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Council hosts 17th Annual Excellence Awards

  • May 3rd, 2023
  • in CCBP

by By Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro

Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

The Council on Community-Based Partnerships recognized University of Alabama students, faculty and staff, as well as community partners, for their achievements in community-engaged scholarship during the 17th Annual Excellence in Community Engagement Awards on April 20 at the UA Student Center Ballroom.

“Today we celebrate the remarkable individual efforts that embody the endeavors of the Council on Community-Based Partnerships, which are to bring resources and insights to a variety of challenges facing the public,” said Dr. Jim McLean, associate vice president for Community Affairs and executive director of UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP). “We are here today to honor students, faculty, staff and community partners who are among the most efficient at The University of Alabama. I congratulate every one of you for your accomplishments.”

The day began with breakfast and an Engaged Scholarship Showcase where faculty, staff and students shared their research and experiences with community-engaged scholarship and teaching in a round-table discussion setting.

Before the luncheon, attendees had the opportunity to view research posters on display from UA faculty, staff and students. Topics ranged from the socioeconomic and ecological impacts of the proposed Interstate 14 on Selma to increasing access to doula care in Alabama.

This year’s poster award recipients are Jennifer Baggett, Hannah Corbin, Victoria Duignan, Baili Gall, Ayana Hendricks-Boyland, Dr. Holly Horan, Kefentse Kubanga, Rebecca Lewis, Emily Locke, Ella Magerl, Ozioma Omah, Jacob T. Peterson, Paige Rentfro, Jack Spalding, Dr. Daniela Susnara, Riley White and Andrea Ziegler.

Dr. Drew Pearl, director of community engagement research and publications for CCBP, recognized the 2022–2023 cohorts of the Emerging Community Engagement Scholars, Community Engaged Learning Fellows, and Public Engagement Learning Community.

Emily Locke, a doctoral student in anthropology and graduate research assistant to Pearl, followed, recognizing the 2022–2023 members of the Student Community Engagement Center Leadership Academy, which seeks to develop students’ leadership in engaged scholarship.

The Council also awards seed funding and graduate fellowships to support community-engaged research across campus.

Seed funding was awarded for two projects:

  • Allison Grant, assistant professor of art, for Wood and Springs
  • Dr. Stephanie McClure, assistant professor of anthropology, for The Period Study: Exploring and Addressing the Needs of Menstruating Adolescents
    Three faculty members were awarded Graduate Fellowships for 2023–2024:
  • Dr. Lisa Davis, associate professor in the Department of Geography, for Food Particles to Flood Plans: Assessing and Planning for Extreme Flood Risk in the Tennessee River Valley. Master’s student Mary Eminue will assist Davis.
  • Dr. Mercedes M. Morales-Aleman, assistant professor in the College of Community Health Sciences, for Improving Maternal Mental Health Outcomes for Black Women in the U.S. South: Examining Telehealth and In-Person Models of Care through an Academic-Community Partnership. Master’s student Kate Graziano will assist Morales-Aleman.
  • Dr. Ansley Gilpin, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Psychology, for Partnering with Schools: Teachers Deploying the Imagination Intervention to Improving Children’s Self-Regulation and School Readiness. Doctoral student Lindsey Held will assist Gilpin.
    Eleven individuals received Excellence in Community-Engaged Scholarship awards in three different areas.

Engaged Scholarship awardees included:

