Category: News

New Faculty Community Engagement Tour Inspires Community Collaborations

  • May 17th, 2023
  • in News

New Faculty Community Engagement Tour Inspires Community Collaborations

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

The 2023 New Faculty Community Engagement Tour (NFCET) introduced University faculty, staff, students and community members to areas of community-engaged partnerships across various counties in the Black Belt region, Wednesday through Friday, May 10–12.

Each day, faculty, staff and students traveled by bus to a new area of the Black Belt and listened to panels of community leaders highlighting areas for collaboration in community-engaged scholarship.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to especially network and just hear from the community and hear about how I can give back to it,” said Katie Johnson, a graduate student in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, who graduated with her master’s during the 2023 spring commencement. “I’m an Alabama native, so it’s always good to just hear different stories from around the state.”

“I’ve actually certainly enjoyed it, and I think a lot of other students will likely enjoy it as well, and one of the big reasons behind that is it actually helps them explore parts of Alabama,” echoed Edwin Lee, a doctoral student in communication and information sciences. “These [Tours] allow for you to get into the doorstep of a project that you’ve actually dreamed of and hoped to be involved.”

On the first day, Tour attendees visited Walker, Pickens and Tuscaloosa counties. The second day included stops in Greene, Sumter and Hale counties. The Tour concluded on Friday, May 12 with stops in Marengo, Perry and Dallas counties. 

Day 1

The Tour began at Bevill State Community College in Jasper, marking the Tour’s second-ever stop in Jasper.

Located in Jasper, the Walker Area Community Foundation received the 2023 UA Council on Community-Based Partnerships Community Partner Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholar Award. Tour attendees heard from members of the Foundation, who expressed community needs and shared ongoing collaborations the Foundation supports.

Cristy Moody, executive vice president of the Foundation, shared how the Foundation partners with UA through placing UA students in internships related to their field of study across Walker County. Moody said six UA students are currently scheduled to begin internships with Walker County over the summer.

At the second stop in Gordo, panelists spent the bulk of the discussion discussing challenges in education facing the county with the ongoing teacher shortage in Alabama, expressing interest in partnering with faculty and staff to support students’ success.

Continuing the discussion on students’ success, Tour-goers ended the first day at The Alberta School of Performing Arts in Alberta. One panelist described Alberta as the “gateway” to UA, located just down University Boulevard, which prompted faculty, staff and students to consider how they can bridge the gap between the University and community. Some of those areas that attendees and panelists discussed support for were youth development programs, financial literacy and homeownership.

Jacquie Johnson, senior director of community affairs and team development for Alabama One Credit Union, encouraged attendees to figure out how they can support individuals struggling to make ends meet, or who the credit union industry refers to as ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed).

“How do we go and help those individuals that work every day and can’t get government assistance because they have employment, but they have limited assets or limited cash or limited funds?” she said. “I would charge you all to go back and study ALICE®. I want now for us to figure out where our ALICES® are and how we can help them.”

Day 2

The first stop of the second day was in Greene County. Attendees gathered in the Robert H. Young Community Center in Eutaw, formerly known as the old Carver School, the site of the historic 1965 student boycott and protest that took place during the civil rights movement.

Panelists discussed programs to strengthen community and family ties. Lillie Jones-Osborne, district judge for Greene County and chairman of the Greene County Children’s Policy Council, discussed programs that the Council hosts to connect families in the community. Mollie Rowe, director of Eutaw Housing Authority, mentioned initiatives the Housing Authority takes to encourage homeownership. Panelists also described the challenges facing Greene County in education and healthcare, creating opportunities for university partnerships.

The group stopped for lunch in York, where panelists discussed economic challenges and areas for growth within the city. Next, the tour traveled to Hale County for its final panel discussion in Greensboro at the Salem Missionary Baptist Church.

While in Greensboro, panelists shared their stories of overcoming barriers in education and healthcare to strengthen community connections. For example, the nonprofit NAPS (National Association for the Prevention of Starvation) provides free medical and dental services across the Black Belt. Additionally, the Hale County College and Career Academy offers career education programs.

