Category: CCBP

Council hosts 17th Annual Excellence Awards

  • May 3rd, 2023
  • in CCBP

by By Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro

Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

The Council on Community-Based Partnerships recognized University of Alabama students, faculty and staff, as well as community partners, for their achievements in community-engaged scholarship during the 17th Annual Excellence in Community Engagement Awards on April 20 at the UA Student Center Ballroom.

“Today we celebrate the remarkable individual efforts that embody the endeavors of the Council on Community-Based Partnerships, which are to bring resources and insights to a variety of challenges facing the public,” said Dr. Jim McLean, associate vice president for Community Affairs and executive director of UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP). “We are here today to honor students, faculty, staff and community partners who are among the most efficient at The University of Alabama. I congratulate every one of you for your accomplishments.”

The day began with breakfast and an Engaged Scholarship Showcase where faculty, staff and students shared their research and experiences with community-engaged scholarship and teaching in a round-table discussion setting.

Before the luncheon, attendees had the opportunity to view research posters on display from UA faculty, staff and students. Topics ranged from the socioeconomic and ecological impacts of the proposed Interstate 14 on Selma to increasing access to doula care in Alabama.

This year’s poster award recipients are Jennifer Baggett, Hannah Corbin, Victoria Duignan, Baili Gall, Ayana Hendricks-Boyland, Dr. Holly Horan, Kefentse Kubanga, Rebecca Lewis, Emily Locke, Ella Magerl, Ozioma Omah, Jacob T. Peterson, Paige Rentfro, Jack Spalding, Dr. Daniela Susnara, Riley White and Andrea Ziegler.

Dr. Drew Pearl, director of community engagement research and publications for CCBP, recognized the 2022–2023 cohorts of the Emerging Community Engagement Scholars, Community Engaged Learning Fellows, and Public Engagement Learning Community.

Emily Locke, a doctoral student in anthropology and graduate research assistant to Pearl, followed, recognizing the 2022–2023 members of the Student Community Engagement Center Leadership Academy, which seeks to develop students’ leadership in engaged scholarship.

The Council also awards seed funding and graduate fellowships to support community-engaged research across campus.

Seed funding was awarded for two projects:

  • Allison Grant, assistant professor of art, for Wood and Springs
  • Dr. Stephanie McClure, assistant professor of anthropology, for The Period Study: Exploring and Addressing the Needs of Menstruating Adolescents
    Three faculty members were awarded Graduate Fellowships for 2023–2024:
  • Dr. Lisa Davis, associate professor in the Department of Geography, for Food Particles to Flood Plans: Assessing and Planning for Extreme Flood Risk in the Tennessee River Valley. Master’s student Mary Eminue will assist Davis.
  • Dr. Mercedes M. Morales-Aleman, assistant professor in the College of Community Health Sciences, for Improving Maternal Mental Health Outcomes for Black Women in the U.S. South: Examining Telehealth and In-Person Models of Care through an Academic-Community Partnership. Master’s student Kate Graziano will assist Morales-Aleman.
  • Dr. Ansley Gilpin, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Psychology, for Partnering with Schools: Teachers Deploying the Imagination Intervention to Improving Children’s Self-Regulation and School Readiness. Doctoral student Lindsey Held will assist Gilpin.
    Eleven individuals received Excellence in Community-Engaged Scholarship awards in three different areas.

Engaged Scholarship awardees included:

  • Dr. Kristine Jolivette, Paul and Mary Harmon Bryant endowed professor, College of Education, for Improving Juvenile Justice Facilities
  • Dr. Haley Townsend, assistant professor in the Capstone College of Nursing, for Project Wellness in Motion
  • Justin McCleskey, student, for his work as an intern with the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
  • Jillian Maxcy-Brown, student, for Addressing Infrastructure Challenges in the Black Belt Region of Alabama through Evaluating Wastewater and Water Access Affordability
  • Dr. Cheryl Fondren, director of United Way of West Alabama’s Success by 6 program, and Dr. Allison Hooper, assistant professor of early childhood education, for Improving Kindergarten Readiness through the JumpStart Summer Program
  • Sally Smith, J.D., executive director for the Alabama Association of School Boards, for work to obtain funding that will make possible opportunities for individuals to become grant coaches for schools across the Black Belt
    Engaged Teaching and Learning (a new category this year) awardees included:
  • Dr. Chapman Greer, associate provost for general education and senior instructor of management, for MGT 456/556: Data Visualization
  • Dr. Yinghui Liu, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, for STEM education
  • Dr. Chandra Clark, assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, for The World Games
    Civic Engagement (a new category this year) awardees included:
  • John Dodd, student, for his work in voter engagement
  • Dr. Jessy Ohl, associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies, for providing students with experiential learning opportunities through COM 341: American Political Rhetoric
    Alexa Ellis, a junior majoring in public health and psychology, received the 2023–2024 Zachary David Dodson Endowed Scholarship in recognition of her involvement with CCBP’s Language Partners, Vision Days and HomeFirst Programs, as well as its STEM Showcase.

