Category: News

HomeFirst Hosts Greene County Coaches’ Retreat

  • September 9th, 2022
  • in News

Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

At The University of Alabama, one need look no further than the Paul W. Bryant Museum to see how coaching builds success, so it was only appropriate that the HomeFirst Greene County Coaches’ Retreat end with a tour of the museum on Friday, July 22.

Held at the Capstone Hotel in Tuscaloosa July 21–22, the HomeFirst Greene County Coaches’ Retreat provided an overview of HomeFirst and opportunities for volunteers to practice their coaching skills and learn how to build rapport with participants. The sessions included mock interviews, coaching activities, presentations and panel discussions designed to help coaches build rapport with future homeowners. At the end of the retreat, volunteers learned how they can extend UA’s coaching legacy as financial coaches who support and assist individuals’ and families’ goals of homeownership.

Housed in UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), HomeFirst is a financial wellness initiative that serves individuals and families on their path toward first-time homeownership or foreclosure prevention.

“I believe that homeownership is the capstone of the American dream, and as such it’s only appropriate that [HomeFirst] be located here at the Capstone of education in the state of Alabama,” said Dr. Jim McLean, associate vice president for Community Affairs and executive director of CCBP, before Friday’s luncheon. “But we really appreciate your participation and the leadership that you’re showing in this program. I was telling someone earlier I wish I would have had a coach to help me through the first time [that I bought a house].”

Melissa Knox, a former participant in HomeFirst, described the importance of coach-participant relationships in helping first-time homebuyers.

“I can’t say enough about the program,” Knox said. “We didn’t have a clue, and the process that they took us through made it so much easier and so much smoother for us. I can’t thank the HomeFirst program enough, and the coaching is the key.”

Josie Cox, student retention coordinator at Shelton State Community College, shared the importance of HomeFirst coaches in overcoming challenges facing rural communities, such as Greene County, during Friday’s luncheon.

“There are limited resources and barriers that rural communities face,” Cox said. “I think that what you’re doing here by giving people an avenue to homeownership and giving them that opportunity to advance and get equity and also building that capital and also being able to pass that down for generations to come is definitely a step in the right direction as far as building family wealth.”

Marie Butler, program coordinator for HomeFirst in Greene County, works with the coaches in Greene County and highlighted the goal of the partnership.

“Ms. [Anita] Lewis is from Greene County, and she brought her concerns that there wasn’t a housing program in the area that would provide housing finance awareness, so people in Greene County could afford safe and decent housing,” Butler said. “This program will allow the residents of Greene County to be able to have a home in Greene County. I know she doesn’t have to worry about that anymore.”

“Living in Eutaw all my life, I realized that the housing situation was something that needed to be worked on. … Since 2005, that’s what I’ve been working on, trying to get more housing into Greene County,” said Anita Lewis, executive director at the Housing Authority of Greene County. “I think what’s going to happen from this retreat [is] it makes us thirsty for more, and I think it’s going to make the volunteer coaches more engaged.”

UA HomeFirst Coaches’ Retreat Supports Students, Volunteers

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

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

Housed in UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships, HomeFirst is a financial wellness initiative that serves individuals and families on their path toward first-time homeownership or foreclosure prevention. The retreat trained volunteer coaches to work with HomeFirst participants with presentations on financial literacy and establishing interpersonal skills with potential homeowners. The coaching participants put their skills to the test with activities on role-playing and active listening.

“I’m a social worker, social work student in the grad program, so [HomeFirst] kind of falls in line with what I plan to do,” said Ayana Hendricks-Boyland, a graduate research assistant for Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of Programs and Partnerships for Community Engagement. “I love that we are able to educate the community about finances.”

“I did the peer financial coaching here [at UA], so I’ve done a similar thing before, and it’s nice to get that opportunity again,” said Kassia Jezak, a senior dual major in financial planning and marketing at UA. “You’re not above them at all or bossing them around. It’s a very equal relationship.”

The retreat also highlighted a new partnership between HomeFirst and the UA College of Human Environmental Sciences (CHES). Dr. Kyoung Tae Kim, associate professor and graduate program coordinator for the Department of Consumer Sciences, said the partnership began in the summer of 2022. A goal of the collaboration is to send UA students in CHES and consumer sciences to HomeFirst coaching opportunities for more practical experience in financial planning.