  • Dr. Kristine Jolivette, Paul and Mary Harmon Bryant endowed professor, College of Education, for Improving Juvenile Justice Facilities
  • Dr. Haley Townsend, assistant professor in the Capstone College of Nursing, for Project Wellness in Motion
  • Justin McCleskey, student, for his work as an intern with the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
  • Jillian Maxcy-Brown, student, for Addressing Infrastructure Challenges in the Black Belt Region of Alabama through Evaluating Wastewater and Water Access Affordability
  • Dr. Cheryl Fondren, director of United Way of West Alabama’s Success by 6 program, and Dr. Allison Hooper, assistant professor of early childhood education, for Improving Kindergarten Readiness through the JumpStart Summer Program
  • Sally Smith, J.D., executive director for the Alabama Association of School Boards, for work to obtain funding that will make possible opportunities for individuals to become grant coaches for schools across the Black Belt
    Engaged Teaching and Learning (a new category this year) awardees included:
  • Dr. Chapman Greer, associate provost for general education and senior instructor of management, for MGT 456/556: Data Visualization
  • Dr. Yinghui Liu, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, for STEM education
  • Dr. Chandra Clark, assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, for The World Games
    Civic Engagement (a new category this year) awardees included:
  • John Dodd, student, for his work in voter engagement
  • Dr. Jessy Ohl, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies, for providing students with experiential learning opportunities through COM 341: American Political Rhetoric
    Alexa Ellis, a junior majoring in public health and psychology, received the 2023–2024 Zachary David Dodson Endowed Scholarship in recognition of her involvement with CCBP’s Language Partners, Vision Days and HomeFirst Programs, as well as its STEM Showcase.

The 2023 Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholar Award recipients are Dr. Blake Berryhill, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate Program in the College of Human Environmental Sciences; Dr. W. Ross Bryan, associate dean and associate professor in the Honors College; Katie Johnson, a graduate student in the Department of Religious Studies; and the Walker Area Community Foundation, led by President Paul W. Kennedy. Dr. Marcus Ashford, associate professor of mechanical engineering, was posthumously awarded as a Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholar.

Dr. Susan Carvalho, dean of the UA Graduate School and associate provost, received the Distinguished Special Achievement in Community Engagement award in recognition of her commitment to higher education leadership and for her unique contributions to the field of community-engaged scholarship.

For a complete list of the winning projects and more information about award recipients, please visit

Middle Schoolers Demonstrate ‘Science in Action’ During 2023 STEM Showcase

  • February 1st, 2023
  • in CCBP

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

The Tuscaloosa community rallied to support middle schoolers’ scientific discoveries during the 2023 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Showcase on Jan. 28 at the Bryant Conference Center, during which the winning projects were also announced.

“It is quite inspiring to see such imagination and such learning that happened today,” said Andrea Ziegler, director of Community Education in the Division of Community Affairs’ Center for Community-Based Partnerships. “We are going to continue to grow the program and want to be there to support students in their learning process.”

Now in its third year, STEM Showcase originated as a collaborative science fair for middle schoolers in the Tuscaloosa area to become more involved with STEM.

“We’re so excited about students actually doing science. That’s the whole thrust of AMSTI [The Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative],” said Anna Daly, AMSTI-UA education specialist, who also serves on the planning committee for STEM Showcase. “And so, this is that application of all the learning that they’re doing, and they get to have a choice in what they research and go deep on into. It’s just so exciting for us to see science in action and the students being excited about science.”

This year, 67 middle schoolers representing the following schools participated in STEM Showcase: Eastwood Middle School, Northridge Middle School, Sipsey Valley Middle School, The Capitol School, Tuscaloosa Academy and Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

To participate, 6th–8th graders submitted a project either individually or as a team that addressed the following STEM fields: biology, chemistry, engineering, environmental and earth sciences, mathematics and computer science, medicine and health science, physical sciences, behavioral and social sciences, and energy and transportation. During the showcase, participating middle schoolers received mentoring from UA faculty, staff and students in STEM disciplines before presenting their final projects to judges. Volunteer judges were UA faculty, students, and STEM community members.

“I really liked coming up with an idea on my own and then being able to execute it and then show it off to everyone,” said Rosie Zhang, winner of the medicine and health sciences category.

Parents enjoyed seeing their child learn the scientific process firsthand. “What I liked most about this was that they did it on their own,” Jade Gibson said. “My daughter did not ask me for any help with anything except for getting her supplies. For them to come up with something that was practical to our everyday lives, I thought that that was an awesome task for them.”

