Category: News

Carnegie Picks Alabama for Engagement Status

The Division of Community Affairs marked a proud day in its 5-year history with the announcement in January 2009 that the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has awarded The University of Alabama its Community Engagement Classification.

The designation recognizes UA as one of the nation's premiere institutions in community-engaged scholarship. It doing so the Foundation underscores UA's commitment to community partnerships that integrate the campus' traditional teaching, research and service mission.

"This designation is a significant honor for The University of Alabama," said Dr. Samory Pruitt, UA vice president for community affairs. "The classification gives some well-deserved recognition to UA's long history of community involvement, but it also symbolizes the beginning of a new commitment to scholarship and outreach involving service learning and community partnerships."

The Carnegie Foundation recognizes institutions in the categories of Curricular Engagement, Outreach/Partnerships or both. UA's designation is for both areas.

Curricular engagement describes teaching, learning and scholarship that unite faculty, students and community in mutually beneficial and respectful collaboration. Their interactions address community-identified needs, deepen students' civic and academic learning, enhance community well-being and enrich the scholarship of the institution in its many forms.

Outreach/Partnerships focuses on the application and provision of institutional resources for community use with benefits to both campus and community, and on collaborative interactions with community and related scholarship for the mutually beneficial exchange, exploration and application of knowledge, information and resources.

In addition to the Carnegie classification, UA is a member of the National Outreach Scholarship Consortium, an organization of nine leading universities that stress the unity of teaching, research and service. Others are the University of Georgia, the University of Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

UA published the first edition of the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship (JCES) in October. The peer-reviewed journal provides a vehicle for higher education professionals, students and community partners to disseminate scholarly works from all academic disciplines. A project of the Council of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, the journal is edited by Dr. Cassandra Simon, UA associate professor of social work.

UA was one of 119 U.S. colleges and universities identified to receive the Community Engagement Classification in December 2008. UA's Carnegie Engagement Application committee reviewed literally hundreds of outreach projects and the scholarship growing out of those projects from throughout the University to identify examples of community engagement partnerships to include in the application. A broad range of partnerships was highlighted in the application. They included:

  • The Center for Community-Based Partnerships, an initiative of the Office of Community Affairs that connects faculty, staff, students and community partners in research-based projects designed to solve chronic problems identified by communities
  • The Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility, which prepares students to serve as effective, engaged and ethical citizens
  • The Brewer Porch Children's Center, in which the UA department of psychology works with government agencies, community health centers and private counseling agencies to provide comprehensive treatment for behaviorally disturbed children, adolescents and families
  • The Education Policy Center, which develops leadership skills of school administrators
  • The Alabama Productivity Center, which assists businesses, local governments and state agencies with economic development.

Dr. Carolyn Dahl, dean of the College of Continuing Studies, and Dr. Stephen Katsinas, professor of higher education and director of the Education Policy Center, co-chaired application committee. Other members included Pruitt, Gary Creek, assistant vice president for marketing, Janet Griffith, assistant provost for communications, Lorne Kuffel, executive director of Institutional Research and Assessment, Dr. Edward Mullins, CCBP communications coordinator, and Becky Reamey, coordinator of the Blackburn Institute.

Summer program preps children for college, careers

June 25th, 2008 

By Matt Hawk Staff Writer 

TUSCALOOSA | For many high school students in Alabama's poorer counties, attending college is not a dream. It's not even a consideration. 

A new program co-sponsored by the University of Alabama Office of Community Development and the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration aims to change that. 

Called Youth Entrepreneurship Week, the program puts 22 students selected from high schools throughout West Alabama and the Black Belt through a weeklong summer camp at the university designed to introduce participants to the possibilities that come with a college education. 

 "We have people who have been trained by their circumstances and their environment to think that's all there is," said David Ford, professor of management and marketing at UA. "[The program] is a way to expand their horizons." 

Called Youth Entrepreneurship Week, which began Monday and lasts through Friday, includes seminars on topics ranging from admission requirements and various ways of obtaining financial aid to business-specific topics like marketing, e-commerce, teamwork and leadership skills development. 

Participants are also treated to tours of the university and Tuscaloosa and given a chance to spend time with both faculty and local business owners. 

Of the 22 students participating, about half have expressed definite interest in college. Ford hopes the program will raise that number, but also said entrepreneurial skills are important to students who choose to forgo college. 

