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For Second Straight Year, New Faculty Tour of Black Belt Reveals Progress, Challenges in the Region

By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistant

For the second consecutive year, the Division of Community Affairs led a new faculty tour of cities and their landmarks in West Alabama and the Alabama Black Belt Region. In addition to new faculty, many staff and students in the division also attended.

The bus tour allowed participants to explore new places, meet new people and engage with new communities as part of the University’s expansion of its community-engagement capacity and opportunities in the region.

During the first day of a three-day tour, participants visited schools and museums in Eutaw (Greene County) and Greensboro (Hale County) before stopping for a session at Stillman College, a private historically black college in Tuscaloosa with close ties to and common interests with the University.

At each stop, communities shared their success stories, but also identified areas of need in hopes of encouraging UA faculty, staff and students to become more involved with this region.

For example, during a panel discussion at Robert Brown Middle School in Eutaw, Greene County School Superintendent James Carter requested help in developing programs for special needs children, telling the delegation he would appreciate their getting with him after the visit “for any suggestions on how we can better serve our special needs students in Greene Count. We also need help with our struggling students. So, if you have conducted research or have strategies we can use, I would like to hear about them.”

It was mentioned that UA’s Gear Up program was only one of several programs that partner with the Greene County Schools to prepare students for college. Several summer camp opportunities were also mentioned, among them several specifically aimed at students with social or economic hardships. Those include Alabama Summer Computer Camps (July 10–14); Art in Nature Camp (July 24–28); various reading and writing programs (June and July), Multicultural Journalism Workshop (June 2–11); Rural Health Scholars Program (May 28–June 28)’

The tour also provided opportunities for faculty and graduate students to forge new partnerships in other areas. Not only did the tour present scholars with needs, it also provided an opportunity to learn about the history of these rural areas.

In Greensboro, the tour stopped at the Safe House Museum, which was preserved as a museum after the house was used to keep the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. safe from an attack by the Klan during the Civil Rights Movement. The home was owned by Theresa Burroughs’ mother.

On the stop, Burroughs recalled her mother making homemade biscuits for King. “My mother loved to make biscuits, and Dr. King loved biscuits. He could eat four or six,” said Burroughs, explaining that King, Albert Turner and Hosea Williams would call their home from Selma to tell them they were coming over for breakfast. “My mother would start making biscuits. By the time they drove up out there, the biscuits would be ready.”

During the stop at Stillman College, the group not only learned the history of the college, but found out about old and new collaborations. “Over the years, we have had dual degree programs with the University of Alabama,” said Dr. Mary Jane Krotzer, Stillman vice president of institutional effectiveness. She said the two schools currently have an active dual enrollment program, which allows full-time students at either school to enroll in two additional courses at the other school without paying tuition.

UA’s Vice President of Community Affairs Samory T. Pruitt, who is a member of the Stillman Board of Trustees, said the tour allowed him to see ways in which new collaborations can be started and others renewed and sustained.

“I’ve heard some of the discussions and we may not have anyone in the room today who is interested in every area that was mentioned, but we are capturing the discussion from this session and we will share it with those with similar interests when we return to campus,” Pruitt told the panelists at Stillman.

Most tour participants were seeing the Black Belt for the first time. However, a few were familiar with the areas and even the tour itself. “This was a really rewarding experience the first year,” said James Gilbreath, an instructional and reference librarian at Gorgas Library who has been at the University for three years. “This year, I’m here to give context to new faculty members.”

 

DAY 2, Thursday, May 10

On Day 2 of the New Faculty Community Engagement Tour the group of nearly 40 faculty, staff and students traveled to Carrollton, Ala., in Pickens County, to attend a panel discussion at Pickens County College and Career Center.

Here, panel members included representation from Whatley Health Services Inc., Pickens County Family Resource Center and Pickens County Community Action Committee and Community Development Corporation, Inc.

Although UA already has partnerships within the county, many of the new faculty members and graduate students were unfamiliar with the services offered in senior, food and family services, childcare and education.

“At the Family Resource Center we work with two demographics; one is the elderly. We manage the senior care facilities throughout the county,” said the Rev. Rodney Shamery. “We serve lunch and provide activities to the elderly in the community. The second group we serve is young people and their parents.”

Shamery, who coordinates the Fatherhood Program funded by the Children’s Trust Fund, discussed the STAR (Students at Risk) Program and the services its two locations provide to families in need.

“We help at-risk children learn the social and cognitive skills they need to be successful,” he said. “We also work with non-custodial parents to help them renew their relationship with their children. We teach them how to interact with the other parent, work with them to find employment and teach them the soft skills they need to maintain employment.”

From there the group traveled to Sumter County, where they visited the Livingston Civic Center for a panel discussion.

“I live in a town where incomes are very limited. So I want to bring people to the table,” said community activist Lovie Burrell-Parks. “I started a monthly community needs assessment that has gotten people talking about what they want to see in the community.”

Based on this needs assessment, Burrell-Parks will operate a five-day summer camp for children and their parents. “This will bring people from Panola and surrounding areas together,” Burrell-Parks said.

Like Burrell-Parks, the Rev. Bob Little, pastor of Galilee Baptist Church in Panola, has been involved in his community. Each summer for the last eight years, his church has conducted a six-week vacation Bible school.

“We teach our children oration, song, memorization, music and writing. We average about 25–30 kids and most of our kids have been on the A-B Honor Roll for the last five years,” Little said. “We teach them things that will help them be productive and successful. We have members who now write their own books.”

Additionally, the church has its own recording label and it sings every genre of music, not just gospel.

“We’re here in the backwoods of Alabama but utilizing technology to broaden our horizons,” Little said. “We are limited in resources, but we still have great potential. We have to be creative to bring resources into our community.”

The center is located on a river with a breathtaking view that participants looked out on during the panel discussion.

“This tour has been what I had hoped it would be,” said Dr. Edward Geno, M.D., faculty member in the College of Community Health Sciences’ Department of Family Medicine specializing in family, internal and rural medicine. “I heard about the efforts and the dedication of these people and how they have interacted with the college to promote some of the needs of their community. These are impressive individuals who have overcome a lot personally and in their community.”

Geno, who works to develop medical leaders, said he was most impressed by the people affiliated with Hill Hospital of Sumter County and Whatley Health Services because of the leadership required to sustain a rural medical facility or practice. “They had healthcare leadership initiatives, which is a huge need in graduate medical education,” Geno said.

In Marion, Alabama, in Perry County, the participants visited historic Judson College, which was established in 1838 specifically to educate women and continues this tradition today.

From there, the group attended a panel discussion at Marion Methodist Church, after which they visited with UA Honors College students participating in the Black Belt Experience.

“I thought the tour would be a good way to see parts of Alabama that you don’t normally see, meet people that you normally wouldn’t have the chance to interact with, and hear about some of the issues that they are facing, and to see if there are ways the University can partner with them to address those issues and maybe improve the quality of life for the people in those areas,” said Alabama Transportation Institute Outreach Director Justice Smyth IV, whose family owns a farm in Uniontown (Perry County). “This has been an eye-opening experience; not just for me, but for the group,” he said.