Winners may go on to participate in the Central Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Additionally, two special awards were given. Max Morgan, Rachel Shu and Alex Zhu received the Microchip Award in the area of engineering or applied science. Aniketh Kalyan received the Microchip Award in the area of computer or software engineering.

Category Winners and Runners-Up

Winners in behavioral and social sciences were Silvia Hancock and Ariq Isyraqi, both of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Fanuel Tsheyae of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in biology was Markiian Shylenko of Northridge Middle School. 

Winners in chemistry were Henry Bearden and Maddie Lee, both  of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle. The runner-up was Kielei Whitfield of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

Winners in energy and transportation were Max Morgan, Rachel Shu and Alex Zhu, all of Northridge Middle School. Runners-up were Marichase Hamner, Caraleigh Hope and Victoria Walker, all of Sipsey Valley Middle School.

The winner in engineering was Lubaina Ahmed of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle. The runner-up was Jacob Scofield of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in environmental and earth sciences was Jacob Shankman of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Ela Melouk of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in mathematics and computer science was Aeesha Mulani of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in medicine and health science was Rosie Zhang of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Laryn Word of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winners in physical sciences were Jayden Yoon and Jackson York, both of Northridge Middle School. The runners-up were Jireh Gibson, Shaniyah Holifield and Ty’Leah Parks, all of Eastwood Middle School.

Realizing the Dream Concert Featured Acclaimed Gospel Artist Tasha Cobbs Leonard

by Sophia Xiong
Graduate Assistant, CCBP

GRAMMY® Award-winning singer and songwriter Tasha Cobbs Leonard brought a top-notch performance to the 33rd Realizing the Dream Concert on Jan. 15. Her powerful voice and message drew a sellout crowd to Moody Music Concert Hall to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This year’s theme is Realizing the Dream through Commitment and Sacrifice. Student representatives Madeline Martin, University of Alabama Student Government Association (SGA) president; Jenna Peitsch, Shelton State Community College Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society president; and Kennedy-MyCal Davis, Stillman College SGA president welcomed the audience and recognized the continuous support from the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference. They also acknowledged Friday night’s Legacy Award winners and introduced the featured performer.

As the audience started cheering with excitement, Leonard took the stage, saying “I am so excited to be here tonight. I want to shout out to each one of you that you cannot leave this event the same way you came in tonight.”

Her first song, “Burdens Down,” captured the audience with the lyrics,

“That’s when I laid my burdens down, I traded shame in for my crown.
My soul was in the lost-and-found, until I laid my burdens down.”

“I love Tasha Cobbs [Leonard], especially her realness, the spirituality, and the way she loves Christ and how it draws people together,” said Loretta Porter, one of the audience members at the concert.

Many people came to the concert because of Leonard’s powerful voice. “Today I was listening to one of her songs, and I was crying the entire time. She is so anointed by God,” said Kiana Kennanore, who works at The University of Alabama. When speaking about this year’s theme of Realizing the Dream Through Commitment and Sacrifice, Kennanore said, “Her song really touches on how God is so committed to us and how we should be so committed to him and his sacrifice.”

Belinda Jones, a member of Miles Chapel CME Church in Reform County, shared her story with the Realizing the Dream series. “I’ve been coming to the concert for five years,” she said. “My daughter started serving in the Air Force six years ago, and this has become a mom-daughter bonding event for us since then. We came here together every year. This year she is in New Mexico, so she couldn’t make it today, but I want to keep it going. You know, you see all your ancestors who have gone through so much in life, but they committed to making a difference. And there were a lot of sacrifices that came along with that. But there is still a lot of work to be done. I think it’s a great event not just for African Americans, but all people that can take part in and enjoy the celebration. I love to see the diversity of so many different people.”

Samantha Tolbert, an 8th-grade student from Thomasville Middle School and one of the student art award recipients of the Realizing the Dream Middle School Essay and Art Contest, attended the concert with her mother and sister. “I am pretty happy to win the contest. I hope our arts can reach more people,” Tolbert said.