"If you don't want to move out of your small community or think college is not for you, you can still be an entrepreneur," Ford said. 

Brittany Jordan, a student at Robert C. Hatch High School in Uniontown, said her interests lie in secondary education and English. For her, the best part of the camp so far has been the exposure to college life. 

"I enjoy the college classroom settings," Jordan said. 

Gregory Singleton, head of student services for UA's department of engineering and a speaker at one of the camp's Tuesday seminars, said that kind of exposure can be invaluable to a prospective student. 

 "Many of [these students] may not have ever been on a college campus or … spent the night in a college environment," Singleton said. "They get to see a lot of things that a lot of students aren't exposed to." 

Ford said he hopes to expand the program, which is in its first year, to include speakers from a wider range of college majors, including arts and sciences and communications. 

The immediate challenge is finding funding to continue the camp. With the recent tightening of UA's educational budget, that could prove difficult. 

 "We're hoping to get enough attention to get a grant from the feds or the state," Ford said. 

Reach Matt Hawk at matt.hawk@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0213.

JCES to Become Reality This Fall

New Research Journal to Debut this Fall at UA

April 18, 2008

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A new journal with the mandate of bridging the traditional gaps between teaching, research and service on American campuses will be published at The University of Alabama beginning this fall.

Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, UA vice president for community affairs, said the inaugural editor of the new, quarterly Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship will be Dr. Cassandra E. Simon, UA associate professor of social work. An internationally recruited editorial board and a local production staff will assist her.

Establishing the new journal was the primary goal this year of the Council of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, Pruitt said. The Council is made up of community partners and faculty, administrators and students from many campus divisions.

"At recent conferences, reaction to the journal has been tremendous," Pruitt said. "In proposing a journal to unify the too-often disparate teaching/research/service forces in higher education, we have struck an enthusiastically responsive chord with academic, nonprofit, governmental, business and local communities."

Dr. Joe Benson, UA interim vice president for research and a principal adviser to the committee charged with developing JCES, said: "The scholarship of engagement is a new and rapidly evolving theory-based discipline, and The University of Alabama is pleased to be able to assist in providing a venue for the publication of outcomes of this exciting and important research area."

Pruitt said the University was very fortunate to have Simon "step forward to accept this important position in our mission to advance engagement scholarship."

On being named editor, Simon said, "It is an honor to be editor of a journal positioned as a leader in engagement scholarship. And, it is an even greater honor to be associated with so many outstanding scholars who are determined to make it a success. I look forward to publishing our first issue in fall 2008."

A recent announcement to the campus about the journal described it as "a mechanism through which faculty, staff and students of academic institutions and their community partners disseminate scholarly works from all academic disciplines with the goal of integrating teaching, research and community engagement."

"The engagement approach to scholarship occurs when universities and communities combine resources and talent and bring them to bear on critical problems they jointly identify. It is not the same as the older service model, which limited the roles of student and community members. In the engagement paradigm — inspired by the Kellogg Commission of 1999 ("Returning to our Roots: The Engaged University") — community representatives and students play key roles, alongside faculty, in choosing research topics, design, methods, objectives and in publishing the results," Simon said.

Another major difference in the engagement approach, she said, is that research, teaching and outreach activities are closely linked.

Simon joined the UA faculty in 2000 after receiving her doctorate from the University of Texas-Arlington. She has published in both social work and interdisciplinary journals with an emphasis on health care disparities and related issues.

While JCES will use standard peer-review practices, it will not be "your grandfather's research journal," said retired UA journalism professor Edward Mullins, who will be production editor of the journal.

"JCES will take advantage of new technology, community talent, student creativity and innovative graphics and presentation techniques rarely seen in academic publishing," Mullins said. "For example, a study of the learning, psychological and physical effects on inner-city and rural youth in projects involving the performing arts, engineering and journalism might supplement traditional text with photo galleries and audio and video coordinated with the text and posted to the journal's Web site."

Manuscripts and questions should be sent to Simon at jces@ua.edu. Deadline for fall 2008 submissions is July 31. For more information see www.jces.ua.edu.

The initial 14-member board includes scholars in a wide range of disciplines — rural medicine, environmental resources, leadership and change, minority health, renewable energy, child and family resources, nursing, ethics, forensic engineering and others.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is in the midst of a planned, steady enrollment growth with a goal of reaching 28,000 students by 2010. 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.

