Mosaic Spring 2014

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It’S All About you


A letter from the Editor

That is what Mosaic is. It is the product of very different groups of people brought together as a community to inform and inspire our fellow students.

The first time I walked up the steps of Nott Hall and pulled open the white double doors, I was terrified. The quiet entryway of the University of Alabama Honors College held no serenity for me, and the friendly, smiling staff only sharpened my anxiety. I had just submitted my non-refundable deposit to a liberal arts college the size of my high school and was getting ready to begin my future in the middle of a big city. I had no idea what I was doing in the heart of Roll-Tide country at the largest university in Alabama. The July after my high school graduation, I received an email advertising the University of Alabama that I promptly ignored. While I had some doubts about the tiny, Hogwarts-like college in Tennessee that I had chosen, I knew that it was far too late to change anything. Two days later, though, I couldn’t get Alabama out of my head. Strangely enough, even after paying a hefty deposit to another school, my parents couldn’t either. Soon after, my mother and I made an appointment and headed to Alabama for a reason neither of us fully knew. When I got there, I found mine. That day, it felt like the entire staff of the Honors College stopped what they were doing to help me. I spent five hours talking to people who had much more important things to do, including Dean Sharpe, who took two hours out of his day to have lunch with me. I know now that this attitude of community and inclusivity extends to students in every college, major and interest on campus. All are welcome, and all are celebrated. That is what Mosaic is. It is the product of very different groups of people brought together as a community to inform and inspire our fellow students. The Honors College gave us the means, and through passion and hard work, we crafted something that crosses borders, both physical and personal. We came from all over campus and all over the world, each with our own perspectives working together to share the Honors experience. We all contributed a piece of our own stories, whether shot through a lens between nursing classes or designed in the middle of an art show. We all learned and grew together, creating our magazine from who we are and sharing it with our community and beyond. Flip through our pages, and you will see the stories we discovered, the stories we worried over, the stories we celebrated. This is our best work, inspired by the people who shared their incredible experiences with us. From the professor who shows us Cuba’s beauty (p. 36) to the student who uses his creativity for health care (p. 18), these are the stories worth telling, and we are more than honored to do so. As you read this issue, I hope you see the passion behind every page and come away just as inspired as we were.

Katie Thurber


2 4



7 10 13 16 18 21 24

30 36 42


26 46 56 66 74



49 52 54 58 62



See more of “Exploring Reflections,” a photographic essay by Sara Johnson on page 74.



76 79 82 84




tudents have painted walls with a rainbow of colors, hacked away at thorny growth with shovels and plunged their hands into beds of dirt to plant fresh flowers. Just this year, these Honors College students will spend more than 6,000 hours with children, reading, talking and offering guidance at six middle and elementary schools around Tuscaloosa County. To do this work, hundreds turn to the Honors College Service Station for direction. With a new form of branding and collaboration, the Service Station essentially links volunteer initiatives within the college, connecting READ Alabama, DRIVE, 57 Miles, as well as various Honors Action program and service days. New to the college this year, the service initiative leaders involved agree that the bridging of leadership and consolidation into the same physical workspace should lead to increased cooperation and awareness of other service programs. Robert Pendley, director of READ Alabama and an intern within the program, says the program’s name follows the idea of a station where you pump gas. “For a car, a service station equips drivers to move forward,” he said. “And, at the same time, the service station offers choices: different types of gas, to fit the driver’s need and car model.” Similarly, Pendley says an honors student looking to make a difference can approach a student leader involved with the initiative and ask what each of the service initiatives has to offer. As if choosing between unleaded and regular gas for your car, he says an initiative leader can help a student decide what service program will likely be the best fit. “I think this new, organized format is going to make it easy to be a volunteer,” he said. With this idea of a service station in mind, we ask Pendley and other service leaders to talk about the programs where honors students often find their “fuel.”


Mosaic 2014

| Civic Engagement

READ ALABAMA Honors students volunteering with READ Alabama dedicate an hour a week to mentoring a pair of elementary school students, reading and discussing books with their mentees in an attempt to stir in them a desire to learn. In the Honors College Service Station, READ is one of two programs defined as education outreach, which focuses on relationships with young students in the community with hopes of preparing them for college and a career. “We’re making sure they will continue down a path,” Pendley said. “We believe it starts early, in elementary school.” This form of READ differs from earlier years, when elementary and middle school students read to college students in an effort to improve literacy in secondary schools. Now, Pendley says people in education outreach have decided that college preparedness is a more attainable goal and effective use of service hours. This year’s READ has had 153 volunteers, who serve around 500 children in five county elementary schools.

DRIVE DRIVE is the second organization categorized as education outreach. Unlike READ, DRIVE draws from both a middle school and elementary schools. Once a week for ten weeks, college students travel to Davis Emerson Middle School, Holt Elementary or Cottondale Elementary Schools, equipped with a folder of prepared materials, ready to guide their students on a track toward college. D.J. Jackson, an education outreach intern working with DRIVE, says the skills that the college students promote are not found in a classroom. “It’s a focus on building skills outside school for preparing them for college,” he said. “It’s about non-cognitive skills that’ll lead to academic success: concepts like communicating with others and decision making and goal setting.” Like READ, DRIVE focuses on the relationship built between the mentor and the mentee. “Who better to help someone prepare for college than someone who’s gone through the process?” Jackson said.



The first of the Honors Action programs, Outdoor Action takes the idea of service learning to the fresh air. Incoming freshmen spend a few days clearing creek beds of invasive species and whacking away paths only to be rewarded with several days of active outdoor activities. Eighty-one freshmen and 21 upperclassmen leaders go on hikes and canoe trips, where a knowledgeable instructor lectures students about the biodiversity at hand. Randy Mecredy, the director of Outdoor Action, says that while the service and learning about biodiversity are important, the bonding and friendships that arise are most significant. “It gives freshmen the opportunity to engage with other people,” he said. “The greatest benefit is a ready-made core group of friends.”



Technically falling under the 57 Miles umbrella, Black Belt Action relates back to Perry County. It is also the second of the Honors Action programs, programs offered to incoming Honors College freshman the week before classes begin in August that allow them to participate in one of three service-learning programs. With these Action programs, Chris Joiner says the Honors College works to provide a service opportunity to help an area in need while also offering a bonding opportunity for freshmen before the semester starts. Students earn honors course credit with each of these programs. Specifically, Black Belt Action gives freshman students projects in Perry County, where they have painted fences, cleaned classrooms and re-covered bathroom walls. “We’re able to help them see changes they want to see through working together,” Joiner said. “It’s the partnership that makes it happen.”

Alabama Action, the second of the Honors Action programs, takes the week of service idea and applies it more locally in the Tuscaloosa community. Around 150 incoming freshmen partner with 31 student leaders, who have each been through the program as a freshman. For one week, the combined group of students swarms elementary schools in Brookwood and Cottondale, setting out to renovate the interiors and exteriors of the schools. Last year, they replanted gardens, cleaned hallways and weatherproofed tables. At Brookwood Elementary School, the students also made a regulation-size baseball field from an empty patch of land. In addition to the hands-on work, Alabama Action students learn about leadership in afternoon discussions with guest lecturers such as Mayor Walt Maddox. “It’s a great way for freshmen to start their college career and plug into a group of like-minded students,” Susan Alley, the faculty advisor for Alabama Action, said. “It’s encouraging to see students giving up their last week of summer for a community they don’t know yet.”

“For a car, a service station equips drivers to move forward; at the same time, the service station offers choices: different types of gas, to fit the driver’s need and car model.” UA Honors


Financing the Future By Allison Ingram

TOP: Cory Cialeo, Lou Marino; MIDDLE: Matt Gillham, Lauren Donoghue, Bret Buckler; BOTTOM: Kelly Kohlman, Bethany Carter, Jordan Tucker


vintage outsource, the AVE or the All Vintage Everything uscaloosa entrepreneur Charleeta Latham wants Jewelry Box. Based out their downtown office space known to wear pink bows in her hair to work, not business as The Edge, Forza specializes in issuing loans anywhere suits. She wants to spend her days scouring flea between $500-5000 at a 10-20% interest rate to clients who markets and thrift stores across Alabama, building her are unable or uninterested in mainstream banks due to lack online vintage retail store and posting pictures to her of credit, experience or the sheer size of Instagram account to complement “Students step into the roles of the loan. her career as a personal stylist. “There’s a significant gap to the rest “When I think of work, I don’t loan writers, accountants and of the state and there are a lot of really want to not want to go to work,” personal business coaches for hardworking citizens who are severely Latham explained. “So I always try to entrepreneurs in Tuscaloosa under-banked,” said Lauren Hardison, think of things I love to do that I could Forza’s chief underwriter and collections and across the state...” turn into work.” officer. “That is really the community Each day, Latham lives by the that we are trying to reach.” motto, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day of Students step into the roles of loan writers, accountants your life.” New business ventures or projects excite her, and and personal business coaches for entrepreneurs in she rarely gravitates towards the idea of a 9-to-5 job. She Tuscaloosa and across the state, sharpening their would rather be traveling. business skills as they boost the economic integrity of the Latham represents a group of unconventional communities they assist. Services include loans, educational Alabamians in need of a nontraditional lender to fuel their business seminars and tailored one-on-one consultations for business ambitions. Her adventurous ideas and enthusiasm clients that student and CEO Katherine McLarney describes brought her to Forza Financial, an Alabama student-run as “combining book smarts and street smarts.” microfinance organization, for startup capital for her online


Mosaic 2014

| Civic Engagement


professionally with dozens of clients. After “Our students are so trained by an initial fear of simply answering the phone professors and through the process of our and explaining the loan process, Plott says training program that they’re able to help these businesses thrive,” McLarney said. “It’s she has since relished the opportunity. “This is the first time that other people really a minimal amount of work on both depend on you and expect so much of you, sides, but the magnitude is so much greater so you really have to take responsibility to than that.” your job and to go above and beyond with Inspired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. it,” Plott said. Muhammad Yunus’ microfinance model in Lauren Donoghue, the chief investment Europe, a group of Honors College students loan officer, says this group of hardworking first imagined the possibilities of a nonprofit based in the University of Alabama’s backyard students set Forza apart from other organizations and university programs, in 2009. Hardison explains that microfinance elaborating on how many regularly go above is an option for low-income borrowers who the minimum three hours of work weekly. often lack credit because it utilizes group “Our students really get into the process lending to borrow at feasible rates using social pressure and a community mentality as and work one-on-one with clients even just with operations,” Donoghue said. “They repayment assurance. She says that Forza’s work so hard to do everything that needs to founding students found Alabama and it’s get done to make this business thrive.” rural outliers to be a prime environment for With Forza, UA lands itself in a microfinance and immediately set to work to spot alongside other universities with make the idea feasible. microfinance programs across the nation, “Back then we were all babies when it including Yale, Stanford and Rutgers. came to starting a business,” Hardison said, laughing. “I’ve seen it from idea to reality and Hardison says she hopes that Forza I guess we’ve experienced a lot of challenges will continue in sustainability as the group considers along the way, but “This is the first time that other the possibility of in my opinion, we’ve come a long way.” people depend on you and expect expanding to other schools in the state— Since her freshmanso much of you, so you really first, within the year debut to Forza in have to take responsibility to University of Alabama 2010, Hardison says the your job and to go above and system to Birmingham number of issued loans and Huntsville and, has risen from one to beyond with it.” eventually, reaching eight, the amount of clients has tripled and the number of workers Auburn, Troy or Samford. This unique has increased from “a handful” to roughly 30 experience, she says gives her a step up compared to other students applying for students who put in hours of work weekly, jobs and internships. With Forza, Hardison even 24/7 shifts for two weeks at a time. says she has developed people skills and the Forza has also launched a semester-long ability to motivate others in a workplace—a internship program, selecting applicants from lesson, she says, that cannot be taught in the across campus and producing an internship classroom. experience that culminates in the top “When I look back on my four years at percentage’s promotion to full-time status. Alabama, Forza is the one thing that I will More than just a resume bullet point, always remember that I did,” Hardison said. Hardison says students gain real world business experience coupled with community “It’s probably my proudest accomplishment and the group I’m proudest to have worked interaction. Sophomore Katie Plott entered with.” Forza as an intern in Summer 2013 and first For Latham and her vintage retail store, tasted the reality of the business world Forza offers an outlet for her creativity by working closely with the executive and goals, combining a passion for style members in an everyday office environment. and travel into a feasible dream career. Plott says the other students, many just Latham praises the students she works with, a year or two older, mesmerized her by describing them as patient, unintimidating spouting out financial terms like seasoned and supportive and saying they never make banking veterans and handling themselves

her feel like a small fish in a big pond. Now, equipped with business skills, Latham says she greets future ventures with excitement and welcomes the prospect of more projects to come. “I wasn’t born to be a person who does one thing for the rest of their life. That’s just not in the cards for me,” Latham said. “I’m free bird; I just like the freedom of choice. I may have no idea what may happen tomorrow, but that’s the fun part.”

Charleeta Latham shows off her latest vintage find.

UA Honors



mARkEtPlACE of StuDENt ARt by taylor Carvalho

With Creative Co-op, students from all majors come together in an effort to network, market and sell their original artwork for attention and profit. In this community of artists, members find that they also learn from each other and inspire.


Digital photograph by Turner Woods

hen Ally Mabry was approached by a friend looking for original student art to decorate his apartment, the graphic design senior realized that she had no idea where to look. A few weeks later in early 2012, she found herself proposing a new idea at Creative Campus, an organization in which students and faculty collaborate to bring innovative projects and ideas to the University. The idea was the beginning of Creative Co-op, and the Creative Campus interns were excited to bring the thought to life. “We wanted to bring to campus this way for students to be able to sell their own art and to expose other people to student art,� Mabry said. What started as a whisper quickly grew its voice. By mid-September, Creative Co-op was an organization officially recognized by the UA Source. UA Honors


TOP LEFT: Charcoal Drawing by Hannah Riddle, BOTTOM LEFT: Digital Photograph by Ethan NIcholson, TOP RIGHT: Digital Transfer by Joy Harris, BOTTOM MIDDLE: Linoleum Relief Print by Ally Mabry, BOTTOM RIGHT: Digital Photograph by Joy Harris


he Spring Art Stroll on April 16th, 2013 was the organization’s first event, and was met by 18 enthusiastic student artists who tended tables of their art on the Ferguson Center Promenade. In spite of difficulties with grounds permits that turned the event into a networking and display opportunity rather than an art sale, the pop of the art along the well-traveled walkway propelled Creative Co-op’s name into the university community. Soon after, Creative Co-op stepped up to the Spring 2013 Druid City Arts Festival, where their tent was a huge success.


