Tommie Armistead, District 4 county commissioner; and Jackie Clay, Coleman Center for the Arts and Culture director.

The third stop of the tour was Perry County. The group made a brief visit to Jewett Hall on the Judson College campus. Then they reached the last stop, Marion Military Institute. Originated in 1842, the Institute is a two-year military junior college offering an associate’s degree and military training to equip students with leadership skills and character development, as well as the basis for continuing their education at a four-year college or university.

Col. David J. Mollahan, Marion Military Institute president, outlined the history of the college. Chris Joiner, executive director of Renaissance Marion, a local community non-profit organization, and Davis Jackson, coordinator of 57 Miles, a student and faculty engagement program named for the distance between UA and Marion, expressed their desire to continue the establishment of sustainable partnerships with UA to fulfill the promise of Marion’s tomorrow.

Other panelists were Col. Ed Passmore, acting commandant and director of MMI’s Center for Service Leadership, and Amy Butler, coordinator of Faith-Based Service Learning at Judson College.

After each panel discussion, UA faculty members also described their research interests and discussed the possibility of future collaboration. Staff members of the Division of Community Affairs and CCBP also explained some of UA’s ongoing initiatives and programs to them. For example:

After the second day of the engagement tours, participants expressed their appreciation for the tour. “What I like most is how varied the different visits were … we can really see the scope of potential involvement for UA,” said Dr. Susan Carvalho, UA Graduate School dean. “The graduate program can find a great deal of inspiration in the partnerships that could be built or have already been built with these communities.”

Dr. Gilbreath, who had been especially impressed during the first day’s stops at civil rights landmarks, called Day 2 tremendous and the overall program brilliant. Even though an Alabama native, he said he still found the trip really eye-opening.

Katherine S. Eastman, a clinical and technical services librarian originally from California, said, “I have written down probably 500 different ideas. I’m definitely going to pursue more projects,” including helping Hill Hospital in Sumter County with materials related to their emphasis on disease prevention.


Day Three

On the third day of the tour administrators, faculty, staff and student researchers continued to explore new places, meet new people and engage new communities. Several members of the group had attended all three days, while others were just joining the tour. Yet each person on the tour found it informative and thought-provoking.

“I haven’t seen enough of Alabama since I’ve been here and I wanted to understand how student projects are sustainable and what kind of projects can create continuity between the University and the community,” said Carvalho, who spent two days touring with the group and came to UA in July 2016. “I’ve been impressed with the innovation within each of the communities as they work with the assets they have, and I’ve learned more about the resources UA can bring to bear.”

The day began at the Thomasville Civic Center before traveling to the Golden Dragon Plant in Pine Hill, both in Wilcox County. The panel discussion in Thomasville was led by Mayor Sheldon Day, with panel members from the county, city, school and business communities. The group discussed how they’ve created synergy by sharing resources to create more opportunities for citizens.

“What the library was doing in Thomasville was so amazing, making community crossroads for training and workforce development, and access to the Internet,” Carvalho said.

Several tour members were from the Chinese Sisterhood of Tuscaloosa organization and most had no idea there was a Chinese copper factory, Golden Dragon, roughly 100 miles from campus.

“I’m new to the University. This is my second year,” said Professor Di Luo, who teaches history. “I wanted to find opportunities to engage and I enjoyed the tour. It’s impressive to see how people can organize all kinds of things.”

Dr. Yuping Bao has taught chemical engineering at UA for nine years and said she approached Pruitt about assisting faculty and student groups in making these valuable connections with communities to help facilitate engaged research.

“He made it happen. I had no idea there was a Chinese factory in Wilcox County,” Bao said. “We may be able to help Golden Dragon.”

After lunch the group arrived in the Gee’s Bend community located in Boykin, Ala., where they met quilter Mary Ann Pettway, who told them how the quilters began their craft out of necessity, then sang a religious hymn for the group.

“I’m the seventh of twelve children,” she said. “We didn’t have beds, so we made quilts to sleep on the floor. Our homes were not warm enough.” Pettway now travels throughout the country telling the story of the Gee’s Bend Quilters. “They say it’s a dying art, but as long as I have breath, I’m going to keep it alive.” Pettway has served as manager of the quilting cooperative, where the women operate a gift shop and serve baked goods, since 2005. Several members of the group purchased quilted souvenirs.

At a second panel discussion, at the Marengo County History and Archives Museum, Thomas Moore Sr. led a panel composed of two school superintendents and two businessmen. They discussed how their community provides opportunities for its youth.

“Everything we do is moving toward technology and we have done extremely well in that area. Even being a rural school, academics still come first,” said Luther Hallmark, superintendent of Marengo County Schools.

The final panel discussion was led by CCBP Community Development Director Chris Spencer, joined by representatives from the non-profit, religious and business communities. The group discussed ideas for a reimagined and inclusive Selma with a thriving arts district.

“It had never dawned on that collective body that there are lots of communities within our community,” said Martha Lockett, a board member of the Black Belt Community Foundation and a supporter of Arts Revive, as she discussed Selma’s initial strategic planning meeting. “If we get Broad Street looking like gangbusters, and we get shops but people within a 10-block radius of Broad Street aren’t part of it, then we’ve failed in our mission. Some things are top-down, but energy is bottom-up.”

The tour would not have been complete without walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the footsteps of 600 marchers led by now U.S. Rep. John Lewis on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. Reflecting on her daily drive to Selma from Livingston, Felecia Lucky, president of the Black Belt Community Foundation, said, “To this day, when I see the Edmund Pettus Bridge I am often moved and in awe of what took place here and the impact that it had not only on this city, but on the world.”

The tour members said they felt more connected to the extended UA community after the tour.

