Board of Advisors Hears from Trustee Simon, Announces Upcoming Initiatives

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

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Community Affairs Board of Advisors (BOA) concluded its spring 2023 meeting in Tuscaloosa on Monday, April 3 at the Bryant Conference Center with a series of meetings followed by the keynote address from University of Alabama System Trustee Kenneth Simon.

Simon, a graduate of The University of Alabama School of Law and former Jefferson County circuit judge, reminded attendees that sometimes a note of encouragement is all it takes to inspire others. He told the story of a handwritten message that his former professor wrote in the corner of a paper and its impact on his career.

“So, the words that he wrote, ‘Educate thyself, brother, and you will go far.’ That helped create a true vision for myself,” Simon said.

Years later, Simon wrote a letter thanking his professor for those words of encouragement. Simon read from his professor’s reply, noting its impact as follows: “I tossed the words out into the unknown and you and they have gone far, and now, 20 years later, they returned to me in the form of thanks. … Your letter seems to say to me you never know, brother, what your words can do for others.”

Resonating with how their words and actions can encourage others, the BOA committee leadership shared their initiatives for the upcoming year.

To support the Vision Days program, the Academic Success and Student Retention Committee announced members will contribute financially to Vision Days student support and will mentor students from the Vision Days program at UA.

The Alumni Engagement Committee announced plans to increase BOA membership within the UA Alumni Association.

The Entrepreneurship and Innovative Initiatives Committee discussed how to support the FUEL Alabama initiative to encourage entrepreneurship and engagement with alumni.

The Global and Community Leadership Development Committee recognized two students who received the Committee’s Study Away Scholarship during Monday’s banquet. Additionally, the Committee is working to collaborate with UA’s Career Center to assist students with career readiness and discussed partnering with the Black Belt Community Foundation and Crossroads to encourage civic engagement.

The Public Health Committee discussed ways to support the McCullough Institute for Pre-Medical Scholars, as well as the Rural Health Initiative, noting that they want to broaden these efforts to retain students in-state for their residencies and beyond.

The Finance Committee shared an update on the funds raised for the endowments to support each committee.

The Veteran Support Services Committee reported that they continue to work on logistics for hosting a veteran orientation on campus and that they are exploring innovative partnerships with campus and community members for veterans’ well-being, such as in adaptive sports and art therapy.

Many of these initiatives resulted from panel discussions faculty, staff and students at UA held that connected BOA members with partnerships and research initiatives to support the work of their respective committees.

Taylor Nichols, Board vice president, introduced new Board members Clay Armentrout and Jessica Sanders Walker, who have joined the Board since its fall 2022 meeting.

In closing, BOA President Samarria Dunson recognized BOA members for their dedication to UA and thanked Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs, for his leadership.

“Dr. [Samory] Pruitt often speaks about the composition of this Board being good people who are also high achievers, but what he doesn’t recognize is it is his leadership, character and example that binds us together and fortifies our mission,” said Dunson. “Thank you, Dr. Pruitt, for all that you do for the betterment of this Board, for this amazing institution and for the citizens of the state of Alabama.”

The BOA meeting officially began on Sunday, April 2, with a lunch and overview of Community Affairs initiatives, followed by a walking tour of the UA campus and an evening reception at Hotel Indigo in downtown Tuscaloosa. The spring 2023 activities concluded with breakfast on Tuesday, April 4, at the hotel.