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A Community Affairs response to COVID-19

  • March 25th, 2020
  • in News

As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, offices at The University of Alabama have been operating under a limited business model, including offices and centers throughout the Division of Community Affairs. This includes the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, the Student Community Engagement Center, and the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center.

While the initial outbreak required the cancellation of the remaining special events we normally host during the spring semester, it could not slow us from our mission. Knowing that the work we do with and within the community would become increasingly important, we pivoted to deliver the Division’s programs via technology platforms that allowed us to remain connected while maintaining physical distance. And we continued to plan for the future.

Now, as the University prepares for a return to campus in the fall, we continue to press forward — safely — with plans to continue many of our programs online into the fall semester. It’s a new space for a Division that bases its programs and activities on community engagement, but it has presented opportunities for us to explore new ways of doing things that can continue to have a positive impact when we get to the other side of this worldwide pandemic.

We encourage you to follow the University’s updates at, and to stay abreast of Community Affairs happenings on our website and on our social media pages.

We wish you good health, and we continue to look forward to the day when we can get back to the work of community engagement on a face-to-face basis.

Committee Announces 2020 Realizing the Dream Distinguished Lecture Series

By Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs

The 2020 Realizing the Dream Distinguished Lecture Series, titled VOTE, Everyone and Everywhere, will take place Thursday, March 12, at 6 p.m. in Stillman College’s Stinson Auditorium, with voter registration and voting rights restoration education taking place prior to the event and beginning at 4:30 p.m.

All are encouraged to participate in voter registration if they are not already registered, to learn about the process for restoring their right to vote if applicable, and staying for the panel and discussion that follow.

The panel will feature representatives of The Andrew Goodman Foundation, as well as Dana Sweeney, Statewide Organizer at the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and a 2018–2019 Puffin Democracy Fellow with The Andrew Goodman Foundation.

At the height of the civil rights movement, Andrew Goodman joined Freedom Summer 1964 to register African Americans to vote. On his first day in Mississippi, he and two other civil rights workers, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. The Andrew Goodman Foundation was created in 1966 by Robert and Carolyn Goodman to carry on the spirit and purpose of their son Andrew’s life. Today, the foundation’s work harnesses the legacy of courageous civic action to grow new leaders of change.

Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to work to achieve justice and equity for all Alabamians. Alabama Appleseed is a member of the national Appleseed Network, which includes 18 Appleseed Centers across the U.S. and in Mexico City. Alabama Appleseed is also a member of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law’s Legal Impact Network, a collaborative of 36 advocacy organizations from across the country working with communities to end poverty and achieve racial justice at the federal, state and local levels.

All are encouraged and invited to this free event, which promises to be an enlightening and inspiring discussion about the importance of exercising the right to vote. Come as you are and bring a friend.

The event will be hosted by Stillman College, a member of the Realizing the Dream Committee, which is comprised of Stillman, Shelton State Community College, the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference and The University of Alabama.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Realizing the Dream Committee exists to raise consciousness about injustice and  promote human equality, peace and social justice. It creates educational and cultural opportunities  for growth, empowerment and social change so that every person may experience the bounty of life’s abundant possibilities. The Distinguished Lecture Series is an integral part of the Realizing the Dream activities in west Alabama.

Jonathan McReynolds Captures Audience at 31st Annual Realizing the Dream Concert

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By Ashley Cunigan
CCBP Student Assistant

Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Jonathan McReynolds commanded the stage at the 31st annual Realizing the Dream Concert on Sunday, January 19, as students and community members gathered to cheer the enthusiastic performance at Moody Music Concert Hall in celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Student representatives Harrison Adams, University of Alabama Student Government Association (SGA) President; Obi Bruno S. Ndubueze, Shelton State Community College Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society president; and Kylon Freeman, Stillman College SGA president, welcomed the audience and recognized Legacy Award winners Emma Mansberg, Chris England and Mary Allen Jolley, who received awards on Friday, for their services and achievements performed in the spirit of Dr. King.

Sunday night’s concert brought the weekend to its peak. Audience members were excited and eager for McReynolds’ performance. The Chicago native began his career in a college dorm room and has grown to become a distinguished artist around the world, receiving a Dove Award, a Grammy nomination and multiple Stellar Award nominations.