“We often have opportunities for our students to get out and see things they wouldn’t see on their own, but I wanted that opportunity as well,” said Dr. Demetria Li, who has taught English to international students at UA for more than five years.

In addition to finding out about each community, tour members learned of assistance and training they could receive from CCBP staff and student assistants. Jim McLean, CCBP executive director, invited community members to register for free grant-writing training and told them about K–12 student workshops on campus.

Again and again tour members expressed their appreciation for the chance to go on the tour, how much they learned and how enthusiastically they were welcomed at the different sites. Tour members said they felt more connected to the extended UA community after the tour.

“This tour showed us some amazing things that are happening right in our own backyard,” said Pruitt. “It’s the first time the University has done something like this. We saw firsthand how our core mission of teaching, research and service is having a positive impact on communities in Alabama and beyond. It was especially helpful for some of our new faculty to get out and meet some of the people we are working with and have conversations that will strengthen current partnerships and lead to the development of others.”

Social Ethicist and Scholar of Religions Jonathan L. Walton Is 2017 Realizing the Dream Distinguished Lecturer

 

 


March 7, 2017

Tuscaloosa, Alabama — Dr. Jonathan L. Walton, a social ethicist and scholar of religions, is the 2017 Realizing the Dream distinguished lecturer. His address will take place Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m. in the Embassy Suites Ballroom.

Walton, who is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Professor of Religion and Society at Harvard Divinity School, has published widely in scholarly journals including Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation; and Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. His work and insights have been featured in national and international news outlets including The New York Times, CNN and the BBC.

Walton’s research addresses the intersections of religion, politics and media culture. He joined the faculty at Harvard in July 2010 and has been the Plummer Professor since being appointed to that position by Harvard University President Drew Faust in 2012. He also serves as the Pusey Minister in Harvard’s Memorial Church.

Walton recently received the Bennie Service Award in Religion from one of his alma maters, Morehouse College in Atlanta, at its 29th annual “A Candle in the Dark Gala,” which honors the achievements of men in business, entertainment and religion.

In addition to earning the BA in political science from Morehouse, Walton earned his PhD in religion and society and the MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is an ordained Baptist minister.

Walton serves on several professional boards and committees, including the board of trustees at Princeton Theological Seminary and the national advisory board of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.

His Realizing the Dream lecture in Tuscaloosa is free and open to the public.

Each year, the community celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with Realizing the Dream activities including a concert, Legacy Awards banquet, performing arts event, Unity Day programs and a lecture. The celebration, much of which takes place during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, is sponsored in part by an endowment from the Fiesta Bowl and is the work of an alliance comprised of Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and The University of Alabama.

Following Walton’s lecture, one additional event remains in the 2017 series. The Realizing the Dream performing arts event will be a sponsorship of Ragtime, the musical, presented by Theatre Tuscaloosa in cooperation with Shelton State Community College. Set in turn-of-the-century New York City, three inspiring stories of an upper-class wife who unexpectedly becomes a single mother, a determined Jewish immigrant and a daring, young Harlem musician are woven together in this 1998 Tony Award-winning musical. The show will run from Friday, July 14–Sunday, July 23 at the Bean-Brown Theatre. Tickets go on sale Thursday, March 30. For tickets, visit http://www.theatretusc.com.


 The UA Division of Community Affairs was created in 2004 and is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in community engagement. The division provided the leadership for the recent reaffirmation of the University’s Carnegie curricular and community engagement classification. The division also publishes the Journal of Community Engaged Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.

Chinese New Year Celebration Draws More Than 400 Participants




By Jianlong Yang
CCBP Student Assistant

A Chinese New Year party to celebrate the Year of the Rooster at the UA Ferguson Center on January 29 drew more than 400 attendees from Chinese and local families and University faculty and staff.

The event was co-sponsored by the Chinese Sisterhood of Tuscaloosa, the UA Division of Community Affairs and two of its affiliated units, the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) and Crossroads Community Center. The Sisterhood is composed of both UA students and members of the Tuscaloosa area Chinese community.

“Chinese Sisterhood Tuscaloosa is a 501c-3 nonprofit organization with the mission of promoting heritage, education and community in ways that enable groups from different backgrounds to learn and understand the culture of others,” said Yun Fu, CCBP program coordinator and one of the event organizers.

Sisterhood president Qiaoli Lang, a UA staff member in the chemistry department, said, “We decided to make it bigger and more inclusive this year.”

Guests, who were greeted by signs reading “Happy Spring Festival” in Chinese characters, were served with many traditional homemade Chinese foods of the kind not usually found in commercial Chinese restaurants.

The celebration included a Chinese Dragon Dance, directed by Yan Wang; Kids Fashion Show, directed by Xiao Tong; Thai Chi, directed by Yun Fu; Qipao Fashion Walk, directed by Fu and Qiaoli Liang; Chinese Qipao Dance, directed by Fu; a skit entitled “Beautiful Roster,” directed by Shan Jiang; Kids Musical, directed by Yibing Liu; Chinese Radio Aerobics and a session called Zumba Workout.

Performers and many attendees were dressed in Qipao (traditional women’s attire), Tangzhuang (traditional jacket), and many other traditional Chinese costumes.

Chinese New Year, also known in China as the Spring Festival, is an important Chinese festival celebrated at the turn of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, a type of calendar whose dates indicate both the moon phase and the time of the solar year.

Every 12 years there is a Rooster year, always after a Monkey year and before a Dog year. The official Chinese New Year began January 28 and will last until February 15, 2018.

The purpose of the celebration is expressed in the traditional phrase “good health, good luck, and much happiness throughout the year.”