The 2023 Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholar Award recipients are Dr. Blake Berryhill, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate Program in the College of Human Environmental Sciences; Dr. W. Ross Bryan, associate dean and associate professor in the Honors College; Katie Johnson, a graduate student in the Department of Religious Studies; and the Walker Area Community Foundation, led by President Paul W. Kennedy. Dr. Marcus Ashford, associate professor of mechanical engineering, was posthumously awarded as a Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholar.

Dr. Susan Carvalho, dean of the UA Graduate School and associate provost, received the Distinguished Special Achievement in Community Engagement award in recognition of her commitment to higher education leadership and for her unique contributions to the field of community-engaged scholarship.

For a complete list of the winning projects and more information about award recipients, please visit

Middle Schoolers Demonstrate ‘Science in Action’ During 2023 STEM Showcase

  • February 1st, 2023
  • in CCBP

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

The Tuscaloosa community rallied to support middle schoolers’ scientific discoveries during the 2023 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Showcase on Jan. 28 at the Bryant Conference Center, during which the winning projects were also announced.

“It is quite inspiring to see such imagination and such learning that happened today,” said Andrea Ziegler, director of Community Education in the Division of Community Affairs’ Center for Community-Based Partnerships. “We are going to continue to grow the program and want to be there to support students in their learning process.”

Now in its third year, STEM Showcase originated as a collaborative science fair for middle schoolers in the Tuscaloosa area to become more involved with STEM.

“We’re so excited about students actually doing science. That’s the whole thrust of AMSTI [The Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative],” said Anna Daly, AMSTI-UA education specialist, who also serves on the planning committee for STEM Showcase. “And so, this is that application of all the learning that they’re doing, and they get to have a choice in what they research and go deep on into. It’s just so exciting for us to see science in action and the students being excited about science.”

This year, 67 middle schoolers representing the following schools participated in STEM Showcase: Eastwood Middle School, Northridge Middle School, Sipsey Valley Middle School, The Capitol School, Tuscaloosa Academy and Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

To participate, 6th–8th graders submitted a project either individually or as a team that addressed the following STEM fields: biology, chemistry, engineering, environmental and earth sciences, mathematics and computer science, medicine and health science, physical sciences, behavioral and social sciences, and energy and transportation. During the showcase, participating middle schoolers received mentoring from UA faculty, staff and students in STEM disciplines before presenting their final projects to judges. Volunteer judges were UA faculty, students, and STEM community members.

“I really liked coming up with an idea on my own and then being able to execute it and then show it off to everyone,” said Rosie Zhang, winner of the medicine and health sciences category.

Parents enjoyed seeing their child learn the scientific process firsthand. “What I liked most about this was that they did it on their own,” Jade Gibson said. “My daughter did not ask me for any help with anything except for getting her supplies. For them to come up with something that was practical to our everyday lives, I thought that that was an awesome task for them.”

Winners may go on to participate in the Central Alabama Regional Science and Engineering Fair at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Additionally, two special awards were given. Max Morgan, Rachel Shu and Alex Zhu received the Microchip Award in the area of engineering or applied science. Aniketh Kalyan received the Microchip Award in the area of computer or software engineering.

Category Winners and Runners-Up

Winners in behavioral and social sciences were Silvia Hancock and Ariq Isyraqi, both of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Fanuel Tsheyae of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in biology was Markiian Shylenko of Northridge Middle School. 

Winners in chemistry were Henry Bearden and Maddie Lee, both  of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle. The runner-up was Kielei Whitfield of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

Winners in energy and transportation were Max Morgan, Rachel Shu and Alex Zhu, all of Northridge Middle School. Runners-up were Marichase Hamner, Caraleigh Hope and Victoria Walker, all of Sipsey Valley Middle School.

The winner in engineering was Lubaina Ahmed of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle. The runner-up was Jacob Scofield of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in environmental and earth sciences was Jacob Shankman of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Ela Melouk of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in mathematics and computer science was Aeesha Mulani of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winner in medicine and health science was Rosie Zhang of Northridge Middle School. The runner-up was Laryn Word of Tuscaloosa Magnet School – Middle.

The winners in physical sciences were Jayden Yoon and Jackson York, both of Northridge Middle School. The runners-up were Jireh Gibson, Shaniyah Holifield and Ty’Leah Parks, all of Eastwood Middle School.

Vision Days Legacy Supports Students’ Success

  • December 12th, 2022
  • in CCBP
Vision Days Legacy Logo

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

College is a time of transition for high school students, and the Vision Days Legacy program aids that transition by connecting students with resources and programs to support their success once they arrive at The University of Alabama.

Established in October 2020, the Legacy program is a branch of Vision Days that supports and helps develop opportunities at UA for students who completed the Vision Days four-year program in high school and chose to attend UA. Student ambassadors within the Legacy program provide academic and social support for underrepresented undergraduate students and Alabama high school students.

Malika Freeman, a senior majoring in biology and a Legacy ambassador, described the experience of working with the Vision Days program as seeing a “light switch [on] in their eyes” when interacting with the high schoolers who participate in Vision Days.

“It makes me want to help more, bring more people to campus with backgrounds like me,” said Freeman.

Ambassadors, like senior biology major LeAnna Roberts, are typically chosen from former Vision Days participants.