The day concluded with a tour of the Safe House Museum, the home where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sought shelter from the Ku Klux Klan during the civil rights movement.

Day 3

The final day of the NFCET began with a stop in Marengo County, where attendees gathered in the Theo Ratliff Activity Center in Demopolis, named after former professional basketball player Theo Ratliff, who is from Demopolis. The center unites the community through programming and events on recreation, youth development, health and education. Panelists mentioned areas for university partnerships, such as patient satisfaction in healthcare settings and in museum studies.

Breaking for lunch in Perry County, the group met at the Marion Arts Center, home to the civil rights exhibit, “It Started in Marion,” which highlights Marion’s role in the civil rights movement. Panelists called on faculty, staff and students to consider how to match their talents with community needs.

“When you talk about planting seeds, also make sure that you are connecting the seeds that are actually doing the work, so we can have a bigger crop,” said Portia Shepherd, executive director of Black Women Rising.

At the next stop in Selma, the group reconvened at Selma Dallas County Public Library to discuss areas for collaboration in Selma and how to support the region in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 tornadoes.

“At the Black Belt Community Foundation, our tagline is taking what we have to make what we need,” said Chris Spencer, chief community engagement officer for the Foundation. “It is going to take all of us working together. … [Dr. Samory Pruitt] said the core value of universities is to help improve the quality of life, and we need assistance and we need help in Dallas County and Selma and throughout the Black Belt.”

The Tour concluded with the group walking across the Edmund Pettis Bridge and touring the Civil Rights Memorial Park in Selma before boarding the bus back to Tuscaloosa.

You Make UA Great Celebrates Campus Employees

  • October 10th, 2022
  • in News

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

To thank employees for their contributions to The University of Alabama, UA hosted an evening of fun, activities and live entertainment for faculty, staff and their families during the inaugural You Make UA Great event, which took place Monday, Oct. 3 on the Quad.

“We are celebrating you because of an impact that you have every day on this campus and whether that’s in a residence hall, whether that’s in a classroom, whether that’s in a cafeteria, or any place on this campus, the way that you invest in our students and invest in our campus is what makes this university special,” said Dr. Stuart Bell, UA president.

The Division of Community Affairs, along with other campus partners, hosted the event.

“He [Dr. Bell] and I both agree that this institution, we’re often in the headlines for some major accomplishment, but it’s not the brick and mortar that does that, it’s the people who work here,” said Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs.

The purpose of the event was to show gratitude for all the ways employees contribute to the success of UA and the surrounding community.

“This is a really fun event to celebrate the employees here at the University because everyone here, no matter where you work, works really hard,” said Rebecca Johnson, communications specialist for UA Museums. “Sometimes we are in our own little bubbles, and we don’t know what other departments are out there, what everybody does, so this is a good way to meet other people and get to know everybody else on campus.”

As Johnson emphasized, employees in attendance enjoyed mingling with their colleagues across campus.

“I think it’s very unique for everybody … to get together and get to know each other in different departments,” said Andrea Thomas, a staff member in facilities and custodial services.

“We are seeing friends and families from all over that we are friends with on campus that we don’t get to see very often,” echoed Lindsey Graham, associate director of operations for Student Account Services.

Attendees were treated to free food from local food truck vendors, games and activities. Local band, Bound and Determined, as well as the Million Dollar Band, provided live music, making for a fun evening for employees to spend with their colleagues and loved ones.
“I’m a remote employee, so it’s time conducive for me to be able to come with my family in the afternoon, get my kids from school and come over and get my husband off work, so I just think it’s great to have a family-friendly event,” said Jackie Harrison, program coordinator for the School of Social Work.

Big Al made a special appearance to pose for photos and mingle with the crowd. In addition to the music and activities, the event featured a resource table fair that showcased on- and off-campus resources available to UA employees and retirees.

“I think it’s a great idea because anytime there’s a large organization like the University, some people get siloed, and they don’t even know everything that’s out there, so having the opportunity to figure out what’s actually on campus, plus the surrounding resources in the community is great,” said Jeff Knox, CEO of YMCA of Tuscaloosa County. The YMCA was also one of the organizations with a table at the resource fair.