Liang said the events provide a way to help Chinese children in the community connect with their culture. The Sisterhood’s Chinese school helps with language courses, because learning a new language is especially difficult as you age.

A special service of CCBP is its Language Partners Program in which University students work with foreign students to teach them English one on one. The program pairs volunteers — most of whom are students working in CCBP — with visiting faculty members and international students who want to improve their English speaking and writing skills, learn more about American culture and become better oriented to the University and Tuscaloosa.

Fu is the program’s coordinator and is currently seeking volunteers. She may be reached at 205-348-7392 or at yun.fu@ua.edu.

Realizing the Dream Weekend Celebrated at The University of Alabama



By Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator

Tuscaloosa, Ala. — The annual Realizing the Dream weekend began with a buzz of excitement at the Bryant Conference Center on The University of Alabama campus as students, faculty, staff, community members and award recipients past and present gathered in Sellers Auditorium Jan. 13 for the Legacy Awards Banquet.

This year’s theme, Realizing the Dream Through Acts of Courage and Compassion, highlighted the 28th annual event series, which celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and which is hosted by The University of Alabama, Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Now in its ninth year, the banquet recognizes three individuals for their efforts in promoting the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and serves as an inspiring element of this annual weekend that celebrates King’s wide-ranging contributions to America.

This year’s awardees include Fan Yang, recipient of the Horizon Award, Isabel Rubio, recipient of the Call to Conscience Award, and the Rev. Wendell H. Paris Sr., recipient of the Mountaintop Award. Some 400 in attendance were able to hear from these individuals in their own words via a video presentation created by the Center for Public Television and Radio at UA.

Yang, a PhD student in the School of Social Work at The University of Alabama, created an international pen-pal exchange that ultimately evolved into Heart Touch, a vibrant UA community outreach initiative that operates through UA’s Crossroads Community Center. Born of Yang’s heart for unity and social justice and following Dr. King’s dream of instilling a more culturally sensitive and inclusive mindset in our children, this initiative also serves as a powerful learning experience for its college volunteers and is spreading the dream beyond traditional borders to bridge the international cultural gaps at the root of global conflicts.

Rubio is the executive director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!), a nonprofit organization that facilitates the social, civic and economic integration of Hispanic individuals and families through its educational, leadership-development programs. A native of Mississippi and a third-generation Mexican American, Rubio was greatly influenced by the changes brought to the state of Mississippi as a result of the struggle for civil rights. Founder of the coalition she now serves, Rubio earned degrees in history and social work and worked in social services for eight years in the greater Birmingham area prior to founding ¡HICA!.

Paris became involved in the civil rights movement as a young man enrolled in Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1961. A founding member of the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League, a campus organization affiliated with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, he helped register voters and participated in direct action campaigns in Alabama and Mississippi. Throughout his adult life he has been involved in a leadership capacity in activities that promote not only civil rights, but also economic development designed to sustain communities that are typically comprised of lower-income minorities. He received an honorary doctorate of humanities from the Ministerial Institute and College in West Point, Mississippi in 1978 and the Martin Luther King Jr. Man of the Year Award in 1988. In 1990, he was named a Charles Bannerman Fellow for Civil Rights and Civic Affairs. He presently serves as director of membership care and visitation with the New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi.

Keynote speaker John Quiñones, veteran ABC news figure and host and creator of the ethical dilemma news magazine “What Would You Do?” was the keynote speaker. Quiñones, a San Antonio, Texas native and seventh-generation Mexican American, shared the inspirational story of his life and career, from migrant farm work during his childhood to becoming the first person in his family to earn a college degree thanks to the encouragement of his parents, his refusal to take no for an answer and the hand up he received from the Upward Bound program. He ended his talk by sharing a video clip that spoke to the importance and relevance of Dr. King’s message — past, present and future. (See related story and transcript of Quiñones’ message here.)

Prior to the banquet, Quiñones and Rubio met with a select group of UA journalism and American studies students in an informal question-and-answer session that was informative, enlightening and inspiring to these young people who will soon venture out to make their own marks on the world.

The weekend’s activities continued Sunday evening, January 15, with the Realizing the Dream concert featuring legendary gospel artist Kirk Franklin. The air in UA’s Moody Music Concert Hall felt electrified as the audience waited with anticipation for the start of the performance.

At 7:30, a hush grew over the audience as Lillian Roth, SGA president at The University of Alabama, welcomed guests to the sold-out performance and acknowledged the four entities that present the Realizing the Dream activities. Shelton State Ambassador Shontray Wilson introduced the Legacy Awards recipients to thunderous applause, followed by Troy Gibson, Stillman College SGA president, who introduced Franklin.

Franklin and his band did not disappoint, captivating the audience from the first note of their performance to the last. Their concert highlighted the distinctive gospel/R&B/hip-hop style for which Franklin has become known, in what could best be described as a mash-up of concert plus worship and praise service, all at a volume that, as one concertgoer was overheard saying, “blew the walls out of Moody.” The concert concluded with the traditional singing of “We Shall Overcome,” led by Franklin and his backup singers, as well as members of area choirs that he invited to join them on stage. (See related story here.)

Prior to the concert, attendees had the opportunity to view artwork on display in the lobby. Created by students in Tuscaloosa City Schools, this annual exhibition of new work is a tradition of the Realizing the Dream Concert.

The weekend’s activities concluded Jan. 16 on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with a Unity Day breakfast and march, as well as the annual mass rally that evening at First African Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa.

Two additional 2017 Realizing the Dream events remain. Dr. Jonathan L. Walton, a social ethicist and scholar of religions at Harvard Divinity School, is the distinguished lecturer for this year’s series. His lecture is scheduled for Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Ballroom in downtown Tuscaloosa. The performing arts event, scheduled to run July 14–23 at the Bean-Brown Theatre in Tuscaloosa, will be Ragtime, the musical.