“Dr. King paved the way for us to vote and [said] that for African Americans … we should get out and vote, even if we are not sure who someone is always to be at the polls to guide us,” said Shaleta Washington, Tolbert’s mother. “There are a lot of people who sacrificed their lives for us to vote and to be where we are today.”

Honoré Stresses Importance of Leadership During Banquet Honoring Legacy Award Recipients

Group of four men standing in line for a picture. Three of them are holding awards in their hands

2023 Realizing the Dream Legacy Award recipients include Christopher Gill, right, recipient of the Horizon Award; Lt. General Willie J. Williams (Ret), second from left, recipient of the Call to Conscience Award; and Lt. Colonel George Hardy (Ret), not pictured, recipient of the Mountaintop Award. Accepting the award on behalf of Lt. Colonel Hardy are Palmer Sullins, left, Chairman of the Friends of Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Inc., and Jerry "Hawk" Burton, second from right, national president of Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated.

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communication Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

In remarks at the Bryant Conference Center during which three individuals received Realizing the Dream Legacy awards, Retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré urged his audience to be leaders in their own lives.

Connecting the theme of “Realizing the Dream Through Commitment and Sacrifice,” Honoré spoke about sacrifices made during the “three great wars,” which he said were the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement.

Legacy Awards recipients were Chris Gill, the Horizon Award; Retired Lt. Gen. Willie J. Williams, the Call to Conscience Award; and Retired Lt. Col. George Hardy, the Mountaintop Award. Winners shared their stories through a video titled “In Their Own Words,” produced by Gray Lloyd at UA’s Center for Public Television, and were then recognized with crystal commemoratives to mark the occasion.

Gill, a United States Marine Corps veteran, is a doctoral candidate in educational psychology in UA’s College of Education. He was recognized for his research on military transition initiatives that help veterans prevent crises that could lead to suicide.

One of the first three African Americans appointed to the rank of three-star general in the U.S. Marine Corps, Williams was commissioned into the Corps in 1974. Throughout his career he has held a commitment to equality and has worked to inspire social change in the Corps. In 2021, he was honored by Stillman College, his alma mater, with the Institute for Leadership, Education Equity, and Race Relations in America. In the video played at the Legacy Banquet, Williams shared how he collaborated with the State of Alabama and other entities to produce a more equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine throughout underserved areas.

Hardy served with the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. He graduated from Tuskegee Army Airfield in December 1943 during a time of racial segregation in the U.S. Army. He received his pilot’s wings and was commissioned a second lieutenant in September 1944. He flew 21 combat missions in World War II, 45 in the Korean War, and 70 in Vietnam.

During his 37 years of service in the U.S. Army, Honoré directed the training of half a million soldiers, sailors and airmen all over the world. He became a household name in 2005 when he commanded the task force that responded to Hurricane Katrina. In 2021, at the request of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he led the investigation into security failures during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Honoré is known for his “tell it like he sees it” approach to leadership, which echoed throughout his remarks as he talked about the sacrifices made by veterans subjected to racial injustice.

“We’re not asking the students in this university that are here today to do that to preserve freedom,” he said. “All we want you to do is to get off your a-- and vote.”

Honoré reminded the audience that King “won the third war in America, the civil rights war.” In its aftermath, young Americans have the duty to continue King’s legacy through voting. While they are not required to serve overseas, Honoré said they still need to serve by making their voices heard at the ballot box.

“I ask you to remind the young people that they’ve got an obligation to live up to the sacrifice that those who came before us made,” Honoré said. “This generation, you don’t have to get on a bus to go to Vietnam or World War I or World War II.” Voting, he said, “is all we’re asking you to do.”

Toward the end of his comments, he advised all to “save your best leadership for when you get home,” noting the importance of leading by example.

Prior to the start of the banquet, Honoré met with students from the host institutions — Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, and The University of Alabama — calling on them to address the challenges facing their generation.

“We’re still a work in progress, but your challenge in your generation is going to be how do you preserve this democracy for your grandchildren,” he told students.