 

Day 3, Friday, May 11

The New Faculty Community Engagement Tour concluded its three-day exploration of West Alabama and the Black Belt Region with stops in Uniontown, Thomasville, and Camden, ending in Selma, where the group crossed the historic Edmond Pettus Bridge.

Uniontown (Perry County) Mayor Jamaal Hunter hosted the group at the City Recreation Center. He was joined by Emefa Butler, founder of the non-profit CHOICE (Choosing to Help Others In our Community Excel); Gilbert Sentell of Sentell Engineering; and John H. Heard III, superintendent of Perry County Schools.

About the tour participants, Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president of UA’s Division of Community Affairs, said, “These are people who have gotten up at 7 o’clock in the morning and have ridden the bus for 12 hours because they were interested in hearing more about these communities and making their skillsets available to help in whatever way they can.”

Panelist discussed the needs of their area, including wastewater treatment plant concerns, transportation, education and communication.

As a result of a diminishing population, Uniontown has struggled with finding the funding needed to upgrade its water and wastewater treatment facility.

“In 2012, we were able to finally obtain funding to do some improvements to the water system and replace all of the water meters,” said Sentell. “This will allow the city to grow.”

Butler, who returned to Uniontown after living in Birmingham, founded CHOICE in 2009 in an effort to improve home community.

“It’s one thing to talk about where you are from and it’s another thing to invite people to where you are,” said Butler, who is hoping to form a communication network and solve transportation problems in her rural community.

“It only takes a little. Whatever you have, you can make a difference in the Black Belt,” Butler said. “Through community partnerships it will happen.”

She will open a Youth Resource Center on June 23 to improve “self-sufficiency, employability and the overall quality of life of the people” in Uniontown, she said. “I hope someone will donate a bus, van, or a car so that transportation will not be a barrier for our youth and young adults.”

After networking with panelists, the group traveled to Thomasville Civic Center in Clark County before touring the Golden Dragon Plant, which produces copper tubing. Afterward, they traveled to Camden, (Wilcox County), where they toured Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center and made purchases of locally made crafts and artwork.

Dr. Tracey S. Hodges, assistant professor of Curriculum and Instruction, who just completed her first year in Tuscaloosa, was impressed with what she saw on the tour.

“With little resources the communities are doing great things. So, whatever the University can contribute I think they’ll just blossom,” Hodges said. “I do research in literacy and pretty much everyplace we’ve been has mentioned that as a problem.”

However, not all of the touring faculty are new to UA. Dr. Suzanne Horsley, associate professor of advertising and public relations, conducts service learning with her classes and attended the tour for ideas.

“I really don’t do community-based research, and I wanted to have a better concept of what that meant and what other partners are doing in the area,” said Horsley, who has been at UA for nine years. “It’s been really cool today to learn what other folks are doing, from supporting grant writing, to developing projects, to getting students to help figure out what the community’s needs are.”

She also welcomed the opportunity to meet people “from parts of campus that I wouldn’t normally get to talk to.”

After leaving Camden, the group visited the Selma Interpretive Center before traveling to the final panel presentation at the new Head Start program in Selma, operated by the Black Belt Community Foundation, a long time partner with and active in the Division of Community Affairs’ Center for Community-Based Partnerships.

“When this facility opened up this was a big wow factor, because children are our future, education is our future and we have a big workforce development issue in our city,” said Selma Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sheryl Smedley.

Although Selma is a part of the Black Belt Region, it has more tourism opportunities than most cities in the regions. “Our biggest partner is the state tourism department,” said Barja Wilson, executive director of the Selma Redevelopment Authority, adding that the city is working to getting listed on more national registries to increase tourism. Additionally, a $2 million expansion of the Interpretive Center will break ground soon.

Nathaniel Shannon, a doctoral education psychology student, attended the tour all three days.

“In looking for research projects, my classmates and I found that the Tuscaloosa area was saturated with research,” Shannon said as a reason he decided to attend the tour. “I also knew that surrounding counties needed research and that there are areas where I can share my knowledge and people can share their knowledge with me.”

At the end of Day 3, veterans of the first two years of the New Faculty Engagement Tour we talked with, as well as many newcomers, came away exhausted but full of new ideas for future scholarly engagement and unanimous in their perception that their experience was a valuable one.

Typical of the reaction to the experience was the following statement by Dr. Greg Bell, assistant professor and senior data analyst in the Institute for Rural Health Research, College of Community Health Sciences:

“Please know how grateful I am to have been invited to attend the community engagement tour. I was able to attend the Black Belt session on Friday and found it to be both informative and inspirational. I finished the (very long!) day with ideas for a couple of grants that I will now be able to pursue with the benefit of local knowledge and some newfound UA resources. I hope this great program continues to thrive as a catalyst for difference-making programs and meaningful research.”

Council Hosts Twelfth Annual Excellence in Community Engagement Awards

By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistant

The Council on Community-Based Partnerships hosted its Excellence in Community Engagement Awards on April 18 at the Bryant Conference Center with more than 200 people in attendance to share in the celebration of research and service activities of The University of Alabama and its community partners. It was the 12thannual awards ceremony.

The luncheon is a culmination of the efforts of faculty and students working to fulfill the University’s teaching, research and service mission through partnerships with community groups.

Each year this program recognizes faculty, community partners and students who work to change the lives of others through their engagement research efforts by granting seed funds, graduate fellowships, undergraduate scholarships, travel grants and a variety of other activities.

Not only does this event serve to recognize and encourage social consciousness that manifests itself through active problem-solving, this year’s event recognized a person who has been an integral part of CCBP since its inception. CCBP Director of Communication and Research Dr. Edward Mullins was this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Special Achievement in Community Engagement Award.

“Every year with this program I’ve had the opportunity to present the very first award. It’s the highest award that we give and it’s to someone who has made a significant impact on the landscape of community-engaged scholarship and through their work and through their lives have made a tremendous difference in the quality of lives for others,” said Vice President of Community Affairs Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, recalling such past recipients of the award as UA Chancellor Dr. Mack Portera, former UA President Dr. Judy Bonner, and current president of Morgan State University Dr. David Wilson,. “These are all giants and the person who will receive this award today is also a giant.”

Mullins, a retired dean of UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences, according to Pruitt, has dedicated his entire life to helping others achieve their educational potential.

“Years ago,” Pruitt recalled, “when we had this hair-brained idea of trying to do this kind of work on our campus, Ed was retiring from the College of Communication, and he said to me, ‘I’ve got a sense that I know what you’re trying to do, and if you’ll find a corner somewhere in an office with a computer I’ll help you.’ And help me he has. From our research journal to our inclusion in ESC (Engagement Scholarship Consortium), to our Carnegie Classification and countless conversations about strategy and staffing, he’s always been there.”

Pruitt gave special credit to Mullins for his role, along with that of founding editor Dr. Cassandra Simon, in the development of the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship (JCES), now in its second decade of publication. It is published at the University and today is considered the leading journal in engaged scholarship.

