Category: NOSC 2012 Glances

100 Lenses

By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistant

Editor's note: UA graduate student Elliot Knight and community partner Kristen Law will be among the more than 250 researchers presenting their findings at NOSC 2012, September 30"“October 3 at The University of Alabama. Knight will be presenting as a student, Law as a community partner.

Elliot Knight grew up in Opelika, Ala., more than 100 miles from the heart of Alabama's Black Belt, the area where he has concentrated his doctoral research. Already a budding photographer when he entered the University, he immediately began using his craft to capture campus life, envisioning ways to get others involved in this most expressive and reflective experience.

Thus, Black Belt 100 Lenses was born. All he needed was a partner. That came when the Black Belt Community Foundation joined forces with the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, where Knight was a graduate assistant.

The program reaches out to high school students who live in rural Alabama to equip them with both cameras and the knowledge to use them. Students learn to become independent community storytellers in words and pictures, and in the process they learn the skills of community leadership, leadership that will result in stronger, more equitable communities.

"This research has given me a much better understanding of the processes and contexts that lead to students feeling more creative and confident," said Knight as he nears completion of his doctorate in interdisciplinary studies, with 100 Lenses the focus of his dissertation.

Knight has seen students become more engaged in their communities and take on leadership roles in their schools and communities. With assistance from CCBP and the Black Belt Community Foundation, this program has helped hundreds of youth develop their leadership and communication abilities.

"This research allowed me to conceptualize, design and implement future programs and creative learning environments that meet students' creative, leadership and educational goals," Knight said.

The title of Knight's presentation is "100 Lenses: How Arts-Based Youth Partnerships Transform Students’ Lives. The title of Law's presentation is "Creative Philanthropy: Engaging Rural Youth Through Black Belt 100 Lenses."

Social Media

By Kirsten J. Barnes

Center for Community-Based Partnerships

Social media is a fascination for Mohamed Elmie Bin Nekmat. Therefore, conducting research related to the impact of social media on society was a natural fit for the Communication and Information Sciences doctoral student.

"I feel that more needs to be done in understanding the role of communication technologies, particularly the socialness embedded in these technologies, toward bringing social change," said Nekmat, a native of Singapore.

Using undergraduate students at The University of Alabama, his research studied how students perceived and received social media messages and what caused them to react or resend these messages.

"In order for someone to think and learn about campaign messages from others in social media, it is not enough for one to just read the messages received," Nekmat said. "He or she needs to reformulate the message and resend the messages to others."

Furthermore, his research uncovered implications on how some messages cause people to act, but not the way intended by the campaign.

"Unfortunately, I found that the messages they resend to others may not necessarily be positive," he said. "In the case of an anti-drunk driving campaign, they included sarcastic and cynical messages."

Rural Health Care

By Kirsten J. Barnes

Center for Community-Based Partnerships

Having grown up in Alabama, W. Sim Butler was familiar with health care issues in his home state. However, while working on his doctorate in Communication and Information Sciences, Butler discovered a connection between the medical and information fields.

"The negotiation of health care, especially within rural communities, created an intersection of these interests," said Butler, a Montgomery native working on his third degree from The University of Alabama.

By focusing on rural health care and the shortage of primary care physicians and specialists, Butler was able to gain insight into the medical needs of these communities. "I recently traveled to Greensboro, Ala., an amazing small town in the western part of the state," Butler said. "There, some wonderful community leaders are struggling with unique rural health care issues. Those leaders inspired me to learn more about the training and education of rural health care providers."

Although one-fifth of America lives in rural places, only about 10 percent of physicians practice there. Because they travel greater distances to reach a medical facilitiy, rural residents are nearly twice as likely as urban citizens to die from injuries. These and other issues related to rural life and health care led Butler to pursue his research. The title of his presentation is "Doc Out of the Box: Recruiting Doctors to Rural Communities."


Richard Mocarski is interested in disenfranchised groups of society. Therefore, the opportunity to look into the efforts of the text4baby program to engage those who have limited access to healthcare providers peeked his interest.

"Our initial analysis of text4baby showed, unfortunately, major flaws in the program," Mocarski said of his findings. "While the program is noble in its endeavors and successfully circumvents some access barriers, the actual information and advice provided via text is mostly useless."

These preliminary findings regarding the free service shifted the focus of the study. Instead of studying the impact of text4babies, Mocarski and co-author Sim Butler, are focusing instead on ways to use the technology to provide better information to participants.

"We are currently working with a lead social worker at St. Anne's in Los Angeles. Her particular program is a half-way-house and counseling center for pregnant teenagers without reliable support networks or means," said Mocarski, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Communication and Information Sciences. "Together we are developing research protocols to engage both healthcare providers and their patients to better understand effective ways to use digital means in providing effective heath information to marginalized populations."


Binge Drinking Among College Students

By Kirsten J. Barnes
Center for Community-Based Partnerships

Although graduate students conduct most engaged scholarship work at The University of Alabama, undergraduate students also are getting involved in the process.

For public relations major Sam Nathews, the opportunity to assist with a campaign focusing on an undergraduate problem, created a unique opportunity to engage fellow students and gain real-world experience.

LessThanUThink was a campaign launched to raise awareness about binge drinking among college students.

While working with the Capstone Agency, UA's student-run public relations firm, Nathews worked with the Century Council, UA's Student Health Center, The National Alcohol Beverage Control Association and the Alabama Beverage Control Board to partner with six campuses to raise awareness concerning the dangers of binge drinking among students at six campuses throughout the state.

In addition to UA students, the campaign reached out to the following schools: Auburn University; the University of Alabama, Birmingham; Troy University; University of South Alabama; and Alabama State University.

Studying Victims of Abuse

By Kirsten J. Barnes

Center for Community-Based Partnerships

As an experienced social worker and founding director of the Morgan County Child Advocacy Center, Teresa Hicks Young knows first hand how important it is to have experienced people when dealing with victims of abuse.

However, the idea to conduct research on family and victim advocates in Child Advocacy Centers came about during a conversation with an employee of the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Ala.

"She identified the need to learn more about family victim advocates who work in children's advocacy centers," said Young, whose study focused on who the workers were and what they do. "It was this simple question that formed the initial idea for the study."

By partnering with the national organization and four regional Children's Advocacy Centers, the Hartselle, Ala., native developed a survey to determine which job-related functions had the most impact on victims.

"Our analysis revealed that family victim advocates rated critical and non-critical job duties of equal importance," said Young, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in social work. "This is an important issue for children and families in this situation and indicates the need for training to address the importance of critical job duties being given priority over non-critical job duties."