Mosaic 2014

| Cultural Interaction & Art

“It was so packed,” Mabry explained. “It was just unreal.” The student artists earned a combined total over $1,000, a result with which Mabry could not have been more pleased. The rising organization also houses a huge diversity of art mediums presented by its members, which was displayed even in the popularity of the Druid City Arts Festival. The Creative Co-op tent drew crowds with a screen-printing demo inside, which displayed the process of printing images on a silk mesh screen stretched tightly in a frame. Mabry accredits this huge hit to the connections

she had made with about eight other girls in a screen-printing class her junior year, which blossomed into the initial core of the Creative Co-op organization. “When Druid City Arts Festival rolled around in the Spring and Creative Coop had already kind of planted its feet, we were looking for an engaging way to draw people to our tent and make a good impression because this was the first in-the-community event we’d participated in,” Mabry said. The array of ready screens, bright construction paper, and scrub brushes for maintaining the demo served as the perfect frame for the


diverse collection of art by several other of art creation and marketing. Johns, talented student artists who were finally disappointed to find that she did not have able to sell their art to the community. the time to maintain an online shop of This passion and diversity, in Mabry’s eyes, her art (which includes a great array of certainly collected the largest crowd of brightly colored hair bows created from people in the entire festival. vintage fabrics), found Creative Co-op In November and December, the to be a perfect alternative. Like many organization will additionally join an members, Johns had not chosen to major engineering projection mapping exhibit in art, and found Creative Co-op to be an paid for by the Dean of Arts and Sciences irreplaceably valuable door into student at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts art that was previously unavailable to her. Center. “If nothing else, Creative CoMaria Oswalt, one of the organization’s op has shown me the Honors College art majors, diversity of artists on “This opportunity also explained the value campus,” said Joy Harris, of Creative Co-op in has taught me networking and marketing. a senior visual journalism major in the Honors She says that the exposure that I am not College. to other student artists has only a journalism been inspiring for her own Harris is one of the organization’s many student, but I am work, and the variety of members whose art different artists has pushed also an artist.” involves a medium her to experiment with outside of the traditional new mediums and styles. canvas and paint. Her “I’ve also been learning photographs of beautiful, strange, and effective marketing skills from Ally,” often up-close nature scenes provide Oswalt said, emphasizing yet another Creative Co-op with a sense of inclusivity aspect of Creative Co-op that breaks the of all art forms, and even send the traditional borders. The organization message that art is not only for those has taken a further step in pushing its pursuing an art career. “This opportunity members to become not only artists, but has taught me that I am not only a businesspeople as well with necessary journalism student, but I am also an experience in marketing and networking artist,” she said. skills for long-term success. Creative Co-op has also altered New Creative Co-op’s immense College freshman Sarah Johns’ view accomplishment in transferring these

marketing skills to its student members is nowhere more evident than the cases of students Ben Bailey and Ethan Nicholson, both artists of the organization. Because of the benefit of the Creative Co-op website, on which all of the artists are displayed, described, and contactable, a UA English professor reached out to Bailey, whose work is often abstractly black and white, to provide cover art for a book that will soon be published. Nicholson’s soft, natural, and often absurd pieces caught the attention he desired because of the Creative Co-op site as well; he was asked to provide an art installation that would help a man propose to his girlfriend using the student’s original work. “It’s working,” Mabry enthused. “People are contacting them.” As Creative Co-op continues to flourish and find its footing as a new organization, Mabry is amazed by how far it has grown. What began as a group of her close friends has developed into a fully involved community of student artists with a new outlet for their work, each coming with their own different and inspiring forms of art. While Mabry carried much of Creative Co-op’s initial weight, she is now looking for a successor to keep the path open in the future for the student artists finding the opportunities they need in the Co-op community. “It’s huge,” Mabry concluded, “and it’s becoming more than me now.”

Creative Co-op artists show their work in Branching, the first student-curated exhibition in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center. UA Honors


Girl Talk:

After trading university life in Europe for an education at the University of Alabama, four international students talk country cookin’, Alabama football and life in the Deep South.


hloe Smith gets asked one question, over and over again. As director of cultural experiences for First Friends, an Honors College Assembly program that pairs American students with international students to show them the basics of life here in Alabama, Smith says international students from all over the world ask her, “Can we have a prom?” “They see it in so many American movies and TV shows, so this year we are going to put on a prom,” she said. Smith says it is the life experiences, such as parties and the atmosphere of American football, that are sometimes the hardest for international students to understand. For instance, when Phoebe Rees, a foreign exchange student from England, and several other girls—from Austria and countries around Europe—were invited to a fraternity date party, they did not know what to expect. That’s where First Friends came in. “You know, that isn’t something that comes up at orientation,” Smith said. “So it’s really fun to be in First Friends, and when questions arise like that, we get to be a sort of peer guide.” Now, after almost a year on campus, we asked Rees and three of her European friends to chat about their first impressions, favorite experiences and general thoughts about the South and this place we call The Capstone.

Phoebe Rees, Norwich, England: Sitting at a small table in Starbucks, Phoebe Rees does not stand out from other college students on campus at the Ferguson Center. At least, not until she speaks. “I’m obsessed with pumpkin spiced lattes at the moment,” Rees said. Though this is an almost-laughed-about phrase heard so often on campus in the fall, it sounds different coming from the mouth of Rees, a British foreign exchange student who traded in her European life at the University of Leicester in Leicester, England to experience American university life in 2013. While Rees says she now has a favorite Starbucks latte, she admits to missing food from England almost as much as her family. “I was worried when I came here because I had heard about American portion sizes and fast food, and I was kind of worried I would put on weight when I came here,” she said. “But people use the gym a lot more here so they balance it well.” Rees says she favors crumpets and English tea but has made some adjustments here in Tuscaloosa, specifically adding the southern food chain Chick-fil-A to her diet. 10

Mosaic 2014

| Cultural Interaction & Art

PHotoGRAPHy: SubmIttED, DESIGN: Ally mAbRy

Alexia Buffet, Tours, France:

Laura Cook, Edinburgh, Scotland:

Lisa Oberberger, Neu-Feffernitz, Austria:

In a packed Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alexia Buffet stands shoulder-to-shoulder with about 17,000 students screaming “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer” to celebrate the Crimson Tide’s 38-17 win over LSU. “I almost cried at the end of it,” she said. After attending all of the Tide’s home games this year, Buffet says she has become a devoted Alabama fan. She learned the cheers and chants as she adopted Alabama as her American football team. “It took some time but I managed to learn all [the cheers],” she said. While she has loved learning the cheers and watching the games, Buffet says she also enjoys the culture surrounding Alabama football. For many students at SEC schools, waking up at 10 a.m. for a 7 p.m. kickoff is not uncommon. While soccer is huge in Europe, Buffet says nothing compares to football at Alabama—especially not at a collegiate level. “We would get into the stadium two hours early for the Alabama game, but for a soccer game we would maybe get there a half hour before it starts,” she said. With copious amounts of eating and crowds of fans dressed in crimson and houndstooth, Buffet says she learned to love what we football fans call “Game Day.” “The whole atmosphere is exciting,” Buffet said. “Seeing everyone together on the quad is really cool, and it’s easy to be a part of the campus life and engage in it. You just go on the quad.”

Laura Cook always knew that she wanted to go to the United States, choosing the University of Alabama as her opportunity to experience the South. “Alabama is just so different from anywhere else,” she said. “You can go to New York or California on holiday, but I am probably never going to come back to Alabama.” After three years of university in Glasgow, Scotland, Cook came to Alabama and, like many other international students, wanted to see if the stereotypes were true. On first impression, she says she was impressed with the open-mindedness of students and Southern hospitality. “You are not all a bunch of red-necks,” she said. “At the university, there really are so many different kinds of people. Everyone is so friendly, so hospitable, so interested.” Living on campus is different than what Cook was used to in Scotland, though. While Cook says the campus itself may be walkable, she notes that, beyond the strip, Tuscaloosa does not favor pedestrians. She says transportation is one of the greatest challenges here. “Without a car, it’s hard to go to the supermarket,” Cook said. “You’re pretty grounded here. In Glasgow, Scotland, I could walk to the shop, to the university, to the city center. Everything kind-of circled together.” Cook says she had to adjust to living in a city where the norm is driving, not walking. “It’s quite hard to commute here unless you ask people, which is annoying,” she said. “I feel bad asking for rides when it’s of no benefit to them.”

This is not Lisa Oberberger’s first trip to the states. She has been several times before, but Oberberger made her first trip to the Deep South this past fall. Coming to the South after spending two years in Maryland after high school, Oberberger says she did not feel the culture shock as much. But she did instantly notice a difference between the Northeast and the South. “What really impressed me is that people here in the South were really friendly and nice,” she said. “I really enjoyed getting to know the culture down here. Southern food is really different form northern food too, but I really like the food in the South.” Though Oberberger generally likes Southern cuisine, she says it is rather different from what she was used to in Austria. “Vegetables are so unhealthy here,” she said. “Everything is either friend or comes with a sauce.” Despite having to adjust to deep fried vegetables and savory cream sauces, Oberberger says she immediately fell in love with the campus life here. “There is not really a campus in Austria where I go to school,” she said. “Here, you can go to Rec Center for free, and there are all kinds of things to do.” She also says she loves having a central location on campus, such as the quad, where students walk between classes and hang out on all the green space that UA’s campus has to offer.

UA Honors


By Alyx Chandler

With a passion for playing perhaps the oldest instrument known to man, Will MacGavin shares his love of the didgeridoo by crafting a modern instrument that sounds the same as when the first Australian Aborigines played it.

itting in the stairwell of Paty Hall, Will MacGavin props a 7-footlong instrument against the cement block wall so he can play. As he blows into the wind instrument, deep, lip-buzzed notes resonate as students walk by, stare and listen. At age 18, MacGavin, a freshman honors student with juniorlevel credits, is the youngest didgeridoo crafter in the United States. “This is the one thing in my life I can just geek out on,� he said. MacGavin says he saw the instrument for the first time during his freshman year of high school, when his sister’s friend brought a didgeridoo by his house in Temecula, California. Curiosity drove him, and, at 14, MacGavin says he crafted his first didgeridoo with a PVC pipe and beeswax from Home Depot. Since then, he has made more than 80 didgeridoos, selling the handcrafted instruments with prices ranging from $200 to $800. By definition, a didgeridoo is a single drone wind instrument similar to brass instruments in sound. Originating in Australia over 15,000 years ago, MacGavin explains that the instruments were usually made of

UA Honors


“Didgeridoos are one of those instruments you fall completely into.”

heartwood from termite-hollowed trees. Then, crafters would chop the wood so that a tube naturally formed, creating an instrument with a mouthpiece. Since these certain termites do not exist in the United States today, MacGavin says crafters now cut logs of wood and agave, a woody flower, in half to make didgeridoos. Myke Gomezmaicas, a middle school teacher in California who teaches didgeridoo and drum playing, shares a love of the instrument. “Didgeridoos are one of those instruments you fall completely into,” Gomezmaicas said. In late summer 2011, at a didgeridoo art exhibit in Los Angeles, Gomezmaicas found himself inviting MacGavin back to his house to shadow his crafting of didgeridoos. Gomezmaicas says he would not do this for anyone. It had to be someone with real, interested passion. “He became the guy my wife would gladly adopt, and the guy I could rely on to tell me bits of information that would just blow my mind—the kind that led from heaps and heaps of his own personal research,” Gomezmaicas said. “There’s really no other kid like that.” In one year, Gomezmaicas says he taught MacGavin what took him seven years to grasp. In May 2012, MacGavin tested himself to see how quickly he could make a didgeridoo. This particular one, which was made from a yucca flower stalk and old growth incense cedar, took only three and a half hours to make. While MacGavin took the light instrument hiking with him for a while, he says it ended up being the first didgeridoo he would sell. On January 28, 2013, he sold it for $269 to a woman in Birmingham. “I’ve always been good with tools and hands-on projects,” MacGavin said.


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| Cultural Interaction & Art

For the past two years, MacGavin has accompanied Will Thoren, a didgeridoo crafter based in California, to InDidjInUs, a weekend event held each year in August where more than 700 people travel from across the United States, Europe and China to stay and eat for free in the woods of Oregon. The weekend consists primarily of concerts and workshops, which MacGavin says you can sign up for and teach at any age. Ranging from freestyle rapping to sustainable eating and didgeridoo making, he says anything goes at this didgeridoo lover’s festival. “I would do anything to get there for every year of my life,” MacGavin said. Also at the festival, MacGavin says Thoren invited him to play didgeridoo live with the hip-hop funk didgeridoo band, Gorangutang, which included music legend George Clinton’s grandson, Tra’Zea. Here, after playing live for the first time, MacGavin says InDidjInUs again opened doors for new ideas and musical experimentation. Now, he says if a new idea sounds crazy, it’s probably a good one.

“Will has always been trying to do the most extreme thing he was able to conceive,” Thoren said. “Then he accomplishes it.” At the festival, Thoren discussed with MacGavin the concept of the multi drone didgeridoo, which is a newer model that he crafted. The difference is that unlike the single drone didgeridoo, the multi drone has a larger mouthpiece, a skinnier pipe and another possible range of notes below the base note. After InDidjInUs, his interest in multi drone didgeridoo crafting exploded. MacGavin sent Thoren an email with detailed questions about crafting styles for multi drones. Instead of the standard response, Thoren invited the high school student to join his team of didgeridoo crafters—which he calls “MOB”—working to experiment with multi-drone didgeridoos and craft with newer materials. Here, MacGavin made the first successful half-bamboo, halfagave multi drone didgeridoo to be created. MacGavin was the youngest member of the workshop. “Whatever Will [MacGavin] ends up doing, he will definitely be pushing the didgeridoo scene,” Thoren said. In September 2013, an East Coast company offered MacGavin a salary of $80,000 a year to tour as a motivational speaker sharing his

experience and craft of making didgeridoos. Instead of accepting the offer, he chose to attend UA. Currently, MacGavin says he is in the process of designing an independent study program, which will focus on the experimentation of wood sculpting, through the College of Arts and Sciences. This way, he can devote more time to didgeridoos. “There’s just piles of wood in my room,” MacGavin said. “I need a wood shop like mine back home.” Thoren says that now is the time in Western music to pave the way to having multi drone didgeridoos as part of the brass family. “Whether it’s in physics or taxidermy or perfecting sound, he’s one of those rare super-genius beings in a young body,” Gomezmaicas said. While MacGavin speculates that he could get a job in another field after graduation, he says his dream will always be in the craft of didgeridoos. Someday, in what MacGavin describes as his perfect world, he would have a full time job making major profit off his instrument, the didgeridoo. “It wouldn’t make as much money as other things I could do, but it would make me the happiest,” MacGavin said. MacGavin can be seen playing his didgeridoo around campus.


OPPOSITE: He burns his name and the date inside of each digderidoo when he’s finished making it.

UA Honors


Peru Alternative Break

A trip to Peru changes two students’ lives and goals for the future

by Taylor Carvalho


n May of 2013, Corey Dennis found himself among the Andes Mountains, rafting down the Sacred Valley of Peru. Along with 11 other students, Dennis, a sophomore majoring in civil engineering, gave the first two weeks of his summer to the Community Service Center’s alternative break program. The trip was not just a shortened study abroad program, but a service project intended to help others. Dennis says this meant traveling with a group that shared many common interests. “We could’ve gone anywhere in the US to do community service, but starting the break together with this was something so different,” Dennis said. Dennis’ trip to Peru was a combination of labor and leisure. Beginning in the capital of Lima and on to mountainous Cusco, Dennis’ group spent the first week exploring the overwhelming scenery of the Andes. It was here in the Sacred Valley that Dennis decided to expand his interactions beyond his comfort zone. Accompanied by Rachel Ramey, a student fluent in Spanish who attended the trip as a translator, Dennis set out to meet some of the locals in the area. The two entered a tiny village nearby, and before long they found a family outside of the community’s spiritual healing lodge. In spite of Ramey’s help, Dennis struggled with the challenge of the language barrier. “I was trying to throw together any words I knew to have a conversation,” he explained. “I think I ended up asking the kids ‘Yo gusto escuela?’ which was me trying to ask ‘Do you like school?’” Dennis and Ramey were immersed into Peruvian culture when they found themselves in the midst of hundreds of villagers dancing in a market square. Rather than being


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observers, the two joined in the best they could. yourself shows you how much you still have to learn “We stood out as being taller and bigger,” Dennis about the world,” she said. laughed, “and after a second, an elderly woman saw To Ramey, attending an alternative break trip me, pulled me into the circle, and danced with me provided her with an experience not available in other for 20 minutes.” study abroad opportunities. Dennis says he was thrilled to have been a part of “Traveling abroad definitely broadens your such a rare experience and acknowledges that this was perspective but there is something about traveling to a something he never could have received on a typical remote village buried deep in the Amazon rainforest that vacation. After the first week, the group got to work throws you completely out of your comfort zone and on the ultimate goal of the alternative break: to better leaves you with a nagging curiosity,” she said. the lives of others. Ramey says that she believes the They set out to help the alternative break program allows you “’s easy to get caught up Maijuani tribe in the Peruvian to approach a culture with a different in our own academic world mindset. The desire to learn and jungle, where 400 to 600 Peruvians live in small, leafy huts. and forget that life continues understand in such a raw, serving The engineers tested the quality environment overwhelmed her with for the rest of the 7 billion of their water, dug compost pits curiosity. people on our planet.” and latrines, while surveying the Both Dennis and Ramey believe land so that future groups could that the alternative break has affected bring materials necessary for improving the lives of the their behavior back at UA. After returning from the Maijuani. Additionally, the group installed solar panels sight of Peruvian poverty, they both acknowledge the to power computers at nearby lodges where visiting importance of applying the same view of service onto groups often stay. American society. During their interactions with the Maijuani people, “Living college life on a beautiful campus like UA, Ramey and Dennis were surprised by how similar it’s easy to get caught up in our own academic world they were to this group that they initially considered and forget that life continues for the rest of the 7 billion jarringly different. people on our planet,” Ramey said. “It’s a poorer country, [with] a lot of differences She plans to nourish her newfound curiosity for the in education and money,” Dennis said. “There were a world in her continued actions here at home. Dennis lot of things that I thought would make it impossible also has a new goal because of the program. He plans to connect with them, especially not knowing the to return next summer to bring the Maijuani more language.” resources from their previous research. Yet even with social barriers between his culture and “I hope to stay in Peru after the trip and spend the the Maijuani, Dennis says he came to see similarities. summer as a white water rafting guide in the Sacred “Everyone is working to better their lives,” he Valley,” he said. He says he ultimately wants to live in concluded. “We are all searching for the same goal.” the valley, nearby the straight, tall mountains of the Ramey also describes feeling a connection. Peruvian Andes. Some of Dennis’ favorite memories “Seeing people living completely differently, yet are at Machu Picchu and along the facing the exact same daily struggles and joys as Sacred River in Peru.

