Category: News

Death of CCBP Model Student Saddens Family, Friends and Co-Workers

By Edward Mullins
Director, Research and Communication
Center for Community-Based Partnerships

Zach Dodson, Student Employee of the Year

Zachary David Dodson, just 21, died suddenly this past Saturday, May 5, on the day he was scheduled to receive his college diploma. He spent two years here at the Center as a work-study student making us look good. This past summer he worked here without pay, volunteering to help the faculty and staff with whatever needed to be done.

No job was too small or too large for Zach to give it his best. Zach had just recently learned of his acceptance into UA’s master’s program in management and marketing. Although once a Gator fan, the native Floridian loved the University, the Crimson Tide, and his friends and colleagues all over campus. They also loved him, as was seen in the outpouring of grief that has followed his death.

His friendliness and positive attitude were as big as he was, all 6-3, 225 pounds of him. Anytime I needed something from the high shelves in our office, I didn’t get a ladder; I just hollered for Zach.

Zach affected everyone with whom he came in contact so much that the directors here at the Center nominated him this semester for the federal work-study program's Student Employee of the Year. That he won this campus-wide honor surprised no one here at the Center.

We are all devastated, but his family and close friends are especially saddened at the irreplaceable loss. Recently, I had a big tree I wanted to plant in my back yard. It was too big for me to budge. I told Zach about it, knowing what would happen next: He offered to help plant it. We drove out and in a flash he had lifted the 18-foot-tall tree with massive root ball and dropped it into the hole. I tried to pay him for helping me. Of course he refused. That was Zach.

I’ll never be able to look at that tree, a Japanese cherry, without thinking of Zach.

All of Zach’s student colleagues were saddened by his death and spent the first few days writing thoughtful memories about him for Zach’s family.

As you will see from the Tuscaloosa News obituary below, a memorial scholarship is being established in his name. Donations should be sent or delivered to Community Affairs, The University of Alabama, Box 870113, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487.

Reprinted from the Tuscaloosa News

TUSCALOOSA Zachary David Dodson, age 21, passed away suddenly May 5, 2012, in Tuscaloosa on the morning of his commencement ceremony at the University of Alabama.

Zach was born in Jacksonville, Fla. and graduated from Episcopal High School in 2008. Zach graduated from the University of Alabama Magna Cum laude with a BS in Commerce and Business Administration. At Alabama, he was on the Dean’s List, President’s List, a member of Phi Eta Sigma, and voted Student Employee of the Year in 2012 for the Center of Community Based Partnerships (CCBP). The loss of Zach will leave an indelible mark on our community.

He is survived by his adoring mother, Tara Stutts; grandmother, Sandy Stutts; great-grandmother, Juanita Pruett; numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, and countless friends.

Services will be 2:00 p.m. Friday, May 11, 2012, at Neptune Baptist Church, 407 Third St., Neptune Beach, FL 32266. Interment will follow in Ponte Vedra Valley Cemetery. The family will receive friends during visitation and viewing Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Neptune Baptist Church and Friday one hour prior to the service at the church.

A memorial scholarship fund has been established in Zachary David Dodson’s name by the CCBP at the University of Alabama,, in care of Dr. Samory Pruitt.

Arrangements are under the direction of Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home, 1701 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250.

Words of condolence may be shared at

Published in Tuscaloosa News on May 10, 2012

CCBP Awards Banquet 2012

The sixth annual CCBP Awards Banquet was held on the University of Alabama campus on April 20. Photos below showcase the recipients of each award.

Dr. Lee T. Todd, Jr., receives the Distinguished Special Achievement in Engaged Scholarship Award. Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards Banquet 2012 (Photo by Marion R Walding) 4/20/2012 -- Dr. James E. "Jim" McLean, dean of the College of Education, receives the Distinguished Achievement in Engaged Scholarship award. Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards Banquet 2012 (Photo by Marion R Walding)




4/20/2012 -- Kate Werner, College of Education, receives the Outstanding Student-Initiated Engagement Award. Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards Banquet 2012 (Photo by Marion R Walding)


4/20/2012 -- Sebastian Medina, left, and David Bailey, receive the Outstanding Student-Initiated Engagement Award. Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards Banquet 2012 (Photo by Marion R Walding)