Realizing the Dream Committee Announces 2023 Events and Activities


by Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator

The Realizing the Dream planning committee has announced the 2023 Realizing the Dream theme and activities.

The theme for the events will be “Realizing the Dream Through Commitment and Sacrifice.” Each year’s theme is selected by the Realizing the Dream Committee, which includes representatives from Shelton State Community College, Stillman College, the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and The University of Alabama.

On Friday, Jan. 13, at 6:30 p.m., the 14th Legacy Awards Banquet will take place in Sellers Auditorium at the Bryant Conference Center.

Lt. Gen. (ret.) Russel L. Honoré will be the Legacy Awards Banquet speaker. Honoré received international recognition in 2005 when he led 22,000 troops in the post-Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. Then in 2022, Honoré was praised by House speaker Nancy Pelosi for his investigation into the security failures in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

At the banquet, Lt. Col. (ret.) George Hardy, one of few living Tuskegee Airmen, will receive the Mountaintop Award. He received his pilot’s wings and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in September 1944. Throughout his career, he flew 21 combat missions in World War II, 45 in the Korean War, and 70 in Vietnam. Retired from the military since 1971, he continues to share the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Lt. Gen. (ret.) Willie J. Williams, for whom the Stillman College Institute for Leadership, Education Equity and Race Relations is named, will receive the Call to Conscience Award. Williams is a 1974 graduate of Stillman who served in the Marine Corps for 40 years, rising to the position of Marine Corps Chief of Staff.

Christopher Gill will receive the Horizon Award. Gill has dedicated his life to helping military men and women and his research on those who have transitioned into civilian life is credited with preventing countless suicides.

Tasha Cobbs Leonard will be the featured artist for the 2023 Realizing the Dream Concert on Sunday, Jan. 15. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. at The University of Alabama’s Moody Music Concert Hall.

Leonard is a Georgia-based gospel singer, songwriter and minister who broke out in 2013 with the Grammy Award-winning single “Break Every Chain.” Growing up in Jesup, Georgia, she began her career leading worship at the church founded by her father, Rev. Fritz Cobbs.

Realizing the Dream partner Tuscaloosa SCLC will sponsor Unity Day activities beginning at 7 a.m. Monday, Jan. 16, with the Unity Breakfast at Beulah Baptist Church. The Unity Day march will begin at noon from the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. The annual Mass Rally will begin at 5 p.m. at First African Baptist Church. The Mass Rally speaker will be Dr. Vernon Swift, of Elizabeth Baptist Church. All Unity Day activities are free and open to the public.

Additional Realizing the Dream events will take place throughout the year.

Concert tickets are $20. Legacy Banquet tickets are $30 for individuals or $200 for a table of 8. Dress is semiformal. Tickets for both events will be available online at beginning Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 8 a.m.

For ticketing information, call 205-348-7111 or email For more information about Realizing the Dream activities and events, visit the website at, or call 205-348-7405.

Vision Days Legacy Supports Students’ Success

  • December 12th, 2022
  • in CCBP
Vision Days Legacy Logo

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

College is a time of transition for high school students, and the Vision Days Legacy program aids that transition by connecting students with resources and programs to support their success once they arrive at The University of Alabama.

Established in October 2020, the Legacy program is a branch of Vision Days that supports and helps develop opportunities at UA for students who completed the Vision Days four-year program in high school and chose to attend UA. Student ambassadors within the Legacy program provide academic and social support for underrepresented undergraduate students and Alabama high school students.

Malika Freeman, a senior majoring in biology and a Legacy ambassador, described the experience of working with the Vision Days program as seeing a “light switch [on] in their eyes” when interacting with the high schoolers who participate in Vision Days.

“It makes me want to help more, bring more people to campus with backgrounds like me,” said Freeman.

Ambassadors, like senior biology major LeAnna Roberts, are typically chosen from former Vision Days participants.