McReynolds captured  the audience at the outset by singing his hits “Great is the Lord” and “Gotta Have You.” Audience members were impressed by the artist’s powerful vocals, clapping and cheering throughout the concert. “Not Lucky, I’m Loved” was a crowd favorite.

McReynolds, drawing on personal experience, shared that he doesn’t take all the credit. He said his songs are inspired by an authentic relationship with God. The audience was moved by his story and applauded the artist for speaking about his experience.

The energetic performer kept the guests on their feet the whole night. As he sang about faith and freedom, many lifted their hands with praise. McReynolds reminded the crowd that faith in God should frame every part of life, and testified that this is what he is truly about.

The Realizing the Dream Concert and Legacy Awards Banquet, whose purpose is to shine a spotlight on peace and unity that inspires us all to make a better tomorrow, is sponsored by The University of Alabama, Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Legacy Awards Speaker, Recipients Deliver Message of Hope

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By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

Laura Ling, the award-winning journalist and author, delivered her encouraging life-experience story as keynote speaker at the 2020 Realizing the Dream Legacy Awards Banquet on January 17 in the Bryant Conference Center Sellers Auditorium before an audience of more than 400 guests.

Ling is the recipient of such prestigious awards as an Emmy, a national Edward R. Murrow Award and a Ralph McGill Award for her correspondent work.

Ling, who is the younger sister of Lisa Ling of CNN’s “This is the Life with Lisa Ling,” shared the story of being held captive in North Korea in 2009 while reporting on the trafficking of North Korean women in China. Ling and a colleague were detained by North Korean soldiers along the China-North Korea border were held captive for 140 days before being granted a special pardon and returning to the United States, thanks to the intervention of former President Bill Clinton.

In telling the story of her captivity, Ling focused on some small but shining moments.

In her own words: “One day, one of my guards had gone home to visit her family. When she returned, I asked her if she had a nice time seeing them. She said she did. But she looked kind of forlorn, and she said, I feel bad that I can see my family when you’ve been separated from yours for so long.

“Another day, I was sitting next to a guard who was crying. I had no idea why she was crying, but at that moment, I felt compelled to reach out and hug her. I knew that I could be taking a risk by reaching to a young woman whose job was to keep me prisoner. But at that moment, I just didn’t care. I reached my arms around her and embraced her. She immediately stood up, but she didn’t push me away. After a few seconds, I let it go. Then she offered me this very slight smile as if she appreciated that gesture. I also hugged her for selfish reasons. After feeling so alone, just that small physical interaction with another human being made me feel more alive.

“After learning about my sentence of 12 years in a labor camp, I was held in a room, crying uncontrollably. Another guard came to me, and she said something that I would never forget. ‘Laura,’ she said, ‘always have hope.’ These are women who were cold and mean to me when I first met them. They looked at me as their enemy, and I looked at them as perfect models of the North Korean propaganda machine. But I mention these moments because I do think that they are testaments to what can happen when people from enemy nations, on opposite ends of a spectrum — brown, white, blue state, red state…. What happens when we take that chance to engage with those we consider as different? We might find out how much we actually have in common. We may understand that shared humanity that truly connects us all.”

Ling also introduced her current work as a host on the E! Network. “Our report, which took us all across the country, where we met young people, was meant to let them know that there is hope,” she said. “Some of us here in this room maybe are dealing with our own personal obstacles that have left us feeling confused and alone, maybe even depressed. I think that we can all agree that we are living during a time of deep polarization. As Americans, we have faced tremendous challenges. Ethnic, racial and religious tensions divide us. The immense gap between the rich and poor continues to grow here in the U.S. and around the world. But no matter how difficult things get, we just have to, as my North Korean guard once told me: Hold on to hope. It will lead us through to brighter days.”

This year’s Realizing the Dream theme, “Through the Courage to Live a Life of Purpose,” aims to remind people that King’s courage laid a foundation that both empowered and served as a catalyst for others to do their part, long after his passing, as King’s quest for social justice continues.