“It’s great and to be able to thank the employees because they’re our number one employee campaign,” added Monique Scott, campaign director for United Way of West Alabama.

While the event was geared toward employees, it was also an opportunity for students to share their appreciation for the impact faculty and staff have.

“Thank you for always continuing to put students first and know that we are grateful for you and the work that you put in our programs,” said Madeline Martin, SGA president as she addressed the crowd. “We couldn’t do what we do without what you do for us.”

Art of Town and Gown Relationships Reception Highlights Neighborhood Partnerships

  • September 7th, 2022
  • in News

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

Collegiate athletics rivalries were cast aside when members of the InterCity Leadership Visit group from Athens, Ga., networked with their University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa city counterparts to discuss building town and gown relationships during the Art of Town and Gown Relationships Reception on Aug. 31.

The reception took place at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in historic downtown Tuscaloosa, where visitors were greeted with live music from the Alabama Blues Project and treats themed around the Crimson Tide.

“Successful town and gown relationships require many conversations with partners across a community and having the opportunity to learn from other college towns about their challenges and opportunities provides those partners with ideas to bring home and adapt to fit the needs of their hometown,” said Alison McCullick, director of Community Relations for the University of Georgia.

The University of Alabama (UA) and University of Georgia are member institutions of the International Town and Gown Association, a global nonprofit association dedicated to college campus and community interests.

McCullick said the idea for the intercity visit came about as the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce worked with Georgia Power to identify communities with major universities that have similar challenges and opportunities.

“Tuscaloosa and Athens and a lot of college communities are on the cusp I think of continued expansive growth, but that growth, if it’s not done strategically, you have winners and losers,” said David Bradley, president and CEO of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. “Let’s figure out to do it strategically so more people win.”

During the reception, members of UA’s Neighborhood Partnership Committee (NPC) shared how the group was created in 2003 from a mutual effort to address community concerns with university students moving into the city’s historic district.

“I got involved because our president at the time said we have to figure out how to make this work, and I’m so grateful that we were able to get it to work,” said Dr. Samory Pruitt, UA vice president for Community Affairs.

NPC is composed of students, off-campus neighbors, business owners, community leaders, city officials, University police officers, city police, ABC Board officials and University administrators whose mission is to improve the relationships between students, law enforcement and off-campus neighbors.

“We all know the landscape of law enforcement across our country, the difficulty that we’ve been having over the past few years, so it’s been good for me to be a part of bridging the gap between us and, not just the university community, but Tuscaloosa as a whole,” said Daniel Mosely, community relations officer for the UA Police Department and member of NPC. “I really appreciate this opportunity. We all know that with dialogue, a lot of things can be accomplished.”

As Mosely highlighted, working to improve communication among neighbors, business owners, students and law enforcement officials can proactively address issues that are of mutual concern to sustaining town and gown relationships.

“We have to look at something that provides a benefit and incentive to all the groups to let them rise above their own personal economic interests and look at what is best for the university and community as a whole,” said Robert Reynolds, who was part of the initial formation of NPC.

“Community engagement initiatives such as the UA Neighborhood Partnership Committee are extremely valuable and reflect campus and community commitment,” said Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for Community Engagement and member of the Board of Directors for the ITGA. “It has been wonderful to highlight the art of developing relationships among partners in town and gown shared spaces.”

As Bradley mentioned, the visit to Tuscaloosa provided an opportunity for one college town to learn from another through that dialogue.

“There are so many very close similarities between Athens and Tuscaloosa and the University of Georgia and The University of Alabama, so what better way to try to leverage those connections than to get together to learn,” Bradley said.

“It’s been a great experience as a student to hear from leaders across the city, but also on campus and to hear how we can work as a team,” added Madeline Martin, UA SGA president.

New Faculty Community Engagement Tour Returns, Encourages Partnerships

  • June 2nd, 2022
  • in News
New Faculty Community Engagement Tour

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

After a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Division of Community Affairs resumed its New Faculty Community Engagement Tour (NFCET), connecting University faculty, staff, graduate students and community members across various counties in the Black Belt region, Wednesday through Friday, May 11–13.

