THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA
HONORS COLLEGE | SPRING 2015
Art that Strikes a Chord
Honors student Mitchell Griest explores unconventional artistic expressions
The Man Behind the Mask Alabama football runs in the family for the Jones brothers
Because man needs a reptilian best friend
This is Us
Mosaic looks at a growing and changing campus.
A letter from the Editor
And just as we captured our own place in the narrative, we reaffirmed that our lives are, as college students, aligned in a mosaic; a piecemeal of different stories collaged into one.
If anything, my time at Alabama has cemented my passion for stories in any and every form. I’m referring to the ones written across a page, shared over a dinner table, and communicated through swirls of compelling imagery; the kind you want to replay in your mind and turn down the corner of a page to read again. I’m enraptured by the metaphors and the rhythm, the rise and the climax. Stories, to me, offer a glimpse into characters to be celebrated and a life to be savored. When I was asked last spring to assume the role of Editor in Chief of Mosaic, I was just under the halfway marker of my college career and without a clue of how to effectively organize a group of people—and, if we’re being honest, how to be an editor in the first place. So I started with what I knew best: the stories. For the first couple days this fall, we gathered as 20 strangers in Nott Hall to fire out ideas, from alligators to football players, barbecue studies to race. And as we brainstormed and sketched out designs, I watched the staff’s dynamic transform from an awkward coexistence into a collective vibrancy driven by a passion to create. We began to pour over the best way to tell these stories, and with each interview, photograph and design, we delved more intently into the identity of the Honors College. And just as we captured our own place in the narrative, we reaffirmed that our lives are, as college students, aligned in a mosaic; a piecemeal of different stories collaged into one. My hope is that as you flip through these pages, you’ll recognize friends, teachers, and a landscape inexplicably morphing in response to a new age at The University of Alabama. There’s more growing on this campus than new buildings and enrollment figures, but also a brimming conversation inviting a storyline far different from the one told time and time before. And I hope, as you read this issue, point out pages to your friends, and tear out sheets to save for later, you’ll do more than lose yourself in a story. You’ll find your own in the mix.
CONT EN TS CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
Preserving Progress 2 UnlockED 6 Mentor: Someone Who Cares 10 Filming Poverty in Tuscaloosa 14
CULTURAL INTERACTION & ART Greetings from Serbia Sincerely Yours, Harper Lee Art that Strikes a Chord Barbecue in Bama
18 23 25 22
Everybody Loves Carlos 38 The Man Behind the Mask 44 Us. 50
Elements 33 A New Look 56
INNOVATIVE SCHOLARSHIP Need dinner plans? Check out “Barbecue in Bama” on page 22 for our recommendations.
Find Your Gap 58 The Path 62 Behind the Scenes in Sports 66
IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU
The Mosaic Staff Talks Stress 70 Do You Hear the People Sing? 72
ooming over Campus Drive East, the Bryce Hospital building is a familiar fixture of the Tuscaloosa skyline. This domed complex sits center-stage on a 168-acre swath of land on the eastern edge of The University of Alabama campus, appearing to be straight out of the antebellum South with tall columns, sweeping lawns, and a tree-lined driveway that deposits visitors at the buildingâ€™s front steps. Once known as the oldest and largest mental health facility in the state, Bryce Hospital moved its operations across town in July, and its sprawling former campus is now a land in transition. The University of Alabama finalized a $77 million purchase of the property in 2011, and since, the quiet land has become a bustling 2
By Drew Pendleton
hub for construction. In fact, several University divisions recently University for years to come.” moved into some of its buildings, including the Office of Student Bryce Hospital was founded in 1861 and named for its first Media and Bryant-Jordan Hall, a vocal superintendent, Dr. Peter Bryce. According to “It’s 168 acres we can performance center for the departments of Wolfe, the hospital operated as a self-sufficient music and theatre and dance. University use, that’ll evolve, and farm where patients came to stay on the campus Planner Dan Wolfe believes this work on the that’ll be an asset to and work the land, a practice that greatly campus will be constantly in motion as the improved their health. The former main facility the University for years University grows. was added to the National Register of Historic to come.” “Everyone asks me when Bryce will be Places in 1977 and housed up to 268 patients until finished, and the answer is that it’ll never this past July, when the final occupants relocated be finished,” Wolfe said. “It’s not like it’s going to start X and end X. to the hospital’s new location, a 268,000-square-foot facility on It’s 168 acres we can use, that’ll evolve, and that’ll be an asset to the University Boulevard. UA Honors
Along with the main building, a house on the right side of the driveway was the former home of the hospital superintendent, according to Bryce Hospital Historical Preservation Committee member Betty Shirley. The building, Shirley said, also hosted several events over the years and often introduced visitors to Bryce for the first time. Shirley, a longtime Tuscaloosa resident, was a patient at Bryce for three months in 1968, while undergoing treatment for depression, and was later a member of the board overseeing the sale of the property. Alongside descendants of Peter Bryce and former hospital superintendent W.D. Partlow, Shirley said she was a vocal supporter of the University’s purchasing the land. “I wanted the University to buy it because we didn’t have anywhere else to go, really,” Shirley said. “Everyone sort of wanted the University to buy the property, so they did.” As the main building undergoes renovations and the superintendent’s house remains vacant, several other University divisions, including the Office of Environmental Health and Safety and the 100-bed Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatry Center, operate in satellite buildings off the property’s