“I bought my house this summer, but if I knew about this program before I purchased it, I would be participating as a participant,” Kim said. “Even though I’m a financial planning professor who teaches insurance, taxes and so many financial planning things, purchasing a home in reality is a little bit different … so I’m so glad to see that this program is ready to help faculty, staff and students, and I’m so proud of being here as a small partner.”

The partnership between CHES and HomeFirst has already gaged student interest. After hearing James Renshaw, program coordinator for Programs and Partnerships for Community Engagement, speak to their class in personal asset management, Faith Frost and Sophie Stallings, both seniors majoring in finance, decided to volunteer as HomeFirst coaches.

“I like that you don’t feel like you’re a professional, kind of like you’re learning along with them,” Frost said.

“I like how supportive and welcoming all the staff has been,” Stallings added. “They’ve made it a really easy introduction.”

While most participants were UA students, faculty and staff, members from outside the UA community also attended the retreat in efforts to become HomeFirst coaches in other areas

“I like that the retreat focuses on how to be a coach more so than just learning information,” said Toya Carter, media specialist at Shelton State Community College.

University of Alabama’s HomeFirst Program Receives USDA Grant

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By Diane Kennedy-Jackson
Publications Coordinator, Division of Community Affairs


Tuscaloosa, Ala. — Nivory Gordon Jr., Alabama State Director for USDA Rural Development, announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest $193,394 in grants to assist The University of Alabama (UA) in providing financial wellness training to prospective first-time homebuyers in rural west Alabama through the University’s HomeFirst program.

HomeFirst is a financial wellness initiative that serves low- to moderate-income individuals and families throughout Greene, Hale and Tuscaloosa Counties on their path toward first-time homeownership or foreclosure prevention. The program, which is powered by the UA Division of Community Affairs’ Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), is offered at no cost to qualifying participants.

The USDA grant, announced at a luncheon in Eutaw, is made through the Rural Community Development Initiative Grant program. This funding will allow HomeFirst the opportunity to expand on its existing work in Greene County through an ongoing partnership with the Housing Authority of Greene County, directed by Anita Lewis.

“I am honored to be here, and I am happy to see all of the stakeholders and partners here in this facility today,” said Gordon, who went on to note the critical role UA students will play in this initiative. “I am excited about you having students from The University of Alabama coming in and working with our community,” he said. “Homeownership in Alabama’s rural communities is crucial to the continued growth and development of rural Alabama,” said Gordon. “Through investments like the one made here today, we can help rural individuals and families purchase a home, maintain a home, and thrive in rural Alabama.”

Since 2019, Dr. Nicole Prewitt, CCBP’s director of Programs and Partnerships for Community Engagement, has directed UA’s HomeFirst program. A key element of the program is that participants receive one-on-one financial coaching from UA students trained to provide assistance in core areas of housing and financial capability, including savings, money management, credit building, debt reduction and homebuyer education. While some participants go on to become homebuyers shortly after completion of the program, others utilize what they have learned to take additional time to plan for that process and still others decide that the responsibilities of homeownership are not for them at this time. Regardless of their respective choices, participants overwhelmingly state improved financial capabilities, which are crucial to long-term stability and expanding the pool of eligible homeowners.

This partnership among the University, its students, the Housing Authority of Greene County and the rural residents of Greene County is representative of the campus/community partnerships common to CCBP. The 9,045 rural residents of Greene County stand to benefit, as do the UA students who participate as financial coaches through this initiative that advances the institutional mission of excellence in teaching, research and service.

About CCBP: CCBP is an initiative of UA’s Division of Community Affairs. Its initiatives support the University’s teaching, research and service mission and it serves as one of the campus’ main engines in the support of the University’s efforts to be an engaged institution. As defined by the Kellogg Commission: An engaged institution is responsive to the needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s. It enriches the student experience by bringing research into the curriculum and offering practical experience in the world they will enter. It forms partnerships of faculty, students and communities to put knowledge and skills to work on today’s most critical problems. — From Returning to Our Roots: The Engaged Institution, Kellogg Commission Report, 1999). Learn more at

About RCDI: The Rural Community Development Initiative Grant program provides funding to help non-profit housing and community development organizations, low-income rural communities and federally recognized tribes support housing, community facilities and community and economic development projects in rural areas. This program serves eligible rural areas with populations of 50,000 or less.