Before the banquet, an informal meeting was held for students from Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and The University of Alabama to meet with Ling. During this time, Ling shared about her journey of how she became a journalist, as well as her recent work, which tries to reach out to the new generation through new forms of media, using podcast and other media, for example, as well as old media to tell stories in new ways to the digital generation.

Following Ling’s address, three individuals received Legacy Awards. Emma Mansberg received the Horizon Award for her all-around community involvement. Tuscaloosa city attorney Chris England, the first African-American in Alabama history elected chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, received the Call to Conscience Award. Mary Allen Jolley received the Mountaintop Award for her lifetime of promoting education and equal opportunity.

This was the 12th year of the Legacy Banquet. Previous speakers include network correspondents Byron Pitts, Juan Williams and John Cochran, newspaper columnist Cynthia Tucker, now Senator Doug Jones, and television and movie star Danny Glover.

UA Announces 2020 Realizing the Dream Banquet and Concert Schedule

By Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama is pleased to announce the upcoming 2020 Realizing the Dream Legacy Banquet and Concert.

The Legacy Banquet will take place Friday, January 17, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. in the Bryant Conference Center Sellers Auditorium, with the concert scheduled for Sunday, January 19, 2020. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. at The University of Alabama’s (UA) Moody Music Concert Hall.

The Legacy Banquet speaker will be Laura Ling, an award-winning journalist and author who has been recognized with both an Emmy and a national Edward R. Murrow award for her correspondent work for “SoCal Connected,” the hard-hitting news magazine series. She is host of the podcast “Everyday Bravery,” a series about finding the courage within ourselves to overcome our biggest challenges. Additionally, she has hosted two documentary series on the E! Network: “E! Investigates” and “Society X with Laura Ling.” Prior to joining E!, Ling served as vice president of Current TV’s journalism department and created “Vanguard,” the network’s weekly investigative documentary series. In March 2009, while reporting on the trafficking of North Korean women, Ling and her colleague were detained by North Korean soldiers along the China-North Korea border. The two journalists were arrested and held captive in North Korea for 140 days before being granted a special pardon and returning to the U.S. She documented her experience in the 2010 memoir, “Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home,” penned with her sister, Lisa. Ling is a service ambassador for Points of Light, the nonpartisan organization dedicated to solving social problems through voluntary service.

The featured guest for the concert will be gospel artist Jonathan McReynolds. His music began in a college dorm room in the presence of a few friends and has grown to Christian music’s biggest stage. “Life Music: Stage Two,” his second album, received a Dove Award, a Grammy nomination and multiple Stellar Award nominations. His latest full-length album, “Make Room,” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard Gospel. It has been hailed as his best work, earning eight Stellar Awards and two Grammy nominations. The Chicago native says that “Life Music,” which is concerned with showing others and reminding himself how the faith doesn’t just fit every part of life, but should frame every part of life, is everything he’s truly about. In addition to his musical contributions, McReynolds serves as an adjunct instructor at Columbia College, one of his alma maters, and is the founder of Elihu Nation, a nonprofit organization that promotes wisdom and has awarded $30,000 in scholarships. He earned a master of arts degree in Biblical studies from Moody Theological Seminary in 2015 and was recently named a new member of Mensa, an international high IQ society. Gospel artist Kirk Franklin, who was the featured concert artist at this event in 2017, has called McReynolds “the future of gospel music, “the freshest songwriter I’ve heard in years.”

The theme for 2020 events celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is Realizing the Dream Through the Courage to Live a Life of Purpose. The events are hosted by UA, Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and the Tuscaloosa branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

At the Legacy Banquet, Mary Allen Jolley will receive the Mountaintop Award, Rep. Chris England will receive the Call to Conscience Award and Emma Mansberg will receive the Horizon Award.

This year’s Legacy Banquet will also feature a tribute to Paula Sue Burnum-Hayes, Theresa Burroughs, Nimrod Quintus Reynolds and Ella Odessa Warrick, all previous Legacy Award winners who are deceased. While each of them led very different lives, their legacies are inextricably intertwined with one another Through the Courage to Live a Life of Purpose in advancing the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Concert tickets are $20. Legacy Banquet tickets are $30 for individuals or $250 for a table of 10. Dress is semiformal. Tickets for both events will be available online at beginning Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 at 8 a.m. To purchase tickets in person, please visit the Moody Music Box Office Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 through Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, from 8 a.m. to noon. For more information, call 205-348-7111 or email

Realizing the Dream partner, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, will sponsor Unity Day activities beginning on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.