“I went to Central High School [in Tuscaloosa], so I remember going on tours with Vision Days,” she said. “I started volunteering [with Vision Days] once I got to UA and enjoyed it and then applied to be an ambassador.”

The Vision Days Legacy program is led by undergraduate Legacy ambassadors like Freeman and Roberts. Ambassadors are responsible for developing and coordinating the Legacy program, its mentorship initiative, and the student groups’ short- and long-term goals.

“What I have learned most is how to get a program started, the logistics of it, how much time it takes [and] having to be more detail oriented,” Freeman said.

As Freeman explained, ambassadors work behind the scenes with the Legacy program to support Vision Days. Specifically, Freeman designs presentations for meetings or program activities, such as for Vision Days’ most recent event, its first FAFSA (Federal Student Aid) night on Oct. 27.

Ambassadors assist high school students with the admissions process, scholarship applications and keeping up with important deadlines. FAFSA night was just one example of how ambassadors support the needs of high school students that are part of Vision Days.

Amelia Poolos, a sophomore majoring in psychology and biology, also a Legacy ambassador, said these activities also support recruitment initiatives, such as leading campus tours for the 9th–12th grade students who visit UA for Vision Days.

“We get to lead the groups and talk to the high schoolers and see if they’re interested in coming here and what they want to do here, and just talk to them about future plans,” said Poolos.

Getting to share insight into college life is something that Vision Days Legacy ambassadors say is most rewarding.

“I would say I’ve enjoyed the appreciativeness,” Roberts said. “Every high school, especially when you have a small group of eight or seven and [are] able to talk to each of them, they’re very interested and curious to know your experience and what you’re doing.”

“I just like giving back to people because somebody did it for me, and I just think it’s really cool,” Poolos added.

High School Seniors Experience College Life During Vision Days

  • November 29th, 2022
  • in CCBP

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

High School seniors from across Alabama visited The University of Alabama for a firsthand experience of college life and the application process during fall Vision Days from September–October.

“It’s a good experience,” said Samya Jones, senior from Hamilton High School. “I’m learning new things, and I get to learn more information about the campus.”

Sponsored by the Division of Community Affairs, Vision Days is a campus-wide effort focusing on the college readiness of high school students from rural and underrepresented areas in Alabama.

Led by Dr. Daniela Susnara, director of planning and assessment for community engagement, the four-year program is designed to prepare high schoolers for the college experience through curated tours and information sessions that vary according to grade level.

Students began the day with a scavenger hunt, a walking tour across campus that introduced students to UA resources through visiting campus sites, such as the Gorgas Library and Honors College.

“Honestly, I’m probably leaning towards just coming here … because I was thinking about going to Bevill State … but it looks like I’m probably going to just go here for my first college years and just go for my full four years,” said David Madison, senior at Hubbertville High School. “It’s just the people, the community, the food, everything, just everything just looks nice.”

After the walking tour, students heard presentations from University admissions and financial aid staff, which many high school participants said was their most important takeaway from Vision Days.

“They’re all fun and nice, and then it honestly does just really help because the college application process is super complicated and getting to know the school and seeing if I really want to go here and then learning more about how to apply and all the different aspects of it is really helpful,” said Zoe Shore, senior from Central High School.

Vision Days’ campus visits for seniors are also designed to prepare high schoolers for life beyond college. Therefore, students ended the day with discussion panels that addressed opportunities within the Honors College, graduate and law school, and scholarships.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Seigfried Williams, choir director for Greene County High School and one of the advisors present. “It just gives them exposure. It kind of gives them an idea about what they want to do after high school.”

“A lot of them haven’t seen like an actual college campus … so I think it’s good for them to see overall the experience of it,” added Ashley Holman, school counselor at Sulligent High School.

For fall 2022, 579 seniors from 19 high schools across Alabama participated in Vision Days.

Vision Days Hosts Inaugural FAFSA Night

  • November 12th, 2022
  • in CCBP
Two young women looking at a computer

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs
Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

High school seniors are one step closer to graduation, thanks to Vision Days’ inaugural Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Night held in the Math and Science Education Building at The University of Alabama on Oct. 27.

Hosted by Vision Days to support its anchor schools, the event provided high school students, families and staff an opportunity to come and go during a three-hour window that allowed for reliable Internet access and direct help from UA students and staff with completing the FAFSA.

The event was created to assist high school seniors with FAFSA completion, a requirement for high school graduation in Alabama, and to provide additional support beyond standard Vision Days programming.

Amanda Dockery and Khalilah Harris, advisors in the department of financial aid at UA, helped students and families complete the FAFSA during the event.

“I can see that she [Dr. Daniela Susnara] has a passion for getting the word out to students and their families about opportunities at the University, and so, specifically, we try to plug in and breakdown the FAFSA, take something that’s really complicated and complex and try to make it manageable for students and parents,” Dockery said.

That first step comes with helping students and their parents create a Federal Student Aid ID. After that, students can start filling out the application.

Lilly Ingram, a senior at Sipsey Valley High School, came by to complete her FAFSA after hearing about the event from her school’s counselor.