Georgia State Scholar Presents Research on Access to Healthy Food

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By Ashley Cunigan CCBP Student Program Assistant

University of Alabama students, faculty, staff and community partners attended a morning networking session and an afternoon workshop about working with vulnerable communities on Friday, Oct. 18, presented by Dr. Kellie Mayfield, assistant professor in nutrition at Georgia State University. The sessions were sponsored by the student organization SCOPE (Scholars for Community Outreach Partnership and Engagement), a program within the Center for Community-Based Partnerships.

Mayfield specializes in community-based mixed methods research, focusing on availability of healthy foods. Mayfield, whose Ph.D. is from Michigan State University, collected data on the differences in food availability and its effects on consumers. She partnered with a Flint, Mich. nonprofit that supports residents in growing and accessing healthy food.

Mayfield worked directly with a community group that addresses problems in the Flint food system by increasing information about consumption of healthy food. Her research examined quality and price of available items in local grocery stores.

Of 288 stores in Flint that sell food, 273 were included in Mayfield’s analysis of food access and control in smaller and larger stores. Areas within a three-mile radius were analyzed to present information on how many grocery stores were located in areas without public transportation.

In addition to scarce food resources, Flint residents also struggled with finding clean water. The Flint water crisis of 2014 caused Michigan to declare a state of emergency. Lead and other dangerous metals contaminated the water supply, and tap water in many homes was toxic.

In her study, Mayfield found that residents had little access to healthy food or clean water, leading her to propose a change framework based on women as nutritional gatekeepers in the food environment.

Mayfield’s experience working with African-American communities led to her investigations of “womanism” — as opposed to “feminism,” a term that suggests “white” women. In researching custodial African-American grandmothers, Mayfield found that women play an important role in providing for their families. As custodial grandparents increase and access to healthy food declines, she said, there is much less to share.

Audience members were given time to network with peers to discuss insights into Mayfield’s findings. Students thought of different ways they could apply her strategies to their own research. Mayfield reiterated the importance of critical thinking and reflection, especially when working with vulnerable communities.

One of the faculty members who felt especially motivated by the Mayfield presentation was Dr. Chapman Greer, who teaches business communications in the Culverhouse College of Commerce. “Dr. Mayfield’s presentation was very informative,” she said. “I learned a lot about how we can apply mixed methods to our research.” Greer and her students are researching the possibility of establishing a community hospital in Marion, Ala.


Third in Series of Grant Writing Workshops Holds Closing Ceremony

  • August 21st, 2019
  • in News

Standing with grant-writing specialist David Bauer (center) are, l-r, Dr. Jim McLean, Dr. Nicole Prewitt, Latrisa Pugh, Lynn Armour, and Dr. Samory Pruitt.


By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Graduate Assistant

The 2018–2019 Winning Grants and Sustaining Communities Program, sponsored by the Division of Community Affairs, graduated its third cohort on June 3. The graduates were recognized in a closing ceremony seminar held at Cypress Inn.

Workshops conductor David G. Bauer, internationally acclaimed grants expert and author, said, “I have enjoyed working with the University/community teams in that I know the money the teams receive from these grants will go to improving lives!”

Dr. Jim McLean, Center for Community-Based Partnerships executive director, congratulated The University of Alabama faculty, staff, graduate students, and Tuscaloosa area community members for their work and predicted many would receive the necessary funding to continue their projects.

“A unique aspect of this program,” said McLean, “is that each team is led jointly by a UA faculty or staff member and a community member, and most community participants become strong advocates for the University.”

“In my almost 50 years of experience in applying for and directing grants, I have been to many grant training workshops,” McLean said. “I believe Dave Bauer is by far the best grant trainer, as his approach is based on matching the values of the funder with the values of the grantee.”

In fact, according to reports received by McLean, grants and other funds raised from the first three cohorts total more than $50 million.

Dr. Samory Pruitt, Division of Community Affairs vice president, presented workshop completion certificates to the participants. “The return on investment in these workshops organized by Dr. McLean and conducted by Mr. Bauer is amazing,” he said. “We look forward to seeing the results forthcoming from this group.”