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One student dreams of using his creativity to help those in need. By Katie Thurber


aseem Hussaini always knew he wanted to help people. In his native Pakistan, he saw how rural people suffered without access to good medical care and knew he could do something about it. When he witnessed the same situation in rural Alabama, his desire to help only grew stronger. “I see a need there, and I know I can help,” he said. Hussaini grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, the third largest city in the world. He was raised by his grandmother and four aunts and uncles and lived in the same apartment building as his parents and six siblings. Growing up, Hussaini remembers the chaos of his family, with meals and celebrations that brought everyone together at once. His family also had close ties with the medical field, something that helped him decide his career path at an early age. “My mom’s sister was a nurse, and that exposed all of us to the medical field,” he said. “I’ve always known that’s what I wanted since I was a child.” In 2006, Hussaini’s immediate family decided to leave behind Karachi and move to the United States. But soon after Hussaini


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started his junior year at Hoover High School in Birmingham, Alabama, his parents decided to move back to Pakistan with everyone but Hussaini and his older sister, who had just started college at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Hussaini says that living over 5,000 miles away from his family was daunting but mostly, exhilarating. “It was kind of freedom,” he said. “I was in high school, so it was fun having no parents around.” Even having freedom, the transition from a city of 23 million to Birmingham, Alabama, was a difficult one, and for Hussaini, there was a learning curve. He says that while people were friendly, he experienced some culture shock, especially at what Alabamians thought of his country. “People here say that Pakistan is the Middle East, but it’s not even really in the Middle East,” he said. “It’s in South Asia.” And while, now, barely a hint of an accent remains, Hussaini says he knew almost no English upon his arrival. “They taught us English in Pakistan, but it was just the basics,” he said. “It becomes completely different when you converse in the language.”


His transition was made easier because his denomination of Islam, Ismaili, had a place of worship, called a JamatKhana, in Birmingham, where he could instantly connect. Hussaini says that many of his peers at the JamatKhana went to his high school, which gave him an almost immediate friend group. Through religious education classes, Hussaini met Sarah Tharani, another aspiring medical professional. Tharani says Hussaini was known throughout the JamatKhana as a talented artist and willing learner. “He made flyers and newsletters, and they were always so creative,” she said. “He’s dedicated to anything he does 100 percent.” In August of 2008 Hussaini arrived at the University of Alabama and started working toward nursing school. In the middle of his anatomy-and-chemistry-filled schedule, Hussaini decided to practice his creativity and ended up in Chip Cooper’s honors photography class, where Cooper immediately noticed his passion for working hard. “He’s an extremely focused individual,” Cooper said. “He’s always willing to put in extra hours to do the job.” Cooper was so impressed with Hussaini’s focus and his talent, he asked him to work with him as a photographer for the Fellows program’s Black Belt Initiative. Cooper did not know at the time, but the job would lead to an over-four-year collaboration between Hussaini and the Honors College, and a friendship that Cooper says he treasures. “Waseem has a desire to be a better person through learning,” he said. “He helps me see things in a different way, and I’m intrigued by that. I surround myself with a lot of people, but Waseem…I call him my friend.” Cooper says that Hussaini’s work ethic and adventurous attitude was infectious to the Fellows who worked with him. “When he started working with me to document what Fellows was all about, he didn’t know anybody,” he said. “But in a matter of days, Waseem became the go-to person to sit with at lunch, and everyone wanted to hang around him. He became an honorary Fellow.” Through the experience, Hussaini also felt a connection, not just to the Fellows, but to the people of rural Alabama. “People are so nice and caring,” he said. “It reminds me of back home, like a big family.”

Tharani, now an Honors College member and Hussaini’s good friend, says that Hussaini’s creativity extends to painting and drawing as well as photography. “I think he finds his specialty in everything,” she said. “He wants perfection in everything he does.” Tharani says that being around such a talented and focused individual is not intimidating. In fact, she finds it inspiring because he wants to share it with others to help them succeed. “It’s really nice; he’s always showing me what he’s learned and helping me be good at it,” she said. Tharani says his creativity and passion for sharing it will be the key to Hussaini’s success in the medical field.

“You need creativity in medicine,” she said. “Doctors and nurses are artists in their own way. Waseem is the most creative person I’ve ever met.” Cooper says that Hussaini’s strong point is that he is able to take everything he has learned at the university, no matter how random, and put it toward his future. “He sees the big picture,” he said. “He knows he’s going to learn something and finds ways to take these side roads and incorporate them into his main goal.” Even after graduating from the University of Alabama’s nursing program, Hussaini says he is still considering medical school, though he may take a few more side roads in the process.

“You need creativity in medicine,” she said. “Doctors and nurses are artists in their own way. Waseem is the most creative person I’ve ever met.”

Hussaini enjoys taking pictures outdoors especially when the fall colors are brilliant.

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“I would like to travel not just back to Pakistan but all around the world and take pictures,“ he said. Much of his photography focuses on details, mostly outdoors, but Hussaini says that his favorite subjects are kids. “They have so many different emotions, even when they know you’re taking their picture,” he said. Hussaini’s artistic ventures, especially with photography and videography, will help him not just express his creativity, but achieve his long-term goal to open a telehealth clinic in Pakistan. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, telehealth uses video streaming technology so one doctor could potentially reach patients all over the world. Hussaini says that this is the perfect way to reach people in rural places, especially in Pakistan. “People don’t have to drive for two hours just to see a doctor,” he said. “They can get medical attention where they are.” Because it requires fewer resources and personnel to operate, telehealth also reduces the cost of medical care, which Hussaini says is one of the key factors holding people back from receiving care. “You have to have money for health care,” he said. “We have government hospitals for free, but they’re packed. Even in regular hospitals you have to wait awhile, but if you have money, you can get in first.” No matter how he does it, Hussaini says the goal is to help people and have as much patient interaction as possible. “You’re one-on-one with the patient,” he said, “that’s the best part I think. They come in super sick, and in a few days you see them discharging from the hospital. That’s the best feeling.” Hussaini thinks that telehealth could benefit Alabama’s rural community as well as Pakistan’s.

His photographs often feature the small things. See more on page 26.


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Heath Fogg, Brittany Howard, Steve Johnson and Zac Cockrell of the Alabama Shakes.

By Samantha Harber



rowing up, Heath Fogg admired AC/DC and the Rolling Stones. To learn their songs, Fogg says he practiced by listening to classic rock radio with his friends. Now, as the rhythm and lead guitarist of the Grammy-nominated band, the Alabama Shakes, Fogg makes music of his own. But, before traveling across the South on tour and producing the number eight Best Selling Vinyl Album of 2012 with “Boys & Girls,” Fogg focused on another form of art at the University of Alabama. While majoring in art at UA, Fogg says he enjoyed the drawing classes he took the most, remembering them as a nice, relaxing way to spend the evening. Fogg also remembers the professors he met on these nights, specifically his graphic design instructor Laura Lineberry. “Heath was very quiet,” Lineberry said. “In fact, as he introduced himself on the first day of class, I was convinced he said his name was ‘Pete.’ I have called him ‘Pete’ ever since. I think he enjoyed the nickname— even his classmates called him ‘Pete.’” While Lineberry continues to call him “Pete,” Fogg says that

has not kept them from keeping in touch since his graduation in December 2008. In fact, this past summer, Fogg says he reached out to Lineberry with a request. The Alabama Shakes needed a poster for their upcoming tour, and Fogg proposed a competition in which students would compete with classmates to create a tour poster, and the Grammy-nominated band would pick one winning design, “I enjoyed competitive group projects as a student and thought we had the opportunity to present a contest I would’ve liked to have been in,” Fogg said. “Most of the projects we did in Laura’s classes were mock design projects for fictional clients.” But, when Fogg asked, Lineberry had to tell him “no.” She was not teaching Art 414, the Digital Design Portfolio class that gives students the feel for what it is like to create work for real clients, over the summer. But, Lineberry says she made ‘Pete’ promise to ask again, and he did, in late July. So, rather than turn down the offer once again, Lineberry says she went ahead and sent the project out, asking students to work on a class that would not technically start for another month. As fans of the UA Honors


“wE kNow tHERE ARE youNG, CREAtIVE INDIVIDuAlS out tHERE wHo woulD loVE ANy oPPoRtuNIty to SHowCASE tHEIR woRk oN A PRoFESSIoNAl lEVEl, AND wE ARE AblE to GIVE tHEm AN oPPoRtuNIty.” 22

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Huey’s poster design was featured on the band’s tour through the Southeast.

band, she says the students did not complain. “I was very excited when I received the email from Laura about the opportunity to create a poster for Alabama Shakes,” said Devin Huey, an advertising student from Birmingham. “For me, this was an opportunity that I did not want to miss out on.” So why ask Alabama students? Fogg says he was looking for a poster from a student that would end up being better or equally as good as past posters that they have received from professional artists. Sometimes, he admits that the band is not entirely satisfied with work turned in by the professionals. “We know there are young, creative individuals out there who would love any opportunity to showcase their work on a professional level, and we are able to give them an opportunity,” Fogg said. With the assignment to create a poster for the band’s tour that took place in Charleston, South Carolina; Cary, North Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee on September 19, 20 and 21, Huey says he got to work. “We had complete creative freedom. We could do whatever we felt was best for them as a band,” Huey said. “Being able to be creative and design a poster is an ideal perfect

project that I may not be able to do again.” On September 3, when the deadline came around for the posters to be finished, each project was sent in PDF format to the band. Every band member, including the managers, voted. “It was a tough decision for me,” Fogg said. “There were some good candidates, and I knew it would be a good portfolio piece for the artist we chose, and how important that could be for him or her.” Devin Huey’s “Indian Chief” approach impressed the judges. “Most impressive was the time that Devin put into this project,” Lineberry said. “One can clearly see it took hours upon hours. The details were striking and I believe that is ultimately one of the band’s deciding factors.” After seeing an image of Brittany Howard, the band’s singer and guitarist, wearing an Indian chief style headdress at a concert, Huey says he knew that would be the image he was going to portray. “I wanted the image to give off a sense of passion or pride, which was the vibe I got about how The Alabama Shakes felt about their music,” Huey said. With the tour over and his posters already displayed, Huey says he is looking forward

to receiving a copy in the mail signed by the members of the band. “It just goes to show that passion plays a huge part in the design process,” Lineberry said. “The students love the band and were eager to have this become a part of their portfolios.”


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By Katie Thurber

Rob Alley takes every opportunity to show his class true jazz passion.



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rom the band room to the boardroom to the classroom, Rob Alley knows that leadership is more than giving orders. In his class “Say Yes to the Mess,” he teaches honors students how to lead by listening. Alley’s class is based on Frank J. Barrett’s book Say Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz. In the book, improvisational jazz techniques are applied to the business world for greater team collaboration, but Alley’s experience has taught him that they apply to much more. “The whole idea is that leaders rely on people they’re leading and they have to learn to listen to them and be a follower,” Alley said. “These [honors] kids will go throughout their lives and naturally be leaders, and I would like for them all to apply this idea so they can be understanding and effective leaders.” Alley says the book highlights important aspects of jazz improvisation, like adaptation, and applies it to life. “Jazz requires democracy on the bandstand,” Alley said. “You can’t negate anyone’s idea—you have to go

with it. Just because it doesn’t match your idea doesn’t mean it’s bad. It becomes a part of the collective.” Alley is not just reading about adaptability—he says he has lived it. After graduating from McMurry University in Texas, he traveled to Europe, Asia and the South Pacific playing trumpet on cruise ships for six years and working with people from all over the world. “I learned how to value people and other cultures for what they are, not what you project on them,” he said. While exploring other cultures, Alley met his wife, Stacy, who performed on the cruise ships to Alley’s trumpet tones. In 2013 Alley and Stacy, now a dance professor at the University of Alabama, relived their performance days with “Tap, Trumpet: A Conversation,” a duo featuring Alley on trumpet with Stacy tapping the percussion. They performed in UA’s Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre Fall showcase, in New York City with the New Light Theatre Project, and, in October 2013, they toured Chile, providing the locals with a taste of American art and culture.


Stacy Alley says that she felt a connection with the audience in South America, even though, for many of the spectators, this was their first time seeing someone tap dance. “The wonderful thing is that this ‘conversation’ is spoken in the universal language of dance and music so I think everyone can take something away from it no matter the cultural or artistic background,” she said. The show was improvised every night, leaving room for error and for growth. Alley says the spontaneity was nerve-wracking but worth it. “It was, indeed, a conversation, and it was a different one every night,” she said. “My favorite performances weren’t necessarily Rob’s and vice-versa.” Rob Alley says that good leaders are adaptable, but they are also able to listen to their teammates. To him, jazz musician and band leader Miles Davis perfectly embodied this idea when recording the album Kind of Blue. “Everyone just showed up at the studio not knowing what to play, and the result was the quintessential jazz album,” he said. “Miles understood what it meant to listen.” He hopes to bring these concepts back to

his students not just in what he says, but in how his classroom is run. “I’m not a lecture-type teacher,” he said. “Teaching is a give and take.” Students are able to make their own quizzes and structure the class how they like. Caroline Marsh, a junior food and nutrition major, says the class is unique because the students are given flexibility. “The concepts of the book and how our class is being run mirror each other,” she said. “You can tell there’s a lot of room for us to lead the path for what’s to come.” Marsh said that the concepts of the book are geared more toward the corporate world, and, at first, it was hard to see how they impacted her future goals in the healthcare field, where individualized patient care overrules group innovation. But Marsh realized the concepts are applicable to any field in which there are people. “One of the biggest concepts is not embracing conformity,” she said. “It stresses taking what’s at hand and being really flexible and allowing it to happen. Whenever you’re dealing with people, you have to be flexible—no situation is the same.” Callie Short, a freshman engineering

major, also feels that the book’s concepts apply to many situations. “So many times I find that [the book] applies to literally every relationship, even if you’re not the leader,” she said. “It’s about coming together. Differences in the world are made by different groups coming together, not just a figurehead.” Short also said that the class size is conducive to sharing opinions and ideas, even if it was initially awkward. “With only five people in the class, at first it was intimidating, and nobody really talked,” she said. “But it has turned out really well. We’ve gotten to know each other just by talking about how it applies to our majors and lives.” Marsh also says it’s refreshing to have a teacher who is learning along with the students. “We are figuring out the book and he’s figuring out class,” she said. “Both of us are creating an environment that’s open to people’s thoughts and ideas.” For Alley, learning as he goes is all part of the process. “Improv is not knowing what you’re doing, and innovation is figuring it out,” Alley said.