Chancellor Portera to Speak at CCBP Awards Luncheon on May 2, 2008

May 2, 2008

Release on Receipt
Contact: Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, 205-348-8375, samory.pruitt@ua.edu

TUSCALOOOSA "” Chancellor Malcolm Portera will be the keynote speaker at the second annual awards luncheon of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships at noon at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel Ballroom on the campus on May 2, 2008.

Awards will recognize students, faculty, and community partners and distinguished special achievement in campus and community engagement. A call for nominations went out in March. Winners will be announced at the luncheon, which will also highlight major engagement
achievements over the past year.

"We are especially pleased that Dr. Portera will be our speaker as we honor excellence in engagement," said Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, UA vice president for Community Affairs. "Dr. Portera is a pioneer of campus/community collaboration in the Southeast."

Criteria for the winning projects include community need, academic objectives, documentation of actions to achieve and measure success, and evidence of sustained collaboration.

Among last year's awards, several of which were later featured at a national conference at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, were a student newspaper in West End Tuscaloosa, an after-school dance program, a program to broaden career perspectives, a community garden project, a school photo-documentation project, a children's healthcare project, and a city schools pre-K program.

Assistant Provost Janet Griffith chairs the awards committee. "Projects that extend the classroom, maximize scholarly output, and develop collaboration and capacity within communities "“ rather than just providing one-time services "“ will be recognized and receive small grants that will help achieve ongoing results," Griffith said.

Also at the luncheon, speakers will outline major benchmarks in campus/community engagement, including launching a new research journal and plans to seek Carnegie Engagement classification for the campus.

Dr. Portera is no stranger to campus/community collaboration. His involvement with community partners in industrial development helped bring $5 billion in capital investment to the Southeast. As chief executive officer of The University of Alabama System, the state's largest higher education enterprise, he oversees an enterprise of more than 49,000 students, 25,000 employees, and an economic impact surpassing $5 billion.

Dr. Portera received bachelor's and master's degrees from Mississippi State University and a Ph.D. in political science from The University of Alabama.

Prior to his current tenure as Chancellor of the UA System, Dr. Portera was the 16th president of Mississippi State University. His administrative career began in the 1970s when he worked in The University of Alabama's offices of academic affairs and research and was executive assistant to two presidents before becoming a vice president.

Dr. Portera has been instrumental in the creation of several research and instructional programs, including the Materials in Information Technology Program, which achieved National Science Foundation recognition as an engineering and materials research center.

In 2003 he was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, comprised of 100 living Alabamians elected on the basis of service to the state.

Chancellor Portera and his wife Olivia are natives of West Point, Miss. They have two sons and two grandsons.

Community Affairs will send out invitations to the event this week. Members of the public who would like to attend should send an e-mail to bohannon@ua.edu or call 205-348-8376.

The Office of Community Affairs established the Center for Community-Based Partnerships in 2006 to coordinate and energize campus and community programs that integrate teaching, research and outreach.

One shot at a time – Program helps students document life in Black Belt

January 21, 2008

Tuscaloosa News
By Adam Jones

LIVINGSTON | As a child, Destynni Burrell played outside a hunting lodge near her house. She never thought much of it until she was handed a camera and told to document life in the Black Belt.

"It's been there my whole life, but when I finally looked at it, I saw something more," said the Livingston High School student.

Burrell was one of 15 students from seventh to 11th grades in Sumter County selected to participate in "Black Belt 100 lenses," a project aimed to get teenagers to think about their culture and region by taking pictures of whatever they believed showed their life and community.

An exhibit of the pictures opened last week and will be on display at the Webb Gallery at the University of West Alabama through March 1.

The exhibit shows a broad range of life in the rural county near the Mississippi border. One shows a boy getting on the school bus just after dawn. Another is a black and white capture of two abandoned antique gas pumps.

There is a picture of a family gathered around the table at Thanksgiving, the turkey ready for carving. There is a pot of field peas, some not shelled, in black and white. Another shows smiling children in the back pews of their church before or after a service.

"This is an untainted version of what the Black Belt is because chil dren don't sugar coat anything," said Felicia Jones, with the Black Belt

Community Foundation, which sponsored the project along with the University of Alabama.

Elliot Knight, the University of Alabama graduate student who helped lead the project, said each student approached the project differently. Some went out with a more artistic eye hoping to show social issues, while others took shots of potholes or run-down structures in hopes of bringing attention to their community.

