Category: Wrap-up

UA and the Tuscaloosa VA to partner on student-veteran center on campus

By Andrea Mabry

"With the right opportunities and the right support, you guys can change this country," Derek Blumke explained, during his keynote speech at the University of Alabama Campus Veterans Association reception on September 26. Blumke, the newly named national VA campus outreach coordinator, co-founded the Student Veterans Association while pursuing his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan.

Blumke visited the UA campus soon after the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center (TVAMC) was chosen as the new Veterans Integrated Service Network site for the College/University Outreach to Veterans Initiative. The program will "build resilience with student veterans on campus, facilitate adjustment to and success in academic life, and increase access to high-quality mental health resources" to veterans, according to Maia A. Lee, administrative officer of the Mental Health Service Line at TVAMC.

In order to give veterans the opportunities and support that Blumke finds so important, the UA Office of Community Affairs will partner with the VA Medical Center to develop and grow the Veteran-Student Academic Wellness Program. The new center will work with various outfits of UA to create a place that will comprehensively meet veterans' needs, including the Family Transition Center and Counseling Services.

The initial program will enroll 20-25 student veterans, and will expand outreach efforts each year thereafter. Currently, there are approximately 600 veterans and veterans' dependents enrolled at the University of Alabama, according to the project proposal.

Blumke presented the keynote address at the reception on Sept. 26 in order to stress to veterans the importance of creating a center like the Veteran-Student Academic Wellness Program.

His major goal, which is why he began the student organization and which is his focus at his new job at Veterans Affairs, is to make sure veterans are getting the programs they earned with their service to the country. There is a huge difference between having programs available to veterans and making sure they are receiving those benefits, Blumke stressed. He strives to assist with the creation of centers at universities and VA hospitals where student veterans can join a community during their transition back into civilian life.

Blumke began by telling about his eventual enrollment at the University of Michigan following his service in the United States Air Force. As a veteran, he felt dissociated from the campus in Ann Arbor, which set him on the path to create a better environment for veterans like himself.

A major reason for creating the Student Veterans Association was to help veterans realize their potential. "You have unique skill sets that you can use at home," Blumke said, "many of you can do a lot of incredible things but you don't know it."

CCBP Awards Ceremony 2011 in Pictures

Faculty and staff, students and community partners convened for the fifth Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards Ceremony in Tuscaloosa on April 22.

Representatives of the Community Affairs Division of The University of Alabama presented awards for outstanding engagement activities initiated by students, faculty, and partners. David Wilson, the keynote speaker and president of Morgan State University, accepted an award for leadership in engaged scholarship.

More information to follow in subsequent posts.




Minority Business Forum to Meet April 19 at Bryant-Denny

TUSCALOOSA "” Another in the popular "Breakfast and Business" series sponsored by the Minority Business Forum (MBF) and The University of Alabama will be held Tuesday, April 19, in the Recruiting Room of Bryant-Denny Stadium, beginning at 7:45 a.m.

"Like the others in this series, this meeting will give minority vendors and contractors the chance to network with and hear from fellow suppliers, university officials and various service specialists to learn how to do more business with the university," according to program organizer Christopher H. Spencer, director of community development at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) on the UA campus."

"Participants tell us they receive valuable information at these meeting," Spencer said. "They establish useful contacts that have helped their businesses overall and their opportunities to do business with the University in particular."

Speakers from various UA business areas such as procurement services, contracts, construction, purchasing and other offices will address the participants. The UA divisions of Community Affairs and Financial Affairs are co-sponsors with the MBF.

The most recent program, on February 15, drew more than 60 business men and women from all over the state. For more information and to register, send an e-mail to

CCBP, whose slogan is "Engaging Communities and Changing Lives," is an initiative of the Office of Community Affairs connecting faculty, staff, students and community partners in research-based projects to help solve critical problems within communities.

Center for Community-Based Partnerships Honors Engagement Scholars

CONTACT: Ed Mullins, 205-246-3334    

In a playful comment that drew enthusiastic applause and could signal future directions in academic research, a leading scholar told community partners and University of Alabama faculty, staff and students here Friday, May 1, 2009, that "publish or perish" may one day give way to "partner or perish."     

Speaking to a crowd of about 200 at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships' third annual engagement scholarship awards luncheon, Dr. Hiram E. Fitzgerald of Michigan State University outlined forces pushing universities toward more active engagement with society.     

This more active relationship, Fitzgerald said, "has generated a fresh vision about the democratic purposes of higher education and how universities contribute to the public good."     

Quoting Alfred North Whitehead that " "¦ shielding a university from "¦ the world "¦ is the best way to chill interest and defeat progress" and that "unapplied knowledge is shorn of its meaning," Fitzgerald said the time has come for higher education to form partnerships that directly address society's most critical problems.     

Although it could be said that the associate provost for University Outreach and Engagement at Michigan State University was preaching to the choir, the Hotel Capstone crowd gave him sustained applause when he concluded with the "partner or perish" observation, which he attributed to Dr. Barbara A. Holland, director of the National Service Learning Clearinghouse.      