winding network of roads. Just around the corner from the main building, however, lies the Tom Barnes Education Center, which currently houses several College of Education programs geared towards students with special needs. Two programs housed in the Barnes Center are especially aimed at reaching out into the University and Tuscaloosa communities. One program, CrossingPoints, is a collaboration between the College of Education’s Special Education and Multiple Abilities department and the Tuscaloosa City and County Schools to provide transition services for students aged 18 to 21 with disabilities. The building also hosts the Multiple Abilities Program, a two-year program in the College of Education whose students graduate with dual certification to teach elementary and collaborative special education from kindergarten through sixth grade. While they work to help and reach out to the community, both CrossingPoints and the Multiple Abilities Program still face a different challenge: the community’s perception of the Bryce property, which until its recent vacancy, was previously guarded by fences and closed to public access. While agreeing that the new location is a step in the right direction, the people
behind these programs are fully aware of the challenges their programs will face. “Our students fight a losing battle all the time, in trying to make people see their ability over their disability,” said Amy Williamson, a classroom teacher at CrossingPoints. “I don’t like the idea of putting them in a place where they have to fight that much harder for people to realize the ability they have.” Wolfe said Bryce’s property image does not have as much to do with its distance from the rest of campus, but rather with how it has been viewed in the past. “I think our challenge is how we make Bryce feel more like the University of Alabama, and not like a mental hospital,” Wolfe said. “I think we have to be careful, and make sure we do that properly.” However, Sarah Davis, a senior majoring in the Multiple Abilities Program, believes the property’s gradual integration into the University campus will help reshape its image. “I think the perception of the Bryce property has more to do with its isolation than with its previous use,” Davis said. “As people learn more about the programs housed on the property, I think the location will be de-mystified.” Despite its public perception, Shirley said Bryce and its employees did nothing but good during her time there.
Design by Cara Walker || Photox by Tori Robinson
“I had been to Birmingham for treatment, and my doctor there told me he’d done all they could for me,” Shirley said. “So in 1968, I came to Bryce and stayed for three months, and they really helped me. Dr. [James] Tarwater was superintendent, and he was a really wonderful, outstanding man.” CrossingPoints, founded in Fall 2002, teaches students about employment training, independent living, and the social and fundamental skills needed in their lives after college. Despite a low rate of employment for individuals with disabilities, Williamson said the high employment rate among CrossingPoints graduates—between 60 and 65 percent— embodies the organization’s goals. “It gives them purpose and meaning in life,” Williamson said. “Then they can be contributing members of society, and all those things that make you feel good, and make you one of everybody else rather than someone that’s different. They get to live the ‘American Dream,’ just like everyone else.” Williamson and Olivia Robinson, another classroom teacher at CrossingPoints, agreed that while the program’s former location in Garland Hall was more convenient to the rest of campus, the new location in the Barnes Center has its benefits, including a full kitchen and a new CrimsonRide route to transport students to the Transit Hub. Robinson said that as the University
expands, it has been able to successfully accommodate and support the program. “We have job sites all over campus, and still we get students to those job sites,” Robinson said. “I think a lot of that has to do with all the community support CrossingPoints gets from the University and everyone at their job sites.” Shirley also maintains a personal connection to CrossingPoints through her grandson Walt, a graduate of the program who has Down Syndrome and recently celebrated his 10th year working at the University’s on-campus bookstore. “He benefited so much from this program,” Shirley said. “We really love having Walt. He teaches us the importance of life.” While its current occupants, including the Barnes Center, can securely call the property home, more changes are coming to the Bryce campus. The University’s 20-year master plan calls for a new welcome center and performance spaces for the theatre and dance departments to occupy the main building, with construction of a separate 2,000-seat classroom building slated to begin soon. Plans include the construction of several connecting roads, linking the center of the Bryce campus to Jack Warner Parkway and Hackberry Lane, as well as an extension of 2nd Avenue from its current terminus at 4th Street to the campus. A bike operation center is planned for a yet-to-be-renovated satellite building, while extra parking and landscaping will also be included. As the plans move forward, Shirley said preservationists want the University to keep the main building’s large auditorium and long-closed chapel intact. With the property’s renovation in full swing—demolition began on sections of the main building’s wings
“As people learn more about the programs housed on the property, I think the location will be de-mystified.” earlier this year—plans are in motion to include a museum in the main building to commemorate and preserve the history of Bryce Hospital and its impact on mental health treatment in the United States. “Bryce Hospital revolutionized mental health in the United States, and became a model,” Wolfe said. “It really has a great, special history, and I think telling that’ll be fun.”