4/20/2012 -- Ellen Griffith Spears, holding certificate at right, receives the Outstanding Faculty/Staff-Initiated Engagement Award along with Jim Hall left, Jennifer Barnett, center, and Andy Ray. Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards Banquet 2012 (Photo by Marion R Walding) 4/20/2012 -- Lynne Adrian, accepts the Outstanding Faculty/Staff-Initiated Engagement Award on behalf of Michael Innis-Jimenez. Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards Banquet 2012 (Photo by Marion R Walding) 4/20/2012 -- Ameila Trowbridge and Paul Kennedy, receive the Outstanding Community Partner-Initiated Engagement Award. Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards Banquet 2012 (Photo by Marion R Walding) 4/20/2012 -- Melissa Kent, left, and Latrina Spencer, right, of Oakdale Primary School receive the Outstanding Community Partner-Initiated Engagement Award. Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards Banquet 2012 (Photo by Marion R Walding) 4/20/2012 -- Melissa Kent, left, and Latrina Spencer, right, of Oakdale Primary School receive the Outstanding Community Partner-Initiated Engagement Award. Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards Banquet 2012 (Photo by Marion R Walding) 4/20/2012 -- Kristina Scott of the Alabama Poverty Project, receives the Outstanding Community Partner-Initiated Engagement Award. Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards Banquet 2012 (Photo by Marion R Walding)

Winds of Change open house 4/19

Tonight is the public open house for Winds of Change: Youth perspectives on Community Recovery at Holt High School in the auditorium from 6:30 to 8:30. The Winds of Change program is a set of interactive exhibits for youth and by youth related to the youth’s experience of the April 27 tornado and possibilities for community recovery. Over 500 Holt area youth have been participating each day this week and sharing their views. Tonight’s open house is for the community. Drop in at any point during the open house tonight to see what the youth have been up to! Further information is attached.

To view a PDF of the Winds of Change program, click here.

Holt Students Experience "˜Winds of Change' with Help from UA Students, Faculty

  • April 17th, 2012
  • in News

This article was originally published on the web by the University of Alabama News team.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. "” "Winds of Change," a youth-led series of discussions addressing recovery priorities in Holt after the April 27, 2011, tornado, will be held from Wednesday, April 18, to Friday, April 20, at the Holt High School auditorium.

Dr. Jeffrey G. Parker, associate professor of psychology at The University of Alabama, is spearheading the initiative.

Events during the day are intended for invited high school and middle school students. However, an open house will be offered from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 19, in the auditorium at the school. The open house is free, and the public is invited.

The program is designed to add the youth perspective to discussions regarding community recovery. Among the topics that will be addressed are: commercial and economic needs of the Holt community; youth-oriented employment and work training needs; community history and vision for future; recreational alternatives; public transportation and infrastructure; and community representation and governance.

Exhibits are educational and interactive and include "Forces at Work," involving employment opportunities for youth; "Back to the Future," surveying the history of Holt through photos; and "Say it Loud, Say it Proud," which features the voices, videos, art and photographs of Holt youth concerning the tornado and their community.

All exhibits are created by and hosted by Holt High School and Davis Emerson Middle School students, with mentoring by UA undergraduate psychology students under the direction of Parker. More than 500 youth and community participants are expected. Students will receive prizes, donated by more than three dozen local merchants or supporters, for their participation.

For details on the event, contact Parker at or 205/348-2081.

The psychology department is part of UA's College of Arts and Sciences, the University's largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

AERN hosted First Lady Dianne Bentley at the University Club on March 26

Written and photographed by Nathan Wu.

AERN hosted First Lady Dianne Bentley at the University Club on March 26 for a project that promises to provide additional relief for victims of last April's Tornado while boosting a Black Belt entrepreneur.

Ms. Taylor of Greenville, Alabama develops signature candles for a variety of clients, including Alabama’s First Lady. The candles featured at the candle signing included scents representing camellia (the state flower), blackberry (the state fruit), pineapple (hospitality), chocolate chip cookie (home and family), and a special Dianne Bentley signature scent. These candles are available every day in the Governor’s Mansion gift shop. Mrs. Bentley autographed each candle sold at this event, and a portion of the proceeds went to The Governor’s Disaster Relief Fund, which helps relief efforts for the 2011 Tuscaloosa tornado victims. AERN is helping Ms. Taylor with education and expertise on business expansion.