Mullins came up with the original design and format for the publication and with the editorial philosophy that writing for the journal would place a priority on a style of writing that would be accessible to non-academics. As Simon put it in her original column about the journal, “We want JCES to look different, to be different, and to make a difference.” Apart from JCES publisher Pruitt, Mullins is the only member of the original staff still working for the journal.

Three awards were made in the faculty, staff and community partner Distinguished Community-Engaged Scholars category. They were Laurie Bonnici, associate professor, School of Library and Information Studies; Justin Washington, graduate student in the Culverhouse College of Business; and Jim Page, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.

A veteran community-engaged scholar, during the past year Bonnici was a visiting scholar at the Social Media Lab at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Washington used his UA-acquired entrepreneurial skills to assist with funding to start programs and to help existing programs such as the Tuscaloosa Boys and Girls Club.” Under Page, the chamber was cited for its work with supporting youth, former inmates and nonprofits.

Five people received the Excellence Award for Outstanding Engagement Effort. They were: Amanda Lightsey of Tuscaloosa’s One Place; Lauren Martin, an undergraduate student in Honors College; Melanie Acosta, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction; Darrin J. Griffin, assistant professor of communication studies; and Yuehan Lu, associate professor of geological sciences.

These awards come with a $2,000 stipend to help the scholars continue their work. For example, Griffin said the funds would enable his team to produce weather workshops for the deaf community preliminary to seeking larger grants in the future.

The Council awarded two seed grants. One went to Dr. Abbey Gregg, assistant professor in the Department of Community Medicine and Population Health and the Institute for Rural Health Research in the College of Community Health Sciences (CCHS), and Dr. Elwin Crawford in the state Department of Public Health’s Office of Emergency Medical Services. They received $3,520 to assess community needs related to mobile integrated healthcare intervention. The second was to Dr. Robin A. McWilliam, professor of special education and multiple abilities to support his work with Alabama’s Early Intervention System, Community Service Program of West Alabama. McWilliam was awarded $4,902 for telehealth research for families with infants and toddlers.

Graduate fellowships were awarded to Temilade Ayo Aladeokin and Kim Wang, doctoral students in social work, and for a student to be named later to work with Dr. Yuehan Lu, assistant professor in geological sciences.

The council also assists students and faculty with travel to present their research at scholarly conferences around the world. This year’s $1,000 travel grant recipients were Emily Brown, master’s student in biological sciences; Dr. Abbey Gregg, CCHS; Dr. Mary Kelley, assistant professor with the Capstone College of Nursing; Ashley Stewart, anthropology doctoral student; and Calia A. Torres, psychology doctoral student.

“I went to Tucson, Arizona to attend the American Ornithological Society annual meeting. It’s a nationwide conference on bird research,” said Brown. “I got to speak to someone who has been working with red-cockaded woodpeckers for 30 years and learning from what he’s learned from his research really helped me to frame my papers and research that I am working on.”

Another highlight of the luncheon was the presentation of the Zachary David Dodson Memorial Endowed Scholarship, named for a CCBP work-study student who died the night before he was to graduate magna cum laude with a degree in economics. This year’s recipient was Kathryn Taylor, a sophomore in communication studies who came to CCBP and immediately involved herself in its mission.

“It is the best department on campus,” said Taylor, who followed her older sister to UA from Connecticut. “I work alongside so many professional people and it’s been such a great opportunity for me to grow professionally. Working with them sets you up for a passionate future doing what you love.”

Dr Peter Hlebowitsh, dean of the College of Education and chair of the executive committee Council, brought welcome to the audience and gave a brief report on the achievements of the past year. He praised the award recipients and their partners for their “remarkable individual efforts” and “life-reaching work.”

SCOPE Showcase Highlights Undergraduate and Graduate Student Research

By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistant

Scholars for Community, Outreach, Partnership and Engagement, or SCOPE, held its annual Showcase of Community-Engaged Scholarship on April 18 in the Bryant Conference Center. The event highlights the activities of undergraduate and graduate members, along with their work in the area of engaged scholarship.

“The Showcase provides a well-supported way for members to showcase their research and to get feedback from faculty,” said SCOPE President Tera “CeeCee” Johnson, a master’s student in the clinical mental health program who has been a SCOPE member for five years. “The Showcase gives other students an opportunity to see their work and possibly collaborate on future projects.”

Throughout the year, students meet and learn about engagement scholarship initiatives that are already being undertaken by the University and ways to get involved as well as to participate in skills-based workshops on research methods, grant writing, completing Institutional Review Board applications, and more.

“As an undergraduate being able to see all of this research and see all of these projects has been really inspiring for someone like me who wants to go to graduate school,” said Lathram Berry, a junior from Nashville with a New College emphasis in community development and civic engagement. “Being a member of SCOPE has helped me start developing ideas about projects that I might want to work on in the future. It has benefited me professionally, but it also has taught me more about myself and my personal skills. So, it’s definitely more than an organization.”

This feeling seemed to permeate the group. “It’s amazing how many resources this university has for students,” said Kathryn Taylor, a sophomore from Niantic, Conn. majoring in communication studies. “SCOPE is a little bit more than just an organization to me; it’s showed me how easy it is to be able to change the world and to change your community. It pushes me professionally to become a better version of myself.”

Johnson, Taylor and Berry participated in a panel discussion along with Cory Key, a master’s student in the Rural Community Health Program, and Xiangyan “Sophia” Xiong, a master’s student in gender and race studies. During the discussion, the students elaborated on how SCOPE allowed them to create a network of support for their research areas.

“SCOPE has brought me real experience,” said Xiong, who is from China. “Sometime when you read too many books you think doing research is how to develop a theory; but here you can see the community needs and what you can do in practice to help people.”

Key is from Alabama’s Black Belt Region and wants to return to the area to practice medicine. When he connected with SCOPE he already was involved with two engagement programs at the University: Cooperative Agriculture for Minorities; and Agriculture, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

“Every single workshop had something that I could take back and apply immediately,” said Key, who admitted he was hesitant to join the organization at first. “I wasn’t expecting SCOPE to connect me to with so many resources, especially in rural areas. Alabama and more specifically each presenter brought a wealth of knowledge and informed us about resources available and that solidified my decision to continue to work in rural health.

After the panel discussion, graduate students Daniela Susnara and Cecilia Ciaccia gave paper and digital presentations. This was followed by a poster session, which featured more than two dozen projects involving nearly 50 students.

Council on Community-Based Partnerships Meeting – March 22, 2018

In Attendance: Jackie Brodsky, Megan Carlton, Dee Cook, Thometta Cozart, George Daniels, Amy Dillon, Paige Ferguson, Elizabeth Hartley, Peter Hlebowitsh, Candace Johnson, CeeCee Johnson, Diane Kennedy-Jackson, Billy Kirkpatrick, Amanda Lightsey, James E. McLean, Jasmine Merritt, Holly Morgan, Jane Newman, Nicole Prewitt, Samory T. Pruitt, Whitney Sewell, Chas Shipman, Chris Spencer, Daniela Susnara, Matthew Wisla

Dr. Peter Hlebowitsh, CCBP executive council chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting and called the meeting to order. He proceeded with an update on the Promise Neighborhood Grant, sharing that the concept behind this grant is to provide update and renewal opportunities to areas of the country that need it. Recognizing that this initiative would benefit the Black Belt region of Alabama, Dr. Hlebowitsh and Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for community engagement at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), designed a prototype to begin to put together a proposal. West Tuscaloosa was added to the proposal, which targets concerns in the areas of health and nutrition, crime and safety and other important issues. Hlebowitsh and Prewitt have also identified community partners and are framing the proposal. They will update the Council as they move forward.