The following participants (followed by their project) received certificates of completion: Jacob Adams and Shannon McCue — Alabama Blues Project; Ashley Waid and Alison Hooper — YMCA on Wheels; Jermaine Mitchell (University of Montevallo), Holly Morgan, Daniella Susnara, Pat Petitt and Mark Harrison — Swim to the Top; Dr. Tracey Hodges, Andrew Maxey, Carol Donovan, Julianne Coleman and Amy Davis — Literacy Bus Project; Kimberly Stowers — Building an Industry for Technology and Human Resource Innovation; Jonnie R. Griffin, Danny Patterson, Slade Prisoc and Chas Shipman — Technology Training (TALA); Jane L. Newman, Nellie Christian, Junfei Lu, Andrew Maxey — Scale Up Summer Programs (Tuscaloosa City Schools); Nicole B. Prewitt, Annettte M. Harris, Lynn Armour, Latrisa Pugh — Saving Lives Academy; Kirsten J. Barnes — Child and Family Services Project; Jonathan Koh and Michael P. Andrews — Tuscaloosa Higher Education Consortium.

Also the following individuals not associated with a project received certificates: Terry Burkle, Larry Deavers, Nona Anchan, Rebecca Watford, Nathaniel Shannon, Emefa Butler, Sally Smith, Chris Spencer, Barja Wilson, Trendle Samuel, Tera Johnson, Rene Jones and Faron Hollinger.


PTLA Holds Third Session of Academy Year

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By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Volunteer

The UA Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) held its third session of the Academy year Dec. 6 on the campus of The University of Alabama (UA). The day’s topic was “Collaboration and Communication.” During the morning and early afternoon, teachers attended Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA) workshops and lectures for elementary teachers. Kara Bernal and Kristi Garcia, both with the Tuscaloosa City Schools, gave the lecture “Breaking through Language Barriers to Create Partnerships.” They introduced some of the obstacles bilingual students could face in school and provided examples. Bernal has been the ESL (English as a second language) school social worker for the Tuscaloosa City Schools for almost 19 years, and for the past four years has also served as the moderator/interpreter/translator for the Hispanic parents participating in PTLA. Garcia serves as the coordinator of the ESL program for Tuscaloosa City Schools. She began working in the program in 2008. She has also worked with Global Café through UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), as well as Voces de los Padres, a parent-led educational advocacy group, to assist limited or non-English-speaking families with involvement in schools and with the difficulties of assimilation into a new community.

During the TLA session for middle school teachers, Dr. Lisa Matherson and Dr. James Hardin gave a lecture on “From Parent to PARTNER: Digital Tools for Building Bridges.” Matherson, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Education at UA, has served as the LiveText FEM coordinator since 2015 and works with stakeholders in their implementation of the LiveText FEM tool for the College. Hardin is a clinical assistant professor of technology applications and assessment systems in UA’s College of Education. He has served as the College’s LiveText coordinator since 2010, and is also the College’s director of the Innovative Teaching and Technology Lab. Matherson and Hardin not only provided a list of digital tools teachers could use to communicate with parents, but also offered tips for them in the communication process. Following their presentation, Dr. Sara McDaniel, associate professor in UA’s College of Education, presented “School & Family Partnerships with Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.”

This meeting was the first session for teachers that offered different workshops provided simultaneously. In TLA for middle schools, teachers could choose between “Grades and Test Scores: Who Knows What They Really Mean?” by Andrew Maxey, and “Reading Activities for the Family” by
Carrie Jo Powell. Maxey is the director of special programs for Tuscaloosa City Schools. He served as director of middle school education for the district for the last two years and continues to lead system work at the middle school level. He also writes and speaks publicly about effective grading practices, transforming the role of the teacher in public education and leadership that works. Powell has been an instructional coach at Hillcrest Middle and Hillcrest High Schools since 2016. Prior to being named to her current position, she taught English at Hillcrest Middle for 15 years.

In elementary TLA, teachers could choose two of three available workshops. Topics included “Handling Sensitive Conversations” by Krista Snyder, “Transformational Family Conferences and IEPs” by Hannah Ruggles and Dr. Holly Morgan, and “Mindset Matters” by Lynn Evers.
Snyder is a speech language pathologist at Communication Advantage Inc. She received both a BS and an MA degree in communicative disorders from The University of Alabama in the 1980s. Her nearly 40 years of experience have provided an enriching career focused on giving communicatively challenged people of all ages the gift of improved skills. Ruggles is a graduate research assistant in CCBP, pursuing her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. She works directly with PTLA under the direction of Morgan, who is director of Community Education at CCBP. Evers is an elementary math specialist in the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative at UA.