Annette Watters, director of AERN, said the program has assisted the candle designer with her business growth and expansion. For example, Taylor's accounting and inventory systems needed to expand as her business did.

Mrs. Bentley said she wants to raise awareness for Governor Bentley’s small business development support and also Tuscaloosa disaster relief efforts. Ms. Francine Wasden of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce attended to help AERN promote rural entrepreneurship.


Brown Bag session

By Alecia Perez
Center for Community-Based Partnerships

On January 13th, UA faculty and graduate students interested in the intersections of engaged scholarship and the digital humanities participated in the first Engaged Scholarship Brownbag Series, sponsored by the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) and the Alabama Digital Humanities Initiative (ADHI), directed by Tom Wilson, associate dean for Library Technology.

Elliot Knight is the Founder and Co-Director of Black Belt 100 Lenses.

Held at the Alabama Digital Humanities Center in Gorgas Library, the meeting featured graduate student Elliot Knight and TCF faculty member Andy Grace as guest speakers. Over the last four years and with support and partnerships between CCBP and the Black Belt Community Foundation, Knight has offered the 100 Lenses program in all 12 Black Belt counties in Alabama. Students are recruited from throughout the Black Belt to stage exhibitions in which they tell their community stories through photography, videography, writing and speaking.

The 100 Lenses program also conducts a summer camp for students from throughout the Black Belt, who stage exhibitions in which they tell their community stories through photography, videography, writing and speaking. The third annual 100 Lenses summer camp is scheduled for June 10-14 and will bring together over 50 high schools students to collaborate with one another. Students will share photos and stories from their hometowns with one another, work with community artists and creative writing instructors and produce an exhibit that will be displayed around the state and online. The 100 Lenses 2012 summer camp will be June 10"“14.

Andy Grace founded the After the Storm project.

Grace, a faculty member in the Department of Telecommunication and Film and director of the Documenting Justice Program, told the group about his work creating an online interactive documentary project called “After the Storm.” The project will examine the City of Tuscaloosa’s long-term response after the April 27th tornado by using the stories of residents, city officials and business owners to create a tapestry of voices of those who are working to rebuild.

Dr. Heather Pleasants, organizer of the Engaged Scholarship Brownbag Series and director of community education at CCBP, called the brownbag series "emblematic of the very nature of engaged scholarship at The University of Alabama. Engaged scholars come in many forms, and their work often involves interdisciplinary collaboration."

The first brownbag of the current academic year was held in the fall and focused on research related to Hispanic/Latino families and children. Suggestions for future brownbags are welcome. For more information about the series, email Dr. Pleasants at For more information about the Alabama Digital Humanities Initiative, visit

Fairley receives Auburn engagement award

By Kristen J. Barnes
Center for Community-Based Partnerships

Nan Fairley, pictured on the cover of Beyond Auburn magazine, received the 2011 Auburn University Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach.

Nan Fairley believes the best way to learn is by doing. That's why she challenges every one of her journalism students at Auburn University to get out of their comfort zones and become actively involved with communities.

The West Point, Miss., native has taught at Auburn for 20 years, where her teaching strategy in community journalism has been an ever-evolving process, but the key is getting her students to do real-world stories.

For her ability to inspire the next generation of journalists and the service this work provides for communities, Fairley recently received the 2011 Auburn University Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach, one of the highest honors the university gives to faculty.

The foundation for that award can be found in scores of Alabama small towns where her students have been able to connect with people and places through journalism assignments. Two recent examples can be seen at Front Porch Magazine and Valley Vision.

Fairley "“ like her students "“ learned how to practice good journalism by working as a journalist while earning her undergraduate degree at Mississippi University for Women. After working on newspapers in Mississippi, Florida and Alabama, she returned to school to earn a master's degree in journalism from The University of Alabama, where Dr. Ed Mullins, director of research and communication at CCBP, was her adviser.

"Her master's project dealt with the history and culture of her hometown," said Dr. Edward Mullins, former dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences at UA. "Her family, Mississippi upbringing and small town background influenced her, all perfect training for what she is doing today at Auburn."

Fairley introduces her students to her world through classroom assignments that expand their minds and broaden their viewpoints. In the process, her students have turned engagement into community service, serving as mentors and taking up their own causes.