By Sarah Rumfelt
out of every four people Tuscaloosa residents meet, one is illiterate. This means even the simplest road signs, books or labels become obstacles, medical forms are puzzles, and instructions are enigmas. Twenty-five percent of Alabama residents fall in this category, which is only slightly more than that of Tuscaloosa County with its 23 percent rate of illiteracy. Most of the problems facing students in the United States point to flaws in the education system. Education and financial inequality are frequently linked and serve as the basis for discussions regarding education reforms such as test scores, reading levels and special education services. Several University of Alabama students recognized these problems and started a program, UnlockED, to facilitate discussions on how to improve not just Alabamaâ€™s educational system, but the rest of the countryâ€™s as well. Their goal is to explore topics to enable students to achieve their goals obtain academic success. UA Honors
“Every child deserves a quality discussions, film series, volunteer different education experience than opportunities, and summer internships education,” UnlockED President Kate those in the Black Belt of Alabama. Moss as outlets for student involvement. Moss said. “No matter where they stressed that those in the Mountain Brook In their first year, UnlockED established area didn’t realize the differences until are from.” Moss stressed much of the three pillars—inform, inspire, and inequality in the education system is they were exposed to them. In Mountain mobilize—to guide their organization. based on location. Brook, she said, students have access As a part of the mobilize initiative, “It’s all zip code,” Moss said. “You to a plethora of books, computers and they partnered with Surprise Supplies, have no control on where you’re born.” groundbreaking research. But in areas an organization dedicated to help local The University has many existing such as Marion, school districts lack the teachers get necessary school supplies. programs that revolve around education, funding to provide their students with and UnlockED wanted to similar tools necessary to succeed. highlight these initiatives, not Students attend UnlockED “In the first year UnlockED take their place. “Rather than meetings for a variety of reasons. established three pillars recreating programs that exist,” Very few executive members are inform, inspire, and mobilize Moss said. “UnlockED serves as a actually education majors, bringing to guide their organization.” campus hub.” even more views to the table. For She said the program strives some, UnlockED answers questions Through donations and member to bring awareness to the inequality in regarding the relation between poverty education and lead students to the various dedication, UnlockED raised over $800 for and one’s access to quality education. For the program and is striving to grow even programs where they can participate in others, they’ve always been keen to the larger and begin to tackle larger projects to subject and are committed to filling the attempts for reform. serve the local school systems. The program focuses on tangible and gaps in a broken system. The executive team facilitates community-focused change, providing Through UnlockED, Moss’s view of discussion-based meetings that typically education changed, and she slowly found revolve around student-picked topics or her way to Teach for America, a national newsworthy events. UnlockED capitalizes teacher corps dedicated to provide highon the diverse background of its students, quality education in low-income areas. An actively working to discover new solutions anthropology and Spanish major, Moss to fill the educational gaps underprivileged never imagined finding herself back in a children face. classroom after college. But through her Through UnlockED, students learn to opportunity to have conversations about become advocates for others. Moss said education and participate in Honors everyone should be exposed to these issues, College programs, she discovered her even if a person is not an education major. ability to personally impact the system. “You think about education even if Next year, Moss will be teaching sixth you’re a CEO,” Moss said. grade English in Texas. She said the information discussed can Megan Smith, a junior studying be applied to everyday life and affects economics and political science, is everyone, whether they realize it or not. the director of external relations for Moss provided the example of Mountain UnlockED. She first became interested Brook versus the Black Belt region. Those after taking Bricks to Books in the Honors from Mountain Brook had an entirely College, a course dedicated to addressing Mark Hammontree, UnlockED’s Director of Policy, welcomes guests to a public forum, Confronting Reality: Race in Public Schools, on January 29.