“I think what I get from it the most is learning the process and learning how to do everything correctly instead of just going in blindsided,” she said.

“Everybody has been very knowledgeable and helpful in showing us how to do it,” said Caleb Ingram, who found out about the event through his daughter’s [Lilly’s] school. “It makes it easy on the parents and the students, and I think it’s great for kids and for parents like us, especially people who are first-time parents and this is our first [kid to] go through college.”

UA undergraduates that are members of the Vision Days Legacy program were also available to answer any questions that attendees had about the FAFSA and college application process.

“I like coming out and helping students [at events like this],” said Malika Freeman, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering and ambassador with the Vision Days Legacy program. “I also like the Vision Days portion, getting to talk to students. It’s really cool to see that part.”

By getting the word out, UA staff members, like Harris, hope these events will encourage more high school students to apply for funding.

“I think that getting the students out here and letting them know all the free funding that’s out here for them to get their education and obtain their degree is really important,” Harris said. “I feel like it’s kind of underrepresented, so by getting that word out there and letting everybody know that we’re here to help, here to walk them through the process is really helpful.”

Showcase Concludes Inaugural BLAST Academy

  • August 1st, 2022
  • in CCBP

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

BLAST Academy (Building Leaders Through the Arts, STEM and Teamwork), a new summer enrichment program for K–6 students, celebrated its inaugural class with a final showcase and awards ceremony on July 29 at the Moody Music Hall.

“I was the first in my family to go to college. A lot of people helped me in my life, and personally to be a part of something like this and providing this opportunity for young people, it’s very, very special,” said Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs.

Led by Dr. Daniela Susnara, director of planning and assessment for community engagement in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, BLAST developed as a partnership among the Hale County School District, the Tuscaloosa City School District (TCS) and the Tuscaloosa County School System, as well as the College of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences at The University of Alabama.

“As educators, we’ve known research for a long time that the amount of time kids are in school or in a space where they learn matters,” said Dr. Andrew Maxey, director of strategic initiatives for TCS. “The research on what works in the summer space is that they have to want to be here more than they want to be in the pool.”

Held on UA’s campus from July 5–29, BLAST Academy encouraged summer learning in a creative environment for children ages 5–12, with a focus on arts education, physical education, STEM and social emotional learning.

“I worked for the Tuscaloosa City School system, and I was like, this is something so great,” said, D’Juana Cook, whose grandson participated in BLAST. “I told my daughter [to] let him do it because it enhances his mind. It gives him something to keep thinking and keep focusing on. But everything was organized well, and I’m very pleased.”

“I enjoyed the different people coming together, the schools coming together,” echoed Shenna Crockett, whose daughter participated in BLAST. “I think it’s very helpful for them educational wise social as well as learning more structure in a different environment besides school.”

Camp instructional sessions were held in UA classrooms, letting participants experience the educational benefits at the Capstone.

“I taught some classes in one of the buildings this summer, and I got to see every day what was going on through three floors of my building, so it was really exciting,” said Dr. Liza Wilson, senior associate dean for the UA College of Education. “When there’s fun, you want to learn and keep learning. We want you [the campers] to be lifelong learners.”

At the start of the showcase, campers’ experiments from the STEM sessions were on display in the lobby of the Moody Music Hall in the form of city skyscrapers built from paper geometric shapes to bridges made of craft sticks. There were also petri dishes from their biology lessons and lab journals where participants noted their observations and thoughts throughout the program.

After the welcome, the STEM education and physical education award winners for each grade level were announced. The showcase concluded with an arts education performance of each age group.

“One of my favorite words is STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math,” said Dr. Charles Snead, director of the School of Music. “Science, technology, engineering and math are the disciplines that make it possible for us to have a world to live in, but it is those of us in the arts and the creative disciplines that make that life worth living, so the creativity that comes from what has happened this week is awesome. We all know from all kinds of research and studies the more creative a mind thinks, the better you are at whatever you do.”

Swim To the Top Participants Recognized in Showcase Celebration

  • July 5th, 2022
  • in CCBP

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

Approximately 160 children gathered in the Benjamin Barnes YMCA gymnasium to demonstrate what they learned from Swim to the Top during a final showcase on July 1. The program, now in its ninth year, is led by Dr. Daniela Susnara, director of planning and assessment for community engagement.

To start, the campers performed a choreographed dance routine learned in the arts education component. Afterward, the children grabbed their swimsuits and headed to the Freeman Pool to show off their swimming skills during the latter part of the celebration. Pictures of the campers’ STEM experiments and volleyball lessons were also on display for parents.

“I like this initiative to teach them how to swim because that will stop a lot of these children, and some others perhaps, from drowning and having a fear of water,” said Lois Lewis, as she watched her grandson swim across the pool.

Held annually during June, Swim to the Top encourages children to reach the “top” in all aspects of life through additional learning in STEM enrichment, arts education, and physical education for children 4–14.

“They really are enthusiastic about learning about science in a hands-on setting,” said Rachel Hill, one of the program’s STEM instructors. “They need to be exposed to STEM opportunities because there are STEM jobs everywhere, and if we can spark an interest while they’re young, who knows where it will take them in the future.”