“What I discovered with these tours, with our work and just with life in general, is that most people want to do things that make life better for someone else,” said Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for the Division of Community Affairs. “Our purpose for these tours is part of the mission of The University of Alabama … to seek to improve the quality of life for folks in Alabama and beyond.”

Each day, faculty, staff and graduate students traveled by bus to a new area of the Black Belt and listened to panels of community leaders highlighting areas for collaboration in community-engaged scholarship. On the first day, tour attendees visited Walker, Pickens and Tuscaloosa counties. The second day included stops in Greene, Sumter and Hale counties. The tour concluded on Friday, May 13 with stops in Perry, Clarke and Dallas counties.

Day 1

The tour began at the historic First United Methodist Church in Jasper, the oldest church in the city and famous for its architectural style. This was also the tour’s first-ever stop in Jasper.

While Walker County experiences similar challenges that rural communities across the nation face, it has emerged as the center of the opioid epidemic in Alabama, providing additional barriers in health and wellness for residents to overcome.

Rachel Puckett, deputy director of Capstone Rural Health Clinic, shared how the Capstone has addressed community needs in health services, elaborating on the relevance and reciprocity of UA community partnerships.

“In 2017, we had a project with University partners that equipped all our clinics with the competency, tools and staffing to serve our patients’ mental health needs,” Puckett said. “From there we were able to build on that model and integrate a medication assisted therapy program, which is a specific treatment program for folks with opioid use disorder into the primary care setting. Our community is the epicenter of the evolving opioid epidemic. It hit us hardest first, and we’re working diligently to be part of the solution … and create a model for our community.”

Healthcare also spearheaded the discussion in Carrollton, in Pickens County. Panelists highlighted the impact of “SMART (School Health Model for Academics Reaching All Transforming Lives) clinics” in improving access to healthcare, but they also stressed the need for more resources to address mental health and the challenges law enforcement officials face in Pickens County.

The first day concluded at City Hall in Northport, where City Administrator Glenda Webb led a discussion on economic growth and initiatives in Northport.

A purpose of the tour is to create meaningful relationships between university personnel and community members, and students participating in the tour expressed their eagerness to engage in this reciprocity.

“I’m on this tour because I want to further my learning opportunities, my learning experiences,” said Anika Ames, a student assistant in the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center. “It doesn’t just stop for me with graduation on Saturday. It continues with experiences like these.”

Day 2

The first stop of the second day was in Greene County. Attendees gathered in the Robert H. Young Community Center in Eutaw, formerly known as Carver High School, the site of the historic 1965 student boycott and protest that took place during the height of the civil rights movement.

The bulk of the discussion centered on educational initiatives to strengthen the community, a theme that carried forward in other county stops. For example, Lillie Jones-Osborne, district judge for Greene County and chairman of the Greene County Children’s Policy Council, explained how the program “One Book, One Community” unites community members and improves literacy rates as each member of the community reads the same book for a period of time. Dr. Carol Zippert, of the Society of Folk Arts and Culture, added how the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, which began in Eutaw in 1975, connects the community through art and music.

The group stopped for lunch in York, where panelists encouraged attendees to consider the economic impact of investing their educational skills into rural communities.

“Part of being educated is sharing that knowledge,” said local business owner Jeffrey Artis. “It does no good to put a million dollars in a jar and never spend it to put back into the community. That knowledge that you’re getting at The University of Alabama is that millions of dollars. You have to take it out and invest it to get more back.”

Next, the tour proceeded to Project Horseshoe Farm in Greensboro where Jovita Lewis, Hale County coordinator for cooperative extension, shared the existing partnerships with UA and the Hale County Extension Office.

“We are also in partnership with the UA HomeFirst Program where we’re working with individuals to build their credit in order to purchase a home,” Lewis said. “One of the newest things that I’m involved in with the University is our health science technology camp. It’s out of the College of Nursing. We are presently trying to draw students into that program now.”

Other panelists discussed challenges and areas for growth in Hale County.