For more information about Realizing the Dream activities and events, visit the website at, or contact Carol Agomo at 205-348-7405 or via email at

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.

Giving for United Way Highest in UA’s History

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By Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs

Faculty and staff from across campus gathered on the lawn of the President’s Mansion Nov. 21, a beautiful autumn day that provided a perfect backdrop to mark the conclusion of the 2019 UA United Way campaign.

Members of the Million Dollar Band set the tone for the occasion, and they provided a perfect drum roll as Big Al and his Arts and Sciences friends flipped the oversized presentation check to reveal the campaign giving total of $483,807, a figure that not only crushed the $395,000 goal but also set a new record for the largest giving total in campaign history.

Dr. Joseph Messina, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, this year’s host college, thanked the members of his team, who played an integral role in the 2019 campaign. He also acknowledged the support provided by the staff of the Division of Community Affairs, as well as the work of the campus coordinators.

“Behind the scenes, but very, very important are all the campus coordinators,” said Messina. “There are many campus coordinating team members . . . they’re scattered throughout every unit, every college, and they’re critical to making this a successful operation.”

Messina also thanked UA President Stuart R. Bell for the opportunity to host the campaign.

“We had a great time doing it,” Messina said.

Bell thanked all who play a role in making the campaign successful, noting the giving nature, in both financial resources and time, of UA faculty, staff and students. He spoke about how the annual campaign provides an opportunity to band together and make something big happen for the community.

“I think this is one of those times where we come together and realize that at The University of Alabama, we are a community, but, more than that, we are a part of this community,” said Bell. “I couldn’t be more proud of our staff and those who contribute to this program to make sure that Tuscaloosa and West Alabama is served in the way that it deserves to be served.”

Campaign Treasurer Caroline Railsback said each year she recognizes a group or area that has significantly increased its giving total or participation rate over the previous year. This year she recognized UA retirees, noting that while they always give generously, this year they gave 51 percent higher than last, raising $52,480.

Campaign co-chair Charles “Skip” Snead acknowledged the efforts of those who have been a part of the campaign. He also jokingly reminded those present that when  they met at this location two months ago for the Campaign Kickoff, Big Al wrote a  big check to cover the fundraising goal, and that  the group would soon have an opportunity to learn the status of his bank account.

Bell, Big Al, the College of Arts and Sciences team and Jackie Wuska, chief executive officer of United Way of West Alabama, joined Snead near the podium for the big reveal, after which Big Al could breathe a sigh of relief, because this was a day for celebration.

Wuska thanked everyone for their support and introduced Campaign Chair Norman Crow, president of D T Freight, who closed the celebration.

“I cannot express to you the gratitude that we have for this great support that we have gotten from The University of Alabama,” Crow said. “I want to thank Dr. Pruitt, Dr. Bell and the great team from Arts and Sciences and all of you for living united and for helping us meet the needs of this community. Thank you so much. Roll Tide.”

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.

Sharing Our Legacy Dance Theatre Performs for Realizing the Dream 2019

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Photos by Charlee Lyu
By Ashley Cunigan
CCBP Student Program Assistant

Sharing Our Legacy Dance Theatre (SOL) is a performing group of undergraduate and graduate students that uses interdisciplinary art to bring powerful stories from the past to audiences of all ages. These students from the University of Delaware traveled to Tuscaloosa to perform and hold student workshops at Hillcrest High School Sept. 13 and 14. This event was part of the Realizing the Dream series, which also includes a concert, a legacy banquet and a lecture series.

Hillcrest High School students involved in band, choir, theatre or art were welcomed to the event. Tina Turley, executive producer of Theatre Tuscaloosa, greeted the audience, and in opening remarks asserted that the “arts are transformative and bring quality of life to our community.” The SOL Dance Theatre was able to educate students on racial history through a story told about Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first African-American woman newspaper editor in North America.