“I went to Central High School [in Tuscaloosa], so I remember going on tours with Vision Days,” she said. “I started volunteering [with Vision Days] once I got to UA and enjoyed it and then applied to be an ambassador.”

The Vision Days Legacy program is led by undergraduate Legacy ambassadors like Freeman and Roberts. Ambassadors are responsible for developing and coordinating the Legacy program, its mentorship initiative, and the student groups’ short- and long-term goals.

“What I have learned most is how to get a program started, the logistics of it, how much time it takes [and] having to be more detail oriented,” Freeman said.

As Freeman explained, ambassadors work behind the scenes with the Legacy program to support Vision Days. Specifically, Freeman designs presentations for meetings or program activities, such as for Vision Days’ most recent event, its first FAFSA (Federal Student Aid) night on Oct. 27.

Ambassadors assist high school students with the admissions process, scholarship applications and keeping up with important deadlines. FAFSA night was just one example of how ambassadors support the needs of high school students that are part of Vision Days.

Amelia Poolos, a sophomore majoring in psychology and biology, also a Legacy ambassador, said these activities also support recruitment initiatives, such as leading campus tours for the 9th–12th grade students who visit UA for Vision Days.

“We get to lead the groups and talk to the high schoolers and see if they’re interested in coming here and what they want to do here, and just talk to them about future plans,” said Poolos.

Getting to share insight into college life is something that Vision Days Legacy ambassadors say is most rewarding.

“I would say I’ve enjoyed the appreciativeness,” Roberts said. “Every high school, especially when you have a small group of eight or seven and [are] able to talk to each of them, they’re very interested and curious to know your experience and what you’re doing.”

“I just like giving back to people because somebody did it for me, and I just think it’s really cool,” Poolos added.

UA Reaches 95 Percent of United Way Campaign Goal; Campaign Continues Through End of Year

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communication Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

With the holiday season approaching, the UA United Way Campaign leadership announced giving to the 2022 campaign has reached 95% of the $405,000 goal.

Dr. Colleen Geary and Dr. James Hardin, campaign co-chairs, shared during the UA United Way Campaign celebration on the Autherine Lucy Hall lawn on Thursday, Dec. 1, that while the journey to goal is ongoing, the finish line is in sight.

This year’s theme, United in Lifting Lives, mirrors the mission of the 2022 host college, the College of Education (COE), by capturing the importance of working together to support individuals and families in need throughout the community and the West Alabama area.

“We know that when we make one life better everyone around that person gets lifted as well, and in a way, we all get a rise,” said Dr. Peter Hlebowitsh, dean of the COE.

UA President Dr. Stuart R. Bell thanked the COE for its role in this year’s campaign, as well as the Division of Community Affairs and campaign coordinators for their leadership, and faculty and staff for their generosity. He also recognized 12 units that reached or exceeded their unit goal, as well as the impact of the UA United Way Campaign in inspiring UA students to become involved in their communities.

“Lifting others through the United Way this year, I think, is the way that we’re all exhibiting that for our students,” Bell said. “Students learn how to be philanthropic when they’re on our campus. When that thermometer goes to the top, they see that. That’s this university that’s giving back in so many ways.”

Jackie Wuska, CEO of the United Way of West Alabama (UWWA), and Jheovanny Gomez, 2022 UWWA campaign chair, also noted the impact of UA’s support for United Way by lifting lives in West Alabama.

“This community changed my life, and with your contribution and what you do, you’re making a huge impact on the West Alabama community,” Gomez said.

“Because of the generosity of the employees at The University of Alabama, we are traditionally the largest contributor to the United Way of West Alabama’s campaign,” said Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs. “We are almost there but will need more employees in the UA family to contribute, so that we can meet our goal and fulfill our commitment to our community.”

The campaign will continue through the end of the calendar year. Donations can be made through the secure online giving portal through that time. Those who prefer to give via pledge card may do so through Wednesday, Dec. 21.