For Burrell and a few others, they stuck close to home.

"I went a lot of places to take pictures, but I realized the most beautiful things are near my house," she said. "The pictures they used were just a few feet from my house."

Kate Bonner, a student at Sumter Academy, said she nearly gave up on the assignment, but was encouraged to look harder by her mom.

"I took this as an opportunity to look beyond my little world of cheerleading and sports," she said.

Students were selected through guidance counselors and English teachers, and met with Knight and Whitney Green, arts coordinator for the Black Belt Community Foundation, to go over basic photography this summer. Given point-and-shoot film cameras, the students took color photos and met again to discuss why and how they selected their photos, Knight said. They repeated the project with black and white film.

"A lot of issues start to get exposed, and a diverse group can talk about things that might not normally get talked about," Knight said.

Samory Pruitt, vice president for community affairs at UA, said the project is planned to extend to 12 Black Belt counties. When finished, he envisions an exhibit that tours the state and the photos being bound into a book.

Reach Adam Jones at adam.jones@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0230

"Black Belt 100 Lenses" Reception Scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 17

January 17th, 2008

TUSCALOOSA "” Highway signs and vintage buildings, crop rows and fishing holes are some of the images Sumter County students have captured as part of a Black Belt documentary project.

On Thursday from 4-6 p.m., the fruits of "Black Belt 100 Lenses," a joint project of the Black Belt Community Foundation and The University of Alabama will be on display during a reception at the University of West Alabama's Webb Hall Gallery in Livingston. The public is invited.

The project brings together 7th through 11th grade students to document their communities in still photographs. The Sumter County pilot will be carried to other Black Belt counties, including Bullock, Choctaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Perry, Pickens and Wilcox.

"To celebrate the conclusion of the Sumter County pilot project, an exhibition will be on display at Webb Hall Galley at the University of West Alabama Jan. 17 until March 1," said Christopher H. Spencer, UA adviser for the project.

"Anyone from Alabama "” especially from small towns or who just want to see how photography can have an impact on people and communities "” will want to visit the exhibition", said Whitney Greene, Black Belt Arts Initiative coordinator and co-director of the project. "It's amazing how well these young people have captured the culture and challenges of the Black Belt through their photography."

In addition to the students' work, local artist Linda Munoz will have several works on exhibit. Munoz was commissioned to create artwork using the students' photographs as inspiration. Pieces on display include a quilt and a glass mosaic that represents many of the students' themes.

Elliot Knight, a graduate student in American Studies from Opelika, who is also an intern at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, has been one of the principal instructors for the project that uses photovoice, a research technique that blends grassroots photography with social science to record and reflect community strengths and problems.

"I have enjoyed working with the students," Knight said. "Their dialogue surrounding the photographs has been as powerful as the photographs themselves."

Contact:   Christopher H Spencer, Associate Director, Community Development at 205-348-7374 or chspencer01@ua.edu.

UA’s CCBP Awards Program to Honor Campus and Community Partners

April 23, 2007

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. "“ The University of Alabama Center for Community-Based Partnerships will hold its first honors luncheon Friday, April 27, at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel in Tuscaloosa, beginning at noon.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Arthur N. Dunning, vice president for public service and outreach and associate provost at the University of Georgia. Dunning oversees one of the nation's most comprehensive outreach operations. The former UA faculty member has been a key adviser to Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, UA's vice president for community affairs and executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, known as CCBP.

In his remarks, Dunning will trace the development of UGA's outreach efforts and explain how they have changed both campus culture and the state. In his seven years at the University of Georgia, Dunning has mobilized human and fiscal resources to address the challenges of connecting his university to needs of citizens and communities.

Awards will be made in four categories: distinguished service, outstanding student-initiated project, outstanding faculty/staff-initiated project and outstanding community-partner initiated project.

"These outstanding projects and individuals connect the outreach mission of the University to its teaching and research functions while serving the needs of our local community, the state of Alabama, the region, the nation and the world," Pruitt said. "They operationalize our motto: Engaging Communities and Changing Lives."

Winning projects will receive funds to be used in future projects or to extend current ones, Pruitt said. All of the nominated projects involve faculty, staff, students, curriculum and formal research, Pruitt said.