“We really want to try and have folks focusing more on what our assets are than what our deficits may be, depending on how you look at it, because our assets are the things that are going to make a difference,” said site coordinator Llevelyn Rhone.

The day concluded with a tour of the Safe House Museum, the home in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sought shelter from the Ku Klux Klan during the civil rights movement.

Day 3

The group began the final day of the tour at the West Perry Volunteer Fire Department in Perry County.

Emefa Butler, one of the site coordinators and founder of C.H.O.I.C.E. (Choosing to Help Others in our Community Excel), informed the group of many areas for university partnerships in Perry County, such as addressing transportation needs for school choice, increasing community involvement with local schools through school-based projects, medical training in rural health, lack of housing, access to recreation and grant writing.

One of the main issues facing rural communities in the Black Belt is the “brain drain” of young adults leaving these communities for opportunities in bigger cities, which panelists at the second stop in Thomasville debated.

At Selma, the group reconvened at the Selma Dallas County Public Library, which was recently renovated to include a new children’s center, designed in part to address pitfalls of virtual learning for county schoolchildren during the pandemic.

“Our job is to bring people together,” said Becky Nichols, library director.

Bringing people together is also a goal of the Black Belt Community Foundation. Daron Harris, public relations director for the Black Belt Community Foundation, informed attendees of the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Selma, a partnership between the Black Belt Community Foundation and Selma Center for Nonviolence that is funded by the Kellogg Foundation.

Other panelists stressed the importance of collaboration in partnerships, highlighting the many ways they work together to address community needs. “Partnership is how we get work done in the Black Belt,” said Lydia Chatmon, the director of TRHT Selma and the prevention director of Selma AIR, Inc.

The tour concluded with the group walking across Edmund Pettis Bridge and touring the Civil Rights Memorial Park in Selma before boarding the bus back to Tuscaloosa.

“One thing I have learned from these tours and working with the CCBP (Center for Community-Based Partnerships) is that community is how far your reach goes,” said Zahkeira Brown, a CCBP graduate assistant. “It’s not just the people around you.”

PTLA Celebrates 2022 Program Graduates

  • May 4th, 2022
  • in News

by Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

On April 7, parents and teachers gathered at the Bryant Conference Center for this year’s Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) graduation. After meeting virtually for the entire 2020–2021 academic year, 2021–2022 offered an opportunity to meet in person as well as online.

Andrea Ziegler, director for Community Education, welcomed everyone. “We are delighted to have each of you with us here tonight to celebrate our graduates and their accomplishments. This evening, we are proud to recognize more than one hundred graduates from our four participating districts. Graduates, we are pleased to honor you this evening,” she said.

Ziegler recognized school district superintendents Dr. Wayne Vickers, Alabaster City Schools; Vance Herron, Lamar County School District; Dr. Michael Daria, Tuscaloosa City Schools; and Dr. Keri Johnson, Tuscaloosa County School System.

Dr. Jim McLean, Community Affairs vice president and executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, gave the opening remarks. “Please let me congratulate this years’ parents and teachers for your achievements. I was especially excited that we could finally be in person again this year. It’s been really nice to see people in these sessions interacting,” said McLean. “This program intends to build the relationship between home and school, and we hope that took place during the year. This is one of the reasons I’ve been so supportive of the program. It really makes a difference.”

In 2020–2021, PTLA began a pilot academy, during which Tuscaloosa City Schools’ Paul W. Bryant High became the first high school to join the program. This year, two more high schools joined: Holt High from Tuscaloosa County School System and Thompson High from Alabaster City Schools.

Jake Peterson, program coordinator for Community Education, announced awards of certificates and plaques. Three school teams were declared Social Media winners. They are Sipsey Valley Middle School, Thompson High School and Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools-Elementary. Twelve school teams’ projects won grants — Arcadia Elementary, Big Sandy Elementary, Central Elementary, Collins-Riverside Intermediate, Creek View Elementary, Davis-Emerson Middle, Hillcrest Middle, Matthews Elementary, Meadow View Elementary, Skyland Elementary, The Alberta School of Performing Arts and Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools-Elementary.