"Journalism can make a difference by shining a light on problems and connecting people to each other, and I hope we don't lose that," Fairley said. "Stories are powerful, and we need to know how to find the important ones and tell them."

Fairley has a way of getting people to work together, Mullins said. "She's not a pushy person by any means; she's just so willing to do her part that others see that and say, "˜I'm willing to help too,'" Mullins said. "She goes about her work in a very competent and joyous manner. So, it doesn't surprise me at all that she's gotten this recognition."

Students in her fall 2011 feature writing classes traveled to and wrote about Tuskegee and several towns along the Alabama and Georgia side of the Chattahoochee River.  Student stories were published in the Tuskegee News, the Montgomery Advertiser and in an online publication, Chattahoochee Heritage,

"Some of the projects I've been involved with have helped students understand that what they do can make a difference," Fairley said.

In her Valley Vision project, students wrote about past, present and future of Valley, Ala. They produced a special publication that received national recognition at the 2010 Imagining America Conference in Seattle, Wash., and the National Outreach Scholarship Conference in Raleigh, N.C. Fairley is now at work on a manuscript she hopes to publish in the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, which is published at UA.

Through their work students gain a better understanding of their surroundings and the true meaning of community journalism. "Good community journalism reflects every community's unique sense of place and deals with tough topics that affect real people. I do my part to help students understand that important role," Fairley said.

"I really benefited from working with Dr. Ed Mullins and certainly his connection to and appreciation of community journalism in Alabama has always been an inspiration to me," Fairley said. She said she uses her connections with surrounding communities to help her students shatter small-town stereotypes, helping them understand the differences in each community and the people who live there.

Mathews Center to Host Forum on High School Dropouts

By Kirsten J. Barnes
Center for Community-Based Partnerships

A David Mathews Center forum entitled "Our Community, Our Future: The Role of Citizens in Solving the High School Dropout Problem" will be held March 6, at Auburn University-Montgomery's Taylor Center from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration is free and lunch will be served. To register click here.

During the past 10 years, Alabama's high school dropout rate has plunged from 15.58 percent to 7.08 percent, according to figures for 2008"“2009 released by the Alabama Department of Education. The national dropout rate for the same period was 8.1 percent.

Chris McCauley, executive director of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life in Montevallo, hopes the forums sponsored by the center will help uncover ways that communities can reduce the rate even further.

In recent months the center polled Alabamians and asked questions concerning public issues that citizens could come together to address, McCauley said. "We were working toward what public issue concerned Alabamians the most."

The two issues that emerged were the dropout rate and the economy."

The dropout rate seemed to be a more manageable topic, so the center conducted forums in 28 counties on the issue.

McCauley said the forums were not meant to solve the problem, but instead to help community members talk through the retention rate to develop ways to solve the issue as a community.

"The Mathews Center doesn't take a stance on the issues. It's up to the people in the community to come up with the ideas. We provide factual data and a framework to deliberate and think through what they can do. A lot of great ideas come up," McCauley said, including youth mentoring programs and additional support services for single parents.

State officials welcome this effort by the Mathews Center.

"The forums are having an absolute major impact on the dropout rate," said Kay Atchinson Warfield, an education administrator with the dropout prevention and support unit of the Alabama Department of Education. "What we have found is that the public does not understand all the variables that impact the success of a student."

She said by raising the level of awareness in the community these forums can directly affect students by informing their parents.

"These public forums have provided a level of awareness that has never been done in our state before. It's everybody's issue," said Warfield, who has actively participated in the process.  "The schools cannot do it alone. We've got to have partnerships with public services because it takes us all working together to have an impact."

Both McCauley and Warfield said they were amazed by the ideas that came out these community conversations.

"Central High School in Phenix City had some of the most innovative students thus far," McCauley said. "The students produced a documentary of the dropout rate in Phenix City and will present this at AUM."

The forums are modeled after the Kettering Foundation's National Issues Forums.

"The goal is to work with citizens across the state and get them to take action on issues that that impact them," McCauley said. "We outline some of the contributing factors and some of the outcomes. For example, there is a correlation between the dropout rate and prison population. We give citizens the opportunity to come together and work toward solving problems in unique ways. It's an action driven project."