by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs
The Community Affairs Board of Advisors concluded its fall 2023 meeting with a dinner and gala in the Diamonds Direct Ballroom at Regions Field in Birmingham, where members discussed new initiatives and learned the importance of connectivity from keynote speaker, Birmingham City Attorney Nicole King.
King, a UA alumna, shared how the connections she made and skills she developed at The University of Alabama impacted her career.
“The power of connectivity is just like the sturdy oak trees on The University of Alabama campus,” King said. “Standing tall in the storms and able to face the fiercest of winds, the branches may bend a little, but they would never break. And just as the branches of the tree remain unbroken, genuine connections grow stronger.”
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin also delivered remarks to the BOA via video, emphasizing the power of collaboration.
Earlier in the day, BOA members heard from panelists whose work corresponded to committee interests in areas of public health, academic success, entrepreneurship, global and community leadership, and veterans’ support. In keeping with the meeting’s theme, “Making Magic in the Magic City,” the BOA committee leadership presented their upcoming initiatives during the gala, sharing thoughts on how they can “make magic” through connectivity and reciprocity.
“Throughout all of our presentations we’ve learned about the value of connectivity,” said Jon Macklem, chair of the Entrepreneurship and Innovative Initiatives Committee. “In the space of entrepreneurship and innovation, we’ve been blessed by great speakers that talked about all the exciting things, all the magic that’s been created here in Birmingham through innovation, through supporting people who want to create new businesses and who want to explore new ideas.”
BOA members also highlighted how connectivity provides opportunities to utilize their individual strengths to improve quality-of-life initiatives.
“I want to challenge us to all reflect on our strength and privileges, understand our role in power dynamics and embrace the power that comes through the community,” said Ibukun Afon, chair of the Public Health Committee. “Let us continue to come back and give back.”
Reflecting on the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of UA, BOA President Samarria Munnerlyn Dunson acknowledged the legacy of Vivian Malone Jones and Dr. James Hood, along with others, and encouraged her fellow Board members to continue to make a difference in the lives of others.
“I stand here grateful for their sacrifices and the sacrifices of countless others,” said Dunson. “I am immensely proud of all the progress that our alma mater has made in the decades that followed and for the genuine and valuable relationships that we forged along the way. There is no doubt that The University of Alabama is where legends are made. The work that we do in the Division of Community Affairs, that is where a difference is made in the life of our students, the Tuscaloosa community and beyond.”
Joined by fellow BOA member Jessica Sanders Walker, Dunson presented Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs, with a gift to thank him for his leadership and vision of the BOA at the conclusion of the gala.
The BOA meeting officially began on Sunday, Oct. 22, with a lunch and overview of Community Affairs programs and announcements for the BOA, followed by a reception at Graham & Co. The fall 2023 agenda concluded with a breakfast on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the Elyton Hotel in Birmingham.