In closing, Dr. Samory Pruitt, Community Affairs vice president, said. “I never miss one of these programs. I always enjoy hearing participants talking about their experiences, what it means to them to use what they learned to help the community and support each other. I also want to thank those superintendents. During the pandemic, we often see signs outside the hospital saying, ‘heroes are here.’ I would say heroes are also in these school buildings. We wouldn’t’ be who we are without education. If you all didn’t continue to do your job and give our young generation a good education, the consequences would be devastating. I know it wasn’t easy, but you all did it anyway. I really want to say thank you to the group of teachers and parents who joined PTLA during the pandemic, and to this group of teachers and parents here tonight.”

The Math in Motion grant winner was Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools – Elementary (TMS-E), an ongoing collaboration between TMS-E and UA’s Honors College. Alice Stallworth, 2nd-grade teacher at TMS-E, said, “About two years ago, there was a student who always wanted to be a professional basketball player, and he told everyone that he would grow up to be a professional basketball player. But it only took one time for the students from the Honors College to come, and this student saw them doing a robotic project. After that, this student expressed an interest in engineering. This project really shifted our students’ thinking about what they can accomplish in their lives. And it is so important to lead them to see those entrances at a young age so that these ideas can grow with them.”

Global Café Celebrates End of Year Friendships; Hawk to Retire

  • May 3rd, 2022
  • in News

Global Café volunteers, language partners, former Fulbright recipients and members of the University community honored Dr. Beverly Hawk during the end-of-the-year celebration.

Man and woman holding flowers

Vice President for Community Affairs, Dr. Samory Pruitt (left) congratulates Dr. Beverly Hawk (right) on her retirement, thanking her for her commitment to Fulbright opportunities and global community engagement at UA.

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

Global Café recognized its Language Partners and congratulated Dr. Beverly Hawk, director of Global and Community Engagement for the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, on her retirement in an end-of-the-year celebration on Tuesday, April 26, in the Student Community Engagement Center at Capital Hall.

Hawk, who served at UA for 17 years and will retire May 13, was instrumental in helping UA become a top-producing Fulbright institution, with more than 100 Fulbright winners during her tenure, thanks in part to her commitment to Global Café and the Language Partners Program.

“She had a vision for it,” said Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs. “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Everything rises and falls on leadership.’ Dr. Hawk, this has risen on your leadership.”

Building friendships through cultural exchange has been the mission of Global Café since Hawk first proposed the café to Pruitt several years ago. The Language Partners Program assists that mission by pairing international community members with native English speakers to aid their conversational skills.

True to its name as a café, the celebration featured refreshments and live music while UA students, faculty, staff and community members bonded through intercultural engagement.

Two graduating students, Shabari Patterson and Catherine Bedore, were recognized with a certificate and carnation pin for assisting the program.

Following acknowledgement of the rest of the Language Partners, several former Fulbright winners thanked Hawk for her dedication and kindness, better known as “Hawkness,” during a video presentation. Several of the students, faculty, staff and community members who participated in Global Café also shared memories and words of gratitude for Hawk and the Global Café program.

“Seeing Dr. Hawk’s passion with us as federal work-study students and also our international students makes me want to come to work every single day, and I really enjoyed my time and my conversations with my language partners,” said Jordan Alexander, an undergraduate student with the Language Partners Program. “Over here we’re building friendships. We’re building memories, and that’s all thanks to Dr. Hawk.”

“We just have the most wonderful students in the world, and that’s why they’re winning so many Fulbrights,” Hawk said, as she looked around the room. “I am just so grateful for the wonderful opportunity that I’ve had to work with you and have people who can create this. When you dream something and you want to create that wonderful thing, it is just great, and I thank you so much.”

The celebration concluded with cake, ice cream and a special visit from Big Al. Hawk received flowers and a commemorative photo album in honor of her vision, which is now a staple of international community engagement at UA.

“For the folks who have participated over the years, those have been recognized this evening, and some that have worked in this before and have come back, we just thank you for buying into an idea that we had and the relationships that have been built as a result of that,” Pruitt said.

To view event photos, visit

Community Affairs Partners With Hale County Chamber to Present ‘Toward a More Perfect Economy: The Challenge and Opportunity of Rural Communities‘

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By Ashley Cunigan and Diane Kennedy-Jackson

The University of Alabama Division of Community Affairs will partner with the Hale County Chamber of Commerce to present Toward a More Perfect Economy: The Challenge and Opportunity of Rural Communities, a conversation with Dr. Raphael W. Bostic, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

The event will be presented via Zoom webinar on Wednesday, Sept. 23, from noon–1:00 p.m. CT. Interested individuals are encouraged to register in advance at to receive Zoom login information, as well as to share questions for the panelists. The event will also be available via Facebook Live on the Hale County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page (

Bostic is the 15th president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. In this role he is responsible for all of the bank’s activities, including bank supervision and regulation and payment services. He also serves on the Federal Open Market Committee, the monetary policymaking body of the Federal Reserve System. Prior to joining the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Bostic served as the Judith and John Bedrosian Chair in Governance and the Public Enterprise at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. He graduated from Harvard University in 1987 with a combined major in economics and psychology, and earned his doctorate in economics from Stanford University in 1995.

Additional presenters include Alex Flachsbart, founder and CEO of Opportunity Alabama and a University of Alabama (UA) alumnus; Felecia Lucky, president of the Black Belt Community Foundation, who earned the MBA from UA; and Dr. Josh Pierce, chair of banking and finance at UA’s Culverhouse College of Business. Each will speak briefly about their organizations and how they serve Alabamians.

Those who are unable to join during the live presentations will have the opportunity to tune in at a time that is convenient for them via the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s website ( and Youtube channel (

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta serves the Sixth Federal Reserve District, which covers Alabama, Florida and Georgia, and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. The bank has branches in Birmingham, Jacksonville, Miami, Nashville and New Orleans.

Contact: Llevelyn Rhone, Hale County Chamber of Commerce,

A Community Affairs response to COVID-19

  • March 25th, 2020
  • in News

As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, offices at The University of Alabama have been operating under a limited business model, including offices and centers throughout the Division of Community Affairs. This includes the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, the Student Community Engagement Center, and the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center.

While the initial outbreak required the cancellation of the remaining special events we normally host during the spring semester, it could not slow us from our mission. Knowing that the work we do with and within the community would become increasingly important, we pivoted to deliver the Division’s programs via technology platforms that allowed us to remain connected while maintaining physical distance. And we continued to plan for the future.

Now, as the University prepares for a return to campus in the fall, we continue to press forward — safely — with plans to continue many of our programs online into the fall semester. It’s a new space for a Division that bases its programs and activities on community engagement, but it has presented opportunities for us to explore new ways of doing things that can continue to have a positive impact when we get to the other side of this worldwide pandemic.

We encourage you to follow the University’s updates at, and to stay abreast of Community Affairs happenings on our website and on our social media pages.

We wish you good health, and we continue to look forward to the day when we can get back to the work of community engagement on a face-to-face basis.

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.”

Julissa Arce Gives 2018 Realizing the Dream Lecture

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By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Contributor

The Tuscaloosa community gathered at the Embassy Suites Hotel Ballroom on March 27 to engage in dialogue with Julissa Arce, advocate for immigrant rights and education and author of “My (Underground) American Dream.”

The event was part of the Realizing the Dream Distinguished Lecture Series, which celebrates the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hosts for the event are Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and The University of Alabama.

For Arce, her American Dream began at the age of 11 when she accompanied her parents to the United States by plane from Mexico. They had work visas, but when her visa expired she became undocumented and remained so for the next 15 years.

“If you turn on the news you will hear about immigration every day. You will hear about border security and that in order to have border security we have to build a wall,” Arce told the audience of about 100. “Well I came here on a plane, and so I often think about how high this wall would have to be.”

Arce explained that 40 percent of undocumenteds in the United States never crossed the Mexico-United States border or any border illegally, but came here on a visa that later expired. She realized she was undocumented when she was 14 and anticipating returning to Mexico to celebrate her 15thbirthday with a Quinceañera, which in Latin culture marks the transition from childhood to womanhood with a lavish celebration similar to a wedding.

