Board of Advisors Holds Fall 2017 Meeting; Large Number Hear Birmingham Business Executive on 9/11 Anniversary

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The Community Affairs Board of Advisors (BOA) wrapped up its fall 2017 meeting with a breakfast on Tuesday, September 12, following two days of intensive committee meetings and reports. Several offices of the organization assumed overall leadership roles as board president Katie Boyd Britt was unable to attend the September 10–12 meeting.

The highlight of the gathering came on Monday, September 11, on the 16th anniversary of the Twin Towers disaster in New York City (9/11/2001). The evening featured recollections of and memorials to the event, along with a keynote speech by Gadsden native and UA and Harvard University graduate John Johns, executive chairman of Protective Life Corporation in Birmingham. More than 100 board members and their families, University administrators, faculty and staff and their families and other guests attended the Monday night event.

Johns’ talk, entitled “Effective Leadership: The Good Life and the Duality of the Southern Thing,” gave insights into Alabama culture and its historic struggles to “occasionally get good things done.”  He reminded his audience that the lessons of the power of the human spirit over the past decades are somehow more magnified in Alabama than most places, citing the absurdity of “the rabble trying to settle its differences by blowing up a church that killed six children,” a reference to the September 15, 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.

Appealing to his young audience, he cited popular songs by Lynard Skynard (“Sweet Home Alabama”) and Neil Young and Drive-By Truckers to illustrate “the duality of the Southern thing,” which Johns said means that although we Southerners do some things right, “we then mess it up by doing something horribly wrong, bringing us back to square one.”

Johns gave a haunting/poignant, yet still somehow optimistic picture of our state’s potential, while still acknowledging that “our aim is off; we keep shooting ourselves in the foot over and over again.” He said although there are pockets of successes, of which he counted The University of Alabama one, we have never put enough effort or provided enough funding for education, which he said affects the “number and nature of our police reports.”

Johns urged the alumni group and other members of the audience to recall the hopeful messages of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who, according to Johns, “appealed to the good side of the duality of the Southern thing.”

Vice President Joseph Bryant opened the Sunday lunch meeting by telling the group, “We are diverse in every way you can imagine.” He said the BOA is committed to coming up with ways to enhance the University “on the national stage and the international level as well.” Bryant serves as director of communication for the Birmingham Housing Authority.

Three committees shared their accomplishments at this session. Victoria Javine, chair of the Academic Success and Student Retention Committee, introduced two main initiatives, a mentorship program and recruitment initiative. Javine is a clinical professor in the Department of Economics, Finance and Legal Studies in UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce.

Nicholas Beadle, co-chair of the Entrepreneurship and Innovative Initiatives Committee, said the committee has raised approximately $17,000. The committee’s focus is on funding student initiatives by partnering with other programs on campus and by finding ways to collaborate with the School of Law and the Culverhouse College of Business and Administration to create new tools for students through counseling for small businesses. Beadle is a special assistant in the Office of Apprenticeship of the U.S. Department of Labor, in Washington, D.C.

Global and Community Leadership Committee Chair Rashmee Sharif said the committee has $5,000 to fund Study Abroad and Domestic scholarships. The committee plans to discuss how to market scholarships, scholarship requirements, and also discuss how to contribute time and other resources for UA students. Sharif, who works from Birmingham, is change manager with Cigna’s operating effectiveness team.

At the Sunday meeting Tyrell F. Jordan was recognized for the successful TFJ Law Firm Endowed Scholarship Fund created in 2016. Jordan is a civil litigation attorney in Birmingham.

On Monday, Dr. G. Christine Taylor, the newly named vice president and associate provost for diversity, equity and inclusion spoke to the BOA on UA’s diversity goals. Acknowledging that reaching them will take time and hard work, she summarized them, including increasing diversity within the faculty and student body while maintaining high standards and developing a thriving environment for all students, faculty and staff.

Following her talk and referring to the audience, Community Affairs Vice President Dr. Samory T. Pruitt said, “This group represents some of the best in terms of leadership and diversity this University has produced. The future is bright for this campus, because our efforts are collective. Leadership is not just about identifying problems; it’s also about identifying solutions and committing to being part of those solutions. You can count on that commitment from this group.”

Following Taylor’s address, different committees spent the rest of the day with guest experts who facilitated discussion for the initiatives each committee is pursuing.

The specialists were Dr. Peter Johnson, professor of accounting in the Culverhouse School of Accountancy, who outlined a three-pronged approach to minority recruiting; Dr. George Daniels, assistant dean in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, who discussed the GEAR UP project; and Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne, executive director of the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute, which is housed at the EDGE Center in downtown Tuscaloosa.

The Global and Community Leadership Committee discussed plans for two $2,500 scholarships they have created. The scholarship will be named the Board of Advisors Study Abroad Scholarship. One will be awarded for global study abroad and the other for local or domestic pursuit for students focusing on community engagement projects.

Student Government Association President Jared Hunter spoke during the second half of the committee meeting, sharing his plans for more minorities in the assembly.

The next meeting of the Board of Advisors will be on the UA campus in April 2018.