Following the luncheon, attendees are invited to attend an open house at the Cannon House, 824 4th Avenue, the home of CCBP, next door to the Sheraton. Special guests of the open house will be students participating in P.A.S.S. (Preparing Alabama Students for Success), a School of Social Work project.

CCBP began in 2006 as an initiative of the Office of Community Affairs. It mobilizes the resources of the University to address problems identified jointly by community and academic partners. Its purpose is to engage communities, expand the classroom and laboratory, and promote better education, health, economic and cultural opportunities for all Alabamians.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is in the midst of a planned, steady enrollment growth with a goal of reaching 28,000 students by 2010. 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.

UA Announces First Class of New Parent Leadership Academy

September 17th, 2007

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. "“ The inaugural class of The University of Alabama's new Parent Leadership Academy was introduced Thursday night at a kickoff ceremony at UA's Child Development Research Center.

Those present for the ceremony included Dr. Samory Pruitt, UA vice-president for community affairs; Dr. Sandra Ray, member of the Alabama State Board of Education; Dr. Joyce Levey, superintendent of the Tuscaloosa City Schools; and Dr. Frank Costanzo, superintendent for the Tuscaloosa County Schools.

The Parent Leadership Academy, a joint initiative of Tuscaloosa city and county public schools, the UA Center for Community-Based Partnerships, and faculty in UA's Colleges of Education and Human Environmental Sciences, is a year-long certificate program that aids in developing the leadership potential of parents in the West Alabama area.

2007-08 class members are: Amanda Bearden, Cottondale Elementary; Scottie L. Burden, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary; Jesse Dixon Jr., Woodland Forrest Elementary; Bryan K. Fair, Rock Quarry Elementary; Donnie Grill, Woodland Forrest; Felicia Gross, Arcadia Elementary; Ingrid Holemon, Arcadia; Robin Holmes, Taylorville Primary; Spike Howard Jr., Faucett-Vestavia Elementary; Roderick Johnson, Matthews Elementary; Elizabeth Lucious, Martin Luther King; Stacie Lunsford, Taylorville; Shanon Lyles, Crestmont Elementary; Dwight Monroe, Rock Quarry; Faye Perry, Oakdale Elementary; Tena Phifer, Crestmont; Juandalyn Smith-Swoope, Oakdale; Brandi Sturdivant, Cottondale; Robin Thornburg, Faucett-Vestavia; and Marie Washington, Matthews.

"These are parents who are active in the schools and represent the best of the best," said Pruitt. "Our hope is that they will continue to remain active in schools, will become more aware of the challenges facing other parents and schools, and will inspire and actively recruit other parents to become more involved."

Similar programs, Pruitt said, have begun across the country. The Tuscaloosa program is believed to be the first in Alabama.

"We see this as a wonderful opportunity to collaborate, educate, and expand the capacity of our school children's parents with support from The University of Alabama, their school system, and community members. Through respect, commitment, creativity, and safety, we see our families totally engaged in the lives of their children, networking with other parents, building a firm foundation for the success of our future…our children," said Levey.

"This Academy will prove to be an excellent resource to build parent leadership as we strive to improve the academic success for all students," said Costanzo.

For more information on the Parent Leadership Academy, contact Dr. Estelle Ryan Clavelli at 205/348-7367 or estelleryan.clavelli@ua.edu.

Open-Air Market on Sept. 13th, 2007

Sept. 13, 2007

Bring Home-Grown Produce, Blues to Ferguson Plaza

Contact: Christopher H. Spencer, 205-348-7374, chspencer01@ua.edu

Homegrown Alabama will bring an open-air market to the Ferguson Center Plaza on The University of Alabama campus Thursday, September 13, from 3-6:30 p.m.

This is the second on-campus farmers market hosted by Homegrown Alabama in collaboration with the Ferguson Center, the Office of Community Affairs, and the Alabama Farmers Market Authority.

Homegrown Alabama is a student-led group that seeks to educate students about the value of local produce, as well as to foster partnerships between local farmers and the University.

"The market is an excellent opportunity for students to interact with area farmers and support our local economy," said Christopher H. Spencer, associate director for community development in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, which helped organize the event.

Fourteen farmers and vendors from the Tuscaloosa-Northport area, the Black Belt and elsewhere around the state will participate. Produce for sale includes sweet potatoes, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, grapes, melons, peaches and okra. Jars of home-prepared honey, jams and jellies, fresh pastries and eggs and plants will also be for sale. 