“How to communicate with parents and students is a very critical thing for educators,” said Taril Slater, a Matthews Elementary School teacher. “I found myself sometimes in difficult conversations; where I know what I want to say, but you need to be professional and say the right thing. I learned a lot from the first workshop about that.”

Teachers said what they learned from the workshops was very useful and could be applied in their classrooms. “I’ve never learned about mindset until two years ago,” said Kaylee Neal, a teacher from Cottondale Elementary School. “Now I realize that it really is the effort you put into it or the time you put into it, but you have to make a choice to do those things. So now, I can make sure that my kids know that now and they are not waiting until adulthood to make those same decisions.”

Saving Lives Graduation 2018

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By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Fellow

Saving Lives celebrated the culmination of several months of hard work and determination by each church in the health and wellness advocacy program on Sept. 18 at the Bryant Conference Center.

Before being given certificates of achievement and expressing what the program meant to them individually, the 19 Saving Lives advocates from five area African-American churches displayed posters detailing each of their advocacy projects.

At Plum Grove Baptist Church, Shaunta Sanders and Javelin Lewis served as the advocates. Their project was to create a Healthy Eating Expo by connecting and engaging community members. Lewis said the program “empowered” her to take its health message back to her congregation. “We got out into our church and we felt equipped. We were excited about it and our church got excited.”

For Lewis the Saving Lives message held a personal meaning. “It took me some time before I could make the connection, but I kept thinking about my own mom. She didn’t work out, she didn’t eat healthy and she smoked for as long as I think I’ve been alive,” Lewis said. She explained that her sister from Tennessee called to tell her that their mother had collapsed at church. Nine days later she died.

“It was a hard thing to swallow,” Lewis said. “She’d had an aneurysm while at church praising God.” She added that the Saving Lives Initiative has given her hope. “I feel like we can save some mamas. I feel like we can save families. It’s called Saving Lives. We can do that if we take this information and we take it into our churches and we put in the hands, minds and hearts of people. People can live.”

Lewis explained how the program has made a difference and can continue to make a difference in the African-American community, because knowledge is empowering.

“Sometimes these things happen because we don’t know. We don’t have the right information. We don’t have the right direction and we don’t know which way to go,” Lewis said. “Well, Saving Lives gives us that. So, to the advocates here, please know that this is not a little task that you’ve undertaken. This is a very big thing. But just know that God is with you and will take you from beginning to end.”

Lewis’ sentiments were echoed by other advocates. “I just want to thank God for the Saving Lives Initiative. I want to thank God for giving me the information through the Saving Lives Initiative. I don’t think there is any other organization where I have learned so much about health” said Valerie Cleveland, who works as a counselor at a nursing home.

Cleveland is a member of Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church and she helped to organize a program entitled “Let’s Talk” which helped start a conversation about death and dying, advanced directives, powers of attorney, funeral arrangements and more.  “We know we are going to die. So let your family know of your wishes. Don’t leave that stress on your family,” Cleveland said. “This is so dear to my heart because I work in a nursing home.”

During their initial meeting they engaged members of their congregation through presentations by an attorney and hospice staff members. “We did reach our goal because we got our participants to thinking,” Cleveland said. “I’m hoping that when we have our second workshop, those papers that we hand out, they’re going to bring them back and we’re going to notarize them and that’s all they need.”

“I was personally convicted to start to thinking about the conversations that I need to have in my family,” said Dr. Nicole Prewitt, who serves as the director of programs and partnerships for community engagement at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) and directs Saving Lives activities. Prewitt recalled her father explaining to her family his final wishes before his untimely death. “My dad passed away at 59 unsuspectedly, but I remember how he was kind enough and loved us enough to share that information.”

Letrell Peoples, who attends New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Northport, said her church had struggled to create a senior ministry for years, but she lacked the motivation to start the program until connecting with Saving Lives. “The academy gave us the little push and the structure and the guidance that we needed,” she said. “It took seven years for us, but this was the time and we thank Saving Lives.”

Saving Lives is a faith-based wellness program established to advocate for healthy families and communities through faith. For more information about the program, email Prewitt at or call her at 205-348-9819.