Amanda Lightsey, executive director of Tuscaloosa’s One Place and chair of the Council’s Community Partner Support Committee, shared an overview of the Prison Re-entry into Society Program. Lightsey, Prewitt and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama are looking at a model curriculum program that would help prisoners prepare to re-enter the community as workforce-ready individuals able to maintain stable employment.

Lightsey and Prewitt shared that there are thousands of jobs in the area, particularly in manufacturing, that need to be filled. Several companies realized they would have to adjust some of their employment practices in order to fill these vacant positions. Accordingly, they have been looking at a model used to help replicate the Prison Re-entry into Society Program throughout the state. Additionally, 8–10 percent of prisoners in Alabama are veterans, so the group is also looking at subsections within the prison population to be certain that the curriculum they develop meets the needs of all prisoners. This would be the first program of its kind in Alabama.

Companies included in the discussion are Mercedes, Phifer Wire and a host of related service providers, as well as state representatives from the Department of Corrections. Those interested in getting involved with this program or who have questions should contact Donny Jones at the Chamber at 205-391-0552 or at donny@chambertuscaloosa.com.

Dr. George Daniels, chair of the Excellence in Community Engagement Recognition Committee, gave an update on the Council’s upcoming Excellence Awards Program, sharing that the committee members are excited about the annual awards luncheon and ceremony scheduled for Wednesday, April 18, at the Bryant Conference Center.

Daniels spoke of the importance of recognizing partnership development in community engagement. He reported that there had been open calls for submissions in the areas of partnerships initiated in the community, by students and by faculty. The awards program also provides an opportunity to recognize those who receive travel awards and to showcase seed fund projects and research work shared via poster presentations. Again this year, posters will be presented in conjunction with the SCOPE student presentations and will be on display both before and immediately following the luncheon.

Daniels also said that this awards luncheon is one of the highlights of the year and that we hope to see as many Council members as are available in attendance. Those planning to attend should RSVP by Wednesday, April 11, via the email invitation already distributed.

CeeCee Johnson, chair of the Student Involvement and Support Committee, gave an overview of what to expect at the SCOPE Student Showcase, which will take place the morning of Wednesday, April 18, also at the Bryant Conference Center. SCOPE (Scholars for Community Outreach, Partnership, and Engagement) is a student organization that seeks to involve undergraduate and graduate students in community engagement work.

Johnson reported that submissions to present at the SCOPE Showcase will be open through Friday, March 23. Presentations will begin the morning of April 18 with a panel of SCOPE students who will be sharing their experiences in the organization throughout the past year, as well as their experiences in community engagement. They will also discuss what brought them to SCOPE and what they got out of their involvement. Student paper presentations will follow, and then finally the poster session, which will be combined with the Excellence Awards Luncheon poster session. Johnson also indicated that SCOPE students would welcome and appreciate feedback from faculty members in attendance who work in the area of community engagement.

Dr. Karl Hamner, director of the Office of Evaluation, College of Education, spoke to the Council about Operation Deep Dive, aptly named because it takes a deep dive into the problem of veteran suicide in the community.

Hamner shared that 20 veterans kill themselves each day, which equates to more than 7,000 veterans a year. The question he and his team are trying to answer is, “What role does community engagement play in reducing or isolating suicide?”

Utilizing a grant from Bristol Myers-Squibb, Hamner and his team have developed a proposal with six other communities across the nation and will conduct a retrospect of every veteran suicide that they can. For this study, they are using Veterans Affairs (VA) data and service history and are looking at all veterans rather than just those who qualify for VA services. This will include those who were dishonorably discharged.

The researchers will be partnering with medical examiners and coroners, as well as with the community, on this project. They know that white males are two times more likely to kill themselves than other ethnicities, but even with this knowledge have been unable to impact suicide rates nationally. They attribute this statistic to a loss of purpose, loss of belonging and social isolation that affects many veterans. Accordingly, they are referring to this part of the project as a “social-cultural autopsy.” There will be a community engagement board representing the medical and veteran communities in every participating community. Site visits will begin during summer 2018.

In addition to the VA, the Department of Defense is also sharing its data with the project. Other agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control, are also coming to the table and taking an interest in the project.

Whitney Sewell, Community Affairs program coordinator, discussed the upcoming New Faculty Community Engagement Tour, which seeks to connect new faculty members at UA to existing community outreach endeavors in a way that helps them visualize how their research might fit into an existing partnership or even form a new one.

The tour will take place Wednesday through Friday, May 9 through 11, from approximately 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily, and will include three site visits with panel discussions each day. Participants can sign up for one, two, or all three days. There is no fee to attend. Sign-up will begin during the first week of April and is open to faculty, staff and graduate students.

In its second year, the tour through Alabama’s Black Belt region provides participants with an opportunity to see new parts of the state that they call home but might not normally get to see, and also to meet people that they might not normally have the opportunity to meet.

Shifting gears, Prewitt discussed the Saving Lives Academy, a pilot to train church health advocates in areas of physical activity, nutrition, and health education and promotion. The pilot program was launched this week and Prewitt’s team has already received feedback. They hope to use that feedback to establish the inaugural academy in September, and are enthusiastic about contributing to the public health infrastructure by providing church advocates information for their congregants. They have also partnered with the VA and with Shelton State Community College for future sessions.

Dr. Holly Morgan, director of community engagement at the CCBP, discussed both Swim to the Top and the STEM Entrepreneurship Academy, two summer program offerings. Planning is underway for both programs.

Swim to the TOP is a partnership with the Benjamin Barnes YMCA, First Tee of Tuscaloosa, both Tuscaloosa City and County, and the UA College of Education. The Swim to the Top program is housed at the Benjamin Barnes Branch YMCA. Their instructors provide swimming instruction, physical fitness instruction and academic enrichment to the students who participate. At the end of the month-long program, a final showcase to include parents will be presented. Morgan and her team want to be certain there are measurable assessments across the board to use in the future and to help measure growth across the program. Swim to the Top will take place during the month of June.

The STEM Entrepreneurship Academy is a week-long residential camp that is hosted on the UA campus, in partnership with multiple entities on campus. For the camp, 40 rising 10th and 11th graders from the Black Belt region of Alabama will be recruited. The camp’s focus is on the STEM fields and the area of entrepreneurship. Partners include the UA College of Arts & Sciences, UA Student Life, the UA College of Engineering and the UA College of Business. In addition, the program receives contributions from The Edge and The Tuscaloosa Gateway program. This opportunity also operates through the Google classroom platform to provide outreach to schools when students and teachers are not on campus.