Tickets are not required for the lecture. Tickets for Ragtime, the musical, will be available for purchase through the Bean-Brown Theatre box office at http://www.theatretusc.com beginning Thursday, March 30.

For additional information, visit the Realizing the Dream website, located at the UA Division of Community Affairs webpage at http://realizingthedream.ua.edu.


The Division of Community Affairs was created in 2004 and is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in community engagement. The division provided the leadership for the recent reaffirmation of the University’s Carnegie curricular and community engagement classification. The division also publishes the Journal of Community Engaged Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.

UA Announces 2017 Realizing the Dream Schedule


Realizing the Dream

Visit the Realizing the Dream website for more information about the 2017 Banquet and Concert.



December 16, 2016

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Legendary gospel artist Kirk Franklin will be the featured performer for the 2017 Realizing the Dream Concert Sunday, January 15, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. at The University of Alabama’s Moody Music Concert Hall on campus. John Quiñones, veteran ABC news figure and host of the highly rated “What Would You Do?,” a hidden camera ethical dilemma television news program he created, will be the Legacy Awards Banquet speaker. The banquet will take place Friday, January 13, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. in the Bryant Conference Center Sellers Auditorium, also on campus.

This year’s theme, Realizing the Dream Through Acts of Courage and Compassion, will highlight the 28th annual Realizing the Dream event series, which celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and which is hosted by The University of Alabama, Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

kf_publicity2

Franklin is the winner of 10 Grammy Awards, 39 Stellar Awards, 16 Dove Awards, eight NAACP Image Awards and two BET (Black Entertainment Television) Music Awards. Known as an incomparable artist, speaker, author, businessman and humanitarian, Franklin revolutionized gospel music and bridged the gap between the faith community and mainstream urban music culture. His fusion of the gospel message with hip-hop beats has made him a mainstay atop Billboard charts for more than 20 years.

quinones_john300  Quiñones has literally become “the face of doing the right thing” to millions of fans through “What Would You Do?” A San Antonio, Texas, native, he began his odds-defying journey as a migrant farm worker who, through the life-changing power of education and a lifetime of never taking no for an answer, has emerged as one of the most inspiring keynotes in the speaking world today.

At the Legacy Banquet, Wendell H. Paris Sr. will receive the Mountaintop Award, Isabel Rubio will receive the Call to Conscience Award and Fan Yang will receive the Horizon Award.

Paris became involved in the civil rights movement as a young man enrolled in Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1961. A founding member of the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League, a campus organization affiliated with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, he helped register voters and participated in direct action campaigns in Alabama and Mississippi. Throughout his adult life he has been involved in a leadership capacity in a variety of organizations and efforts that promote not only civil rights, but also economic development designed to sustain communities that are typically comprised of lower-income minorities. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Ministerial Institute and College in West Point, Mississippi in 1978 and the Martin Luther King Jr. Man of the Year Award in 1988. He was named a Charles Bannerman Fellow for Civil Rights and Civic Affairs in 1990. Having accepted the call to ministry, he presently serves as director of membership care and visitation with the New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi.

Rubio serves as executive director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!), a  nonprofit organization that facilitates the social, civic and economic integration of Hispanic individuals and families through its educational, leadership-development programs. A native of Mississippi and a third-generation Mexican American, Rubio was greatly influenced by the changes brought to the state of Mississippi as a result of the struggle for civil rights. Founder of the coalition she now serves, Rubio earned degrees in history and social work and worked in social services for eight years in the greater Birmingham area prior to founding ¡HICA!. She serves as treasurer for the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, as well as on the boards of the Alabama Poverty Project, Alabama ARISE, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Brookwood Medical Center, Regions Financial Diversity Council and The University of Alabama’s Institutional Review Board.

A PhD student in the School of Social Work at The University of Alabama, Yang created an international pen-pal exchange that ultimately evolved into Heart Touch, a vibrant UA community outreach program. Heart Touch collaborates with community partner Tuscaloosa’s One Place to conduct Chinese and Japanese culture lessons, hands-on activities, field trips and pen-pal programs that provide multicultural learning experiences for elementary-aged children whose schools are unlikely to have the resources to provide such enrichment opportunities. The program also serves as a powerful learning experience for its college volunteers. Born of Yang’s heart for unity and social justice, this program is realizing the dream beyond traditional borders to bridge international cultural gaps that are at the root of global conflicts.

Realizing the Dream partner the SCLC will sponsor Unity Day activities beginning at 7 a.m. Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, with the Unity Breakfast at Beulah Baptist Church. Judge Rickey McKinney will be the speaker. The Unity Day march will begin at noon from the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and Beulah Baptist Church. The annual Mass Rally will begin at 6 p.m. at First African Baptist Church. The speaker will be the Rev. David Gay.

Legacy Banquet tickets are $25 for individuals or $200 for a table of 10. Dress is semiformal. Concert tickets are $15. Tickets for both events will go on sale through the Moody Music Building box office Wednesday, January 4, 2017.

Box office hours are 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday; phone (205) 348-7111. For more information about Realizing the Dream activities and events, visit the website at http://realizingthedream.ua.edu. For questions, email community.affairs@ua.edu.


The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.

 

Seven from UA Present at Annual Engagement Scholarship Consortium

Tuscaloosa, Ala. — The University of Alabama was well represented at the 2016 Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC) annual conference, held Oct. 11-12 in Omaha, Nebraska. UA was the first non-land-grant institution selected for membership in the ESC and regularly sends a large delegation to the annual conference. In addition to those presenting, many staff members and students were in attendance.