“We want to focus on the stories of people who we haven’t heard of and showcase them through performance,” said Rachel Mariah DeLauder, SOL dancer. The story of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, who was born in 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware, was told through choreography that depicted her transformation in becoming a strong woman advocating for equal rights.

Dominic Yeager, director of Arts Management and associate professor in The University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance, expressed his gratitude to the performers. “The arts promote joy, peace, and unity,” said Yeager. “This is what we teach and mentor in our program.” Yeager also encouraged high school seniors to apply to UA and audition for the program.

Students at Hillcrest High School expressed their thoughts about the performance with the dancers in an interactive workshop. Dr. Lynnette Young Overby, artistic director for SOL, discussed how members conducted research about Cary’s life and how she has made an impact on African-American history. The SOL continues to collaborate with guest choreographers, composers and educational organizations to further enhance their productions.

The Realizing the Dream Committee is comprised of Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference and The University of Alabama.

UA Launches 2019 United Way Campaign

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To view more photos, click here.

By Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs

The lawn of the President’s Mansion was filled with anticipation on the afternoon of Sept. 19 when The University of Alabama launched its 2019 UA United Way Campaign. Music by the Million Dollar Band greeted more than 250 guests as they gathered under the large white tent that graced the lawn, setting the tone for the afternoon.

The host college for the 2019 campaign is the College of Arts and Sciences, and the theme they chose — The Art and Science of Giving — is fitting not only for the college but for the campus as a whole, which has combined the art of caring with the science of giving to contribute collectively in a manner that has consistently exceeded the annual campaign goal for many years.

Dr. Stuart R. Bell, UA president, greeted those gathered and thanked them for their service, year after year, which helps ensure the success of this annual campaign that supports the United Way of West Alabama (UWWA).

“We, as a University, as a family, believe in giving back to our communities and I am certainly honored that The University of Alabama, year after year, shows our commitment to the United Way of West Alabama,” said Bell. “It’s a statement of who we are as a University that we rise up through our campaign and we serve those around us.”

Campaign co-chairs Charles “Skip” Snead, professor and director of the School of Music, and Dr. David Cruz-Uribe, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics, shared that the theme was carefully chosen as an accurate representation of the host unit, and because it shares a two-fold message.

The theme itself reflects the 22 departments and programs that comprise the College — 22 different ways of knowing about the human condition. Our giving and our reasons for giving also reflect all the different ways of knowing. While some are numbers people (the science), others take a more abstract approach (the art).

They shared that one in four people throughout West Alabama, or approximately 190,000 individuals, are benefited by our donations. Further, that money is used incredibly wisely by UWWA, with 90 cents of every dollar donated flowing back to the community. And ultimately, our efforts are about community.

“Every day, in every way, each one of us in our community depends on others to do their part, whatever that part may be,” said Snead. “The United Way is a very tangible process in which we see this connection to our community come together.”

When it was time to reveal this year’s goal of $395,000, a $10,000 increase over the previous year’s goal, Big Al took the lead, running to the podium with an oversized check to unveil the goal amount and make the first pledge, which covered the entire campaign goal. The problem? Big Al doesn’t have any money. That means that we all need to help him meet — or exceed — his pledge!

In addition to the campaign co-chairs, other members of the College of Arts and Sciences staff serving on the campaign are Pamela Young, director of outreach programs and initiatives, who is the loaned executive for the campaign, as well as Stephanie Kirkland, director of college relations, Kaylee Crenshaw, event coordinator and Lynn Phillips, executive secretary.

The campus coordinating committee supporting the College of Arts and Sciences includes representatives from the Division of Community Affairs, the Division of Finance and Operations (UA Printing, Auxiliary Services, and Facilities) and the Division of Strategic Communications, as well as Faculty Senate and 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.

The United Way of West Alabama has 26 partner agencies and plays a vitally important role in improving the quality of people’s lives. Partner agencies from Bibb, Fayette, Green, 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.

For more information about United Way of West Alabama, its partner agencies and their services, visit For information about the UA United Way Campaign, contact Whitney Sewell, Division of Community Affairs, at or at 205-348-5743.

Community Affairs Board of Advisors Welcomes Four New Members

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By Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs

The Division of Community Affairs Board of Advisors recently welcomed four new members to the group. They are Mario J. Bailey of the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area, Galvin Billups of Birmingham, Kechia Davis of Birmingham and Matt Zarzour of Mobile.