The Division of Community Affairs leads the annual UA United Way Campaign with a structure that provides opportunities for UA colleges and administrative units to host the campaign each year. The United Way of West Alabama has 26 partner agencies and plays a vital role in improving the quality of people’s lives. Partner agencies from Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Marengo, Pickens, Sumter and Tuscaloosa counties provide a variety of education, income-related, health and emergency-response programs to citizens throughout West Alabama.

High School Seniors Experience College Life During Vision Days

  • November 29th, 2022
  • in CCBP

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

High School seniors from across Alabama visited The University of Alabama for a firsthand experience of college life and the application process during fall Vision Days from September–October.

“It’s a good experience,” said Samya Jones, senior from Hamilton High School. “I’m learning new things, and I get to learn more information about the campus.”

Sponsored by the Division of Community Affairs, Vision Days is a campus-wide effort focusing on the college readiness of high school students from rural and underrepresented areas in Alabama.

Led by Dr. Daniela Susnara, director of planning and assessment for community engagement, the four-year program is designed to prepare high schoolers for the college experience through curated tours and information sessions that vary according to grade level.

Students began the day with a scavenger hunt, a walking tour across campus that introduced students to UA resources through visiting campus sites, such as the Gorgas Library and Honors College.

“Honestly, I’m probably leaning towards just coming here … because I was thinking about going to Bevill State … but it looks like I’m probably going to just go here for my first college years and just go for my full four years,” said David Madison, senior at Hubbertville High School. “It’s just the people, the community, the food, everything, just everything just looks nice.”

After the walking tour, students heard presentations from University admissions and financial aid staff, which many high school participants said was their most important takeaway from Vision Days.

“They’re all fun and nice, and then it honestly does just really help because the college application process is super complicated and getting to know the school and seeing if I really want to go here and then learning more about how to apply and all the different aspects of it is really helpful,” said Zoe Shore, senior from Central High School.

Vision Days’ campus visits for seniors are also designed to prepare high schoolers for life beyond college. Therefore, students ended the day with discussion panels that addressed opportunities within the Honors College, graduate and law school, and scholarships.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Seigfried Williams, choir director for Greene County High School and one of the advisors present. “It just gives them exposure. It kind of gives them an idea about what they want to do after high school.”

“A lot of them haven’t seen like an actual college campus … so I think it’s good for them to see overall the experience of it,” added Ashley Holman, school counselor at Sulligent High School.

For fall 2022, 579 seniors from 19 high schools across Alabama participated in Vision Days.

Vision Days Hosts Inaugural FAFSA Night

  • November 12th, 2022
  • in CCBP
Two young women looking at a computer

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs
Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

High school seniors are one step closer to graduation, thanks to Vision Days’ inaugural Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Night held in the Math and Science Education Building at The University of Alabama on Oct. 27.

Hosted by Vision Days to support its anchor schools, the event provided high school students, families and staff an opportunity to come and go during a three-hour window that allowed for reliable Internet access and direct help from UA students and staff with completing the FAFSA.

The event was created to assist high school seniors with FAFSA completion, a requirement for high school graduation in Alabama, and to provide additional support beyond standard Vision Days programming.

Amanda Dockery and Khalilah Harris, advisors in the department of financial aid at UA, helped students and families complete the FAFSA during the event.

“I can see that she [Dr. Daniela Susnara] has a passion for getting the word out to students and their families about opportunities at the University, and so, specifically, we try to plug in and breakdown the FAFSA, take something that’s really complicated and complex and try to make it manageable for students and parents,” Dockery said.

That first step comes with helping students and their parents create a Federal Student Aid ID. After that, students can start filling out the application.

Lilly Ingram, a senior at Sipsey Valley High School, came by to complete her FAFSA after hearing about the event from her school’s counselor.

“I think what I get from it the most is learning the process and learning how to do everything correctly instead of just going in blindsided,” she said.

“Everybody has been very knowledgeable and helpful in showing us how to do it,” said Caleb Ingram, who found out about the event through his daughter’s [Lilly’s] school. “It makes it easy on the parents and the students, and I think it’s great for kids and for parents like us, especially people who are first-time parents and this is our first [kid to] go through college.”