Dr. James E. McLean, executive director of CCBP, updated the Council on ongoing grant-writing workshops, noting that we are currently in the second round of the program. Teams from the first round were successful in finding funding for a number of community initiatives, including textbook, veterans’, HIV, and Head Start programs. A conservative estimate is that the 10 teams participating in round one have raised more than $30 million. It is too early to have estimates on projects from the second round, as those teams will complete the program in June.

McLean announced that a third round of workshops has been funded for 2018–2019, and that the call for participation will be coming out in about two weeks. The third round will begin in mid-August and will conclude in early June, 2019. There will be up to eight UA/community teams, as well as individual slots for participation. Teams must have a minimum of two people — one from UA and one from the community — and be willing to work toward improving the quality of life in some way for the community. Workshops will again be led by David G. Bauer, who will also conduct the individual grant- coaching programs for the teams.

McLean shared that he has never heard anyone express to him that it was not worth the time or effort teams put into the grant-writing workshops. If you know of a team that might be interested in participating, you are encouraged to make them aware that the call is coming out. The tentative deadline for applications for round three is May 19.

Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs, concluded the meeting with a brief update on the 2018 Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC) Conference, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 30 through Wednesday, Oct. 3, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He reported that this conference will be significantly different from previous ESC conferences, as it will be the first one under the new ESC 20/20 strategic plan.

For the first time, there will be an awards program during the conference, the categories of which will be similar to the Excellence Awards program here on campus. There will also be a panel of tenured faculty members who will be part of a workshop on best practices and literature on the subject of leadership in community engagement. UA faculty members and students are encouraged to attend the conference.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:50 p.m.


The Council exists to connect faculty, staff, students and community partners in research-based projects designed to solve critical problems identified collaboratively by community members and the University. All academic disciplines, as well as a number of students and community members, are represented on the Council. The Council conducts an awards program, oversees project funding, proposes methods to integrate teaching and research and seeks outside funding, all with the goal of fulfilling the Division of Community Affairs’ motto: “Engaging Communities and Changing Lives.”

The Division of Community Affairs was created in 2004 and is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in community engagement. The division provided the leadership for the recent reaffirmation of the University’s Carnegie curricular and community engagement classification. The division publishes the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.

UA Again Recognized as a Top Producing Institution for Fulbright U.S. Student Program

TUSCALOOSA — The University of Alabama has once again been recognized as a top producing institution for Fulbright U.S. Student Awards, according to “The Chronicle of Higher Education.” Fifteen of 47 UA applicants received the award for 2017–2018, one of the highest winning percentages in the nation. Additionally, this year’s Fulbright success makes UA the leader in the Southeastern Conference. This is the second time in the past three years UA has been recognized as a top Fulbright U.S. Student Program producer.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers grants for independent study and research and for English teaching assistantships overseas. The highly competitive program selects approximately 1,500 award recipients from over 10,000 applicants each year.

“Our record success in placing students in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program demonstrates the far-reaching international scope of our excellent academic programs and the high value of a University of Alabama education,” said Dr. Kevin Whitaker, UA provost. “We continue to take pride in the many excellent and promising young people who choose UA for their academic studies.”

Ten UA graduates won awards as teaching assistants and five UA graduates received Fulbright awards for research and study for the 2017–2018 academic year.

“It is an honor for UA to be listed as a top producer in the U.S. Student Fulbright competition,” said Dr. Teresa Wise, associate provost for international education and global outreach. “The Fulbright Program provides life-changing opportunities and experiences for our students.”

University of Alabama graduates serving abroad on Fulbright Awards are Ruth Bishop (Colombia), Erica Boden (Bulgaria), Benjamin Canady (South Korea), Kathryn “Katie” Cater (Poland), Kelsey Daugherty (Germany), Brittany Groves (Germany), Jonathan Joyner (Sri Lanka), Jackson Knappen (Spain), Alexandra LeViness (Germany), Julia Quan (Macedonia), Charlotte Sheridan (Jordan), Ann Varnedoe (Spain), Sarah Dylan Walker (Macau), Kevin Ryan Williams (United Kingdom), and Emily Zapinski (Malaysia).

“Few universities in the nation win 15 Fulbright Awards,” said Dr. Beverly Hawk, UA Fulbright program adviser. “Top Producer recognition is the result of many hours of work on the part of our great students, the dedicated faculty and supervisors who advise and recommend, and university administrators who advocate for international learning on our campus. Everyone takes pride in this great victory.”

Other top producers among research institutions this year include Brown (39), Michigan (25), Harvard (24), Texas-Austin (20), Tulane (15), Yale (13), Virginia (12), Duke and Emory (11), and UNC-Chapel Hill (10). For the full list of top student Fulbright program producers, see https://www.chronicle.com/article/Top-Producers-of-Fulbright/242557.

Students interested in applying for next year’s Fulbright program can learn more at international.ua.edu and us.fulbrightonline.org, or by sending an email to beverly.hawk@ua.edu.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state’s economy, is in keeping with UA’s vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state’s flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

 

Council on Community-Based Partnerships Meeting – February 15, 2018

In Attendance: Melanie Acosta, Carol Agomo, Paige Bolden, Jackie Brodsky, Dee Cook, Safiya George, Kimberly Gibson, Elizabeth Hartley, Beverly Hawk, CeeCee Johnson, Diane Kennedy-Jackson, Candace Johnson, Hee Yun Lee, Amanda Lightsey, Jim McLean, Holly Morgan, Ed Mullins, Jen Nickelson, Samory Pruitt, Sarah Saeed, Chas Shipman, John Wheat

Dr. Peter Hlebowitsh, CCBP executive council chair, welcomed everyone and called the meeting to order. He then shared highlights of items he and Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for community engagement at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) have been working on.

He shared that the Promise Neighborhood Grant is offered by the federal government to an impoverished area in need of a hand up. Hlebowitsh and Prewitt are in conversation with prospective partners they have identified, as well as with Dr. James E. McLean, executive director of CCBP, and Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs. This grant proposal opportunity currently involves a host of partners, including CCBP, the Helping Families Initiative, the UA College of Education, CVS Partners and the UA School of Social Work. Additional partners may be added, but this initial group provides a good core for covering the grant objectives.

They reported that the first step forward is to define the area they wish to target by documenting the main needs in that area. The group is currently considering west Tuscaloosa and into the Black Belt region as the target area.

Documenting the needs in this area is likely to follow a familiar path:

  1. access to medical and dental expertise
  2. access to first-rate pre-school education
  3. dramatic deficiencies in school achievement
  4. significant problems with health, nutrition concerns, and disproportionately high obesity rates
  5. crime and safety concerns
  6. home environment and parent education needs

 

Hlebowitsh and Prewitt plan to meet on a bimonthly basis to get partners involved and to begin putting together a narrative. They hope to have a proposal ready for presentation by summer 2018.

Prewitt then gave updates on community engagement programs and partnerships, including Saving Lives, the Neighborhood Partnership Committee (NPC) and the Tuscaloosa Consortium for Higher Education (TCHE).