Council on Community-Based Partnerships Meeting | September 5, 2018

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In attendance: Carol Agomo, Karyn Bowen, Jackie Brodsky, Dee Cook, George Daniels, Jan Findlay, Kimberly Gibson, Andrew Goodliffe, Fran Hardin-Fanning, Elizabeth Hartley, Tracey Hodges, Diane Kennedy-Jackson, Renee Key, Billy Kirkpatrick, Joon Yea Lee, Amanda Lightsey, James E. McLean, Jacqueline V. Morgan, Rob Morgan, Ed Mullins, Jane Newman, Nicole Prewitt, Samory Pruitt, Sarah Saeed, Luna Yang

Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs, welcomed attendees and called the meeting to order at 11:43 a.m.

Amanda Lightsey, executive director of Tuscaloosa’s One Place, reported that they have moved from Alberta City and are now located at 810 27th Avenue, behind the Arts & Autism building. She believes this will be a great move for them considering the non-profit growth in the downtown area, and shared that both Five Horizons Health Services and Big Brothers Big Sisters have recently expanded their space and services in this area.

Lightsey said that she, along with Dr. Billy Kirkpatrick (CEO, Five Horizons Health Services) and Dr. George Daniels (assistant dean, College of Communication and Information Sciences) are working together on a project to create a directory of institutions in Tuscaloosa that offer service-learning opportunities. She observed that there seems to be a disconnect between opportunities and agencies, and that the purpose of this directory is to help link University of Alabama professors and their students with these types of opportunities that are available in the community.

Lightsey indicated that they are also focusing on the area of research and evaluation because more and more state and federal grant opportunities require evaluation. She explained that finding an evaluator is often a challenge for non-profits, and their hope is that bridging the gap between agencies needing evaluators for their grants and those who might offer this assistance will make the process much easier moving forward.

Finally, Lightsey reported that Tuscaloosa’s One Place was recently named the Homer Butler United Way Agency of the Year. Learn more at

On behalf of Jeff Gray, who was unable to attend the meeting, Pruitt announced that Gray recently received a National Science Foundation grant for the purpose of targeting African-American girls in the state of Alabama in an effort to get them interested in pursuing science-related fields and careers. Gray will provide a report to the Council at a later date.

Pruitt invited those present to share with his office their research interests, as well as opportunities they may be seeking to work with others. Additionally, those new to the Council were invited to share at this meeting.

Anne Levy, UA Theatre and Dance, recently relocated from New York City, where she has done a lot of work with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). She is interested in getting the word out so that anyone who would like to use the power of the arts and theatre to advance their programs might get in touch with her about ways their programs and the Department of Theatre and Dance might partner.

Fran Hardin-Fanning, Capstone College of Nursing, shared that her work is going into areas in Appalachia to help those living there learn to eat healthy with the limited resources of the area. She and Jan Findlay, also of the Capstone College of Nursing, work together.

Jackie Brodsky, who works in UA’s School of Library and Information Studies, as well as at Wayne State University, reported on her activities as a community partner. She is working on an art program through DCH Cancer Center that provides a way for cancer survivors to stay in touch with the Center and stay up to date with current cancer prevention news. She hopes to expand this program into other counties the Center serves in an effort to bring more access to health information available through the Center to additional counties and spaces. They are also working to get their library online to help with resources. Additionally, they are partnering with the UA Art Department and are looking for another school — perhaps nursing or social work — to partner with on these efforts.

Pruitt then shared a brief summary of the New Faculty Community Engagement Tour, which began in 2017. He said that when we began these tours, the intent was not to load buses and take people with all the answers to the people who need help. Instead, we take some of our faculty members to hear about the things these people are doing in their communities — things of which they are very proud — to learn how those things might align with the research interests of faculty.

James E. McLean, executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), shared an evaluation of the 2018 tour based on survey results including input from faculty, students, staff and community members who participated. Survey questions included three qualitative and three quantitative questions.

James E. McLean, executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), shared an evaluation of the 2018 tour based on survey results including input from faculty, students, staff and community members who participated. Survey questions included three qualitative and three quantitative questions.

McLean said participants were surveyed during each day of the tour to get feedback about each tour date. A comparison of the results of the three groups of people — one for each day of the tour — showed no appreciable differences.