This year’s STEM enrichment focused on environmental awareness. For one experiment, children learned about oil spill cleanups and how to research with computers. Additionally, campers strengthened their sportsmanship and teamwork abilities in the PE sessions, learning volleyball and tennis.

New this year was an arts education component in which campers learned how to express their creativity through drawing, music and dance, giving them a well-rounded experience¬¬.

“Swim to the Top added so much value to the campers’ experience,” said LaKeda Smith, executive director of the Benjamin Barnes YMCA. “They take a holistic approach to helping us equip the children.”

“The best part about this is what the kids accomplish through collaboration,” added Jeff Knox, CEO, Tuscaloosa County YMCA.

This was the first year Swim to the Top collaborated with UA Swimming and Diving. Some of the coaches and athletes provided swim instruction, and the campers toured the UA Aquatic Center to learn about the competitive side of swimming.

“I think that it shows you ... the value of sport is so big and that goes so much beyond results and SEC titles and similar rankings, so I think for the staff, for our team, to see that they can make a real big impact in the community just by teaching these skills is huge, but also [as] just another positive role model for these kids,” said Roman Willets, assistant coach for UA Swimming and Diving.

George Stewart, Tuscaloosa native and playwright who attended the showcase, remarked on the importance of these partnerships in empowering youth.

“I’m originally from Tuscaloosa, so I’ve been in this pool before when I was a kid over at the Y … so, to see it still alive is a wonderful thing,” said Stewart. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce the young people to swimming, but also the effort that people care. That doesn’t click right now with them, but when they look back on it, they’ll understand that somebody cared enough to give them something that they didn’t know they needed, and they had fun doing it.”

MLK Distinguished Lecturer Inspires Audience with Civil Rights History Lesson

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By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant

A nationally renowned civil rights expert was the keynote speaker for the 2019 Realizing the Dream Distinguished Lecture at the Embassy Suites hotel in Tuscaloosa on March 19. The title of his speech was “Honoring the Voting Rights Legacy of the United States Colored Troops.”

This series, now in its 19th year, featured Asa Gordon, retired NASA astrodynamicist and receiver of the 2016 Civil Rights and Social Justice Award in recognition of his promotion of the voting rights legacy post-Civil War, a legacy kept alive by the Sons and Daughters of the United States Colored Troops, of which Gordon is secretary-general.

Gordon gave the audience an inspiring demonstration of specific historical events of African- American Civil War activism. “The reason we have the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments is by virtue of their [black Civil War soldiers’] activism,” said Gordon.

Gordon’s presentation was based on his extensive and detailed knowledge of the history of African-American service during the Civil War, leading to the development of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Gordon, who said he began developing his presentation 10 years ago, has inspired countless audiences ever since and this night was no exception.

Gordon said the idea for the lecture came from his research on Civil Rights activism by African-Americans. “I am not just telling the story of how veterans and warriors helped saved the nation … but how they saved the constitution,” he said.

Gordon is founder and executive director of the Douglass Institute of Government, a Washington, D.C.-based educational think tank.

Gordon also touched on other areas of his social activism, which spans civil actions in regard to democratizing the Electoral College, constitutional penalty for voter disenfranchisement, 14th  Amendment right to vote provisions, and neo-Confederate culture in American politics.

After the lecture, Stillman College Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness Dr. Mary Jane Krotzer hosted a question and answer session.

In welcoming attendees, Dr. Isaac McCoy, dean of Stillman’s School of Business, promised the audience exactly what Gordon delivered: “an informed and inspired” evening. Rose Bryant, president of Stillman’s Student Government Association, underscored the importance of institutional cooperation in bringing the event to Tuscaloosa.

“This event shows,” she said, “the power and impact of having three institutions of higher learning — the University of Alabama, the Stillman College, and Shelton State Community College — working together on behalf of the community.” The other community organization comprising the Realizing the Dream Committee is the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The Realizing the Dream program is under the overall direction and supervision of the Division of Community Affairs.

“Once again, the Realizing the Dream Committee has brought us a memorable event in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Vice President of Community Affairs Dr. Samory T. Pruitt. “Our division is privileged to be a part of this important program.”

New Faculty Tour Introduces University/Community Collaboration

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By Taylor Armer, Yiben Liu, and Kirsten Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistants

The University of Alabama’s Division of Community Affairs conducted its first New Faculty Community Engagement Tour of West Alabama counties Wednesday through Friday, May 10–12, 2017. The tour, “Exploring New Places, Meeting New People and Engaging New Communities,” was aptly titled, as before the trip most participants had only limited exposure to an area so important to the state’s history.

The tour was created to help researchers connect with community partners and bring together the interests of new faculty, along with key administrators and undergraduate and graduate students, to community needs through research partnerships. These partnerships help fulfill the University’s mission, which reads in part, “to advance the intellectual and social condition of the people of the state, the nation and the world through … an emphasis on quality programs in the areas of teaching, research and service.”

Day One

A diverse group of UA faculty and staff, graduate and undergraduate students boarded a charter bus at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 10. Across each county — Greene, Hale and Tuscaloosa — panelists expressed their pride in and demonstrated their knowledge of the different communities and institutions they represented. Again and again tour members expressed their appreciation for the chance to go on the tour, how much they learned and how enthusiastically they were welcomed at the different sites.