Since 2012, The University of Alabama has had a faith-based partnership with eight area churches and more than 40 advocates in those churches. The partnership, known as Saving Lives, works to share information with advocates, who then share with their congregants. Prewitt has provided advocates with health information, nutritional information, information about physical activity, etc., and is interested in moving that initiative forward through the idea of an academy, which will be a network that aims to connect faith and health through coordinated activities and key messaging around the Saving Lives Trilogy: health information, nutrition, and physical activity. Prewitt plans to target nurses or other healthcare-related congregants to help spread the Saving Lives message to increase health and wellness activities within these churches. Saving Lives currently provides them with monthly activities, events, or information. The goal is to expand that reach by developing more people within various churches. Prewitt has plans to pilot this academy within the next few weeks.

Prewitt then discussed her work with the Neighborhood Partnership Committee (NPC), whose mission is to improve the relationships among UA students, law enforcement and off-campus neighbors. The NPC has recently expanded its mission to include supporting the establishment and engagement of neighborhood associations. The University of Alabama will also continue to contribute to the establishment of a Neighborhood Registry. The City of Tuscaloosa does not currently have an active registry of every neighborhood in the city. Prewitt’s work with the NPC will also help provide support to help individuals within neighborhoods learn more about their city and how it functions.

Dr. Prewitt’s final topic touched on the Tuscaloosa Consortium for Higher Education (TCHE). The TCHE believes the partnership of a public flagship research university, an historically black college and a community college all in a single community is truly unique. The TCHE is a consortium of three institutions committed to advancing community engagement, collaboration and the role of higher education in enhancing the educational opportunities for more than 43,000 students. The TCHE would like to have a designated liaison from each institution and to establish 3–4 key priorities on which the three institutions work together. This consortium could identify grant opportunities that may exist for collaborative efforts.

Committee chair updates followed.

Dr. Jen Nickelson, chair of the Academic Conference and Presentation Committee, reminded the Council that Feb. 15 is the deadline to submit poster proposals, as well as spring semester travel award applications. Council members were asked to encourage those they know who desire funding to present their work or to receive training for community-engaged scholarship work to submit their proposals by the end of the day. She shared that accepted posters will be presented at the Council’s annual Excellence Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, April 18.

Dr. Samory T. Pruitt vice president for Community Affairs, reminded the Council members that in addition to travel award applications, nominations for the spring 2018 Council awards for all calls is also February 15.

CeeCee Johnson, co-chair of the Student Involvement and Support Committee, provided attendees with a SCOPE (Scholars for Community Outreach, Partnership and Engagement) handout. She also reported that Dr. Holly Morgan, director of Community Engagement, CCBP, will speak to SCOPE students at their Monday, Feb. 19 meeting on the topic of writing an Institutional Review Board (IRB) proposal. Four SCOPE meetings remain for the spring semester, as noted on the handout. Johnson asked that those present inform and invite interested students and faculty members to attend. She reported that SCOPE’s attendance numbers continue to grow as the organization gains more awareness of and interest in their work. Johnson added a reminder that the SCOPE Student Showcase will be held prior to the Excellence Awards Luncheon on April 18 at the Bryant Conference Center. The deadline to submit for the SCOPE Student Showcase is Friday, March 23.

In the area of community engagement in action, Dr. Melanie Acosta, assistant professor of Curriculum and Instruction, shared information on the Matthews Elementary After-School Program. Acosta has started a program called The Literacy Lab at Matthews Elementary School. The program is a new partnership among Matthews, Tuscaloosa’s One Place and the UA College of Education.

For the program, UA undergraduate students enrolled in an elementary literacy methods class engage in literacy teaching activities with 2nd–5th graders in the MATs program. The host class is held in the library at Matthews Elementary one day per week for 8–9 weeks. The undergraduates are supervised each week by UA professors, MATs teachers and MATs coordinators. They provide elementary students with both whole- and small-group instruction.

What makes this program distinct is that it utilizes evidence-based literacy practices that have been documented and well researched for African American and Hispanic students living in low-income communities. This includes an emphasis on:

  • building and maintaining literacy learning communities
  • culturally relevant studies
  • multicultural texts and critical literacy
  • collaboration and conversation
  • engaging and student-centered reading activities and experiences
  • ethnographic research

Acosta’s UA students are divided up among the four grade levels, with five–six College of Education students on each grade-level team. They each serve 10–12 students per grade level for one hour each week, on Thursdays from 3:30–4:30 p.m. In addition to the teaching experience, Acosta wants to help students learn to develop relationships with parents and their communities. One way they accomplish this is through the Seuss-A-Palooza Literacy Carnival in the spring. Seuss-A-Palooza features games that focus on literacy activities. The students help prepare it, set up for it, and then facilitate the games that take place. The Matthews Elementary PTA and other community-based programs attend the carnival, along with parents and families of Matthews Elementary students. Children and their families gather and engage together in the activities in addition to the carnival games.

In fall 2017, Acosta and her students held a Multicultural Literacy Carnival at Matthews Elementary, as well. It featured the same setup as Seuss-A-Palooza, but this time the students celebrated multiculturalism and diversity. The carnival included literacy booths, rocking readers booths for younger children and babies and a book walk where they gave away multicultural children’s literature.

Dr. Holly Morgan, director of Community Education, CCBP, proudly shared that we are approaching the 10-year anniversary of the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA). The original PTLA class began in 2007 as simply the Parent Leadership Academy. It was a partnership among Tuscaloosa City and County Schools, the UA College of Human Environmental Sciences, the UA College of Education and the Division of Community Affairs. The Academy has grown to more than 200 participants this year, and now includes a Teacher Leadership component, as well as an elementary component and a middle school academy. As the Academy grows, it continues to target professional leadership sessions, but also includes parents and teachers working together on a joint project that is aligned with one goal of the school’s improvement plan. Parents and teachers go through training on how to accomplish their projects in order to make a positive impact on their schools. All sessions are archived on the PTLA website. The 2018 PTLA graduation celebration will take place Tuesday, April 10 at the Bryant Conference Center.

Dr. Beverly Hawk, director of Global and Community Engagement, CCBP, gave a brief update on Fulbright scholarships at The University of Alabama, sharing that UA will again be named a top producer of U.S. students with Fulbright scholarships. The announcement will be made next week in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The University has accomplished this recognition twice during the last three years. Members of the Council can help UA continue to achieve Fulbright success at this level by sending students to meet with Hawk and former Fulbright students at the Fulbright celebration scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22, from 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. in the training room at Capital Hall. Hawk noted that community engagement is a big key to UA’s Fulbright success, and encouraged Council members to send students interested in Fulbright to her.

She reported that UA submitted 39 names this year and that the results will be announced in April 2018 for the 2018–2019 academic year. Ultimately, the host countries are responsible for making the final cut regarding who goes through to take part in the Fulbright cross-cultural experience.

The deadline for Fulbright applications usually occurs around Sept. 1 annually.