Improv is not knowing what you’re doing, and innovation is figuring it out.

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bEAuty IN tHE DARkNESS by waseem Hussaini

In a fast-paced world, every individual yearns for more—more time. Running through life, it is easy to miss out on the beautiful details that surround us each and every day. When night falls, this is a time when everything seems to be put on pause and the world goes to sleep. However, with the Earth still spinning at 1,000 miles per hour, I knew there had to be more. So within this aperture of time, I witnessed the beauty our world truly holds.


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DESIGN: Ally mAbRy


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ang around the Honors College long enough, and you’ll repeatedly hear the word “transformative” sprinkled into conversation. It pops up everywhere, uttered in the classrooms of Nott Hall and the quiet streets of Marion, Alabama, exclaimed from the mouths of students and reiterated from professors’ pulpits. Frankly, no other adjective adequately captures the essence of 57 Miles, the partnership between two communities striving to capture an outof-the classroom education on citizenship and servant leadership in practice. “In our state, one of the greatest areas of need is in the Black Belt, which happens to be just 57 miles away,” said Chris Joiner, a Black Belt veteran and newly appointed director of 57 Miles. Here, the Black Belt, christened by the rich, fertile soil that once commanded the nation’s respect as a cotton giant, forms Alabama’s heartland. The 17 traditional counties boast grand plantations, roadside meat-and-threes and a slower pace of life, which is fostered by decades of grueling 30

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To UA students and Marion residents, potential for change can be found anywhere.


In Marion, Alabama, honors students transform along with the landscape as they work to better the community’s basic needs in areas such as education, economic development and city beautification.

summers and dry winters. The region can’t help but captivate, echoing a story riddled with rich heritage and the bitter reality of the present. Now, this area faces high poverty and unemployment rates, low amounts of industry, and debilitating social and economic discrepancies. Although seeped in hardship, the region still stirs with untapped potential. The Honors College has called Marion home away from home since 2009, when the first University Fellows spent their May organizing projects and igniting a community for change in a service-learning initiative called the Black Belt Experience. Here, 57 Miles, the partnership between Perry County and the Honors College, spread its roots. “After building trust, listening for five years to community needs so that we could have a better understanding of how everything worked, we launched 57 Miles to go into a deeper relationship of more commitment,” Joiner said. Joiner’s transformation might actually be the loudest of them all. A first generation college student from the small town of

Seminole, Alabama, Joiner entered college with a tunnel vision for medical school. “I came to college, and I was hell bent on being a doctor,” Joiner explained. “In my small community, essentially that was the highest achievement you could have.” With a past of community service and mission trips tucked away in his back pocket, he went to Marion the summer after his freshman year. Three weeks and one park later, he says his experience reaffirmed his desire to help others and press toward his medical school horizon. Or so he thought. Throughout that fall, he continued to fight for his goal, shadowing three times a week, working at a hospital, and serving on nonprofit boards. But the Marion community kept fogging his view. “I realized that my education here was twofold, and what I learned in these programs was just as important as what I was receiving in the classroom,” Joiner said. “I was still able to do what was meaningful to me which was to help people.”

In fall 2013, 57 Miles opened to all members of the Honors College for the first time and expanded involvement throughout the year. Joiner, alongside a team of staff and students, coordinates outreach initiatives and student-led programs to target basic community needs, like education, economic development, city beautification and leadership training. Opportunities range from a biannual Afternoon of Service to the weeklong Black Belt Action, a service project designed for freshman honors students before they even start their first day at the Capstone. Other student-run programs work throughout the semester, like Flywheel, a career development initiative that introduces youth to professionals and organizations. Creative Campus’ debut initiative, Art is ___ reaches directly into Albert Turner Elementary School, harnessing the region’s cultural heritage through four “expression sessions” to build self-confidence and arts awareness in students.

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“They know what they love and they know what they want to change about it, so hopefully if we give them the opportunity, they’ll have the means.”

Matthew Gillham, Harrison Freeman and Andy Cloyd try not to get lost in the central Alabama countryside.


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SPARK!, a leadership mentoring program, targets students with immense potential who are in danger of succumbing to circumstance. The one-on-one mentoring encourages their voice in the school and community, tapping into Marion’s most promising and powerful resource: its children. “They’re the kids that grew up there and they know the community better than anyone because a lot of them have never even left,” SPARK! Director Steven Beall said. “They know what they love and they know what they want to change about it, so hopefully if we give them the opportunity, they’ll have the means.” Joiner views the expansion like hitting a reset button; its year-round presence allowing the Honors College to address needs in an entirely different way. “We’re continuously focusing on the things that built the first five years: forming trust, always following through with our commitments, and not overpromising or under-delivering,” Joiner said. “We want more opportunity for students to be involved and apply their education as well as find creative ways to meet the needs of the community.” Creativity proves to be the community’s strongest asset. While the Black Belt faces a harsh reality, it also teems with ideas hungry for an outlet. Local leaders believe

Students build relationships while strengthening the surrounding community.

relentlessly in their town’s potential and are committed to realizing its possibility. “There are people who aren’t so jaded, and I think that’s why Marion is such a nice place to visit,” said Katie Moss, a junior Fellow. “They have these visions and these ideas that you would only come up with if you lived there yourself.” Lack of resources stirs innovation in teachers, inspiring them to direct middle school students in rewriting Romeo and Juliet to perform for the community, exposing many to their first dramatic production. Honors College students have tagged along on helicopter rides over the antiquated cotton fields, listening over the roar to even bigger dreams for business development and retirement communities.

Students understand that even simple gestures can multiply, like rating unique, local restaurants on popular websites to get their name on the map for travelers passing through. Faculty and students sketch out blueprints dreaming of a revitalized Marion and roll up their sleeves alongside residents to restore dilapidated buildings and introduce more businesses to the town. “Students bring an energy to get people to look at their small town differently,” said Sharon Phillips, Marion-Perry County nursing home director and long-time Marion resident. “People who come in appreciate it in a new way than people who’ve been there their whole lives.”

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Immersing themselves in the community exposes Honors College students to the challenges and lessons that come with civic engagement. According to Jacqueline Morgan, associate dean of the Honors College, the names and narratives deepen the twofold education they receive. “It’s one thing to be aware of those living in poverty,” Morgan said. “It’s another to really get to know the people who are in those situations.” Students keenly listen and respond, channeling their energy into sustainable change while learning a more authentic meaning of citizenship. The relationships, in Joiner’s opinion, teach the strongest lessons. “If we go down there, build a park, build physical structures, or change the economy, none of that matters because one day it’s all going to be gone,” Joiner said. “The relationships, the lives that change, those things last.” Chris Joiner is proud of the relationship that Tuscaloosa and Marion share.


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Student’s transformations extend for Marion and the College of Engineering. the long run following their time in Marion. Simultaneously, the community comes Junior Mary Wills discovered a passion forward with desires, solidifying the to study public policy and healthcare to Honors College’s place as a bridge between address the disparity she witnessed in rural Tuscaloosa and Marion. Alabama. Black Belt Action Director D.J. “Further down the road, I hope 57 Miles Jackson went from being an economics and will become not the doorway to the Black finance major with Belt, but the doorway international business for the Black Belt so “If we go down there, build when there’s a need, goals to studying history, hoping to whether it’s from a park, build physical become an elementary Marion or someone on structures, or change the school teacher. He campus, they can call now spends his days us,” Joiner said. economy, none of that working for the Some call the matters because one day it’s Black Belt a tragedy Honors College’s educational outreach, all going to be gone,” Joiner of history or a victim using his time in the of circumstance. But said. “The relationships, the those who firmly believe Black Belt to evaluate his strengths and in its promise – the lives that change, weaknesses. community members, those things last.” “Having the innovative professors, experience down in 57 Miles participants – Marion allowed me embrace a possibility to be in a school and work with students that can’t be measured in dollar signs or and teachers and understand some of those number of chain stores. challenges, but also allowed me to learn about Marion preserves a rare timeless quality, myself,” Jackson said. “There’s so much to allowing visitors and residents alike to live learn about everyone and there’s so much both the length and depth of their days. that we can learn from everyone.” Whether that’s done through a conversation Now, with Joiner as permanent over a milkshake or a mentoring session coordinator of 57 Miles, the partnership with a child, the Black Belt offers something morphs into a permanent fixture. A first more meaningful and lasting to value. Yes, and primary goal, according to Joiner, is there is disparity, but there is also a spark securing a space within the community to worth preserving. hold events, bring students and professors, “I think we’re always thinking about and further community interaction. Much going to the next thing. And the day we die, to his delight, more organizations and we can’t take anything with us,” Joiner said. students approach 57 Miles with ideas for “It’s all what we leave behind. Without those collaboration, including First Presbyterian genuine things, those moments in life, it’s Church of Tuscaloosa, non-profit Renaissance not worth it.”

' Mosaic’s got a shiny, new website! Check us out at to learn more about awesome things happening at the Honors College!

CUBA: 36

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the real story

With photographs, lectures and their long-distance friendship, three professors capture the heart of Cuba, proving that some of the best people come from one of the world’s most challenging places.

by Anna Price Olson

UA Honors



n a still-dark November morning, Chip Cooper jammed himself into a two-door Suzuki, stretching the SUV’s limits with now four men sitting shoulder-to-shoulder inside. No room was left for personal space, much less the camera equipment at their feet. “I just remember the morning they first picked me up,” Cooper said. “They all had their hats on backward and The Beatles were playing ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’” With this group, all boys of the 1950s who grew up on the same television shows and music, Cooper says he felt like he was going on a road trip with his best friends. On the road for just five minutes or so, Cooper says he had already bonded with his Cuban friends, José “Pepe” Vazquéz, Julio Larramendi and Julio’s childhood best friend, Jorge Foyo. Singing the lyrics in English, Larramendi calls this moment both “weird” and “American.” “It was sort of a symbolic meeting,” Vazquéz said. This wasn’t Cooper’s first trip to Cuba or the group’s first meeting. This was different. With 15 trips to Cuba in the past 12 years, Cooper has long since gotten over the disparity between the United States and the island just 90 miles south of Miami. He has seen the poverty, the

Communist government and the despair. But he is not immune, describing his most recent drive into the rural countryside, a 15-hour stretch, as an emotional journey with poverty on one hand and happiness on the other. As a photographer, Cooper has captured the country’s exotic and partially understood capital, Havana, knowing its decay and its rebirth, its joys and its problems. But, until this past November, he had not spent time outside the city’s ancient ruins. “I captured Cuba as I knew it then,” Cooper said. “Well, today, I know a different Cuba. And I know it through the lives and eyes of the common people.” This group did not go from strangers to best buds with the lyrics of one Beatle’s song. Cooper has known Vazquéz, a marine ecologist and administrator at the University of Havana, for 10 years and Larramendi, a photographer and professor, for six. This trip, one step in publishing a book that showcases the heart of the country, has been in the works for three. Many say this heart lies within the Cuban peasant. “That’s what the revolution was all about, and today the respect given to the Cuban peasant is immense,” Cooper said. With this trip and the three that follow, Vazquéz says they will

“We are going into areas that most Americans have no clue exist.”


Mosaic 2014

The photographers get to know the people of rural Cuba during their cross-country journey.

travel across the country, from Santiago and Guamá to Guantánamo on the island’s western coast, spending their days with farmers and documenting the country from a rural perspective. “We are going into areas that most Americans have no clue exist,” Cooper said. “To me, it’s groundbreaking to have this experience and photograph it and to show, through a book, what I’ve seen.” While working with Vazquéz and Larramendi to create and photograph this book, The Cuban Peasant, out in late 2014 or early 2015, Cooper learns from his travel companions, even calling the Cuban landscape his outdoor classroom. Laughing, he says he’s the only one without a Ph.D. in the car. “They helped me make sense of everything I was seeing,” Cooper said. “To be able to understand what I was photographing, they were so kind and compassionate to give me the history of their country and the history of their present time and put everything into perspective so I was able to understand what I was seeing.”

With roughly 60 total days to capture photos for the entire book, the group worked from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. when together, shooting, driving and spending time with Cuban farmers. Vazquéz and Foyo handle logistics and Cooper and Larramendi, the photos. When shooting, a photographer has one moment to capture an image, or it’s gone forever, Cooper says. However, when working on a team with another photographer, the two arrive with fingers ready to push and snap at the same place, at the same time. But there is still only one moment to capture, and Cooper says the photographers cannot share. “There needs to be a little competitive spirit ‘cause you end up pushing each other,” he said. However, Cooper did not have this problem in November. His fellow photographer never pushed. Instead, as a smile emerges on his face, Cooper remembers how, in the moment, Larramendi would step back and say, “Chip, get it.”

“We were like four frogs on a log,” Cooper said. “We’d be lined up and have our arms around each other just in perfect contentment with what we were looking at and our friendship together.”

UA Honors


To get the perfect shot, Cooper and Larramendi must get creative.

When Cooper talks about the men he now calls his friends and brothers, he speaks almost in awe of the people he has come to know. “The world has never produced better people than those two men,” he said. Knowing these two and how they continue to act in the moment, even after 12-hour day of shooting in knee-deep mud, Cooper says he finds himself questioning how they are able to survive, how they are able to overcome such incredible odds and how they remain happy. When asked these questions on their visit to Tuscaloosa, Vazquéz paused before saying, “We are happy because what’s the alternative?” Even when they aren’t together drinking coffee and laughing at Cooper saying “café con leche,” they are thinking about their friends across the gulf. In early December, while preparing for their second trip, Larramendi called Cooper’s cell. When it rang in his office, Cooper was in the middle of an interview but excused himself, shouting “Hey, man!” into the speaker within seconds. Larramendi was checking on paperwork, but Cooper says a concerned friend made that expensive call from Cuba. Before hanging up, Larramendi told Cooper that he seemed sad when he left a few days before Thanksgiving. 40

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“Well yeah, I was sad that you were leaving and I had Pepe for another week,” Cooper replied. “And the fact that I’m going to be back with you, I am happy again.” The feeling is mutual. When Vazquéz and Larramendi think back to their first trip in November, they laugh and tell stories of their American friend adjusting to the roads in the back seat of the Suzuki, complaining with each bump in the street. “On top there was our luggage, coconuts, pineapples, bananas, and every time we hit a bump we’d all go into the ceiling of the roof. We’d go airborne and then we’d have to push the roof back up,” Cooper said. They also chuckle at the nickname they gave Cooper but say it’s a secret. After a second, Vazquéz decides to open up, revealing the name, “Happy Fingers.” He says Cooper was taking pictures all the time—11,000 to be exact. In fact, Cooper has such confidence in his Cuban companions that he asked them back to Alabama. In late November, Larramendi and Vazquéz visited Tuscaloosa, bringing the first freezing temperatures of fall with them. While on campus, they taught a group of 13 University Fellows about Cuba’s history and art. Larramendi says they talked

about what Cuba is and who the Cuban people are. “What we want to do is to show Cuba to them,” Larramendi said. “We will teach Cuba, the real Cuba that they do not know, a real Cuba that is unknown for Americans.” Sitting in on Cooper’s photography class, Larramendi got a firsthand look at the computer lab in Nott Hall. Here, the group of 10 to 12 students sat in a room lined with silver Mac computers. Larramendi says 80 students are lucky to have one old computer in Cuba. “It would take three and a half years to describe the differences between Cuba and the U.S.,” Vazquéz said, explaining it is the difference between living in a rich country and a poor one. But at the end of the day, Cooper, Vazquéz, Larramendi and Foyo

aren’t thinking about the rich and the poor. Rather, they choose to think about each other. “We were like four frogs on a log,” Cooper said. “We’d be lined up and have our arms around each other just in perfect contentment with what we were looking at and our friendship together.” They live in the moment, just as Cooper says the Cubans do daily. “At the end of the day, almost everyday, we would finish our photography, the sun would be going down and a typical sight would be each of us in a line with our arms around each other’s shoulder, looking out on what we had just photographed and just sitting there, shaking our heads, thinking, ‘That’s incredible—what a beautiful day,’” Cooper said.