The largest participant group was faculty, followed by students and then staff. One hundred percent of the participants rated their experience as a 7 or higher on a 10-point scale, with more than 50 percent giving it a perfect 10. All participants indicated they would recommend future tours to others with 64 percent rating this a 10 on a 10-point scale. The most common response to suggestions for improving the tour was to increase the time for networking among tour participants and panelists.

Community member panelists and site coordinators were also surveyed to parallel the tour members’ surveys. Of the 48 community members participating over the nine sites visited, 17 responded. This was a 35.5 percent response rate, which McLean said is typical for these types of surveys. He said that all nine sites visited were represented in the responses. While all in this group were satisfied with their participation, 90 percent rated their participation as a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. All indicated they are likely to participate again in the future. Responses for improving the tour next year mirrored those of tour participants, with requests for additional time for interaction, as well as representation from more disciplines, with an emphasis on business.

Accordingly, going forward, we will seek ways to find more time for panelists and tour members to spend time together so that they can better connect and discuss opportunities to work together. Additionally, we will seek to recruit participants from more disciplines, especially those with business-related interests, to participate in future tours.

Dr. Tracey Hodges, assistant professor of Curriculum and Instruction, who just completed her first year at UA, participated in the faculty tour this spring based on a recommendation. She said she enjoyed the tour because of the community members, business professionals and education professionals who participated. She also appreciated having the schedule of panelists ahead of time, which allowed her to look up people she might be interested in talking with prior to the tour. As a result, she made a connection with a principal from Hale County regarding literacy needs. She now spends time at Hale County Middle School three to five times each month, working with the teaching professionals there and conducting research. It is a positive relationship that benefits, students, teachers and her own research.

Pruitt indicated that the Division  plans to document and circulate information about these types of connections made as a result of tour participation. Additionally, he said we will distribute the annual report on these tours in the future.

Pruitt then reported on the progress of the planned Student Community Engagement Center, which will be located in Capital Hall on the Bryce Campus. Out of a desire to support the work of our students, faculty and community partners involved in community-engaged scholarship, we looked at national trends and realized that not one of the institutions researched had a designated space for students in different disciplines to work together in the same space at the same time around community-engaged scholarship. The concept for the Center was a result of that realization, combined with input from students and other stakeholders.

Featuring portable design that will create flexibility moving forward, the Center will open with six offices for student organizations that have a research/service mission based on their disciplines, with future expansion planned to create up to a total of 10 office spaces. Student groups known to have an interest in being a part of this based on their activities were contacted initially. The bids were opened in August and the funding is in place for the first phase, which will involve renovation of existing space at a cost of just under $800,000. The goal is for the renovation to be completed in time to open the Center at the start of the spring 2019 semester. In the interim, the selected student groups, along with the colleges of which they are a part, have been asked to begin working together while the renovation takes place. Several of the entities involved include Engineers Without Borders, groups from Social Work, the College of Education, Human Environmental Sciences and the College of Community Health Sciences, as well as the student chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama, which created an informative presentation about the new space and its use. They also came up with the tagline: More Than Just A Space.

Carol Agomo, director of Community and Administrative Affairs in the Division of Community Affairs, expanded on how the tagline was formed, sharing that we got here through a process of bringing students together to collaborate, but that when we brought in departments, it opened up additional opportunities. The planned use of the space is consistent with the UA Strategic Plan, including developing social consciousness, fostering public outreach and service and engaging in community outreach. This access will help the way the student groups work and give them an opportunity to strengthen their community relationships. It will definitely be more than just a space!

A question was raised about parking concerns. Pruitt stated there will be a bus stop in front of Capital Hall, which should help ease parking issues in the short term. As expansion on the Bryce Campus continues, there will eventually be additional parking available on the opposite side of the building. He also said that there are no seating areas in front of Capital Hall at this time, but that we may look at ways to add seating to these areas in the future. Additionally, there is a courtyard located in the center of the building, and we will likely do something with that space that benefits the new Center, as well as others housed in the building.

On behalf of Dr. Holly Morgan (CCBP) and Dr. Elizabeth Wilson, (College of Education) Pruitt reported on a grant application submitted by them for the Alabama Statewide Family Engagement Center. Morgan and Wilson work together on the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA), and receipt of this grant would allow that existing model to grow to other areas throughout the state. This is a $6 million grant over five years, and each state is allowed to submit only one application. Our grant application has the State of Alabama’s support. A brief abstract of the grant was shared via a handout at this meeting, and an update from Morgan and Wilson will take place at a future Council meeting.

