Category: News

AERN Annual Meeting: Farewell to Annette Watters and Paavo Hanninen, Who are Retiring

By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistant

Editor’s Note: AERN is a long-time CCBP partner, cooperating in such matters as communication, research and seed fund operation. Annette Watters has been an active member of the CCBP Council since it was formed in 2008.

The 2012 Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network partners met on May 22 for a day-long meeting providing partners from the 17 counties an opportunity to learn about new resources, two new centers, and to say farewell to co-directors Paavo Hanninen and Annette Watters, who retired during the service year. The meeting was held at the AIME Building on the campus of The University of Alabama.

During the morning the partners learned about ways they can develop websites for their local sites, as well as ways they can help other businesses in their area learn about developing websites.

"I thought that it was great, especially the segment about the Website that Reata (Strickland) did," said Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce Director Sheryl Smedley, who has worked with AERN for the past three years. "That's what I struggle with because I don't have the money to build a website and get someone who can keep my site up the way it needs to be."

AERN Outreach Coordinator Mary Patterson selected the website training because it was something that members had requested more information about.

"At our workshops, we usually have a round-table discussion and some of the members said that they need more information about websites and marketing on the Internet," said Patterson, who will be coordinating the program until a new director is named.

During the presentation, UA Graphic Designer and Multimedia Artist Reata Strickland explained to the group low-cost ways in which they could develop, host and update their websites, enabling them to expand their reach.

"Seventy-eight percent of North Americans are Internet users," Strickland said. "So, if you need to know why you need to be online, that's the reason. It's an essential tool for small businesses."

Because most of the AERN satellite locations are housed in local Chambers of Commerce, the information provided to the partners can be redistributed throughout 18 counties and potentially impact thousands of business owners.

"I really more than anything enjoyed the demonstration on how to create your own website," said Jenn-Tate, director of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce. "I could do so much more at the chamber with a website."

After lunch, Watters gave a presentation on the specialized services offered by AERN to its clients, including county-by-county economic breakdowns by industry.

"More than 700 different industry reports are available," Watters said.

In addition, to her presentation, Watters announced that there will be two new partners added to 18 existing counties of: Bibb, Butler, Chambers, Choctaw, Dallas, Fayette, Greene, Macon, Marengo, Marion, Monroe, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Tallapoosa, Washington and Wilcox.

"We have a grant that will enable Lamar and Hale counties to come in," Watters said. "I'm glad to be leaving, knowing that this has been accomplished."

One of the emphasis at the University of Alabama is to engage more community members though research conducted by students, faculty and staff members.

AERN is operated through the College of Business Administration and Dean Michael Hardin believes AERN is a great example of engaged scholarship.

Hardin said too often universities conduct "parachute" experiments where the come in, conduct research and leave.

"This is really what community engagement research is. This could serve as a model," Hardin said, praising Hanninen and Watters for their tireless efforts. "It has a great impact on the community. We come in and make the lives of the people in the community better."

AERN provides entrepreneurial tools and training to 18 rural counties, working in partnership with local agencies to provide entrepreneurs with research and business planning resources.

Each partner agency is provided a toolkit of resources to encourage and assist potential and existing local entrepreneurs. The package of resources includes business reference materials, business planning software, and computer technology.

Financial support for AERN has been provided by the Alabama State Legislature, University of Alabama Provost's Office, U.S. Small Business Administration, Delta Regional Authority, Appalachian Regional Authority, as well as in-kind contributions from our local partners.

Watters and Hanninen are credited with building AERN to its current national recognition as one of the best examples of engaged scholarship in rural America. They have been the co-directors since the program began in 2001 with four counties. An article about the program by Watters, Hanninen and C&BA Dean Mike Hardin appears in the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, Vol. 4, No. 2. Members at the annual meeting were given a copy of the journal containing the article, entitled "Developing a Community-Based Research Network for Interdisciplinary Science: The Alabama Entrepreneurial Research Network."

More than 250 Proposals Received for Presentation at NOSC 2012

Members of the NOSC 2012 Planning Committee discuss the conference.






By deadline a total of 252 proposals had been submitted for NOSC 2012. Here is the breakdown: By faculty and staff, 154; by students, 63; and by community partners, 35.

About two dozen categories ranging from theory and methods to volunteering, from children and youth to math and science were represented by the submissions. Almost three dozen academic disciplines were represented, ranging from health sciences to management, from environmental engineering to art history.

A total of 75 colleges and universities were represented, with the highest number, 58, coming from The University of Alabama as expected, but a surprisingly large number from several other universities. The University of Georgia was second, with 24; and Auburn and N.C. State were tied with third, with 13.