Dr. Jim McLean, executive director of CCBP, spoke on the subject of the assessment and evaluation of community engagement on the UA campus. McLean and Pruitt are currently working on a way to document and preserve the accomplishments of engagement scholarship at UA. This assessment starts with the “Three R’s”:

  1. Relevance — What is the effort seeking to accomplish and what does success look like for all of the partners?
  2. Reciprocity — How will the roles of the partners be designed so that their involvement significantly contributes to the success of the effort?
  3. Research — What theoretical research framework will be utilized to ensure the success of the effort and how will that research be shared with all of the partners?

They, along with Dr. Edward Mullins, director of Research and Communication at CCBP, are in the process of writing a book on the subject of engaged scholarship methods and they hope to have something out by the end of this year. Ms. Carol Agomo, director of Community and Administrative Affairs, is also working on an evaluation plan that will help document The University of Alabama’s involvement with the community in a simpler manner moving forward.

Pruitt discussed his work with the Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC). Two years ago, ESC put together a strategic action plan called ESC 20/20. One component of that strategic action plan is the creation of an awards program. That program will be hosted for the first time at the 2018 conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and will recognize the first of three of the original ESC founders, the University of Wisconsin-Extension, with the institutional excellence award. At the conference in Denver, Colorado in 2019, ESC will recognize The Ohio State University, the second of the three original founders. At the ESC Conference in 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ESC will recognize the third of the three original founders, Penn State University. After those three original institutions, Dr. Pruitt noted that the next biggest contributor to ESC is The University of Alabama.

Information about the 2018 conference is available on the ESC website at https://engagementscholarship.org.

The next Council meeting will take place Thursday, March 22, in the Hotel Capstone Ballroom.

The Council’s Excellence Awards Program and SCOPE Student Showcase will take place Wednesday, April 18, in Sellers Auditorium at the Bryant Conference Center.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 p.m.

Parent Leadership Academy Sessions Cover Safety and Health in Schools

By Joon Yea Lee
CCBP Graduate Assistant

 

The fifth PLA session of the school year focused on how to keep children from pre-kindergarten to middle school safe and healthy. Local community partners and selected University of Alabama’s faculty specialists shared their knowledge on diverse topics from healthy eating, cyber bullying to dealing with children with behavior issues. The sessions took place on Thursday, February 1 at UA’s Bryant Conference Center.

Dr. Holly Morgan, director of community education in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, welcomed participating parents following dinner.

Each PLA sessions, divided by grades into four groups. Pre-Kindergarten Parent Leadership Academy (PKPLA), Elementary Parent Leadership Academy (EPLA), Hispanic Parent Leadership Academy (HPLA) and Middle School Parent Leadership Academy (MPLA) heard two presentations each addressing nutrition and safety of children in and out of schools. Here is a summary of the presentations:

  • PKPLA members heard from Caliste Chong, Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative (ECELC) project coordinator at the Alabama Partnership for Children (APC), on nurturing healthy eating. Dr. Kimberly Blitch, assistant professor of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Environmental Sciences at UA, spoke during the second session on how to raise empathic children to prevent bullying in early childhood.
  • EPLA members learned about various perspectives on students with behavior issues from Dr. Sara McDaniel, UA associate professor in the Department of Special Education and Multiple Abilities and director of the Alabama Positive Behavior Support Office (APBSO). The second session was on drug culture in schools by Derek Osborn, executive director of Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE).
  • HPLA members were introduced to healthier activities and nutritional dining options that parents can consider from Julia Sosa, prenatal outreach coordinator for Whatley Health Services, Inc. Chris Jenks, director of technology for Tuscaloosa City Schools, shared insight on how parents can help their children to be an responsible digital citizen as well as how to protect children on the Internet.
  • MPLA sessions were focused on bullying offline and online. Greg Hurst, director of Student Services at Tuscaloosa County School System, explained how to recognized bullied children and what parents and school can do to resolve issues. Sergeant Jeff Judd from the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department represented School Resource Officers (SRO) and explained what SROs do and what parents can do to keep children safe in school as well as in cyber space as more children have access to smartphones and social media.

Addressing behavior and bullying in school, McDaniel introduced how all schools are required to have multi-tiered support systems as part of a national regulation. McDaniel said most schools are good in terms of having a “Response to Intervention (RtI)” multi-tiered support system in place, which is more reactive then focusing on preventive system like “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)” multi-tiered support system.

And while in many schools where RtI teams also meet to discuss PBIS plans in this type of multi-tiered support systems, Dr. McDaniel said, “In tier one PBIS team especially, there should be parent representatives working with the PBIS team. And all this information about the systems and framework should be available to the parents as well.”

Some features of a PBIS school-wide discipline plan include the following:

  1. Common & consistent approach
  2. Set of expected positive behaviors across environments
  3. Procedures for teaching expectations
  4. Continuum of procedures to encourage expected behaviors & discourage inappropriate behaviors
  5. On-going monitoring of the plans’ effectiveness

Among PBIS plans, McDaniel stressed the importance of keeping consistency in what is expected, required and encouraged in school and at home. In order to do so, parents should take proactive role in understanding classroom and school expectations and making sure their children also understand these expectations by practicing and making routines to follow both in school as well as at home.

McDaniel also emphasized that parents should be aware of administrative procedures when a child shows behavioral problems. But most importantly, parents should advocate for their child by being on the same page as the school and being firm and loving at home.

Reflecting today’s extensive use of smartphones and social media, both sessions for MPLA focused on bullying with the second session focusing on SROs and cyber bullying. Judd, representing SROs, explained that their duties not only include keeping the school grounds safe, but also include gathering information to detect potential spill-over of threats, drug activity and bullying by maintaining a vigilant watch and building relationships with the teaching staff and students.

Judd introduced the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff mobile app available for all mobile devices that can be used to access crime reports as well as submit an anonymous tip. Citing the National Center for Education Statistics that reported 28% of 12-18-year-old students having been bullied at school during the previous six months Judd said, “We are in the age of social media, so I came up with ‘See Something, Say Something’ campaign.” As part of the campaign, the sheriff’s department posted promotional banners at school events and sports games. Judd shared several examples where the sheriff’s office received anonymous tips that led the department to solve bullying, drug and domestic violence cases.

All participating MPLA members expressed concern regarding their children using smartphones and social media as they said they have checked their children’s phones at least once in the past month.

Molly Booth, Hillcrest Middle School parent, said having a child who owns a cell phone, the TCS free mobile app seems to be very useful. “I was not aware of the app but I will definitely download it.” Booth also added that “clarification on the code of conduct and the processes that are used for discipline in schools were helpful.”

For Carolyn Roshell-Erby, a parent from Eastwood Middle School, Judd reinforced what she had already known. “I realized there are more things that we need to bring in, not only to make parents become more aware, but to allow them the opportunity to find out that this is not just a group of children that may be a part of the problem,” said Roshell-Erby. “(I realized that) we expect our school to educate our children, but we as parents must also be a part of that educational process. That was very informative along with the fact that when it comes to discipline and the law… what alternatives the school systems are offering the children so that they still remain a part of the society and they can become productive.”