Dr. James McLean, executive director of UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), and Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, UA vice president for the Division of Community Affairs and president of the executive committee of the ESC Board of Directors, presented their work at the conference.

“The Engagement Scholarship Conference provides a wonderful opportunity to share our engagement research experiences and learn from others,” said McLean. “For example, Dr. Pruitt and I shared our experiences developing and implementing UA’s Winning Grants and Sustainability Program. This program trained University/community teams to successfully acquire external funding through grants and sustain their programs through fundraising.”

CCBP, an initiative of UA’s Division of Community Affairs, designed and implemented the 15-month program, which enrolled 10 University/community teams that are partnering to solve community problems.

Also presenting in Omaha was UA doctoral student Vicky Carter, along with Drs. Cassandra Simon and Josephine Pryce, associate professors in UA’s School of Social Work. The trio co-authored “Navigating Authentic Engaged Partnerships: A Workshop for Community Partners.”

“The voices of community partners throughout the research process are vital in authentic community-engaged partnerships,” said Carter prior to the conference. “Unfortunately, community partners are oftentimes not included in a substantial way, but rather limited in their involvement. This presentation will include an initial description of authentic community engagement with an emphasis on the elements of ideal engaged partnerships.”

ua_groupphoto_omahaesc

Carter went on to say that such partnerships include trust, respect, mutual benefit, good communication, resource sharing, democratic decision-making, commitment by all partners (university, students and community), and agreed-upon vision, mission, goals and evaluation.

“Community partners will be informed of the importance of participation in research due to their position as experts and cultural brokers in the community, their wealth of knowledge and resources, and knowledge of the dynamics of the community,” Carter said. “Guiding principles of engaged research will be discussed, such as inclusion of partners from beginning to end of the project and inclusion in reporting and dissemination of the project results.”

Dr. George Daniels, assistant dean in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, and UA doctoral candidate Douglas Craddock Jr. (Higher Education Administration), presented “My Brother’s Keeper After the Obama Administration: Three Approaches for Engaged Scholarship.” Their work, along with that of Dr. Austin Jackson, assistant professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University, and Joshua Bates, a program assistant at The Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, answers the question: What happens when three research institutions answer the call to expand opportunities for men of color? Their workshop showcased three approaches to President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative — one in rural West Alabama and the others in urban communities in Columbus, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan.

Daniels’ and Craddock’s work utilizes youth engagement sessions to bridge the gap and connect concerned, passionate individuals in the West Alabama area. Craddock went on to say that the investigators plan to build upon existing ideas, programs and services as they relate to young men and boys of color.

“The central focus will be to answer the call to action as it pertains to aiding and improving the status of our young men and boys of color,” said Craddock. “By bringing together individuals who have a real passion and genuine desire for the betterment of our youth, we intend to create solution-focused dialogue and engage in action-oriented discourse.”

The ESC is a non-profit educational organization comprised of 36 public and private higher education member institutions. The organization’s goal is to build strong university-community partnerships, anchored in the rigor of engaged scholarship, that emphasize collaboration and that are designed to help build community capacity. This is accomplished through community-based partnerships and programs implemented by member institutions and community organizations working together. Academic leaders and students from these member institutions meet annually to share their research and to discuss issues, information and theories regarding campus-community partnerships.

In addition to those presenting at the conference, the 31-member University of Alabama delegation included Marcus Ashford, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Carol Agomo, director of Community and Administrative Affairs; Karyn Bowen, marketing coordinator for Community Affairs; Diane Kennedy-Jackson, publications coordinator for Community Affairs; Dr. Patricia Sobecky, associate provost for Academic Affairs; Dr. Tonyia Tidline, CCBP director of community engagement; and students Dominique Anderson, Brenna Barber, Cameryn Blackmore, Dillon Drew Connors, Aaron Cornelison, Thometta Cozart, Krystal Rena Dozier, Tera Johnson, Sarah Keller, Ashley Brook Loftis, Kyle Marowski, Sarah Saeed, Neil Shah, Elizabeth Tillotson, Mary Elizabeth West and Undraquetta Williams.

The institutions within the consortium are separated into five regions: East, North Central, South, West and International.

The 2016 conference is hosted by the North Central region, which includes Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, The University of Kansas, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Wisconsin.

The 2017 conference will be hosted in Birmingham by the South region, which includes Auburn University, East Carolina University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina State University, The University of Alabama, University of Georgia, University of Louisville, University of North Carolina – Asheville, University of North Florida and The University of Tennessee – Knoxville.

Pruitt, in his role as president of the executive committee of the ESC Board of Directors, presented a strategic action plan to consortium leaders in Omaha.

“Our vision is to promote excellence in the leadership, scholarship and practice of engaged scholarship both locally and globally,” Pruitt said. “Our current impact can be seen in the increasing number of successful and sustainable community/campus partnerships that address critical societal issues and improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities through the scholarship of engagement.”

“As we plan for the future of the ESC, we in the South region look forward to hosting this annual conference in 2017,” he said.


The Division of Community Affairs was created in 2004 and is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in community engagement. The division provided the leadership for the recent reaffirmation of the University’s Carnegie curricular and community engagement classification. The division also publishes the Journal of Community Engaged Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.

UA Aims for Record Goal in 2016 United Way Campaign


Photos by Jianlong Yang
CCBP Student

Members of the University community joined the College of Continuing Studies (CCS), host of the 2016 United Way campaign, on Thursday, Oct. 6 for a Campaign Kickoff event at the Ferguson Center Plaza on campus. This year’s goal is a record $365,000 — a $20,000 increase from the 2015 goal — with an additional emphasis on increasing the percentage of employees participating in the campaign.

