Board of Advisors Reviews Program Achievements, Hears Advice from Veteran Educator Dr. Edward Mullins

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By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Fellow

The Board of Advisors (BOA) of the Division of Community Affairs held its spring meeting March 31 through April 2 on campus and in several locations throughout Tuscaloosa.

The highlight of the spring meeting came on Monday, April 1, during a dinner at Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Tuscaloosa, when the Board officers and committee chairs reviewed progress of a variety of projects, discussed ways to continue projects to support University of Alabama students and heard from veteran educator and former dean Dr. Edward Mullins.

“The University of Alabama is a force for good,” said board member Justice Smyth, who gave the welcome on Monday night. He said the University exists primarily to educate students, to conduct research and to improve the quality of life for the people of Alabama. Quoting from the University’s mission statement, he praised the job of the Division of Community Affairs for its work in “advancing the intellectual and social condition of the people of this state, our nation and our world.”

A former Student Government Association president, Smyth now works as outreach director for the Alabama Transportation Institute at the University, and previously worked as director of corporate development for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

Composed of 57 alumni from all over the nation, the Board — in an effort to help students make the most of their undergraduate experience at the Capstone — provides scholarships for underrepresented students, supports entrepreneurship and innovation on campus, and assists students in their desire to conduct service abroad.

The group was created by Vice President of Community Affairs Dr. Samory T. Pruitt in 2016 as a way to give young professional alumni an opportunity to fulfill its slogan of “Coming Back. Giving Back.”

“Dr. Pruitt sought campus leaders from a wide variety of academic disciplines and experiences, with the common denominator being that they were all socially conscious, ethical and well-rounded,” Smyth said to the gathering at Embassy Suites. “Not only has it given me an opportunity to reconnect with old classmates and make new friends, but this board has given us all an opportunity to serve and be a blessing in the lives of others.”

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Edward Mullins, former dean and department chair in the College of Communication and Information Sciences. He is currently a director of Research and Communication in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, an initiative of the Division of Community Affairs.

“The major outcome of your success, as you come back and give back to our institution, is that you are breeding future success,” Mullins told the group. He shared stories related to his theme of “Family, Faith and Team,” about his time as a student, faculty member and administrator at the Capstone.

His first advice to the young alumni was to make family a high priority in their lives. Second, to make their religious faith a major part of their lives, and third to become part of a team.

Mullins intertwined other pieces of advice into his message, including staying in shape, getting out of your comfort zone, reading newspapers and books, being flexible, not being a clock-watcher, making friends with their blue-collar service providers, and finding a mentor as well as becoming one.

“You deserve a pat on the back for what you did at UA to prepare yourself for the real world. And you deserve a round of applause for what you are doing today,” Mullins said after running down the accomplishments of the group of 57 board members based on a spreadsheet he created that revealed exceptional diversity in travel, careers, majors, collegiate honors and current residence.

Representatives from the standing committees — the Global and Community Leadership Development Committee (reported by Sevanne Steiner), the Entrepreneurship and Innovative Initiatives Committee (reported by Nicholas Beadle), and the Academic Success and Student Retention Committee (reported by William D. Suclupe) — provided updates to the board members and Community Affairs staff.

Steiner, a senior planner for the city of Fort Worth, Texas, introduced the two recipients of the Study Away Scholarship. They are civil engineering major Elizabeth Cleaver, who will go to Ecuador, and first-year law student Alicia Gilbert, who will attend a law clinic at Harvard Law School. The committee’s purpose is to help students develop leadership skills and to communicate, compete and succeed in a culturally diverse world.

Beadle, an attorney-advisor specializing in workforce development at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, DC, is co-chair of the Entrepreneurship and Innovative Initiatives Committee. He reported on how his committee has launched a business law clinic within the Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law at UA. His committee’s purpose is to support innovative and entrepreneurial student business ventures.

Army officer and combat veteran Suclupe, an administrator for the Department of Veterans Affairs, reported that his committee is close to endowing a scholarship in honor of U.S. Navy Commander Charles Keith Springle, who earned his doctorate in social work from UA. Additionally, Suclupe reported that veterans now have priority registration through the efforts of the BOA. His committee will also work with elementary students to help them with study skills, while exposing them to the University at an early age. His committee’s purpose is to support the recruitment, mentoring and career development of future, current and past UA students.

The dinner was the culmination of spring meeting events that took place March 31 and April 1, including work meetings and a tour of The Edge, the University’s entrepreneurial center.

To learn more about the BOA visit: