Summer Updates

UA News for the Division of Community Affairs Board of Advisors


[august 2022]

To connect you with what’s happening at the Capstone, we’ve gathered some recent news that may be of interest to you as alumni and as members of the Board of Advisors.

We plan to publish periodically, not only to keep you informed of what’s happening on campus, but also of what’s happening in the world of the BOA membership.


UA Early College to Offer First Course for Free.

High school students admitted to The University of Alabama Early College will be able to take their first college course for free beginning in the fall of 2022.

> Learn more.

Latina US Military Veteran Earns Doctorate to Help Bridge Cultural Gaps.

A famous country music duo once said that love can build a bridge. Elizabeth Naranjo Hayes believes that learning a language can do the same. In fact, the soon-to-be romance linguistics doctoral graduate will set out to prove it.

> Learn more.

UMC Opens Livingston Location.

University Medical Center opened a clinic in Livingston July 25 that will provide primary health care services to the Sumter County community.

> Learn more.

Automotive Veteran Tapped to Lead Mobility and Power Center.

An experienced leader in the automotive industry and entrepreneur will direct the Alabama Mobility and Power Center at The University of Alabama.

> Learn more.

A Look at the New Tutwiler Hall.

Standing alone on the southwest edge of campus is the new Tutwiler Hall, a 1,284-bed residence hall consisting of double-occupancy units with private bathrooms. Each level includes gathering spaces for residents that will provide a sense of comfort and community.

> Learn more.

New Director to Form Partnerships that Support Industry, Boost UA.

A new role under the Office for Research and Economic Development is charged with creating transformational partnerships that combine outcomes from impactful research at The University of Alabama with the critical technology and workforce needs of industry.

> Learn more.

Federal Award To Help UA Electrify Crimson Ride.

With nearly $8 million in federal transit funds, The University of Alabama will replace a quarter of its transit system buses with electric buses, reducing emissions and further positioning UA and the region as a hub for the electric vehicle ecosystem.

> Learn more.

Undergraduate Research Boosted With Move to Academic Affairs.

To enhance the campus culture for undergraduate students involved in research and scholarly endeavors, the Office for Undergraduate Research is moving under the umbrella of the Capstone Center for Student Success.

> Learn more.

UA Awarded NSF Grant for HBCU Bridge Program.

The University of Alabama has received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a bridge program for students from three Historically Black Colleges and Universities interested in opportunities in renewable energy.

> Learn more.

UA, Harvard Researchers Identify Potential Parkinson’s Therapeutic.

Researchers at The University of Alabama were part of a national investigation that identified a new candidate therapeutic target for Parkinson’s Disease, according to recently published results.

> Learn more.

UA Earns Multiple CASE, Emmy Awards.

The University of Alabama was recently awarded four Circle of Excellence awards by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education as well as three Southeast Emmy Awards.

> Learn more.

UA To Train Needed Workforce for Water Operations and Forecasting.

The University of Alabama has been awarded $3 million from the National Science Foundation to establish a unique hydrologic science research and training program for graduate students.

> Learn more.

UA Develops Behavioral Health App for State.

Working with several state agencies and nonprofit organizations, researchers and social work experts at The University of Alabama gathered all education, information and services related to substance use, mental health and prevention for an easy-to-use app that instantly provides access to the resources people need to take the next step.

> Learn more.

UA Selected for First Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative.

The University of Alabama has received an award to implement the first ever Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, partnering with Alabama A&M University in the new program.

> Learn more.

Alabama Business Hall of Fame to Induct Eight for 2022.

Eight individuals who made a difference in Alabama through their business contributions will be inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame Class of 2022 during a ceremony at Haven in Birmingham Thursday, Nov. 10.

> Learn more.

UA Hosts Leadership Training for Pakistani Women.

The University of Alabama hosted a two-week higher education leadership training experience for 25 women from 15 Pakistani universities as part of a five-year, $19 million project by the U.S. Agency for International Development and in collaboration with the University of Utah.

> Learn more.

UA earns SGA of the Year, Social Change Initiative Awards.

The University of Alabama’s Student Government Association received the SGA of the Year award and its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Certification Program earned the Social Change Initiative recognition at the SEC Exchange held July 15­–17 in Columbia, South Carolina.

> Learn more.

Swim To the Top Participants Recognized in Showcase Celebration.

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.

> Learn more.

STEM Entrepreneurship Academy Encourages STEM Innovation for High Schoolers.

Twenty-eight high school students from across West Alabama collaborated on a community or school-based need using principles of science, technology, and mathematics (STEM) during this year’s STEM Entrepreneurship Academy (SEA), on Sunday through Friday, July 10–15 at The University Alabama.

> Learn more.
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Showcase Concludes Inaugural BLAST Academy.

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.

> Learn more.

HomeFirst Hosts Greene County Coaches Retreat.

Held at the Capstone Hotel in Tuscaloosa on July 21–22, the HomeFirst Greene County Coaches Retreat provided an overview of HomeFirst and opportunities for volunteers to practice their coaching skills and learn how to build rapport with participants.

> Learn more.

Tuscaloosa’s Habitat for Humanity Dedicates New Home for HomeFirst Family.

For many adults, homeownership may seem more like a dream than a possibility, but HomeFirst helps participants take steps to achieve homeownership through financial planning. For HomeFirst participant Kanika Cotton, that dream became a reality when she and her family moved into their new Habitat for Humanity home on Thursday, Aug. 11.

> Learn more.

UA HomeFirst Coaches’ Retreat Supports Students, Volunteers.

Volunteers participating in The University of Alabama’s HomeFirst Coaches’ Retreat from Aug. 25–26 at Capital Hall learned interpersonal skills are just as important as financial literacy when guiding future homeowners.

> Learn more.

Congratulations to Dr. Jackson Harris,

assistant director of the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center, on successfully defending his dissertation, “Modeling the Structural Dynamics of Our Public Spheres.” His research offers a theoretical model for how polarization threatens to disintegrate democratic publics while also highlighting the importance of relationship-building and civic engagement. The theoretical model produced by the dissertation arose directly from the work of UA’s Crossroads Civic Engagement Center, where he serves as assistant director. Situated at the intersection of theory and practice, the theoretical model responds directly to the question, “How should we be developing engaged citizens in an era of toxic polarization?” His hope is that by being able to theorize how our public and communication networks are disintegrating, we can more effectively do the work of reversing toxic polarization and creating strong connections between diverse communities and people.

Dr. Lane McLelland, director of the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center,

is leading a collaborative research project with colleagues at C&IS and the University of Georgia to study the post-graduate impact of undergraduate participation in dialogue-based courses.

Dr. Jackson Harris, assistant director of the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center,

presented political communication research and civic education strategies at the International Communication Association conference in Paris May 26–30. He also traveled to Perry and Walker Counties to help facilitate learning for UA students engaged in community-based learning experiences. This includes the Honors College’s University Fellows Experience and New College’s Jean O’Connor-Snyder Internship Program.

Dr. Lane McLelland and Dr. Jackson Harris presented

several lines of research at the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement conference in Minneapolis June 21–24. McLelland served on the national steering committee for this conference.

Crossroads hosted summer workshops,

delivering CIVshop modules to a wide range of partners including the College of Continuing Studies, Student Government Association, Bryant Conference Center staff and undergraduate research program in engineering.

Carol Agomo, director of Community and Administrative Affairs, was co-chair of the Outreach and Engagement Practitioner Network ESC pre-conference session.

The OEPN pre-conference session took place at the Engagement Scholarship Consortium on Sept. 19–20. The theme was, “The Boundary Spanners Journey: From Roots to Wings.”

> Learn more.

New Opportunity for Carol Agomo.

Carol Agomo has accepted a new opportunity in the University's Division of Finance and Operations, beginning Oct. 17. She was instrumental in paving the course for the Division, as well as establishing the BOA. We thank and applaud Carol for her leadership and efforts to support the Division, and we wish her all the best in her new role.

Congratulations to Dr. Samory Pruitt,

who was inducted into the Tuscaloosa County Civic Hall of Fame class of 2022 on Oct. 20. This prestigious honor recognizes individuals who have made significant, long-term contributions to the overall quality of life of Tuscaloosa County.

Learn more.
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Join us in welcoming...

Marie Butler as the program coordinator for HomeFirst (Greene County). She assists UA’s HomeFirst program through the Housing Authority of Greene County.

Ella Magerl as a program coordinator for Community Education. She will support the Vision Days program, Swim to the Top, and BLAST Academy, as well as other efforts overseen by Dr. Daniela Susnara.

James Renshaw as the program coordinator for Programs and Partnerships for Community Engagement. He assists with various Partnerships for Community Engagement programs, including HomeFirst and the Neighborhood Partnership Committee.


BOA member Ryan Davis, aka Kadesh Flow,

joined the Kansas City Irish Festival for its annual Labor Day weekend Mix Tape Concert, stepping beyond his musical roots to embrace Irish rap.

> Learn more.

Congratulations to BOA member Will Clayton,

who has accepted a position teaching middle school, eighth grade world history at Oak Mountain Middle School in Shelby County, Ala.

BOA member Terri Brewer presented

on behalf of the Tuscaloosa County School System at the Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa on September 6.

BOA member LaTasha Thomas was the keynote speaker

at the second annual Black Alumni Association freshmen pinning ceremony at the UA Bryant Conference Center on August 27.

BOA member Justin Zimmerman served on a roundtable discussion

at the 2022 American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Meeting and Exhibition, which took place September 15-18 in Montréal, Québec, Canada. The discussion theme was Mental Health in Political Science, and this session focused on the severe mental health crisis among graduate students in political science while beginning a broader conversation in political science about mental health struggles among scholars in the discipline.

BOA member and Blackburn Fellow Reginald Miller recently served

as moderator for a Blackburn Institute 2022 Annual Symposium Zoom session titled Transformation through Community Collaboration. He was joined by BOA member and Blackburn Fellow Alex Flachsbart and others for this session that focused on how innovation and collaboration can create exponential growth in communities.

Congratulations to BOA member Laura Kate Whitney,

who recently relocated back to Charleston, S.C., to work with Charleston Wine + Food as Director of Experience. She has been involved with this organization in various roles since its inception in 2006.

Congratulations to BOA member Sevanne Steiner,

who recently accepted a position as Assistant Director of Planning for the City of Miami (Florida)! She previously served as Senior Planner in the Preservation and Design Division for the city of Fort Worth.

Congratulations to BOA member Luke Connell,

who has been selected to participate in the 49th Leadership Greenville class. Participants of this 10-month leadership intensive, the flagship program of the Greenville (South Carolina) Chamber, work in teams on a volunteer project designed to make them more informed, committed and equipped to be leaders for Greenville County.

> Learn more.

Congratulations to BOA member Justice Smyth,

who has been named the executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Economic Development Authority, effective Aug. 15. In this new role, Smyth presented to UA's Council on Community-Based Partnerships meeting Sept. 29. Smyth previously served as interim director of the Alabama Mobility and Power Center and director of strategic partnerships for the Alabama Transportation Institute.

> Learn more.

Congratulations to BOA member Jordan Carpenter,

who was appointed as a director of the Memphis Union Mission in July 2022. The Memphis Union Mission ministers to the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of men, women and families who are homeless, addicted and in crisis.

Congratulations to BOA member Rashmee Sharif,

who was promoted in June to senior project manager for Cigna's Medicare line of business.

Congratulations to BOA member Will Suclupe,

who was appointed to serve on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Regents Advisory Council (RAC). He was selected from among 116 VA leaders who were nominated for the RAC.

Congratulations to Dr. Michael and Dr. Holly Luther,

who moved to Perry County in August of 2021 to serve in the areas of medicine and education in the Black Belt. Michael serves as a physician for Cahaba Medical Care at the Marion clinic and is the assistant program director for Cahaba’s frontier residency program, which trains family medicine doctors in Perry and Wilcox counties. Cahaba is building a multiplex that will house both residents and the Luthers, who desire to serve as house parents. Holly homeschools their four children and serves in community service roles, specifically in the areas of education and ministry. Holly works to connect business leaders across the state to those working to implement programming to improve quality of life within the Black Belt. She has enjoyed working with the Division of Community Affairs and community partners on projects like the New Faculty Engagement Tour and Vision Days. Michael and Holly enjoy engaging their children in their work. Their children, ages 4 to 11, have been especially integral in the prayer team and service team the two created to meet needs within the town of Marion.

As BOA members are also UA graduates, we know how invaluable your experience as UA alumni has been.

If you have not already done so, please consider participating in your local alumni chapter.

> Learn more.

Have news to share with us?

If you have not already done so, we encourage you to follow us on Twitter at @UACommAffairs, on Facebook at @UACommunityAffairs and at @UA.CCBP and on Instagram at @ua_community_affairs

Additionally, did you know the Board of Advisors has its own Facebook group page? This is a place for you to connect with your fellow board members, as well as share news of potential interest to members of the group. Search “ua community affairs board of advisors” and ask to join the group. We’ll approve you right away!

You can follow the initiatives and news of the Division of Community Affairs on the web at Your Board of Advisors web pages live here under the Community Collaborations link.