The tailgate-themed event brought beautiful, unseasonably warm weather as UA campaign administrators, partner-agency representatives and leadership-level donors gathered to launch the annual effort.

“The theme for this year’s campaign, UA CARES: UNITED WE THRIVE, represents the spirit of the faculty, staff and students as demonstrated through our service and generosity toward those on our campus as well as those in our surrounding communities,” said Dr. Stuart R. Bell, UA president, in a letter to the campus community. “Our partnership with the United Way of West Alabama plays a vitally important role in our efforts to improve the quality of life for individuals in West Alabama.”

UA is consistently the largest institutional contributor to the United Way of West Alabama campaign, holding the distinction of being the No. 1 employee campaign in total dollars pledged since 2001. Additionally, the University is the current SEC leader in percentage of employees contributing to local United Way campaigns.

CCS Dean Craig Edelbrock, in welcoming those in attendance, took a playful swipe at the “orange and blue” institution “down the road” for using UA’s United Way success as motivation to increase its participation … “and they moved up from fifth to second. What a great competition between two universities in Alabama!”

Bell spoke of the importance of the campaign and how it knits together organizations that help the community. “Thank you for what you all do, every day,” he said, acknowledging partner-agency representatives at the event.

Jackie Wuska, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of West Alabama, thanked the University community for its support, recognizing the service leadership attitude at UA. “We are the envy of everyone in the SEC,” she said. Then, in reference to that school down the road mentioned earlier, she good-naturedly encouraged UA to “crush the Lee County spirit.”

Campaign co-chairs from CCS are Bill Elrod, director, business development and college relations; Dixie MacNeil, director, academic outreach; and Dr. Robert Prescott, director of corporate engagement. The campus coordinating committee supporting them includes representatives from the Division of Community Affairs, UA Printing, Auxiliary Services, Financial Affairs and Facilities, as well as the Faculty Senate, the Professional Staff Assembly, the Student Government Association, The SOURCE, The University of Alabama Retirees Association and a host of committee members and department-level coordinators.

United Way of West Alabama has 26 partner agencies and covers Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Marengo, Pickens, Sumter and Tuscaloosa counties. These agencies provide a variety of education, income-related, health and emergency-response programs to citizens throughout West Alabama. For more information about United Way of West Alabama, visit uwwa.org.


Get weekly updates on the campaign progress.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.

 

UA Community Affairs Board of Advisors Member Endows Scholarship at Group’s Fall Meeting; Cathy Randall Serves as Guest Speaker

Photos by Jianlong Yang
CCBP Student

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Division of Community Affairs advisory board highlighted its fall meeting with the announcement of an endowed scholarship and a rousing pep talk from a lifetime leader in community service.

Tyrell F. Jordan, a Birmingham attorney and member of the board of advisors, has created a $25,000 endowed scholarship to support students from underrepresented urban communities.

A product of the Birmingham City Schools, Jordan graduated from The University of Alabama in 2001 with a degree in accounting. He received his JD from the UA Law School in 2004. “I always dreamed of serving my community through the practice of law,” said Jordan. “The University of Alabama’s commitment to helping all of its students reach their full potential provided me with an opportunity to fulfill that dream. I want to do my part to ensure that others have that same opportunity.”

Dr. Cathy Randall served as guest speaker for the “Coming Back, Giving Back” dinner gathering, which took place on campus at the Bryant Conference Center Monday, Sept. 26, following one-and-one half days of idea sharing by members of the board of advisors, who also heard from a cross section of UA students. Community Affairs board members and guests, University deans and vice presidents and current student leaders filled the Rast Room as Randall delivered words of encouragement.

Randall, chairman of the board of Pettus Randall Holdings, LLC, and director emerita of UA’s Honors Program, as well as the former chairman of the board of Randall Publishing Company and a former news anchor at CBS-affiliate WCFT-TV, recognized the vision of Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for the Division of Community Affairs, in the formation of this board of advisors, as well as the members’ commitment to community engagement and student success.

“Collecting this much talent, in one room, for one cause, has the potential to make a dramatic difference on this campus and in the lives of so many students,” Randall said. “I know of no university that has the vision that Dr. Pruitt has had [in order] to enable, to empower, and to inspire recent student leaders to directly impact a university.”

Randall told board members that they cannot begin to fathom how they can change the world of one individual by their involvement in that individual’s life, and that devising strategies to connect them to their fellow alumni and to individual students could truly be world-changing.

group

“Through Dr. Pruitt, the University of Alabama is laying at your feet resources to put legs on these proposals and others that you will develop that will emerge from your collaborative imagination, passion and experience,” Randall said.

Randall spoke about the definition of alma mater, which literally means fostering, or nurturing, mother. “This University served as our foster mother for those critical first years after leaving our families,” she said. “Your presence on this board demonstrates that you are the rare young person who responds in gratitude with action.

”You’ve been giving back since your undergraduate days and now you’re back to continue to give back in gratitude to this nurturing parent,” she said.

Randall quoted the late Sen. Robert Kennedy from his speech to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966. He said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. … It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice. He sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

“The extraordinary generosity with which you’ve given your time to send forth one of those tiny ripples of hope,” Randall said, “will build a current together that will make better this University, this state, this world and the individual worlds of so many students. The opportunities before you are limitless — opportunities to impact the world, to impact the state, and to impact the individual students.”

Randall, who earned two PhD degrees from UA and has been named one of the top 31 women UA graduates of the century, was greeted with thunderous applause and a standing ovation upon the conclusion of her talk.