UA undergraduates that are members of the Vision Days Legacy program were also available to answer any questions that attendees had about the FAFSA and college application process.

“I like coming out and helping students [at events like this],” said Malika Freeman, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering and ambassador with the Vision Days Legacy program. “I also like the Vision Days portion, getting to talk to students. It’s really cool to see that part.”

By getting the word out, UA staff members, like Harris, hope these events will encourage more high school students to apply for funding.

“I think that getting the students out here and letting them know all the free funding that’s out here for them to get their education and obtain their degree is really important,” Harris said. “I feel like it’s kind of underrepresented, so by getting that word out there and letting everybody know that we’re here to help, here to walk them through the process is really helpful.”

Roll the Vote Encourages Voter Registration Ahead of Midterm Elections

Roll the Vote

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

Encouraging UA students, faculty and staff to cast their ballots on Nov. 8, UA Vote Everywhere and the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center collaborated with campus partners located in the Student Center to host Roll the Vote, a multi-day voter registration and absentee ballot information drive held Sept. 26–29.

“UA actually has a very high registration rate, but we have below average turnout rates,” said Sam Robson, president of UA Vote Everywhere. “We think that students are just really busy around election time, and we think that students have other priorities, and that the campus needs to be doing more to create a culture around civic engagement ... so it’s really about getting information out there early and trying to convince students that it’s actually worth it.”

During Roll the Vote, UA Vote Everywhere and the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center partnered with the Intercultural Diversity Center (IDC), Student Government Association (SGA), Black Student Union (BSU), and Blackburn Institute, with each organization serving as a host site on a different day.

“BSU was honored to be able to collaborate in the event,” said Anthony Williams, president of BSU. “Voting is a civil right many historical Black figures fought for students such as us to get. It was imperative that we took this opportunity to give students easy access to register and exercise their right to vote.”

“This program provided an opportunity for the IDC to assist our diverse and minority students with a time and space to come in and learn about how to vote and the process,” added Shemaiah Kenon, assistant director of IDC. “Voting is more important than ever nowadays, and I’m happy the IDC could be a part of the charge to inform students that registering to vote is easy, convenient and a pivotal right of our democracy.”

Emma Kenny, a member of the Blackburn Institute and a Vote Everywhere ambassador, said she thought the reason the Blackburn Institute was eager to participate in Roll the Vote was that it was committed to developing ethical leaders and politically active citizens. “Encouraging all of our students to vote and create a voting plan helps the institute and its students get closer to those goals,” Kenny said.

Volunteers set up tables outside each organization’s office, welcoming students with coffee, doughnuts and handouts for voter registration and absentee ballot information.

Frances Buntain, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, stopped by the site in front of the SGA office. She said setting up tables helps to catch students “who aren’t aware that they can vote or should vote or how to register.”

Shelby Johnson and Nila Segobin, students who attended other Roll the Vote sites in the Student Center, said the multi-site setup made voter registration more accessible.

“I definitely do think that [they] are doing a really great job by just going around some different office spaces and making sure [they’re] targeting people who would really like to register, but not sure how to go about the process,” said Johnson.

Segobin added: “I think [this setup] is more effective, and I like how it’s in an office or in different places, so you can ask those questions … because, obviously, being an out-of-state student or even sometimes being an in-state student, you don’t know what to do.”

Over the summer months, student interns with UA Vote Everywhere worked with Crossroads and the Division of Community Affairs to launch a new website: The site is intended to be a one-stop shop of voting resources for participating in local, state-wide, national, and UA’s SGA elections.

Collier Dobbs, SGA’s vice president for External Affairs, said the decision to co-partner on the initiative was in keeping with “our mission statement [which] is ‘to train ourselves in democratic government and promote citizenship on campus’ … so SGA was excited to have the opportunity to co-sponsor not only on the Roll the Vote event, but also to co-sponsor on the past, present, and future efforts to give students the resources to register to vote.”

For voter information and registration, visit