“These four new members of the Board of Advisors bring energy and expertise at the highest level in city and state government, corporate leadership, the courts and legal practice, politics, philanthropy, real estate and more,” said Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president of the Division of Community Affairs, who established the board in 2016. “We are indeed fortunate to be able to add such dynamic new members to our Board.”

Bailey earned the BA in political science in 2004 from The University of Alabama (UA). His interest in politics has led him to serve as an intern to former U.S. Congressman Artur Davis, as a field coordinator on the South Florida congressional campaign for former U.S. Congressman Joe Garcia and as chief legislative aide to former Florida State Representative Dwight Bullard. He was twice appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to the South Florida Regional Planning Council, for which he serves as treasurer. Since 2011 Bailey has worked as a senior government relations consultant with the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Becker and Poliakoff law firm, where he works with municipal government, business and education clients. Bailey is a Leadership Florida Connect Class IX graduate, as well as a Leadership Miami Class XXXII graduate, and was recognized with the 2018 South Florida Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Award.

Billups is the executive director of the Division of Youth Services in the office of the Birmingham mayor, where he manages the Division’s operations and leads its mission of building communities through servant leadership by putting youth first. Billups earned his undergraduate degree in business management from The University of Alabama in 2003. Prior to his current position, he served as director of Resident Services for the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District, the largest affordable-housing agency in Alabama. In this role, he was responsible for the administration of the agency’s Family Self-Sufficiency, Homeownership, Section 3, Community Centers and the Resident Leadership Training Programs. Billups serves on various boards and agencies including Family Guidance Center of Alabama, Better Basics and Bancorp South CRA Advisory Board. He and his wife LaTosha, a Birmingham City Schools first-grade teacher, have three children. Billups enjoys volunteering, reading, writing, music, coaching youth sports and family.

Davis is a criminal judge with the Birmingham Municipal Court and a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Alabama. Prior to taking the bench, she served as a deputy district attorney with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office for 13 years. She earned the BS degree in criminal justice in 2000 from the University and earned her law degree from UA in 2003. Davis is a member of the American Bar Association, Alabama Bar Association, Birmingham Bar Association, Volunteer Lawyers Program of Birmingham, Junior League of Birmingham, Leadership Hoover Class of 2019–2020, and is an executive committee member of the UA Alumni Association/Jefferson County Chapter.

Zarzour is a 2007 consumer marketing graduate of UA, as well as a 2011 graduate of the Manderson Graduate School of Business with an MBA in real estate finance. He is currently the CEO of Zarzour Companies, a multi-disciplined real estate investment and development firm in Mobile. Zarzour is involved in several philanthropic efforts, including the Fuse Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to children’s initiatives along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. He is also a board member for Innovation PortAL, a business incubator in Mobile, and a member of the University of Mobile Business School Advisory Board. Additionally, he serves on the board of trustees for St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile.

The Board of Advisors is comprised of outstanding alumni with a commitment to community engagement and student success. While the members’ areas of study and current professions vary widely, each bears the common attribute of having been an exceptional student leader while at The University of Alabama.

Through the work of three committees—Academic Success and Student Retention, Global and Community Leadership Development, and Student Entrepreneurship and Innovative Initiatives—the Board supports campus-wide initiatives that increase student success and retention, facilitate student involvement in entrepreneurship and innovation and develop thoughtful global and community leaders.

President Stuart R. Bell said of the additions to the Board: “I continue to be impressed by the quality and diversity of the membership of our Board of Advisors. These four new members are some of our most outstanding graduates over the past two-plus decades, and this new platform is an ideal fit for their talents. I offer my congratulations and best wishes to them in their new roles.”

The Board of Advisors executive committee is made up of Katie Boyd Britt, president; Joseph Bryant, vice president; Divya Patel, treasurer; Manda Mountain, secretary; David Bailey, chair of the entrepreneurship and innovative initiatives committee; William Suclupe, chair of the academic success and student retention committee; and Rashmee Sharif, chair of the global and community leadership development committee.

To learn more about the Board and its initiatives, visit