Dr. James Gilbreath, a UA reference and instructional librarian, spoke for many when he said that although he had lived in Alabama his entire life, the tour of landmark civil rights sites and the opportunity to observe so many effective examples of community-engaged scholarship in action constituted an “unforgettable experience.” The Birmingham native said, “I will carry the memories of the trip with me for the rest of my life.”

The first stop was Eutaw, where the group learned about initiatives from members of the county’s Children’s Policy Council (CPC). CPC supports children’s services in the areas of economic security, health, safety, education, parental involvement/skills and early care. Panelists were Phyllis Belcher, executive director of the Greene County Industrial Development Board; Dr. Carol Zippert, Greene County School System board member and co-publisher of the Greene County Democrat; Mildred Morgan, facilitator of the CPC Strengthening Family Program; Dr. James Carter, superintendent of the Greene County School System; and Julie Spree, Greene County probate judge.

Before the panel began, District Court Judge Lillie Jones-Osborne pointed the group’s attention to the large portraits of local civil rights activists that served as the panel’s background. The portraits were placed there as part of the county’s Annual Trailblazer Program, just one of many CPC successful 2016–2017 school year projects.

The Strengthening Families Program, a six-week series of parenting classes, was one of those projects, as described by facilitator Mildred Morgan. During these classes, entire families came together to engage in healthy communication, Morgan said, reinforcing the importance of family gatherings, especially for meals.

At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greensboro, the visitors listened to a panel led by Buzzy Barnette, owner of one of the town’s best-known stores, Barnette Furniture. Afterward, they shared a catered lunch and dessert from Greensboro’s famous Pie Lab, which has become an international destination. It was established in 2009 in an abandoned pool hall to promote social change over a delicious meal. As the groups soon learned, Pie Lab represented only one slice of the many active community-engaged projects in Greensboro — a town of about 2,500 people.

Other members of the panel were Laramie Long, director of the Greensboro Boys and Girls Club; Osie Pickens, member of the Hale County Board of Education; John Dorsey, director, Project Horseshoe Farm; Evelyn Chambers, member of the Greensboro City Council; Shay Fondren, CEO of Hale County Hospital; and Winifred Cobbs, board president of the Greensboro Opera House.

According to Dorsey, Horseshoe Farm has been a part of the Greensboro community since 2007. Among the many programs of this service and leadership development organization are its youth-based initiatives, such as the after-school program designed to improve local K–8 students’ academic performance on standardized math and reading tests. Its base of operations on Main Street is expanding into adjacent space to accommodate future medical residents coming to Greensboro and for classrooms and other uses.

Another group is working on the Opera House as a multipurpose cultural center. Built in 1903, the building sat empty for more than a half-century until Cobbs and her cohorts raised funds to purchase it. With additional grant funding from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the non-profit organization has restored the downstairs portion of the two-story building. Cobbs hopes to secure additional grants and funding to restore the upstairs theater so that Greensboro citizens can fully enjoy the cultural experience.

Before leaving Greensboro, the UA group gathered at the Safe House Black History Museum. The Museum, a modest, shotgun-style house, was the exact location where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sought refuge from the Ku Klux Klan in 1968. Enlarged quotes alongside photos and historical artifacts from that era are found throughout one of the property’s buildings. Theresa Burroughs, Safe House director, said the building encapsulates the struggle for civil rights in Alabama. An active participant of the Civil Rights Movement and friend of the King family, Burroughs walked the UA group down the “freedom” trail (a glass hallway) to the connecting “future” building, where several photos celebrate the movement’s achievements in Alabama and America.

After a 50-minute drive from Greensboro, the UA group reached its last stop of Day 1 at Holt High School, a county school northeast of Tuscaloosa. Members of the panel, reflecting community partners, UA faculty and local educators, shared their work on many projects in the Tuscaloosa and Holt communities.

Panelists were Amanda Waller, executive director of Tuscaloosa’s One Place; Debbie Crawford, principal of Holt Elementary School; Helen Sides, chair of Holt in Action; Aundrea Thomas, president of Holt Community Partnership; UA Professor of geropsychology Dr. Rebecca Allen, representing Project SOAR; Dr. Jen Nickelson, associate professor of Health Science, representing Holt Community Partnerships Health Lab; UA Associate Professor of developmental psychology Dr. Jeff Parker, working with local schools to stem pet overpopulation and other projects; UA Assistant Professor of social work Dr. Tania Alameda-Lawson, Alabama TOPS, a program for at-risk youth; and Jay Logan, director of community outreach for the Tuscaloosa County Parks and Recreation Authority.

It quickly became evident that many of the panelists had partnered together in some capacity within the Tuscaloosa, Holt and surrounding communities. For example, Alabama TOPS is a University/community-school partnership among Holt Elementary School, Tuscaloosa’s One Place, and UA’s College of Education and School of Social Work. The two-pronged program teaches personal and social responsibility through a sports-based after-school program that has reached 70 participating students this school year, according to Alameda-Lawson.