“A typical sight would be each of us...looking out on what we had just photographed and just sitting there, shaking our heads thinking, ‘That’s incredible—what a beautiful day.’”

Though the hours were long, the group found it wasn’t hard to have fun on the job.

Note: Check for the future of the book, which will be out in late 2014 or early 2015.

UA Honors



is a symbioTic

relaTionship beTween arTs and sciences...and creaTiviTy is The bridge beTween The Two.” 42

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he light changes and the molecules shift, rearranging into new forms, changing functions. Savannah Reach, like any researcher, takes note of the change and reacts as well—only the molecules aren’t under a microscope or in a laboratory. Instead they are on an auditorium stage, embodied in the dancers’ lithe motions and strong poses, and Reach is not just observing the movement but part of it. “A lot of people wouldn’t think so, but there are actually a lot of connections between chemistry and dance,” Reach said. As a chemistry and dance double major, 20-year-old Reach is actively pursuing these connections at Alabama, and her research with Dr. Silas Blackstock is the perfect bridge. Reach and Blackstock work on organic electron transfer experiments, wherein molecules are exposed to various forms of radiation and then change shape. The research is a fundamental step in creating mechanical molecular structures to be used as gates, fasteners and much more in the world of nanotechnology. To demonstrate how the molecules are rearranged, Reach employed a different kind of movement: dance.


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“I choreographed dance moves to represent the shape changes we’re doing in lab,” she said. “It was really cool, and the dancers loved it.” Reach realizes that her chosen fields of study may puzzle other people but knows that they have more in common than at first glance. “I feel like some people…don’t think that [dance] is as serious of a major, and so a lot of my peers think, ‘Oh because she’s a dance major, she must not be as smart,’” she said. “But…you have to be intelligent to be a dancer. It takes the same dedication and hardworking attitude to be a dancer as it does for chemistry.” While Reach finds the common ground easily, she says finding time to get everything done is harder. “Usually at the beginning of the semester I go through the ‘Oh my word, I cannot do this,’ fitting it all into my schedule,” she said. “It usually takes about a month to get it all figured out, usually after all the auditions are over, which is quite stressful at the beginning.” Reach estimates that in an average work week, she spends 25 hours in class, 35 studying, 15 in rehearsals, around four attending professors’ office hours and still manages to devote 40 to an average of eight hours of sleep every night. “It’s been a little bit harder in college to balance school with dance,” she said. “I stay very organized, and I never wait until the last minute.” It’s not just class-time taking up so much of her schedule. In both chemistry and dance, she is involved in extra-curricular activities, like researching with Blackstock and performing for Dance Alabama and Alabama Repertory Dance Theater. Dance majors perform in three shows per semester, and she is not only dancing in them but choreographing for them as well. On top of that, she and her sister help teach dance at conventions from New York to California assisting choreography superstars like Travis Wall and Justin Giles. She is also the treasurer of the chemistry honor society on campus and the ACS National Committee. Reach says that with all of her commitments, it takes effort to stay afloat. “When we’re flying, I study, when we’re driving, I study,” she said. “I feel like I’m constantly studying.” Reach doesn’t feel like she’s alone, though. She relies on professors and faculty in both of her worlds for support. “I feel like I have team Savannah in chemistry and dance, and I have these people who support me,” she said. “I think it’s really special.” Blackstock is part of “Team Savannah” in the chemistry department and agrees that Reach’s passions are integrally linked. “There is a symbiotic relationship between arts and sciences,” he said, “and creativity is the bridge between the two.” Other members of chemistry’s “Team Savannah” support her passion for dance by attending her performances, even though they may not be familiar with the subject. “One of my professors came to a show and was like ‘Is it like football? Is this like your only time, your prime time to do this?’” she said. “I was like ‘Not really’, but it’s nice that they care.”


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Reach says “Team Savannah” in the dance department is one of the reasons she is pursuing both dance and chemistry. Reach was originally going to major in only chemistry, but her freshman year, departmental director Cornelius Carter gave her the Foundation Scholarship in dance, an award usually reserved for upperclassmen. Reach says the scholarship made her realize that she could do both. Morgan Bryant, Reach’s friend and fellow dance major, says that while the professors support Reach, they don’t expect any less because of her heavy course load. “Our professors don’t cut anyone slack,” she said. “The more she works, the harder she’s expected to work.” Bryant says that despite all of her work, Reach always has time to give advice and help out her friends. “She’s such a good role model for all of us,” she said. “She’s always supportive to us and positive, even with so much going on.” Reach relies on her friends and professors for encouragement, but her main support system is her family, specifically her 18-year-old sister. “It helps [to have] my sister, Vivian, in the dance department too, so I know that she’s always there to help me,” she said. “We’re the dynamic duo.” The sisters have been dancing together since childhood and now

choreograph, study and take classes together. “Savannah is my role model,” Vivian Reach said. “Everything that she’s done, I’ve always wanted to do.” Even though they spend so much time together and even have the same friends, Savannah and Vivian say they never fight or get annoyed with each other. “I don’t remember us ever fighting, even when we were little,” Vivian said. “I rely on her a lot, and she relies on me, but it’s not forced. I never need to tell her to be there for me or take up for me— she just does.” Savannah Reach had her pick of colleges and was even recruited for dance companies when she graduated high school at the age of 17, but she chose the University of Alabama because of the opportunities and community. “I feel really blessed to be here, with all the support I’m given,” she said. “The faculty always encourages us to do more.” Savannah Reach will graduate in May of 2015 with her bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemistry as well as several awards in the field, but she still plans on dancing. “After 18 years of dancing, I don’t think I could stop,” she said. “I think it’s always going to be a part of my life.”

“afTer 18 years of dancing, i don’T Think i could sTop,” she said. “i Think iT’s always going To be a parT of my life.”

UA Honors



by Hannah Grace VanCleave As I was signing up for classes for my last semester at UA, I noticed that Chip Cooper’s photography II course had a different name than it used to have. I took his class sophomore year, and it was definitely one of my favorite classes at UA because it started my love for photography. Being a photographer for Mosaic, I have been able to keep up my hobby of photography, but this opened a whole new door. I am quite the lazy 21-year-old that everyone believes our generation is, so I have not used my photography skills to the full potential that I should. Through this class, I have been able to force myself to take pictures of things I have never photographed and try to think out of the box. For our first critique, the topic was positive and negative, so I chose to focus on lighting to portray this topic. I thought, “What better way to show this than with lightbulbs?” Shooting lightbulbs for the first time took some practice, but I can tell that this course will help me grow as a photographer and push myself out of my normal comfort zone. 46

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UA Honors


DESIGN: Ally mAbRy

These rocket enthusiasts aren’t afraid of new heights... In fact, they’ll soar past them.


n the hobby of high power rocketry, the Bama Rocket Girls were the women to know. As the first and only female rocketry team in the country, this group designed, built and launched rockets since 2010. They impressed the professionals at NASA, and they beat the boys at MIT—twice. Now, the rocket girls are not just playing nice with the boys— they are inviting them to join. The University of Alabama’s new co-ed rocketry team, the Yellowhammers, will now compete with even higher standards and give the Druid City something that it has never had before: a community outlet for rocketry hobbyists called the Crimson Rocketry Association. The rocket girls are changing their dynamic and opening the playing field, but that does not mean defeat. To them, it’s just a change in flight plan. “The Yellowhammers is a brand new team with a new name ready for a new start,” said Yellowhammer chief engineer Noelle Ridlehuber.

Now, on a team of nine, the boys outnumber the girls. Leading the Yellowhammers and the new Crimson Rocketry Association (CRA) will be former rocket girls, Shelby Cochran and Ridlehuber, who named their new team for Alabama’s state bird. “The Bama Rocket Girls received such publicity and notoriety in the past that it was unfair to keep the team exclusive to females,” said Cochran, the Yellowhammer’s project manager. “This year we have gained a dedicated group of guys that are willing to put in the necessary work for such a demanding competition.” On May 17, 2014, the new team will compete in NASA’s annual University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) competition in Utah, where over 50 teams of students representing colleges and universities from all over the country will travel to test their rockets against each other in a launch.

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“The Yellowhammers is a brand new team with a new name ready for a new start.”

“Our team will succeed because we have a team of highly motivated students who are passionate about what we’re doing,” said Bryn Anderson, Yellowhammer vehicle team leader and Honors College student. “We aren’t going to cut corners or give up. We’re in this for the long haul.” During this haul, the Yellowhammers will be operating the CRA, Tuscaloosa’s first chapter of the National Association of Rocketry (NAR). NAR is the oldest and largest sport rocketry organization in the world with hundreds of local chapters spanning all the way from California to sweet home Alabama. Once the CRA is founded here in Tuscaloosa, the Yellowhammers will reach out to people of all ages and genders in the community to help them learn about rockets. “We want to bring what we’ve learned to the community,” Ridlehuber said. Cochran, a native of Albertville, Alabama, will serve as the chapter’s vice president. Both girls are seniors majoring in aerospace engineering and have been on the Bama Rocket Girls since they were freshmen in 2010, the year the team was created as a student project to develop an all-female team to compete in USLI.


Mosaic 2014

| Innovative Scholarship

“The Yellowhammers will be managing a launch file for others to come to us with their developing projects,” Cochran said. “We will be finding launch dates, hiring speakers, and making an exhibition launch.” John Baker, a UA engineering professor who played an instrumental role in helping establish the club, believes that the Yellowhammers, and now the CRA, “will be taking the next step toward establishing a permanent high power rocketry presence here in Tuscaloosa.” “It’s exciting that one, we get to have a rocket program here at UA,” Ridlehuber said. “And that two, we get to continue the program and get kids, high school students and people of all ages involved in it.” In past years, the Bama Rocket Girls have held educational outreach events that allow female students in grades k-12 to come have a personal, hands-on experience with rockets, math and science. “A big part of our team is educational outreach,” Ridlehuber said. “This chapter will give us a chance to reach out to a younger demographic and say, ‘Hey, even if you’re picked on because you like math and science, even if you’re a female, you will

learn and be accepted here. You can make a career out of this.’” By 2014, Cochran and Ridlehuber hope to bring in new members of the CRA. Their eventual goal is to have Tuscaloosa’s new rocket team, which will consist of members of all ages and genders, traveling to NAR conventions, one of the most prestigious rocketry competitions in the world. Even though UA’s rocketry team is now co-ed, Ridlehuber believes they will still stand out in competition and in their new endeavors in the community. “I think the Yellowhammers have a spirit about us that comes from being southern and from UA,” Ridlehuber said. “UA has this ‘Roll Tide’ culture that brings everyone together. No matter where you go, if you have houndstooth or a UA ‘A’ on, you’re family.” While some may doubt these young women’s ability to carry the load of chartering and running a chapter for the entire community, Cochran and Ridlehuber are not just any college students. They are rocket girls, and the successes of the past are an indication that they, the Yellowhammers and the CRA, will succeed in the future.


Brendan Mangan, Alex Grammer, Haleigh Ball, Jake Barson, Shelby Cochran, Matthew Warren, Noelle Ridlehuber, Chris Richey, Bryan Anderson

“The Rocket Girls have become a big deal in rocketry,” Ridlehuber said. “We’re always surprised by someone new who knows us, our name and our organization.” People have heard about the Bama Rocket girls, not just because they are the first and only all-female rocketry team, but because they “kick butt,” as Ridlehuber says. Fellow rocket enthusiast and, now, national advisor for the rocket girls, Mark Mayfield says he heard about the girls several years ago when he was a magazine editor in New York City. “These girls have done quite well without me,” said Mayfield, who is now an adjunct journalism professor and student media advisor at UA. “I’m happy to be a part of everything great they’re doing. They basically run themselves, but I’ve been happy to offer any help I can.” Last year, the girls decided to take a risk in designing their rocket. They ended up accomplishing a feat that no other team or anyone else in the hobby of high power

rocketry had been able to—a testament to their talent as engineers and as women. They designed their rocket with what is called a grid fin, a design that only the government and NASA have been able to use successfully. Now, more than ever, the Yellowhammers and the Crimson Rocketry Association are ready for takeoff. “What I’ve learned in the past three years will benefit me for the rest of my life. We want to tell it and teach it with the Yellowhammers and this new NAR chapter,” Ridlehuber said. “With the CRA, we want to give others that same quality of experience that we have had.”

“I think the Yellowhammers have a spirit about us that comes from being southern and from UA,” Ridlehuber said. “UA has this ‘Roll Tide’ culture that brings everyone together.” The Bama Rocket Girls proudly display “Dottie” after a successful launch.

UA Honors



f loats

Your Boat Through the Concrete Canoe team, James New and other civil engineering students build knowledge on concrete and teamwork.


very Sunday afternoon, engineering students make the twenty-five minute drive to Northport to hit Lake Tuscaloosa. After parking and getting everything ready, the students put the canoe into the water—only they have no plans for fishing, and the canoe is no ordinary boat. This canoe is made of concrete and the group is here to practice. Each year, typically towards the end of March, the team competes in a regional tournament with their canoe made of concrete. University of Alabama’s American Society of Civil Engineers, ASCE for short, sponsors the Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge teams, in which students can compete against other schools to improve knowledge and practice of civil engineering. “It’s another way to get involved in ASCE,” said James New, captain of this year’s team. “The whole idea is to get people excited about civil engineering—it isn’t just all boring math and science work. It’s another fun way of getting involved.” Jenna Simandl, the aesthetics captain of the team, says that most people wonder how the students can race in a canoe made of concrete. “Everyone always asks how it floats,” she said, “but you have to think about how big steel battleships float too. A lot of it comes down to water displacement.”

By Samantha Harber

James New oversees the team’s practice on Lake Tuscaloosa.


Mosaic 2014

| Innovative Scholarship


New says it also depends on the kind of concrete used. “It is concrete by definition, it’s just not the same concrete that people would think of,” New explained. Each week, in Hardaway Hall Room 115, New says the team meets to work on the long process of putting everything together in time for the regional competition. The first few months of weekly meetings consist of testing concrete and structural design that will be used for the canoe. “First, we mix the concrete, using several different aggregates or ingredients,“ Simandl said. “In typical concrete you probably think of rocks all mixed in, but we use fly ash and something called Poraver, which are little glass beads, keeping the mix lightweight to help with floating buoyancy.” Next, the team either creates or orders the mold for the boat. “By making the mold, we have more control over structural integrity of the boat. It has been more challenging, but I think it is going to be worth it,” Simandl said. After the team lays out the mold, they roll out the concrete with rolling pins and put two layers onto the mold to make sure the canoe is strong enough. “We use rolling pins to flatten about a handfull of concrete, to a thickness of about half an inch, into a square or rectangle about six inches by five inches give or take,” Simandl said. “Then, we lay down these pieces on the mold, piece after piece next to each other to make a layer.”