“My mother told me I couldn’t go to Mexico anymore, because my visa had expired and if I went to Mexico I couldn’t come back,” said Arce, who at the time did not understand the full implications of what it meant to be undocumented. “I went to sleep crying because I wasn’t going to have a party.”

For the next several years she learned to hide and live in the shadows of her parents, who had valid visas, and her little brother, who is a U.S. citizen. Still, she completely bought into the American Dream by working and studying hard and staying out of trouble.

In Texas in high school she excelled academically and athletically, but had few college options because with no social security number, she could not qualify. However, Texas passed a law allowing undocumented residents to attend college and qualify for state financial aid.

At 18 Arce thought, “If I could get my hands on enough financial resources I could become an American.” However, she soon realized that money was not the answer. Citizenship is only open to highly skilled workers, children of parents who are citizens, and spouses of Americans. There was no fee she could pay and no line she could stand in to become a citizen.

Yet, the finance major was undeterred and determined to work on Wall Street, and the summer after her junior year, she was accepted as an intern at Goldman Sachs and 10 weeks later offered a full-time job.

“However, after the initial excitement, the reality set in that it didn’t matter how hard I worked, I was still undocumented. The only choice that I could make was to buy a fake green card and a fake social security card,” she said.  “I don’t say this as a source of pride, because I wish every day that I didn’t have to do that. It would have been so much easier to fill out an application, pay a fine and get my papers the right way.”

Every day for the next several years, she was constantly looking over her shoulder. When her father, who had moved back to Mexico, became ill and died, she could not go to Mexico to see him or attend his funeral, which led her to finally confide in her boyfriend that she was undocumented.

“A few weeks after I told him this, we were sitting in my apartment and he said, ‘Why don’t we get married?’ Don’t propose to your significant other that way,” she said. “It changed my life, but it still took five years and $20,000. We had resources and we were able to hire lawyers who could walk us through the case. However, many people who hire lawyers are defrauded.”

She said after beginning her journey to become a citizen, she realized she needed to do more to help others who were undocumented, which led her to found the Ascend Educational Fund to help other young people in similar circumstances.

“My story has a really great ending. I’m standing before you today. My book has become a Washington Post bestseller and is currently being developed into a television series with America Ferrera” (an American actress and director born in Los Angeles to Honduran parents), Arce said. “That is an amazing ending to this journey that I have been on, but there are still millions of people who are walking in the shoes I walked in for so long and their stories are not any different than mine. They work hard and they stay out of trouble.”

She said anti-immigrant rhetoric has caused people to think of undocumented immigrants as criminals, but that is not the case for the majority of people who come here searching for a better life and their own American Dream.

People tell her all that time she should have been in jail for lack of documentation, she said. “Things could have turned out a different way. Life is not straightforward and people are faced with very difficult choices and decisions.”

After the speech there was a question and answer session and a book signing.

“I am a moderator for a Sustained Dialogue class and I had never had a conversation about immigration,” said Beau Devaul, a senior at UA majoring in finance and economics, who said he was inspired by Arce’s story. “When I think about Dr. King he was about equality for all and I was happy to see that the series is inclusive of everybody.”

Dr. Samory Pruitt, UA’s vice president of community affairs, has been a part of the series since its inception. “I give the committee a lot of credit. They look at the theme we have and try to make sure the speakers enlighten our community on a wide array of social justice themes, not just black and white issues,” Pruitt said.

Marcelle Peters, a UA senior who is president of the University’s National Association of Hispanic Journalists and vice president of the Hispanic-Latino Association, said she first saw Arce on CNN discussing her book. “I though her American dream was particularly inspiring and suggested to the committee we bring her here,” said Peters, a second-generation Mexican-American citizen who will be the first in her family to graduate from college. “When I saw she had written a book and was an executive at Goldman Sachs, I thought we definitely need her to come and speak.”

“I worked with immigration with U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s office for years,” said Melissia Davis, a Stillman alumna and current member of its Board of Trustees. People looking for that American Dream still have to overcome difficult obstacles, she said.