Alabama Blues Project, featuring Debbie Bond and Radiator Rick, will perform during the market. Homegrown Alabama, with help from the Alabama Farmers Market Authority, will sell "Buy Fresh/ Buy Local" t-shirts and tote bags. Bama Dining will provide a drink kiosk.

Partners for the event include the UA Office of Community Affairs, Ferguson Center, Bama Dining and the Alabama Farmers Market Authority.

Homegrown Alabama, formed in 2005, has about a dozen student members from varying academic majors and colleges. Homegrown's advisers are Carl Bacon, director of the Ferguson Center, and Mildred P. Switzer, instructor of human nutrition and hospitality management.

Key student planners are Keri Coumanis, Molly McNutt, Clay Morrison, Sierra Perkins and Andrea Mabry. The students are either members of Homegrown Alabama or currently enrolled in Nutrition and Hospitality Management 490, an independent study course in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.

"These students have worked diligently throughout the summer and the first few weeks of fall semester to ensure that a fall farmers market would take place," Spencer said.

To learn more about Homegrown Alabama's mission, or to become a member, visit www.homegrownalabama.org.

Inaugural Class for UA’s Parent Leadership Academy to Kickoff Sept. 13

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. "“ The inaugural class for The University of Alabama's new Parent Leadership Academy has been selected, said Dr. Samory Pruitt, UA vice-president for community affairs.

Known as PLA, the academy is a year-long certificate program that aids in developing the leadership potential of parents in the West Alabama area. It will kickoff its program Thursday, Sept 13 at 5:30 p.m., with a reception and opening session at the Child Development Research Center on the UA campus.

2007-08 class members are: Amanda Bearden, Cottondale Elementary; Scottie L. Burden, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary; Jesse Dixon Jr., Woodland Forrest Elementary; Bryan K. Fair, Rock Quarry Elementary; Donnie Grill, Woodland Forrest; Felicia Gross, Arcadia Elementary; Ingrid Holemon, Arcadia; Robin Holmes, Taylorville Primary; Spike Howard Jr., Faucett-Vestavia Elementary; Roderick Johnson, Matthews Elementary; Elizabeth Lucious, Martin Luther King; Stacie Lunsford, Taylorville; Shanon Lyles, Crestmont Elementary; Dwight Monroe, Rock Quarry; Faye Perry, Oakdale Elementary; Tena Phifer, Crestmont; Juandalyn Smith-Swoope, Oakdale; Brandi Sturdivant, Cottondale; Robin Thornburg, Faucett-Vestavia; and Marie Washington, Matthews.

"These are parents who are active in the schools and represent the best of the best," said Pruitt. "Our hope is that they will continue to remain active in schools, will become more aware of the challenges facing other parents and schools, and will inspire and actively recruit other parents to become more involved."

PLA is a joint initiative of Tuscaloosa city and county public schools, the UA Center for Community-Based Partnerships, and faculty in UA's Colleges of Education and Human Environmental Sciences.

Similar programs, Pruitt said, have begun across the country. The Tuscaloosa program is believed to be the first in Alabama.

"PLA has strong support from local schools and the state board of education," said Pruitt, "as well as from community organizations."

"A child’s first teacher is in the home," said Joe Morton, Alabama superintendent of education. "The Parent Leadership Academy is designed to actively engage parents and educators to become active partners. By working together, family, school and community partnerships will be created and strengthened."

"We see this as a wonderful opportunity to collaborate, educate, and expand the capacity of our school children's parents with support from the University of Alabama, their school system, and community members. Through respect, commitment, creativity, and safety, we see our families totally engaged in the lives of their children, networking with other parents, building a firm foundation for the success of our future…our children," said Dr. Joyce Levey, superintendent of the Tuscaloosa City Schools.

"This Academy will prove to be an excellent resource to build parent leadership as we strive to improve the academic success for all students," said Frank Costanzo, superintendent for the Tuscaloosa County Schools.

For more information, contact Dr. Estelle Ryan Clavelli at 205/348-7367 or estelleryan.clavelli@ua.edu.

For interviews, contact: Dr. Samory Pruitt, 205-348-8375, samory.pruitt@ua.edu; Dr. Estelle Ryan Clavelli, 205-348-7367, estelleryan.clavelli@ua.edu