The family and community engagement component helps families within the community, many of whom live well below the poverty line. A Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) seed grant will expand this program to parents with children in Davis-Emerson Middle School during the 2017–2018 academic year.

Waller called attention to the parenting program Changing Habits and Making Parents Stronger (CHAMPS) as a Holt community program that has helped non-custodial fathers interact positively with their children. “We believe that stronger families make stronger communities,” Waller said, and that these programs provide needed resources to families.

Day Two

On May 11, the tour visited Pickens County Medical Center and Pickens County Courthouse; Hill Hospital and Coleman Center for the Arts and Culture in Sumter County; and Judson College and Marion Military Institute in Perry County.

At the Pickens County Medical Center, the UA group attended a panel discussion made up of representatives of Pickens County. Dr. Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs at UA, opened the discussion by introducing the main purpose and mission of the tours. Panelists then described some of the key engagement projects being implemented in the area and the possible partnerships they hoped to attract from UA. Partners with unique talents, such as experts in nutrition and health care, were mentioned as those needed the most.

Dr. Michele Montgomery and Dr. Paige Johnson from the Capstone College of Nursing said that starting with seed fund grants from the Council on Community-Based Partnerships, initiatives have been implemented that focus on health promotion and disease prevention, as well as engaging the students with rural areas surrounding the University.

Montgomery discussed an earlier initiative of health screening of cardiovascular risk factors for the pre-school children in Carrollton (Pickens County) and Tuscaloosa. Johnson said the College of Nursing is planning to extend the screening process to all of Pickens County. Johnson assured those in attendance that UA “is not going to go away. We’re going to be here!”

Jim Marshall, CEO of Pickens County Medical Center, described cooperative efforts to increase the volume of business of the hospital. According to Marshall, communication and education are very important to a rural hospital like Pickens County Health Center because people’s lack of information of what the hospital can do not only affects their health, but also results in loss of patients for the hospital. He said he hoped future partnerships with UA would focus on information dissemination and follow-ups beneficial to the hospital.

Other panelists were Tony Junkin, District 3 county commissioner; Gordo Mayor Craig Patterson; Superintendent of Pickens County Schools Jamie Chapman; and Courtney Rentas, a 2016 UA graduate and Goldwater Scholar and now a University of Alabama/Pickens County Partnership Fellow.

After touring the Pickens County Medical Center, the group visited the Pickens County Courthouse. Patti Presley-Fuller, County Extension coordinator, told the visitors the famous ghost story of former slave Henry Wells’ image etched in one of the windows of the building. The story of “The Face in the Courthouse Window” became one of author Kathryn Tucker Windham’s famous ghost stories. Some in the group claimed they could see the famous image etched in a windowpane on the upper level of the building.

At Sumter County, the group first visited Coleman Center for the Arts and Culture, a local museum and art education center for grassroots artists. Jackie Clay, director of the Center, said that the center is holding a multi-disciplinary summer camp and is always looking for new partners. The group attended a second panel discussion at Hill Hospital.

Tommie Campbell, chairperson of Sumter School Board, said, “Good things are happening in Livingston Sumter County school system.” She and Tramene Maye, Livingston Junior High School principal, cited a growing reputation for high achievements by students, new facilities and initiatives in process and the ongoing programs aiming to increase student standardized test scores.

Loretta Wilson, administrator of Hill Hospital, stressed the need to maintain partnerships with different organizations to deliver medical services to the community. According to Wilson, with the new federal value-based payment system, the role of prevention has become more important in medical service delivery. Networking with organizations like UA, she said, helps in these goals.

Other panel members were Marcus Campbell, District 2 county commissioner; Tommie Armistead, District 4 county commissioner; and Jackie Clay, Coleman Center for the Arts and Culture director.

The third stop of the tour was Perry County. The group made a brief visit to Jewett Hall on the Judson College campus. Then they reached the last stop, Marion Military Institute. Originated in 1842, the Institute is a two-year military junior college offering an associate’s degree and military training to equip students with leadership skills and character development, as well as the basis for continuing their education at a four-year college or university.

Col. David J. Mollahan, Marion Military Institute president, outlined the history of the college. Chris Joiner, executive director of Renaissance Marion, a local community non-profit organization, and Davis Jackson, coordinator of 57 Miles, a student and faculty engagement program named for the distance between UA and Marion, expressed their desire to continue the establishment of sustainable partnerships with UA to fulfill the promise of Marion’s tomorrow.

Other panelists were Col. Ed Passmore, acting commandant and director of MMI’s Center for Service Leadership, and Amy Butler, coordinator of Faith-Based Service Learning at Judson College.

After each panel discussion, UA faculty members also described their research interests and discussed the possibility of future collaboration. Staff members of the Division of Community Affairs and CCBP also explained some of UA’s ongoing initiatives and programs to them. For example:

After the second day of the engagement tours, participants expressed their appreciation for the tour. “What I like most is how varied the different visits were … we can really see the scope of potential involvement for UA,” said Dr. Susan Carvalho, UA Graduate School dean. “The graduate program can find a great deal of inspiration in the partnerships that could be built or have already been built with these communities.”