After this is finished, they put the canoe in a curing tank of water and lime before drying. “My favorite part is seeing the finished product of the boat. We work hard all semester so it is so exciting to see it all come together,” Simandl said. Not only is it important for the boat to be able to perform for the races, but also the team must come up with a theme, a display, a technical paper and an oral presentation that will all be presented at the regional competition. “With engineering you have to try to win bids by saying why you’re the best. That’s the skills they are trying to get us to have by showing it in the technical paper,” New said. “The whole point is to try and develop engineering skills as well as having fun.” When the students aren’t in the lab combining ingredients for concrete, they are practicing for the races on Lake Tuscaloosa with their boat from two years ago. Even the team’s advisor, Dr. Eric Giannini, is involved, placing buoys and markers for the race. “They put hundreds of hours into this project over the course of the year, so I want to see them succeed and represent UA well at the competition. They’re also a fun group to be around,” Dr. Giannini said. The team competes in 5 races, using the canoe that they made. There are two men’s, two women’s, and one coed race. The endurance race consists of a six-turn weave and 400-meter stretch. In the 2013 competition in Miami, Simandl and another team member, Brittany Shake, placed 9th out of 23 competitors in the endurance race. “My favorite part of the competition is the race. Every school at the conference has tents and lines up along the shore of a lake and is cheering and it’s an all around fun day,” Simandl said. The team placed 8th in the region in the 2013 competition and in 2011 received 2nd place in the oral presentation and 3rd in the coed race. “The entire time I have been here our boats have competed fine [without sinking],” New said. “The whole idea is to support one another and help get interactions and stuff like that.”

Last year’s canoe entered in competition bears the team seal.

UA Honors


By Caroline Meintzer

Evan Alvarez and Taylor Pierson make history come alive in Field’s class.


alk by Gordon Palmer Hall room 228 on a Monday around lunchtime, and you might catch a heated shouting match. If it gets quiet, don’t bother leaning closer to the door to try and hear more. It’s likely going to get loud again. Inside these walls sits W.E.B. Du Bois, founder of the NAACP. Anna Goldman, wellknown 20th century anarchist, is hanging out, too. In fact, a whole horde of early 20th century bohemians, laborers and suffragists are all at work in Gordon Palmer. They just happen to be played by 15 University of Alabama students. In this new honors class, Reacting to the Past, students are acting out history themselves, trading powerpoints and lectures for the real deal: heated, wellresearched argument. The class is based on a game created at Barnard College in the 1990s. Billy Field, the course’s professor, says he heard about that game through an advertisement at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s history department. “I went up there and played the game one weekend,” Field said. “Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday, and it was 54

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| Innovative Scholarship

the most fun I ever had. I was like a born Village, which is the set of all the action. In again, gamer.” this game, students role-play bohemians torn In the game, Field explains that students between two emerging factions: the women’s take on roles based on real people in a suffrage movement and the labor movement. certain time period, such as the French Over the course of a few classes, students Revolution or, in the case of his class, argue the merits of their movement within Greenwich Village in 1913. The class divides the revolutionary-friendly walls of Polly’s into factions, and the factions duke it out restaurant, attempting to persuade the through debates and political maneuvering bohemian characters still undecided. Along to try to win over votes and public opinion. they way, they can pick up a few extra points At the end, everyone votes, and only one by dressing in character, making posters faction wins. or singing “The Marseillaise.” Field says Field says it is not your typical history, and the points come in handy at the end of the that has been part of the appeal. game, when everyone votes and those with “The class is a lot more points have more more fun than you influence on the vote. In the game, Field explains that think it would be,” If the arguing students take on roles based sophomore Elaina Veal gets a little explosive, on real people in a certain time said. “When I first got in which happens rather the case of his class, here, I was like, I’m not frequently, don’t expect Greenwich Village in 1913. good at history, I’m not the professor to step in. really a role player, but “It’s very important. it’s a debate class where you have to pretend One of the ways they created the game is to be someone else. You actually learn a lot that students run the game,” Field said. more, but it’s really fun.” He points to a moment during one class During the current game, Veal plays the when everyone began to yell over each other character Paula Hallaway, owner of the following a laborer’s speech. Field says he fictitious Polly’s restaurant in Greenwich stayed quiet, until one of the students – in


character – called on everyone to quiet down. “Ultimately, Polly, in this game, has control, because it’s her restaurant and she’s running the show,” Field said. W.E.B. Du Bois, played by junior Matt Travis, is one of the more outspoken characters in the game. Travis signed up for the class as a way to earn a few writing credits, but he says the class proved to be more than just a chance to fill a degree requirement. “It gets you more involved,” Travis said. “You’re learning about what’s going on in these time periods but it’s much more interactive than just ‘here’s the book and here’s what you need to know.’ As a character, you really understand the emotions they felt and what’s going on in the conflicts that are happening much more than you ever would from reading.” The game’s unique way of teaching history first appealed to Field, who believes that history classes often get lost at the university level. “It encourages people to learn about history,” Field said. “Do they want to learn history? Not necessarily. Do they want to win the game? Yes. Winning the game doesn’t affect their grade, it’s just fun. They want to win, so they learn the history to win.” During one class, the labor movement gave speeches and Angely Martinez, playing the role of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, called out on her peers to join her support of a labor strike. “There can be no life if people are dying,” Martinez declared in her speech. “There can be no liberty if people are chained to their bosses. There can be no pursuit of happiness if people are pursuing pennies.” Despite the passionate rhetoric of her speech, Martinez says she originally did not Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. But have much interest in the subject before whether it’s 1913 or the 1960s, Field says the the class. class looks to create “I didn’t really student involvement “As a character, you really know anything about in what has understand the emotions they felt labor prior to World and what’s going on in the conflicts happened in the past War I,” Martinez said. and what is going on that are happening much more than now. “It’s just something you ever would from reading.” that never interested “One of the big me. I always said ‘oh, things we talked that’s so boring,’ but now it’s really fun.” about is kind of putting in a perspective Later in the semester, Martinez and her with today,” Travis said. “You know these classmates trade in their “vote for women” concepts that we’re talking about aren’t buttons and red labor party colors for new locked into 1913. They are big picture symbols and a new era of social unrest: the concepts that help you relate and become

Greg Pace gets into character for his role in Field’s class.

involved with what’s going on here today.” The class may be called “Reacting to the Past,” but Field makes sure his students are also reacting to the present. At the beginning of one class, Field says he stopped the game, then asked students to find the number for their local congressman. But, after five minutes on the phone talking about contraception, room 228 eased back into action as “Big Bill” Haywood took to floor with a speech to make.

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ColoRFul u.k. By Allie Hulcher

I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad last summer as a part of the “Arts of Oxford” Honors Study Abroad program. Oxford itself is simply magical. I saw beauty and history everywhere I walked – following the footsteps of Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien into gardens, chapels, tearooms and pubs. The University of Oxford is one of the most prestigious universities in the world and is over 900 years old. During the month-long stay, I was able to learn about Shakespeare and see his plays performed at the Globe Theatre and in his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon. I learned about Alice in Wonderland, Christopher Wren and Protestant martyrs, all while seeing legendary sites first-hand. My trip mates and I did some independent travel while abroad, hopping the train around England and to Scotland and Wales. My camera became my constant travel companion; I embraced my role as tourist as I snapped everything that caught my eye. Ladies cooling down with ice cream cones during an unusually hot summer in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Oxford graduates in classic graduation attire under the Bridge of Sighs. Men chatting at the Oxford Botanic Garden. A couple pausing to take in the view after the hike up Arthur’s Seat,which is a 822 feet tall peak in Edinburgh, Scotland. The train ride to London packed with flowers purchased at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Show. None of these moments escaped my lens, thought most subjects were unsuspecting. Looking through my pictures fills me with dreamy memories of my time in the UK. I hope these images take you there, too. 56

Mosaic 2014

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By Allie Hulcher

Thomas Herwig teaches students to understand their country’s history, then encourages them to act upon their beliefs.


With a Ph.D. in systematic theology and a he walls of Thomas Herwig’s office are desire to learn more about his wife’s country, a place for inspiration, adorned with Herwig came to Alabama from Germany in black and white photos of Mahatma 2008. Now, as a teacher at UA, Herwig urges Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Sojourner students to examine the sometimes painful Truth. He calls these advocates for social justice his heroes, their faces a reminder that history of the United States and to talk through controversial issues of our time. beliefs and convictions do not end at the Inevitably, Herwig draws from his own threshold of an academic building. sense of German heritage when teaching. “I want my students to think and never German history, especially “the ugly years” stop thinking, but I don’t want them only to think, Herwig said. when the Nazis “Out of classroom “You are not guilty for the were in power, is heavily experiences are, for me, sins of older generations,” he discussed in his “Heroes of the icing on the cake.” said. “But if you ignore that Faith and Justice” As a professor in the Honors College, Herwig which is affecting people, then class when students learn says his goal is to help you are an accomplice.” about Dietrich students understand Bonhoeffer, a their own beliefs on theologian who opposed Hitler. Bonhoeffer’s issues, whether the topic is politics, religion picture also hangs in Herwig’s office. or social justice. He then urges them to act “I see the bitter limits of my own upon those beliefs. traditions,” Herwig said. “But if we avoid this “College is a time where you are now painful history, we give up and give in too called to build your position,” Herwig said. quickly.” Herwig admits that it was awkward “It’s confusing, creates fears and anxieties, and embarrassing growing up in Germany but it’s very fruitful for students.” 58

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as he became more and more aware of the history of his country. “I remember, as a young German, people showing me tattoos of concentration camp numbers,” he said. In Herwig’s class, the discussions can either be filled with heated arguments or a silence of guilt, especially when the focus is on American topics of slavery and civil rights. Herwig says approaching these events or other shameful aspects of history is necessary and talking about them can be therapeutic. “We go through the narrative, look at painful moments with the promise that if we are truthful with history, we can find a more human situation,” Herwig said. Herwig encourages studying the facts and warns against a “hooray” sense of patriotism without any responsibility. “You are not guilty for the sins of older generations,” he said. “But if you ignore that which is affecting people, then you are an accomplice.” To Herwig, each class presents an opportunity for the professor and the student to learn from each other. “He demonstrates that knowing all the


answers is not what a scholar is—a scholar asks questions,” said Jacqueline Morgan, associate dean of the Honors College. Along with apologizing for what he considers a language barrier, Herwig adds that he continues to learn from his students. “I agree always that it is a win to have someone with a different perspective,” Herwig said. “It’s eye-opening from both sides.” Former students agree, describing the class as a safe and respectful atmosphere. Brian Hoff, a student studying public relations and philosophy, says he does not know of any other class on campus that allows discussion to be as open and honest. “Having someone who is not used to our stereotypes, who’s from a different culture, allows the class to create a constructive criticism of our society, religiously and politically,” Hoff said. Mazie Bryant, the 2013-2014 editor of The Crimson White, says she took Herwig’s “Build Your Position” class to become better educated about controversial topics of the time. Rather than merely scratching the surface on such issues, Bryant adds that she appreciates the emphasis Herwig places on research.

“I think it’s important to be able to have these discussions and not get angry and to appreciate others’ opinions,” Bryant said. In addition to teaching, Herwig is an ordained minister, preaching at First Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa. He emphasizes, “preaching is not teaching.” Instead of forcing students to see issues through a Christian lens, Herwig says he urges them to look for the truth. “In scientific and scholarly research, there is a claim of precision,” Herwig said. “You must be accurate with all the details. The tiniest inaccuracy can cause something to break or explode.” With an insistence on standing up for your beliefs comes a unique addition to his class, an out-of-class enrichment in the form of a panel, presentation or field trip to the Civil Rights Museum. One of his more memorable out-of-class experiences consisted of a group of students from his class coming together with students from Stillman College, a historically black university. The students combined knowledge and experiences to have a panel discussion about the social implications of the Confederate flag. “It’s good to have a chair and table setting, but I also want to hang out and have

human fellowship,” Herwig said. “He has expectations for his students to change the world. His students are not just talking about social justice because it’s a cool conversation to have,” said Morgan. Kendra Key, a former student now in law school at Vanderbilt, says the combination of learning about heroes such as King and Gandhi and actually applying what she had learned was an enriching experience. “I enjoyed the way [Dr. Herwig] asked questions about what we accept in society—things that are norms for us,” Key said. “A lot of my traditional views were challenged.” Many of Herwig’s former students keep in touch with him. Key says she is thankful for his long, thoughtful emails. The learning that takes place in the classroom is reinforced by an intellectual friendship for years to come. Herwig, who also maintains several one-on-one independent studies with students, says he is honored to be a part of a transitional period for students. “You feel liberated but have a fear of freedom,” Herwig said. “I feel so privileged, so honored to be asked to be a factor in this process.”

Dr. Herwig’s Classes Religion in Politics: Looks at the founders of the Christian Right Heroes of Faith and Justice: Examines the lives of activists, including Gandhi, MLK, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Truth and Aung Saan Suu Kyi Build Your Position: Delves into the controversial moral issues of our time: abortion, gay marriage, the death penalty, immigration, and gun control

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Herwig’s office serves as his own personal library of inspiration.


You found us on the map.

Now find us online.


re you a writer, photographer, graphic designer or business student looking to work on something fresh and fun (not to mention good-looking on a resume or in a portfolio)? Are you an Honors College student? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, Mosaic is just what you’re looking for!

Mosaic is the Honors College magazine and website, created and produced entirely by students. With the help of our faculty advisors, we’re able to write exciting stories, capture stunning photos, design interesting layouts, and analyze effective marketing strategies. Each of these pieces combines to create one wonderful Mosaic. If you or someone you know may be interested in joining, please contact us. We’d love to have you on board! Writers contact Mark Mayfield at Photographers contact Chip Cooper at Designers contact Laura Lineberry at Business team contact John Latta at

Fossil Hunting in greene County by AllIE HulCHER

With summer camp programs, an on-campus prep lab and an honors course focusing on vertebrae paleontology, dana ehret discovers student interest in the historic fossils of alabama.


ana Ehret is an expert on sharks and turtles—the fossilized kind, that is. And, as something of a paleontology celebrity, Ehret says he is comfortable with media attention, having appeared in National Geographic and on The Discovery Channel. Last summer, when the fossil of an 80-million-year-old marine reptile was discovered in Greene County, Ehret says he again found himself on the news. This time, for something happening in Alabama.


Mosaic 2014

| Innovative Scholarship

The subject? The elasmosaur, a species recognizable by their small heads, round bodies, paddle-like fins and long necks that hold up to 70 vertebrae. As active marine predators back in the day, the elasmosaur could reach up to 45 feet in length. Though found frequently in other parts of the country, Ehret says only two elasmosaurs have ever been found in Alabama. The most recent, the elasmosaur found in Greene County, yielded over 20


vertebrae, which Ehret says is a significant amount. What made the find even more interesting were the circumstances. The first vertebra was not found by a paleontologist, an archeologist or even an adult. It was found by Noah Traylor, a 14-year-old participating in the Alabama Museum of Natural History’s summer expedition for high school and middle school students. “This proved that you don’t have to be a paleontologist to make an important discovery,” Ehret said. “You can be an amateur and make important finds for science.” Having only been in town since January 2013, Ehret, the curator of the Museum of Natural History, says he was learning right along with the students when he went on the expedition. “I tried to have a crash course when I moved here, getting out in the field as much as I can,” Ehret said. “I spent a week pulling out every cabinet, every drawer, looking at specimens, to get a feel of what we have here in Alabama.” In addition to running the museum, which is located in Smith Hall on campus, Ehret teaches one honors class, a course about vertebrate paleontology. In his class, Ehret incorporates information about Alabama right along with the basics that the course covers. “We talk about the meteorite impact that killed the dinosaurs, how the turtle got its shell, and I try to relate that back to Alabama and what we have here,” Ehret said. Currently, Ehret says he is working with other researchers on a field guide to the shark and fish fossils of Alabama. Yet, before moving to Tuscaloosa, Ehret, a native of New Jersey who studied at the University of Florida, says he had only driven through the state once before moving here.