Following Fitzgerald's speech, Vice President of Community Affairs Samory T. Pruitt, who is also executive director of CCBP, began the awards ceremony by calling Fitzgerald back to the podium to honor him with the "Distinguished Special Achievement in Engagement" award. In doing so he recognized Fitzgerald's leadership as president of the National Outreach Scholarship Conference and leadership in a dozen other groups as well as for his hundreds of research papers, articles and books, and millions of dollars in research projects, much of it on behalf of infants and children.     

 Assistant Provost Janet Griffith presided over the awards ceremony, which recognized the best from campus and community for 2009. She was assisted in distributing the awards by Dr. Judy Bonner, executive vice president and provost, and Dr. Joe Benson, vice president for research.     

Here are the winners:     

CATEORY: Outstanding Faculty/Staff-Initiated Engagement Effort   

The Creative Writing Club (CWC) was formed in 2004 by Prof. Behn as an outreach project of the M.F.A. in the Creative Writing Program. MFA students serve as mentors to Tuscaloosa area high school students and celebrate their creative writing achievements via public readings and publications. CWC demonstrates to the community the riches that result when top-notch graduate student writers interact with motivated young writers. Thanks to external grant funding, the program has grown to include 15 high schools, a summer Creative Writing Camp and a new course to train Alabama high school teachers in teaching creative writing. A high school textbook is being developed to capture the original creative writing lessons of Prof. Behn and her students.      

This partnership between the School of Library and Information Studies and the Tuscaloosa Public Library provides 21st century information technology literacy training to senior citizens. Funded by a seed grant from the CCBP, the project allowed students to deliver information literacy skills to a population outside the library in partnership with community agencies. The program was evaluated at two levels: goals-based evaluation and instructional-based evaluation and is summarized in the paper, "Deconstructing Walls: Educating Students for Civic Librarianship."      

A team-based wellness program emphasizing five health challenges:
            "¢Eat five fruits and vegetables
            "¢Drink five glasses of water
            "¢Think five positive thoughts
            "¢Move for 30 minutes five days a week.
            "¢Lose five pounds per person
Launched by UA's Office of Health Promotion and Wellness in 2007 and repeated annually, the program originated as a campus-wide effort for the University community but expanded in 2007 to include community partners DCH Regional Medical Center, the City of Tuscaloosa, Nucor Steel Tuscaloosa Inc., and the American Heart Association. The program is being adapted for use at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas. The partnership brought together more than 850 UA employees and some 1,000 Tuscaloosa community participants and continues to be shared with potential community partners via presentations at national conferences.     

Dr. Parker led a UA interdisciplinary team in partnership with the Tuscaloosa Senior Ministry Association to foster collaboration among 10 community faith-based organizations to address gaps in services to senior adults and to promote greater use of existing local, state and national resources. Students worked with the group in interviewing local service agencies and local pastors/lay leaders and developed directories of resources related to aging. They completed a phone survey of 400 local church members regarding the services. Several presentations and publications have resulted from the work. Future plans include more interdisciplinary work with similar groups to develop caregiver support programs, life review programs and home visitation/transportation programs. 

CATEGORY: Outstanding Student-Initiated Engagement Effort  

Faculty leaders: Drs. Pauline Johnson and Philip Johnson
Students: Phillip Moncayo, Malcolm Abrams, David Bearden. Joseph Blackwell, Keith Blackwood, Lauren Blue, Conor Brown, David Dozier, James Elder, Bryan Fair, Robyn Gilstrap, Joseph Godwin, Josh Hamilton, Brian Hannan, Kristopher Harbin, Jennifer Hetherington, Jake Hinson, Gurunath Kampli, Agata Kargol, Ryan Maley, Nick McEwen, James McGee, Jason McGee, Rebecca Midkiff, Caleb Miles, Jameson Prater, Rakesh Salunke, Hunter Spurgeon, Andrew Steinmetz, Leslie Threlkeld,  and Ben Welch    

In collaboration with Kinterbish Middle School and residents of Cuba, Alabama, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) students and their partners planned, procured materials, designed and constructed a community baseball field. The partners assessed need, developed a plan taking into account health, safety and liability, documented their work, and implemented the plan. As with all EWB projects, the project effectiveness will be assessed and its application to other communities evaluated.   

Faculty leader: Dr. Bruce Berger
Students: Mary Katherine Alsip, Mellie Bassett, Allison Bridges, Alex Cole, Sarah Beth Combs, Natalie Crawford, Laura Doty, Emily Eddleman, Ali Frederick, Jami Gates, Elizabeth Hard, Nathan Horne, Kara Beth Lawrence, Maeci Martin, Allison Milwood, Tyler Nance, Partick O'Rourke, Carla Pennington, Shanshan Qian, Sara Beth Ritchey, Adam Rogers, Meghan Stringer.     

Responding to the needs presented by community partners including the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, the Literacy Council of West Alabama and Tuscaloosa Rotary Club, a 22-person student team developed a campaign to increase awareness of the literacy problems in the area and to motivate students to take action to solve the problems. They conducted research on the issue and began to shape messages and define tactics that would be used. The result was the Literacy Is The Edge campaign that employed communication channels ranging from TV public service announcements by UA football players to Facebook groups in support of the effort. The work saw the immediate creation of a new student group, LITE, and the training of 77 student volunteers as active reading tutors in the community. The LITE student group is charged with sustaining and growing these efforts working with community partners now and in the future. 

Ms. Peterson led the agricultural medicine research project into a collaboration involving both white and African American farmers to address mutual health issues. She coordinated information gathering from multiple focus groups around the state endorsed by the larger African American farm community. The Agromedicine Program is an integral component of the UA Rural Health Leaders Pipeline to help "grow our own" rural Alabama doctors. This work continues and has been greatly enhanced by this project that resulted in a multi-county, diverse policy committee of farmers that guides the efforts to address agricultural health issues in Alabama, including the Black Belt.  

Under the leadership of UA sophomore and Creative Campus Intern Michael Wynn, the Creative Campus Assembly addressed the need within the Tuscaloosa and University communities to recognize the abilities of artists affected by chronic illness or disabilities and to contribute to social services and support for persons with disabilities. Through a partnership with the Office of Disability Services and Very Special Artists (VSA) Arts of Alabama, the group produced its first signature event of a planned series, The Unbound Art Show. This first event is a launching point for a sustained, developing relationship with VSA Arts of Alabama for the future. The March exhibit opening event hosted about 100 students and community members statewide. Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith founded VSA Arts in 1974 as an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 

CATEGORY: Outstanding Community Partner-Initiated Engagement Effort   

AERN is a community-UA partnership that provides the resources and impetus for residents in rural counties to increase homegrown prosperity through entrepreneurship. The people of Marion in Perry County treasure their lifestyle and heritage and want to see it preserved and enhanced. The Perry County Chamber of Commerce, under the direction of John Martin, revitalized its partnership with the University focusing on two main projects: Attracting arts and business to downtown through a revitalization effort that has seen five new businesses in Marion occupying renovated space downtown. Mr. Martin and the University are also cooperating on a second project to restore the Perry County airstrip. UA supplies computers, software, Internet access and research assistance for Perry County entrepreneurs who make the improvements happen.   

The Tuscaloosa Housing Authority provided leadership in staging Culture Fest 2008, one of the most successful and best attended multicultural events in Tuscaloosa history. McKenzie Court, which had been rebuilt and landscaped with public housing funds, was the host for the event that featured music and festival foods from many cultures. Other partners included UA's Crossroads Community Center, the Tuscaloosa Police, Fire and Transportation departments, and Shelton State Community College.     

Distinguished Achievement Award "” Campus    

A renowned national leader in engagement scholarship, Dean Dahl has certainly gone "above and beyond" in her efforts to enhance The University of Alabama's role in the critical area of engagement scholarship and outreach that is truly making a measurable, sustainable difference in the communities with whom we collaborate. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching awarded The University of Alabama its Community Engagement Classification in January 2009. Dean Dahl was co-chair of the team that spent months preparing UA's application.     

Distinguished Achievement Award "” Community   

The "spiritual leader" and chief advocate for the movement to improve literacy in our community through creation of the Literacy Council of West Alabama whose mission is to champion the power of literacy to improve the lives of children, adults, families and communities in West Alabama, Mr. Aycock has engaged the business, education and government communities in the literacy challenge and energized our leaders to embrace a shared vision of a functionally literate citizenship. 

 A community-based partnership pioneer, Ms. Loftin provided the energy and ingenuity to develop partnerships with her hometown of Dothan and The University of Alabama establishing a model that would be duplicated in many communities throughout the state. She partnered with her alma mater to advocate for children and families through such statewide programs as BabyTalk and PAL, serving parents and children throughout the state. She is a founder of the grassroots movement to develop Family Resource Centers throughout Alabama and statewide programs in support of healthy marriages in partnership with Auburn University. An advocate for prevention of child abuse and neglect, Ms. Loftin has led the formation of many community partnerships, some of them decades ago, that continue to flourish today.   

Distinguished Special Achievement In Engagement   

To thousands of engagement scholars, "Hi" Fitzgerald is "Mr. Engagement Scholarship" in the United States. His tireless leadership of the National Outreach Scholarship Conference, his efforts to improve the mental health of families and children, and his hundreds of other professional, personal and volunteer achievements put him in the company of engagement leaders you can count on one hand. Fitzgerald is the author or co-author of more than 50 books, more than 500 peer-reviewed research articles, papers and abstracts, and the recipient of research grants totaling more than $10 million. There are few more versatile or productive academic leaders than this year's recipient of the Distinguished Special Achievement in Engagement than Dr. Hiram E. Fitzgerald of Michigan State University.