Dr. James E. McLean reported that we completed the second round of the Winning Grants and Sustainability Program in June, and that the third round (2018–2019) began in August. The third round includes 10 teams with 50 people total and a variety of interesting projects. The program continues to be in great demand, likely because of the success already logged, which totals somewhere between $40 and $50 million obtained in grants, beginning with the first class in 2016–2017. Round 4 is being planned for 2019–2020. In addition to the successful grant funding already obtained, the program is helping people learn to write more competitive grants — a skill that will continue to reap benefits for many years to come. McLean views what we are doing as an incubator, and sees our successes as being when projects and programs get out on their own and become self-sustaining.

Sarah Saeed, program coordinator at CCBP, gave a Fulbright and Global Café/Language Partners Program update on behalf of Dr. Beverly Hawk, director of Global and Community Engagement at CCBP. Saeed shared that there are around 60 Fulbright applications in the works for this coming year and that UA looks to be listed again among the top Fulbright producing institutions in the nation. A handout about students who won Fulbright awards for the 2018–2019 academic year was shared with meeting attendees. Saeed also informed the group that Hawk and some of her students will be attending the national Fulbright conference in Mexico this fall.

Schedule cards for the fall 2018 semester of Global Café were also distributed (also available online at Saeed explained that through Global Café, UA students and volunteers assist international students with their speaking and listening to aid in English language learning, as well as to learn more about American culture. Additionally, the process is reversed and we utilize international students and visiting scholars to help UA students learning another language or preparing to travel overseas. Five students have already been paired this way for the current semester, and we have also paired 64 language partners with volunteers and CCBP student assistants. In addition to our student staff, we have five community partners and 30 student volunteers who are making a big difference in the lives of international students, and particularly in the lives of visiting scholars who, because they do not attend classes, may receive their only one-on-one American contact through Global Café.

Daniels and UA PhD candidate Joon Yea Lee shared a brief overview of a workshop they will present at the upcoming Engagement Scholarship Consortium Annual Conference in Minneapolis. For this project, which discusses the importance of using video to tell stories, they analyzed and rated the content of the Peter McGrath Awards videos. Each McGrath winner is given two minutes to tell their story via video. The video they played from Oklahoma State University was shared as an example of a production that effectively captured the institution’s brand, its community partner involvement, its activities with partner participation and its inclusion of institutional leadership — all elements that made for a strong presentation. At the conference, they will present a workshop designed to help others learn how to plan and use video to effectively tell the stories of their partnerships.

Pruitt gave a brief update on the upcoming ESC Conference, sharing a handout containing information about the UA delegation to Minneapolis and noting that UA always has one of the largest conference delegations. He said the Division of Community Affairs, the College of Continuing Studies and the Office of Academic Affairs work together to help provide funding to those in need of it to attend. The internal cutoff for conference registration was Friday, Sept. 7. Pruitt also shared that this year’s conference will feature a faculty panel in addition to the existing journal editors’ panel.

Pruitt, on behalf of Morgan, gave information about Vision Days, a newly created high school tours and college readiness program. Noting that often, when we bring high school students to campus, it will be multiple students from a single school, who may or may not all be interested in the topics presented. The Vision Days approach brings students from different schools on different days based on individual interests, providing them with a way to learn more about their areas of interest, as well as to meet other students with similar interests. Because we are competing for in-state students now, we believe this will be a way to aid the University in that effort. A schedule of the tours was provided to the Council.

Attendees were encouraged to save the date for future Council meetings, which are scheduled as follows:

  • Wednesday, November 17, 2018, 11:30 a.m. — Bryant Conference Center, Rast Room B
  • Thursday, February 21, 2019, 11:30 a.m. — Bryant Conference Center, Rast Room B
  • Thursday, March 21, 2019, 11:30 a.m. — Ferguson Center, Room 3104

The 13th Annual Excellence Awards and SCOPE Showcase are scheduled for:

  • Friday, April 12, 2019 — Bryant Conference Center, Sellers Auditorium

Visit for future Council updates.

Meeting was adjourned at 1:05 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 Engaged Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.

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

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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

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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.”