“I liked living in the Southeast,” Ehret said. “Things move slower and the people are friendlier and, Alabama has been overlooked in the field of vertebrate paleontology.” Ehret also adds that the true extent of the fossils that come out of Alabama are under-represented in scientific literature. “There is a lot to be discovered here in Alabama, both already in collections and we still need to do a lot more field work on underrepresented time periods in our collections,” Ehret said. Ehret says some such collections are located in Mary Harmon Bryant Hall, with the third floor alone housing items from the fields of paleontology, mammalogy, history, ethnology, ornithology, osteology, mineralogy, entomology and photography. A special badge is required to enter the third floor collections, and the huge space remains dark until a light switch is flipped on. Only then, are you able to see the many shelves and drawers, housing important Dana Ehret proudly displays one of discoveries and fossils over a his discoveries. million years old. As Curator of Paleontology for the university, Ehret oversees the paleontological collections, identifies specimens and makes sure they are catalogued and stored properly. He also helps with outreach with the Museum of Natural History, including programs such as Science Sundays and Fossil Day. Ehret says that his unique position within the paleontology department allows him to offer his honors students a hands-on experience in his class. Elizabeth Schweers, a student from his fall semester class, has always loved dinosaurs. As a kid, she says she even had a fossil kit, which she handed to her brother when she got older. “It came with fairly common fossils, but it was more than enough to spark my interest in paleontology,” Schweers said. “I loved playing with those fossils as

“I liked living in the Southeast,” Ehret said.

“things move slower and the people are friendlier and,

Alabama has been overlooked in the field of vertebrate paleontology.” UA Honors


Elizabeth Schweers carefully cleans one of the fossils in Ehret’s collection.

“I wake up excited every day, thinking

‘what am I going to find today?’”

a kid, but now I have a more grown-up look at dinosaurs and paleontology. I have an in-depth look at things I’m interested in don’t major in.” Schweers says she took Ehret up on the opportunity to work in the paleontology preparation lab at Mary Harmon Bryant Hall. By the end of the semester, she says she had worked over 25 hours in the paleontology prep lab, cleaning and preparing turtle and fish fossils that have been around for millions of years. “It’s fun to take some time out of my week to work on something that I have been interested in since childhood and also to develop a skills set that I did not have before,” Schweers said. Schweers says she also spent almost 80 hours volunteering for museum collections in general,


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| Innovative Scholarship

adding that she specially loves going through historic artifacts in the Gorgas House Collections. Her favorite finds? A ceremonial sword from the Civil War and a collection of fans. “I wake up excited every day, thinking ‘What am I going to find today?’” Schweers said. In Ehret’s class, Schweers recalls a field trip to Harrell Station, a property of the Natural History Museum located in Dallas County. While looking for fossils here, Schweers says the location includes a chalk gully with no topsoil, which she describes as ideal conditions for fossil hunting. “It was beautiful,” Schweers said. “It was also so silent. We were far enough from any civilization that all we could hear was the birds and the trees. It was very refreshing.”

This is your life.

this is your life on Ultimate.

Frisbee with us. Ramma Jamma Ultimate.

SENSE oF PlACE by laura wymer

From a young age, we are asked what it is we want to do for the rest of our lives. The answer constantly changes as we do, and somehow we all find what it is we love. It does not always have to be the deep meaningful thing we expect—it can be the simple pleasure of playing guitar in your room, being outdoors, or perfecting your skills on hair and makeup. It can be the way you express yourself through your artwork. One way or another, every human has his or her own sense of place and belonging. As we move through time, these senses may change, but we should not forget where we have been when we look back from where we are.


Mosaic 2014

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s By Sophia Jone

hanks to his summer internship at a think tank in Washington, D.C., Carter says he was allowed to do research on a subject that he is not only passionate about, but that produced results he hopes can make a change in struggling countries around the world. “As a business major, Forbes is the thing everyone’s reading, so it was awesome getting to see my name and my work on their website,” Carter said of being featured in one of the most prominent and credible publications in the country. Carter’s research, which proved that free-market capitalism decreases corruption primarily in third-world countries, was featured in two online pieces by contributing writer Alejandro Chafuen. The first article, “Do Frequent News Stories About ‘Corruption’ Signal Rising Corruption?” appeared

on August 23, 2013, and the second “Why Does the U.S. Economy Sag? Look No Further Than The Number 17” was published on September 25, 2013. “I would hope that my research will make a difference and make people understand that business is a viable option for ending corruption,” said Carter, who is a 19-year-old native of Joplin, Missouri. “We need to be helping businesses in free markets to grow. My overall dream is for people to look at my research and think that.” Carter explains that he analyzed the economic situations of around 160 individual countries and found that as businesses grow, so do citizens’ economic freedom. “Derek is one of the most unique individuals I have had an opportunity to teach,” said Carter’s former professor

“As a business major, Forbes is the thing everyone’s reading, so it was awesome getting to see my name and my work on their website.”


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| Advanced Research


Robert McCurley, who is also an adviser for the Honors College Town Hall program. “His insight into what motivates people is sincere and well-reasoned. Derek often sees issues and anticipates results ahead of the crowd.” Since Carter’s research was used on Forbes, numerous other researchers and professionals at various think tanks all over the country have reviewed Carter’s work, contacted him and given him advice. "Derek's tireless work ethic and unique perspective on economic systems deserve the recognition that Forbes provided," said David Phelps, a senior from New Orleans majoring in civil engineering. "His early success in research is incredible, but I have no doubt Derek will continue to leverage his economic skills to improve communities around the world." Carter says he is still working on the research and hopes to submit a larger study to several economic journals for publication. America’s core city for political and economic activity, Washington, D.C., is bursting with dozens of think tanks, or groups of experts who come together to research and create ideas on the economy, social policies, technology and culture. This past summer, Carter interned with Atlas Network, formally known as Atlas Economic Research Foundation, for a month and a half in July and August 2013. Carter says he chose to intern with Atlas because of their international focus. Atlas is a free-market based think tank focused on helping other free market think tanks grow around the world. Carter interned in the U.S. Senate working for Senator Blunt from Missouri for a month during the first half of the summer, but he says working at a think tank was like nothing he had ever experienced before. “People in think tanks are go getters. They are willing to put in lots of hours and are very self-motivated,” Carter said. “Working in a think tank is not like working in a normal business where you have your boss standing over you. You’re on your own, and you have to get yourself up and ready to work.” Carter believes that the experience students gain outside of the classroom is the most beneficial.

“Being in class is great, but you can’t take full advantage of it until you get out there in an authentic environment and experience what your education is actually going towards,” Carter said. He also credits his Honors College experiences to his success in D.C. “All the Honors College programs have taught me something very valuable: to take leadership and go after my goals,” Carter said. “At the think tank, they shared that same mindset that there is no one pushing you but yourself.”

“Interning this summer really opened my eyes to how the world works and made me realize why I’m working so hard in school.”

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top 3 reasons why you shoulD intern with

creative campus Work with cool people across campus who teach you new and interesting things

Connect campus with the Tuscaloosa community through the arts

Turn your ideas into action

an all hallow's happening

tin can tales

the artcaDe

SHE’S OUTNUMbERED by Lindsee Gentry



riving down Magnolia Drive in fall 2012, Meghan Stallworth looked at paper banners as they hung from columns attached to each sorority house. On each, the names were painted with different colors and written in a multitude of fonts, but the message was the same: congratulations on a sister’s recent engagement. After weeks of noticing these banners, which were becoming fixtures as common as shutters on the houses’ windows, Meghan asked herself, “Why are all of these women getting engaged at such a young age?” Stallworth, a senior from Nashville, Tennessee in the honors psychology program, is in her second year of researching how women’s goals could be determined by the major they choose. While Stallworth says she is in the final— and most crucial—phases of her study, she admits that she was not always sure what she wanted to achieve through the two-year program. In December 2012, knowing that she wanted to incorporate some aspect of what she had seen on sorority row, Stallworth first chose her mentor, Joan Barth.

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“After seeing all the signs on sorority row, I began thinking if women around you are getting engaged, does that make you want to as well?” Stallworth said. But, after talking about their interests, Barth, who works mostly with students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), suggested that Stallworth widen her scope beyond women in the Greek community. “It was just more practical to go at it from a major standpoint instead of [sorority] chapters,” Stallworth said. “I mean think about it, if I walked in and said, ‘Hey, I’m measuring how and if you affect each other,’ then you would automatically go on the defensive.” The resulting questionnaire they formed is a derivative of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s microsystem theory, which suggests that interactions with one’s environment shape a person and the way in which they develop. “Basically there are different levels of micro-social systems; it’s like a bullseye,” Stallworth explained. “So we’re measuring different levels, moving out the bullseye.” Following Bronfenbrenner’s theory, the key area of Stallworth’s study, the social system, focuses on how the inner bullseye determines a woman’s goals. That is, how do friends, family, coworkers, church members, neighbors and classmates — those closest to the subject — affect what decisions she makes? “I am really interested in why people do what they do,” Stallworth said. “So we’re looking at women in STEM and asking, ‘Why are you doing this? What’s supporting you? Who has your back?’” While Stallworth guesses that some majors are more femaledominated than others, she says those students do not peak her interest as much. Instead, she and Barth are centering research on the few females going against the grain, the women seeking degrees in fields where they are the minority. “There’s a lot of research about why women don’t go into these subjects, but that’s not what we’re doing,” Stallworth said. “I’m interested in the women who are going into STEM. I hope to find if there’s a common thread or some specific support system they have.” One such student, and part of Meghan’s own inner “bullseye” of friends, is Allison Roberts. Roberts, who says she’s always had an interest in math and her father’s work as a civil engineer, chose a career in engineering after visiting the university’s engineering

program as a senior. With double majors in civil and construction engineering and a minor in architectural engineering, the senior says she is aware of difficulties facing women professionals today, especially in STEM. “I definitely believe it is more challenging for women just based off the traditional mindset,” she explained. “[But] I believe a family and motherhood would affect all career choices, not just engineering.” Their research is not revolutionary in topic, but Stallworth says they are adding a fresh take on the subject by distinguishing between academic majors in male-dominated fields. That is, they are looking at how the answers of a woman studying biology compare to those of a woman studying engineering. After surveying approximately 600 men and

“Understanding how to foster equality and involvement on campus is important for progress... Meghan is interested in those that are making the first steps towards progress and equality in STEM and other areas.”


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| Advanced Research

As they developed their research, Stallworth and Barth developed their friendship.


women in various fields of study, Stallworth says she is hoping to collect data about college students’ life goals, including income expectations, career, marriage, children and social impact. “Yes, my classes are predominantly male; no, it does not intimidate me,” Roberts explained. “I think we’re all equally qualified.” While both men and women are equally qualified, chances are they are not likely to answer Stallworth’s questions exactly the same. This contrast in ideology could change the way students within STEM and in other areas of study view career and life goals as related to each one’s sex. Now in the analysis phase of her project, Stallworth predicts a difference in how women in female and male-dominated majors view their life goals. Of the approximately 850 responses she’s received, Stallworth says she has been encouraged by the number of people who seem supportive of women in the workplace.

“When I first started, I thought I was going to be walking into chapter houses asking people why they were getting engaged,” she explained. “But it’s become something much bigger. I think it’s going to be an answer that is tangible. I want people who aren’t Albert Einstein to understand my research and it to change their life for the better.” Spending at least eight hours a week since summer 2013 on her research, Stallworth says her effort will give her an upper hand in graduate school next year. “I’m going to go into grad school already knowing how to conduct research and how to find out things,” she said. “It gives you a firsthand look at what you’ll be doing in the field.” As one of 15 students accepted into the honors psychology research program, Stallworth says she has relied on her peers as a support system. Alec Owens first met Stallworth through the program in 2012, and says he has since been a source of advice and encouragement throughout the two years of research. “I believe that Meghan’s study can definitely make an impact on not just our university, but even other schools,” he said. “Understanding how to foster equality and involvement on campus is important for progress, and I think that Meghan is interested in those that are making the first steps towards progress and equality in STEM and other areas.” While Stallworth’s research focuses on females in the STEM program, Owens shares his own relation to her study, commenting that he is heavily outnumbered in both his psychology and Spanish classes. While reasons for the gender divide between academic majors are not yet known, Barth is confident that Stallworth’s research will provide crucial information for students at the university. “If you have a goal to have lots of children but a career path going in another direction, at some point you’re going to confront issues,” Barth said. “It will get people to think about their own life goals and how that fits in with their chosen field.”

While both men and women are equally qualified, chances are they are not likely to answer Meghan’s questions exactly the same.

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Mosaic 2014

EXPloRING REFlECtIoNS by Sara johnson

DESIGN: Ally mAbRy

I have always been fascinated by the various ways that light can bring ordinary objects to life, pulling out textures, shapes and colors with even the faintest glow. In this series of photographs I wanted to capture some of the endless possibilities which even a minimal amount of light is able to provide. The images were all taken at night in seemingly dark settings which were often lit only by far off street lights or small string lights across the room. These lighting environments allowed me to explore reflections whose complexity is usually overlooked and often completely unnoticed.

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That Job By Anna Price Olson and Katie Thurber


ince graduating from UA, Alan Blinder, Julia Seong and Victor Luckerson have made the most of their short time away from the Capstone. They now call New York and Atlanta home but are quick to point out where their success started and even quicker to grab a ticket and jet back to Bama.


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| It’s All About You

The New York Times Reporter Alan Blinder

“Today, New York is letting us take it easy,” Alan Blinder says with a short laugh over the phone. After all, when scheduling the interview, Blinder agreed to a 3 p.m. start time with an email saying, “Barring breaking news, that time should work fine.” As a junior reporter based in the Atlanta bureau of The New York Times, Blinder travels around the South covering stories for a national audience. In October, he drove to Tennessee to write a story about the Army’s decision to close R.O.T.C. programs at 13 universities, half of which are in the South. Blinder had intentions of only spending the day, but he says he found himself studying reactions to the government shutdown for the rest of the evening and next morning. “I had brought a bag in case something went wrong,” Blinder says. This wasn’t a first. “I’m all-purpose,” Blinder says. “The Times has a lot of interests. We cover things that get people out of bed a night, but we also tell stories that illuminate.”


Reporter Victor Luckerson While Victor Luckerson started at TIME Magazine in June 2012 as a business reporter, he says he now splits his time—about 50/50—between reporting and assigning breaking news stories to the home page of “People come to TIME for broad interest stories,” he says. As a business reporter-producer by title, Luckerson says he comes up with about half of his stories on his own. Don’t think he is covering only the ups-and-downs of the stock exchange, though. Instead, he writes under the business tab, often leaning on entertainment and pop culture business to make it more interesting. Luckerson also says it is his job to add stories he knows will do well. The example he gives? “Cats,” he says. “Anything about cats.” Working with both the website and the printed magazine, Luckerson speaks to a national audience, a mindset he has adjusted to since his reporter days at UA. “It’s cool to cover real people’s actions, actual issues, human drama,” Luckerson says.