Dr. Gilbreath, who had been especially impressed during the first day’s stops at civil rights landmarks, called Day 2 tremendous and the overall program brilliant. Even though an Alabama native, he said he still found the trip really eye-opening.

Katherine S. Eastman, a clinical and technical services librarian originally from California, said, “I have written down probably 500 different ideas. I’m definitely going to pursue more projects,” including helping Hill Hospital in Sumter County with materials related to their emphasis on disease prevention.

Day Three

On the third day of the tour administrators, faculty, staff and student researchers continued to explore new places, meet new people and engage new communities. Several members of the group had attended all three days, while others were just joining the tour. Yet each person on the tour found it informative and thought-provoking.

“I haven’t seen enough of Alabama since I’ve been here and I wanted to understand how student projects are sustainable and what kind of projects can create continuity between the University and the community,” said Carvalho, who spent two days touring with the group and came to UA in July 2016. “I’ve been impressed with the innovation within each of the communities as they work with the assets they have, and I’ve learned more about the resources UA can bring to bear.”

The day began at the Thomasville Civic Center before traveling to the Golden Dragon Plant in Pine Hill, both in Wilcox County. The panel discussion in Thomasville was led by Mayor Sheldon Day, with panel members from the county, city, school and business communities. The group discussed how they’ve created synergy by sharing resources to create more opportunities for citizens.

“What the library was doing in Thomasville was so amazing, making community crossroads for training and workforce development, and access to the Internet,” Carvalho said.

Several tour members were from the Chinese Sisterhood of Tuscaloosa organization and most had no idea there was a Chinese copper factory, Golden Dragon, roughly 100 miles from campus.

“I’m new to the University. This is my second year,” said Professor Di Luo, who teaches history. “I wanted to find opportunities to engage and I enjoyed the tour. It’s impressive to see how people can organize all kinds of things.”

Dr. Yuping Bao has taught chemical engineering at UA for nine years and said she approached Pruitt about assisting faculty and student groups in making these valuable connections with communities to help facilitate engaged research.

“He made it happen. I had no idea there was a Chinese factory in Wilcox County,” Bao said. “We may be able to help Golden Dragon.”

After lunch the group arrived in the Gee’s Bend community located in Boykin, Ala., where they met quilter Mary Ann Pettway, who told them how the quilters began their craft out of necessity, then sang a religious hymn for the group.

“I’m the seventh of twelve children,” she said. “We didn’t have beds, so we made quilts to sleep on the floor. Our homes were not warm enough.” Pettway now travels throughout the country telling the story of the Gee’s Bend Quilters. “They say it’s a dying art, but as long as I have breath, I’m going to keep it alive.” Pettway has served as manager of the quilting cooperative, where the women operate a gift shop and serve baked goods, since 2005. Several members of the group purchased quilted souvenirs.

At a second panel discussion, at the Marengo County History and Archives Museum, Thomas Moore Sr. led a panel composed of two school superintendents and two businessmen. They discussed how their community provides opportunities for its youth.

“Everything we do is moving toward technology and we have done extremely well in that area. Even being a rural school, academics still come first,” said Luther Hallmark, superintendent of Marengo County Schools.

The final panel discussion was led by CCBP Community Development Director Chris Spencer, joined by representatives from the non-profit, religious and business communities. The group discussed ideas for a reimagined and inclusive Selma with a thriving arts district.

“It had never dawned on that collective body that there are lots of communities within our community,” said Martha Lockett, a board member of the Black Belt Community Foundation and a supporter of Arts Revive, as she discussed Selma’s initial strategic planning meeting. “If we get Broad Street looking like gangbusters, and we get shops but people within a 10-block radius of Broad Street aren’t part of it, then we’ve failed in our mission. Some things are top-down, but energy is bottom-up.”

The tour would not have been complete without walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the footsteps of 600 marchers led by now U.S. Rep. John Lewis on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. Reflecting on her daily drive to Selma from Livingston, Felecia Lucky, president of the Black Belt Community Foundation, said, “To this day, when I see the Edmund Pettus Bridge I am often moved and in awe of what took place here and the impact that it had not only on this city, but on the world.”

The tour members said they felt more connected to the extended UA community after the tour.

“We often have opportunities for our students to get out and see things they wouldn’t see on their own, but I wanted that opportunity as well,” said Dr. Demetria Li, who has taught English to international students at UA for more than five years.

In addition to finding out about each community, tour members learned of assistance and training they could receive from CCBP staff and student assistants. Jim McLean, CCBP executive director, invited community members to register for free grant-writing training and told them about K–12 student workshops on campus.

Again and again tour members expressed their appreciation for the chance to go on the tour, how much they learned and how enthusiastically they were welcomed at the different sites. Tour members said they felt more connected to the extended UA community after the tour.

“This tour showed us some amazing things that are happening right in our own backyard,” said Pruitt. “It’s the first time the University has done something like this. We saw firsthand how our core mission of teaching, research and service is having a positive impact on communities in Alabama and beyond. It was especially helpful for some of our new faculty to get out and meet some of the people we are working with and have conversations that will strengthen current partnerships and lead to the development of others.”