Following information sessions, PLA members met with their school groups to work on their PTLA project action plans in preparation for a poster presentation session that will be on Thursday, March 8.

PTLA 2018 Session Features Panel on Communication and Collaboration, Plus Discussion on Project Planning

By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant

The Parent Leadership Academy (PLA) and the Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA) of the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) had a joint session at the Bryant Conference Center on Thursday, January 18. It was their first collaborative session of the year 2018 and the second for the overall PTLA program.

Dr. James E. McLean, executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, gave the opening remarks and welcomed the participants back for the new year. Dr. Holly Morgan, CCBP community education director and PTLA program director, reported on previous PTLA sessions and acknowledged the great contribution made by PTLA partners and facilitators. “In our last session, parents and teachers began their study of effective communication and collaboration strategies and parents began to explore ways to also assist their children academically,” she said.

The joint session began with a panel discussion titled “Schools and Board of Education Relations: Effective Communication and Collaboration in Family, School and Community Partnerships.” School and district leaders shared their knowledge and expertise of building relationships among parents, teachers and school communities. They also answered questions from the audience about specific strategies, opportunities and challenges they had encountered.

Panelists included: Dr. Brenda Rickett, executive director for teaching and learning at Alabaster City Schools; Vic Herren, deputy superintendent of Fayette County Schools; Tramene Maye, principal of Livingston Junior High School in Sumter County Schools; Dr. Michael Daria, superintendent of Tuscaloosa City Schools; and Dr. Walter W. Davie, superintendent of the Tuscaloosa County School System.

The second part of the joint meeting was the PTLA partnership project planning session. Dr. Morgan gave the participants instructions on how to build project proposals and stressed several key factors such as goal description, timeline, and sustainability.

With seats designated based on school systems, parents and teachers from the same schools then began an enthusiastic discussion on project proposals. They will present their proposals during Session VI of the Academy.

Kimberly Shelton is a new teacher who just started her second year of teaching in The Alberta School of Performing Arts. Shelton said she had “learned a lot from the program” and there is “definitely a lot” that she can apply to her work. “I’ve learned not only about communicating with our parents but reaching out to them, and also having them understand that they can reach out to us as well. [The partnership] can really make a lot of things happen,” she said.

Jamia Williams is a parent participant from Thompson Middle School. She said that parents of middle school students usually don’t participate much, but the PTLA middle school sessions help them “to get involved and stay involved.” Williams also said that middle school students face special challenges as they are at the stage of figuring out who they are. The PTLA program really helps the teachers and parents to work together to guide the students through this critical stage of life “to where they need to be.”

Williams and her parent and teacher partners from Thompson Middle School are developing a project titled “Teen Wellness Night,” designed to help students recognize, handle, and recover from cyberbullying.

Saving Lives Dinner Meeting Reviews the Accomplishments and Announces Future Directions


By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Volunteer

At a year-ending appreciation dinner on December 14, 2017, the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) and its Saving Lives community partners concluded another successful year and discussed future initiatives, according to Dr. Nicole B. Prewitt, CCBP director of programs and partnerships for community engagement. About 25 University and community members attended the dinner at the Bryant Conference Center.

The dinner marked the end of the fifth year of the faith-based wellness program and was the occasion for outlining new initiatives for the next five years. “Building on the foundation of a fruitful past, Saving Lives is ready to move forward for the next five years,” Prewitt said. “Our plans call for the creation of a Saving Lives Academy, which will build on what we have learned from our research and from our members’ input. These new measures will be the next step in the Saving Lives network’s goal of connecting faith with healing.”

Prewitt, who has an Ed.D. in adult, higher and community education from Ball State University, joined the Division of Community Affairs in the fall of 2017. She brings with her a background in higher education, including serving as dean of Instructional and Student Services at J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College. Prewitt also is active in community engagement and local church ministry in the Macedonia CME Church in Greene County and the Martin Mission CME Church in Hale County.

Since 2012, Saving Lives has worked with an increasing number of local churches to promote various health related events such as health screenings, cooking demonstrations, and workshops for the mind, body and spirit.

Until Prewitt joined the division, Carol Agomo, director of community and administrative affairs, led the Saving Lives program. At the appreciation dinner, Agomo offered this review of the program: “As I look at what we have accomplished over the past five years, we have advanced the Saving Lives trilogy to provide health-related information, increase knowledge about healthier eating, and promote healthier physical activities.” Agomo was awarded a certificate of appreciation for her work with the organization.

Prewitt offered her conceptualization of how churches participating in the new Saving Lives Academy would receive support for semi-annual health screenings, church health profiles, health-expert speakers, and instruction in health education. In addition to these resources, the Saving Lives Academy will also provide quarterly training modules.

In return, the designated churches would be responsible for conducting three distinct health related activities throughout the year; preparing monthly activity reports; and recruiting new churches to join the Saving Lives Academy. The dinner meeting concluded with an evaluation activity designed not only to provide feedback about what Savings Lives Academy currently means to the community but also to provide ideas for its future.

The next steps in establishing the design and purpose of the Saving Lives Academy include the establishment of an advisory group in early 2018, which will include the participants at the dinner and members of the pioneering Saving Lives churches.

Crossroads Community Engagement Center Recognized for Sam S. May Award

By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Volunteer

At the October State of the University address, Dr. Stuart R. Bell, president of The University of Alabama, presented the Crossroads Community Engagement Center with the Sam S. May Commitment to Service Award for its contributions to campus diversification.

The nomination praised Crossroads for its “ability to make everyone who walks through their doors feel valued and respected.”

The annual award recognizes a department, office, team or center that provides exceptional service to students and community members through commitment, innovation, creativity and continuous improvement in human relations. The award is named for Sam S. May, who served as a custodian in the chemistry department and learned the subject matter form instructors during his lunch hour. With the knowledge he acquired, he would go on to tutor students and help with research projects. May was presented an award for his service to students and faculty, and he is listed in The University of Alabama’s Pictorial History.

Crossroads provides resources and education on diversity and inclusion through intercultural engagement programs and training. The Center has been supporting students, faculty, staff and partners around since 2012. They have generated programs to promote engagement, helping to cultivate a campus for everyone that is inclusive and diverse. Major programs include Practicing Inclusive Engagement, Sustained Dialogue, Better Together Interfaith Initiative, Heart Touch and Get Involved.

The May award recognizes Crossroads for its commitment, innovation and creativity. “We worked really hard to make those creative and innovative experiences on traditionally challenging concepts around diversity and inclusion,” said Lane McLelland, Crossroads director. “So it was particularly touching to be recognized for that, and this is one our biggest successes this year.”

Crossroads is also known for making space for people to come and share their experiences, from different perspectives, different social identities, the kinds of things that people don’t often have a place to talk about in respectful and civil ways.  “On every Wednesday, in Ferguson Center hall, we provide an opportunity for people to talk campus issues or national issues, and we moderate those in a way that everyone is heard and respected,” McLelland said.

“It was gratifying to have the Center recognized,” she said. “We have worked very hard to be better ourselves and to help people on campus feel better at respecting and valuing each other.”