Blackstone Group


Financial Analyst Julia Seong “I can’t say what I do day-to-day— it’s really month-to-month,” says Julia Seong with a laugh. As a financial analyst for a private equity firm, Seong is used to dealing with long-term decisions and even longer-term results. “Most of my job is making sure the books are correct and the investors know what’s going on,” she says— vital jobs indeed to the world of investment banking. While the mention of hedge funds may not quicken the pulse of the average 26-year-old, Seong says they’re exhilarating—especially when you’re on the inside. “The most exciting part is that you see everything,” she said. “Hedge funds can be all over the news, and nobody knows what they are or what’s going on, but I do.” Seong’s interest began as a student at the University of Alabama and only grew after graduation when she interned at Citibank. A few short years later, she got a taste of working with the funds as an auditor at Ernst and Young. But, she says being on the other side is the best. “I work with auditors now, but being on the private side is better,” she says. “Everything is confidential, but I get to see all parts of it.” UA Honors




Megan Mitton twirls in the dress she designed during her stay in Paris.

ne of Megan Mitton’s summer classes began with a flurry of French and a table covered with bird feathers. The students were set loose, and Mitton began sifting through piles of feathers, through shocks of blues and reds and golds and browns. Mitton’s task was to select the choice feathers and pluck them from their fully-intact wings. The trick, she says, was to ignore the quite visible signs of their sources—especially the beaks. There were limitations. Mitton says she was restricted some by her country of origin. Not all feathers were legal in the U.S. “And some feathers,” she adds, “a bird may only produce once.” She dove in. Then, she proceeded to make them art. The feather workshop at the Paris American Academy, taught by Jean-Pierre Tritz, the man Mitton calls “the go-to feather guy of Paris fashion,” was one of many lessons that she took during her summer. Mitton, a junior from Shreveport, Louisianna, who studies apparel design, had approached her advisor, Virginia Wimberley in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, the year before to discuss the possibility of a summer studying abroad. She left her office in 306 Doster Hall with the application for a top fashion program at the academy. UA Honors


She sent off her portfolio and her application, and before she knew it she had secured her summer plans: a month-long stay in the “international capital of style” and training in haute couture under the tutelage of French designers such as Tritz and Madame Picco, a former dressmaker for the renowned designer Madame Grés. Mitton’s summer was both school and an internship, a whirlwind of activity that bounced her from lesson to lesson and gave her handson experiences with design shows and other fashion events. She amassed hours of practice in pleating, draping, fabric design, hat making and other techniques in couture, the making of highend, custom-fitted pieces. Wimberley, Mitton’s advisor, explains that the opportunity provided by the Paris American Academy is a rare one. She had wanted her students to attend in order to work under Picco, the only one of Grés’ dressmakers still teaching her famous gown design—a soft drape dress style that clings to the form for an almost classical Greek look. The opportunity to learn this style and other techniques, such as hat-making and fabric manipulation, is not available in the traditional apparel design major at UA, and, as a result, the Paris American Academy opens doors to the world of French 80

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| It’s All About You

“Paris has always been the place the rest of Europe has followed in terms of fashion,” Wimberley said. “You’re living and breathing what’s going to be the future.” couture that would normally be shut to the average apparel design student. A lot of the opportunities come down to location. “Paris has always been the place the rest of Europe has followed in terms of fashion,” Wimberley said. “You’re living and breathing what’s going to be the future.” Mitton’s classes were taught to small blends of American and other international students. Experienced designers in the world of Parisian fashion spoke through a French interpreter, showing them how to pin the fabric to fall nicely, how to form hats to angle properly, how to dye fabrics for a desired look. They asked students to create their own works as well and allowed students plenty of creativity and individuality in their designs.

“None of us wanted to stop working because it was our chance to actually be there,” Mitton said. “All these techniques, a book could never teach me. I was just in awe the whole time.” And then there were the lessons learned outside the workshops. When attending one of the largest buyer shows in the fashion world, Mitton says she and her classmates saw what it would be like to start their own fashion line. The experience she feels luckiest to have had, however, brushed her up against the very pinnacle of international commercial fashion. She and her classmates were taken backstage behind Paris Fashion Week, a semi-annual clothing trade show that rounds out the four main international fashion weeks. She was assigned a model to dress, sometimes given only 30 seconds to navigate the hooks and zippers. Mitton says she found this test to be surprisingly comforting. “Backstage with these designers who had been where I was, not that long ago—they made it attainable,” she said.


Mitton’s wall of inspiration features intriguing fashion spreads along with some of her own designs.

Mitton learned the technique of pleating in a workshop and how to send a model into the lights on the runway, but she says she also learned from the city. Paris, she says, was a teacher in itself. “Our teacher would tell us about some technique and then where to go to see where it had been done,” she said. “We had it all at our fingertips to go see.” Mitton got to know “the city of lights” at night when she didn’t have classes, she says, and she got to know it through an artistic eye. She describes a romantic scene in which she settled down for an afternoon at an outdoor cafe or restaurant she had stumbled upon to color her sketchpad with scenes of Parisian life and people. “There’s a charm to the city I’ve never felt anywhere else,” she said. “It’s in the people, the streets, the music, the architecture.” Mitton says she feels lucky to have had the whole experience and fortunate to have gotten her spot in the program—the haute couture program was the highest-level specialization of the summer fashion workshops. It wasn’t just the training she got there or living in Paris that made her feel lucky. Beyond that, she gained a new optimism for her future. Mitton found she not only could keep up with the high-pressure fashion environment, she was comfortable in it. She says at face value, it seemed many students had arrived more equipped than she had for the program. Some hailed from specialized design schools, and, though most were college students, others had already spent some years in the fashion world and sold their own designs. As a result, she saw herself as an underdog. Megan Herod, a senior

from Indiana University and Mitton’s roommate during the program, agrees that the majority of the students had an advantage from more specific art schools. “I think anyone coming from a major university in America was an underdog,” she said. “There were already people who had established themselves.” Megan admits this as if it was a blessing. “The professors were excited to get someone inexperienced and excited,” she said. “It’s nice to go in as the underdog because I had some way to impress.” The end result was a renewed confidence that she could hold her own in the competitive world of fashion. “I realized I can do this; I actually am not too shabby,’” she said. “And that was nice.” As for her future plans, she hopes to spend some time working under a designer before taking off to unveil her own line and seeing where things take her. “I’ve had to have that mentality of never knowing where it’s going next,” she said. “But who cares? I love it.” Looking back, Mitton doesn’t refer to any specific event as her favorite part of the program. But she does mention one phrase, uttered by the academy’s president, Peter Carman, during the program’s first day. “We were all so overwhelmed, and he said, ‘In the middle of all this, remember to look out for those lost moments,’” she said. “It’s those moments, when you sit there and realize you’re in the middle of a fashion show or sitting on the Seine—those moments when you take it in.”

Mitton sifted through piles of feathers in order to find the perfect ones for the hat she designed.

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by kelsey Farman

Finding your PERFECT Internship

We know applying for an internship (much less a full-time, paying job) can be stressful, scary and, really, not all that fun. To help you navigate these uncharted waters, Mosaic talks to three honors students who interned across the country last summer to learn about their experiences and how you might achieve their success.


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| It’s All About You



City: New York City. “I have wanted to move to New York ever since I can remember, and I felt like a summer here would be the perfect chance to see if I could really handle the city full-time,” she says.

City: Louisville, Kentucky. “I still wanted to be close to home for the summer, but I was still able to work in a bigger city for a firm with some notable clients,” he says.

senior, Greenville, South Carolina English major

Internship: Jupiter Entertainment, a film and television production company. Advice: “Apply to more internships than you think is necessary, and never think you are being too persistent,” Grandy says. “The people who are going to hire you are extremely busy and you can be forgotten very easily if you don’t make sure you stay in touch.” Favorite part: “The people,” (her co-workers) she says. Oh, and choosing the web preview for an episode of “Homicide Hunter” to be on the Discovery ID website. Lesson: Trust yourself. “At the beginning of the summer I was constantly asking if what I was doing was right, or if the way I was doing something was the way someone wanted it done,” Grandy says. “Eventually someone yelled at me, ‘I don’t have time for these questions, you’re a smart girl, figure it out.’” Dream job: “My dream, dream job, like once I’m 30, is to be a staff writer for SNL,” she says. “Any show will do, honestly, and I’d love to be a producer finding material for HBO.”

junior, Frankfort, Kentucky public relations major

Internship: Estes Public Relations, a small public relations firm specializing in the food industry. “I chose to go there because I always wanted to work one summer for a firm and one summer for a corporation,” he says. “I used this as my ‘firm summer.’” Advice: “Apply early and apply often,” Thompson says. “The more you apply for, the more chance you have at landing a solid internship. Even if you don’t think you would necessarily enjoy it, apply for it. It can’t hurt.” Favorite part: Prepping a client for a local television shoot. Lesson: Pay attention to detail. “Even the smallest mistakes can make a world of difference,” he says. Dream job: A casting director for a big production firm such as Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, CBS or NBC.

like a by Anna Price olson Let’s cover the basics. EMILY BROMAN, senior, Forest, Virginia chemical engineering and psychology City: Houston, Texas


Internship: CHRISTUS Stehlin Foundation for Cancer Research. Here, Broman says her internship exposed her to applied medical science and provided valuable experience working alongside pioneering researchers. Advice: Do background research before your application and interview. Also, in a cover letter or interview (phone or face-to-face), Broman says to point out the elements of the experience that would be particularly enjoyable to you and talk about how the specific opportunity would prepare you for your future. Favorite part: “I was incredibly inspired by the personal calling everyone felt to their work at Stehlin,” she says. “Cancer research has to be the career most delayed in its gratification, but the connection everyone felt to the overall mission of patient-centered research will continue to be motivational in my continued education and life in medicine.” Lesson: “In the world of medical research, investments of a lifetime and immeasurable perseverance are poured into ascertaining any kind of cure and creating a societal impact; this experience engrained in me the importance patience and diligence in our own lives as we find our own sense of purpose and work within the scope of our passions,” she says. Dream job: A physician who specializes in psychiatry.

Career expert Greg Wagner, director of alumni and organizational relationship development for UA, shares his tips on getting (and nailing) that interview. When should you apply? Different fields of employment have different cycles. Investment banking begins in late September or early October, but most other fields start later. But Wagner says to begin thinking about starting the process in November, as there are some deadlines in late December. Start to search what you want and where. It is important to keep an excel sheet with deadlines for those internships you are most interested in. That will help you keep track of and not miss important dates. The same goes for graduating seniors. It is never too early to start looking, making notes on deadlines and reaching out to alumni who may work in the field you are interested in. Having a personal connection can often make the difference between getting the job and being passed over. Where should you look? and LinkedIn are both great sources of information, jobs and potential connections. Internship websites specific to an area of the country you are focused on exist; you can do a Google search, or reach out to a board of trade or chamber of commerce. How can you get ahead of the pack? Use social media to your advantage— especially LinkedIn. Edit your resume. “Incorporate team work into your resume,” he says. They want to know if you can work well in a team. Now, there’s a step before the in-person interview: the phone interview. With your dream employer on the other line, Wagner tells us what you need to know: - Know who you are. - Know what skills you have. - Know what you are going to bring to the company. One last thought: “Bring something that cannot be taught: enthusiasm!” he says. More questions? E-mail Wagner at

Based in New York City, Greg Wagner works to develop relationships and make connections in industries such as public relations, banking and government. He then reaches out to alumni, ultimately helping UA’s top students find internships and jobs across the Northeast. Recently, he helped graduating senior Lauren Hardison secure a job at Goldman Sachs.

UA Honors


Let’s hear it for the


Me Me”

generation With recent tales of millennials entering the workplace as “lazy, self-entitled narcissists” (or so our elders say), a magazine intern and college student goes inside the Condé Nast offices at 4 Times Square in New York City to see what this generational debate is really all about.

his past summer, a stack of ten or so books would appear on my desk every few weeks. When the stack appeared, it meant my editor had stayed late the night before, tackled the pile in her office and decided the books were not going to be “must-reads” for our readers. We did not have room in the office for extras, and Lauren really did not have the time. But she also did not let the covers collect dust. Instead, each was handed to a reader with a little more time or donated to that bookstore on Crosby Street. With the last batch of unwanted books, Lauren gave me a second paperback just days before I left New York City. This time, it was Kelly Williams Brown’s Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps. With a quick glance at the title, I stuffed the book into my bag, choosing not to laugh with my friends as we had done with the book she had given me weeks before. This time, I was sure I didn’t need the book. I had been an “adult” all summer. Sure, I was the


Mosaic 2014

| It’s All About You

intern with an expiration date on my stay, but I often disregarded that minor detail. So why did Lauren give me a self-help book? Instead of offering me my dream job at the end of the summer, she handed me a lesson on how to become a grown-up. I just knew this was some kind of joke, a wicked slap in the face we would one day laugh about together. I told myself I didn’t care, but I really did. In a way, Lauren was a sort-of celebrity to me. She had traveled to Africa to interview Hillary Clinton for Glamour (“If she wins in 2016, wouldn’t it be neat to say that I spent 20 minutes with the president?” she said to me, without the slightest hint of bragging.) She had talked with Matt Damon about their shared love of the Boston Red Sox, and when she referred to Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, she simply called her “Anna.” So, Lauren was comfortable with A-list stars, but who I really envied was Lauren, the brilliant magazine editor. I respected Lauren. Yet, when she handed me that book and disappeared into her corner office, I did not know what to say. I only knew



by Anna Price Olson

that I did not need the book. I could go without the 468 steps to becoming an adult because I was, without a doubt, already there. For some reason, though, I did not leave the book in the city. The book came with me—and, now, two months later, I have a few guesses as to why. For one, I know that Lauren did not mean to hurt my feelings. She wasn’t giving me a firm pat on the back, and saying, “Hey, Anna Price, it’s really time to think about growing up.” And I also know that she did not hand me the book hoping to single-handedly save my generation of lost “millennials,” the so-called mass of self-absorbed, narcissistic kids lucky enough to be born in the 80s and 90s, either. I am guessing that thought did not even cross her mind. I really wish it would have, though. As a member of Generation Y, I know we need a little saving. True, we are not all the stereotypical, future-obsessed alcoholics millennial trend pieces are making us out to be, but, when Lauren gifted me a simple guide to adulthood, I became just that, the cartoon painted as the “The Me Me Me Generation” on the June 2013 cover of TIME. You know, the caricature of the almost adult taking a selfie, lost somewhere between her iPhone and overwhelming sense of entitlement? That was me: fame-obsessed, selfish, convinced of my own greatness. I wasn’t naive this summer, though. I know New York can be a tough place. Yet, I told myself, over and over, that I was an adult and I turned my nose up at Lauren and that book with barely so much as a smile, polite “thank you” or second thought. Instead of opening the book or asking for some sort of map through this confusing, unpredictable place we call the real world, I (along with a large majority of my peers) decided to pretend to know the way. “The point of this book is that even though things seem—and are—complicated and difficult, we have control over ourselves,” Williams Brown says. “Someone is a grown-up by virtue of acting like one. And no matter who you are, you can be a grown-up.” True, I might not have needed all 468 steps, but when I finally looked past the book’s cover, I couldn’t help but listen.

Step 100: “Listen more than you talk.” Step 123: “Do not engage with crazy.” Two months after leaving New York, Adulting did not feel like a self-help book, and it also did not give me the magic key to a successful life. Instead, Williams Brown made me feel OK. It was as if I was listening to a friend who knew me very well, a 28-year-old who, like me, slips up and drinks Diet Coke for breakfast but is really, truly trying to be a better, more mature person. I know this is why Williams Brown wrote the book, and I like to believe it is also why Lauren handed it for me. Like the rest of my generation, I have a collection of trophies from YMCA soccer stuffed somewhere in the attic at my parents’ house, but that is not the root of my entitlement issues or for my generation’s perceived belief that “life is easy.” No, I cannot blame these shiny plastic trophies as Susanne Goldstein does in her 2012 article for Business Insider titled “Here’s How to Deal With Millennials Who Aren’t Ready to Face Real Challenges.” I wish I could, but I know it is not true. Maybe I should blame the economy, my helicopter mom or the two sisters I have competed with my whole life, but I am not going to do that, either. Instead, I choose to listen to the 28-year-old girl who’s got my back, who says, No. 1: “Accept that you are not that special,” No. 134: “Let go of your pride” and No. 3: “Accept that right now, you are small-time.” Maybe I am one of the “average” millennials seasoned writers are talking about, but I have never been comfortable blending in—and, yes, I do think we can thank our generation’s obsession with resume-building activities like community service, involvement and gilded trophies for that. These writers say we Gen Y’ers think, “life is easy” and that we are lazy as a result, but I believe the opposite to be true. We are leaving college, entering the real world, trying to support ourselves and the facts are ugly. Unpaid internships are few and paid jobs even fewer, and I think we have adjusted to the times. Yeah, maybe we lean on the narcissistic side and obsessively plan what our lives are going to look like in the future, but I do know that I am not above running to Starbucks for a superior—and you really can’t blame that sort of ignorance on a generational flaw.

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