During the dinner meeting, members of the board of advisors executive committee gave their reports. While on campus, board members participated in “Listen, Learn and Lead” committee work groups and spent time hearing from three student panels on topics including academic success, global leadership and entrepreneurship. Outcomes of this second meeting since its formation in early 2016 included commitments of both time and money from board members in an effort to help current and future students find their roads to success at UA.

The Global and Community Leadership Committee, recognizing the importance of exposure to people and cultures different from your own, will provide financing for two $2,500 scholarships. One will be utilized to offer support for a foreign study opportunity, while the other will finance a local study project.

The Academic Success and Student Retention Committee has committed time to provide mentoring services to upperclassmen, with plans to help their mentees do the same by aiding them in developing a program of peer-to-peer mentoring with sophomores and freshmen.

The Student Entrepreneurship and Innovative Initiatives Committee recognized the need to pull different groups on campus — who are offering similar opportunities to students — together through their common goals. Additionally, this group desires to find ways to empower students to explore untraditional paths and to place UA graduates in incubators and businesses around the globe. The group has committed to having financial donations in place in the amount of $15,000 by their spring 2017 meeting, for the purpose of funding entrepreneurship projects by students.

The board of advisors is comprised of outstanding UA alumni committed to community engagement and student success. Members mentor current students and assist in recruiting outstanding future leaders. They also support campus-wide initiatives that increase student success and retention, facilitate student involvement in entrepreneurship and innovative initiatives, and support the development of thoughtful global and community leaders.

“It was amazing to see the passion, energy and drive to make a difference displayed by this group,” said Pruitt. “I look forward to the contributions these servant leaders will make to our University and its students.”

Katie Boyd Britt, board president, in recognizing Jordan’s scholarship gift, said, “I applaud Tyrell for his leadership and generosity in establishing this scholarship and am enthusiastic about how this board and its members will support and serve our University.”

Britt went on to say that this group recognizes that, as the inaugural board of advisors, they have a responsibility to set the bar high for those who will follow them.


The Division of Community Affairs was created in 2004 and is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in community engagement. The division provided the leadership for the recent reaffirmation of the University’s Carnegie curricular and community engagement classification. The division also publishes the Journal of Community Engaged Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.

 

Community Affairs Board of Advisors to Meet; Dr. Cathy Randall to Speak at Dinner

Members of the executive committee of the Board of Advisors of the UA Division of Community Affairs stand with Dr. Samory T. Pruitt (upper left) following their first meeting in April. From left, Divya Patel, Americus, Georgia; Katie Boyd Britt, Birmingham and Washington, D.C.; Joseph Bryant, Birmingham; Calvin Han, Stamford, Connecticut; David Bailey, Nashville, Tennessee; Victoria Javine, Tuscaloosa; and Rashmee Sharif, Tuscaloosa.
Members of the executive committee of the Board of Advisors of the UA Division of Community Affairs stand with Dr. Samory T. Pruitt (upper left) following their first meeting in April. From left, Divya Patel, Americus, Georgia; Katie Boyd Britt, Birmingham and Washington, D.C.; Joseph Bryant, Birmingham; Calvin Han, Stamford, Connecticut; David Bailey, Nashville, Tennessee; Victoria Javine, Tuscaloosa; and Rashmee Sharif, Tuscaloosa.

 

Members of the newly formed Community Affairs board of advisors listen intently to a fellow board member at the inaugural meeting of the group, held on campus in April. The group will return to campus for its next full work session in late September.
Members of the newly formed Community Affairs board of advisors listen intently to a fellow board member at the inaugural meeting of the group, held on campus in April. The group will return to campus for its next full work session in late September.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Division of Community Affairs
The University of Alabama
250 Rose Administration Building, Box 870113
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0113
Email: community.affairs@ua.edu
Phone: 205-348-8376

Sept. 12, 2016

By Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Community Affairs Publications Coordinator

 

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Community Affairs board of advisors will meet on the campus of the University of Alabama Sept. 25-27 to discuss progress on initiatives and to formulate next steps toward meeting goals.

Formed in early 2016, the board is comprised of outstanding UA alumni committed to community engagement and student success. Members mentor current students and assist in recruiting outstanding future leaders. They also support campus-wide initiatives that increase student success and retention, facilitate student involvement in entrepreneurship and innovative initiatives, and support the development of thoughtful global and community leaders.

“I continue to enjoy working with such a wonderful group of leaders and look forward to the impact they will have on current and future UA students,” said Director of Community and Administrative Affairs Carol Agomo, who is facilitator of the advisory group.

While on campus, board members will participate in committee work groups and spend time hearing from three student panels on topics including academic success, global leadership and entrepreneurship.

“I am enthusiastic about reconvening on campus with my fellow board members,” stated Katie Boyd Britt, president of the advisory board’s executive committee. “I am honored to be working on this board with my fellow alumni and am enthusiastic about our next steps forward in our efforts for our alma mater and her students.”

Dr. Cathy Randall will be the guest speaker for the “Coming Back, Giving Back” board of advisors dinner to be held Monday, Sept. 26, at the Bryant Conference Center on the UA campus. Randall is chairman of the board of Pettus Randall Holdings, LLC, and is director emerita of UA’s Honors Program, as well as the former chairman of the board of Randall Publishing Company and a former news anchor at CBS-affiliate WCFT-TV.

Randall will speak to members of the board of advisors — many of them students at UA during a time of tremendous growth at the University — on the importance of giving back.

“I will be extending appreciation to them, not only for what they did when they were students, but also for what they aspire to do,” said Randall, who went on to note the importance of the University’s commitment to engaging young people and connecting them to the University’s mission.

Randall earned two Ph.D. degrees from UA and has been named one of the top 31 women UA graduates of the century. Her other honors and service roles include national president of Mortar Board, Inc. and chairman of the Alabama Academy of Honor (the 100 most outstanding living Alabamians).

Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for the Division of Community Affairs, said, “We are very pleased to have someone with the distinguished background of Dr. Randall to speak at our second meeting of the Community Affairs board of advisors. We look forward to hearing the committee reports on the progress they have made toward plans that support their goals for UA students.”

Britt is president of the advisory board’s executive committee. Other members are Joseph Bryant, vice president; Divya Patel, treasurer; Calvin Han, secretary; David Bailey, chair of the entrepreneurship and innovative initiatives committee; Victoria Javine, chair of the academic success and student retention committee; and Rashmee Sharif, chair of the global and community leadership development committee.


The Division of Community Affairs was created in 2004 and is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in community engagement. The division provided the leadership for the recent reaffirmation of the University’s Carnegie curricular and community engagement classification. The division also publishes the Journal of Community Engaged Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field. 


 

Crosssroads Interfaith Event Draws Large, Involved Crowd

Photos by Jianlong Yang
CCBP Student

By Taylor Armor
CCBP Graduate Assistant

TUSCALOOSA– Both religious and non-religious organizations filled the Ferguson Center’s Great Hall to exchange views and answer questions about their respective beliefs at the Explore Better Together interfaith event on August 22 sponsored by Crossroads Community Center.

Students, faculty, Crossroads staff and community members participated in the night’s “speed faithing” activity during an event filled with conversation and laughter. Similar to speed dating, groups of attendees met with representatives from a religious or non-religious organization and after seven minutes moved to a new one.

Attendees met with the following religious and non-religious representatives:  Zyad Jamalallail  of the Muslim Student Association; Alex Hoffman of the Crimson Secular Student Alliance; Father Rick Chenault of St. Francis of University Parish; James Goodlet and Kate Broach of UKirk (Presbyterian) Campus Ministry; Lisa Besnoy of the Hillel Student Center; Parnab Das of the Indian Students Association, representing Hinduism; and Harshpal Singh, representing Sikhism, the world’s fifth largest religion, originating in the Punjab region of northern India.

Paige Bolden, coordinator of Intercultural Engagement at Crossroads, said interfaith activities like these give participants a chance to meet someone different than them, and ask “awkward questions” about their respective beliefs people avoid in everyday conversation. “We hope that they gain a better understanding (and) that this event helps build relationships and bridges between the religious and non-religious on campus,” Bolden said.

Parnar Das, a doctoral student in civil engineering, explains tenets of Hindu beliefs at the interfaith gathering.
Parnar Das, a doctoral student in civil engineering, explains tenets of Hindu beliefs at the interfaith gathering.

Throughout the event, Lane McLelland, director of Crossroads, encouraged attendees to ask questions, listen and learn together, but that it was not a night of “challenging each other. Participating in this event and other Better Together programs at UA provides members of our campus community the opportunity to foster new connections for increased interfaith understanding,” McLelland said. “The strong relationships that are built through these dinners and dialogues and doing community service work together will be important for building bridges between groups on campus who might normally be divided by religious and philosophical differences.”

Bridging the divide between religious and non-religious beliefs has been central to the Crossroads Interfaith Initiative, which has modeled its work after the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC.org). This interfaith movement promotes religious pluralism through respect for diverse religious and non-religious identities; mutually inspiring relationships between people of different backgrounds and traditions; and common action for the common good.

Carlisle Wishard, a senior in astrophysics from Washington, D.C., admitted that being an atheist in Alabama has been a different experience for her than living in her hometown. Wishard, a member of the Crimson Secular Student Alliance, said that the organization’s involvement in UA’s Better Together: Interfaith Youth Core program has fostered a sense of belonging for non-religious students and has opened dialogue with religious organizations on campus.

“If you don’t come from an area that is particularly religiously diverse,” Wishard said, “this is one of few opportunities to meet people that don’t think exactly like you. So I think it’s good for everyone, myself included, for people to learn about different religions and not feel bad about asking questions.”

For Parnab Das, the representative of the Hindu beliefs and the University’s Indian Student Association, the curiosity of the Explore Better Together participants inspired him to become more familiar with his beliefs and practices by the next event. “I’m not here to speak for the whole Hindu society,” Das said. “I’m here to present my beliefs and faiths about Hinduism. So, I feel I need to brush up on these things, so I can be more concrete, more specific and more knowledgeable and transparent for the next time that I’m here.”

Father Rick Chenault of University Parrish Catholic Church leads discussion about the role of women in the church.
Father Rick Chenault of University Parrish Catholic Church leads discussion about the role of women in the church.

A doctoral student in civil engineering, Das brought along a trifold poster board completely covered in information on Hinduism in an anticipated effort to answer any questions from his audience.

“We have so many wrong beliefs about other religions,” Das said. “This is a good platform to work on that, to question other religions and make ourselves knowledgeable, and to live a transparent life.”

For Gevin Brown, a senior from Birmingham, Ala. majoring in design for social inclusion, the event also reinforced that culture and religion aren’t interchangeable in understanding faith-based practices and beliefs.

“While I was at the Muslim [Islam] table,” Brown said. “[Zyad Jamalallail] mentioned that certain cultures in his country oppress women but his religion does not by any means. They go together very well, but it’s important to note the difference.” Brown, who has worked as a Crossroads student intern since his freshman year, has found that interfaith dialogue positively benefits the UA community.

“These kinds of events show and create cohesion,” Brown said. “They show that even though you’re ‘XYZ’, you can still come into these uncomfortable places and make friends and grow as a person.”


UA community members interested in participating in upcoming Better Together events should contact the Crossroads Community Center at 205-348-6930 or email crossroads@ua.edu.