Five Alabama universities submitted proposals. In addition to Alabama and Auburn they were the University of Alabama Birmingham, the University of Alabama Huntsville, and Tuskegee University.

Judging is under way and proposers will be notified in a few days whether their proposals were accepted.

Janet Griffith and Ed Mullins, members of the NOSC Advisory Committee, are doing the first draft of the program, sorting through the proposals this week, trying to fit them into logical time slots and groupings.

Dodson Found Independence, Academic Success, Happiness at The University of Alabama

By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistant

(Editor's Note: Our lead writer here at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships completed this profile of our top work-study student, Zach Dodson, on the day we learned of his sudden death.)

Zachary David Dodson did not come to the University of Alabama looking for two national football and gymnastics championships or to be named Student Employee of the Year. He came here searching for independence and an education.

"I wanted to get away from home," said Dodson, 21, a Jacksonville, Fla., native. "I wanted to have my own independent lifestyle for a while. I didn't expect the championships. I didn't expect the awards and accolades, or a great place to work."

The economics major visited several other campuses "” University of Mississippi, University of Michigan and the University of North Florida ­"” before settling on UA.

"This was my favorite. The campus "¦ it's beautiful," said Dodson, who said he had no regrets about his selection. "It was everything I thought it would be and more."

Student supervisors from throughout the university nominated students for the award presented by UA's Financial Aid, which administers the Federal Work Study program for the campus.

"Mr. Dodson is not only one of our most intelligent and resourceful students; he is also one of the most willing to help out with whatever task is at hand," wrote Dr. Ed Mullins, director of the Center for Community-Based Partnership's Office of Research and Communication, when recommending Dodson for the award. "As an economics major, he has a GPA of 3.71 and has been selected to both the Dean's List and President's List."

Although this was the second year Dodson was employed by the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, he said he had no idea he was up for the award.

"I was really surprised because I didn't even know they had nominated me or that they thought that highly of me," Dodson said. "I told my mom. She was really happy for me."

Dodson took his job seriously, but said he knows not all students treat work-study positions as "real work." However, he offered this advice to student workers: "Don't get into the habit of thinking of it like government money or free money. Take it seriously and have a great attitude."

He said students should not treat this federally funded program "like something you should be entitled to, because maybe in the future there won't be any money for it."

During this tenure at CCBP, Dodson preformed various office duties and assisted with conferences and events sponsored by the office. In addition, he wrote press releases and assisted with the various publications produced by the office.

"I do whatever they ask me to. They've taught me to do a lot of stuff," Dodson said. "I've worked with everyone in the office."

His recommendation was a reflection of his efforts.

"Zach approaches every assignment with concentrated attention and performs these assignments in an exemplary manner," wrote Mullins. "Some students have a narrow comfort zone; but not Zach. Regardless of which of our several offices assigns him a work task, he carries it out as if that office were the only one he worked for. He is simply one of our best and most loyal students."

Dodson said he hoped his work-study assignment would be the kind of work environment he hopes to find upon entering the work-force full-time.

"If you like the people you work with and you enjoy your job; then it's going to be great," Dodson said. "There's a lot of diversity in this office. We have fun, but we also work hard for the community. It's very flexible, but they want you to work and get things done."

In addition to these job-related skills, Dodson said he learned much about himself in college.

"School was a big part of it, but the whole college experience of having to deal with everything on your own and keeping commitments on your own time was a big part of growing up and becoming independent," Dodson said.

The former Florida Gators fan, said it only took one season to convert him to a Bama fan.

"I used to wear my Gator pajamas around the dorm and I'd get funny looks," said Dodson, who was a huge Tim Tebow fan when he came to UA. "No one wanted to hear that, but it only lasted the first year. I'm an Alabama fan now."

Dodson said he is most proud of having graduated in four years, something he promised his parents, Paul and Tara Stutts, if he could go to school out of state.

"That was the key thing for me," Dodson said. "If you are out of state you need to get in and get out. I took five classes and I went to summer school."

Looking at the next step in his career, Dodson was excited about life and the prospect of selling insurance and/or remaining at UA for graduate school.

"I'm ether going to grad school here for an MBA or marketing degree, or go and work," he said. "I'm looking at AFLAC right now."

In addition to Mullins, directors Christopher Spencer and Heather Pleasants also wrote letters supporting Dodson's award. And the Center's fourth director, Angelicque Blackmon, initiated discussion to set up, as she said, "a scholarship opportunity for an undergraduate student to complete a project involving engagement scholarship that would continue Zach’s legacy."

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.