Design by Elise Ott || Photos by Nicole Rodriguez
Steven Westbrook, Utz McKnight, Nirmella Erevelles and Dr. Mary Burke Givens provide insight regarding the tough reality of race in public school with UA students.
educational challenges. The moment she saw how different other schools were from what she grew up with, she realized the educational issues discussed in class were in fact a reality. The class opened her eyes to the inequality in the education system, and she decided to do something about it, even adding education as a minor. Smith said her eyes were opened the first time she visited the Black Belt through the Black Belt Experience in the Honors College. She went in not knowing exactly what to expect, only stories and information she had learned from her classes. Everything from supplies to equipment to after-school activities differed. Smith said the trip was one of the most rewarding experiences she has had because it offered her not only a new perspective, but also a motivation to share this information with others. Each year, the freshman class of University Fellows travels to Perry County as part of the Black Belt Experience to explore issues concerning poverty as well as make connections with individuals
through sustainable service projects. The program’s popularity has grown tremendously since its start in 2009. Due to an increase in the number of Honors College students that want to travel to Perry County, a new program, 57 Miles, was created. This program allows all Honors College students, not just University Fellows, the opportunity to give back to communities in need and put education into action.
not lack the tools to become successful, but rather lack role models to show them how to become successful. UA students fill that void, showing them study strategies, and stressing the importance of staying in school. The work 57 Miles does for Marion does not go unnoticed. Community members have formed strong relationships with UA students and faculty that will continue to grow. “When we are there, we are working with the people, not serving them,” Smith said. “When we are there, we are Many college students often take working with the people, not their educational experience for serving them.” granted, their student status confirming their prior opportunities for success. “57 Miles gives students an outlet to They have had opportunities to become apply what they learn in the classroom,” successful and attend college. Not all said Henry Downes, a 57 Miles-intern. students have that ability. “The energy is infectious. Once Education has been the driving force a person takes a trip to Marion, they won’t behind many poverty-inspired programs. ever want to leave.” Organizations like UnlockED and 57 Downes said the program ignites potential Miles are determined to bring progress to and empowers the kids in Perry County. the education system through service He said the children in Perry County do and discussion.
Mentor: Someone Who Cares By Matthew Wilson
erived from a character in Homer’s Greek epic The Odyssey, a mentor is one who teaches or offers guidance to a less experienced or younger person. Over time, the word has come to mean teacher, advisor, guardian and friend. History offers us many examples of great leaders: Socrates to Plato, Hayden to Beethoven, Anne Sullivan to Helen Keller. Several University of Alabama Honors College students have accepted the challenge to embody these characteristics for the greater Tuscaloosa community as both role models and friends. Shelby Gatewood is one such student. Gatewood, a junior biology major, volunteers her time in elementary schools as a student facilitator for READ Alabama, a program designed to promote literacy and education in elementary-aged children. Managed by director Vicki Holt, the program invites UA students into elementary schools on a weekly basis to read and teach children. “Making that connection with the kids is rewarding,” Gatewood insisted. “It’s so sad at the end of the semester when you have to leave them.” Gatewood meets with her group of first
graders every Tuesday afternoon at Cottondale Elementary school. Gatewood’s job is to make sure the classroom is organized and the groups are running smoothly. Gatewood said she usually surveys the group of energetic, excited first graders as they read with other volunteers. During one particular meeting, the children made their own kabala board game out of egg cartons for the book, Here Comes The Zebra. While coloring, one of the first graders, Bryan, abandoned his crayons to play hide and seek with his mentor, Joanna Bushardt. Bryan’s creativity enchants Bushardt, a senior accounting major, who enjoys the way he thinks outside of the box even though it sometimes conflicts with instructions. For instance, Bryan often uses all the crayons instead of just the assigned colors in art projects, and he usually makes up words when playing hangman. “He loves to count to me,” Bushardt said, smiling, “He’ll make it to 100 but he usually skips a few—60 or 70. He’s gone to 500 one time.” As a mentor, Bushardt said it is her job to be someone he can look up to. Rather than focus on the technical side of learning, Bushardt incorporates activities he enjoys like drawing on the white board to grab his attention and make learning engaging. As long as a person has patience and is willing to listen, Bushardt said anyone could be a mentor. However, senior psychology major Zach Beasley disagrees with her perspective. A lead volunteer for the Every Move Counts Chess program, Beasley said he’s seen many volunteers over the past two
JiMarion Brown learns chess with volunteer John Powers during an Every Move Counts meeting at Alberta elementary. Photo provided by Courtney Stokes.
years and doesn’t think everyone had what it takes. “I’ve been a lead volunteer for a long time,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of volunteers come and stay. I’ve had a lot of terrible volunteers that don’t know how to interact with kids. If you come in and don’t care, the kids will know that.” As part of the Every Move Counts program, Beasley spends his Fridays at Tuscaloosa Magnet School where he teaches Alberta third graders how to play chess. Every Move Counts, led by coordinator Courtney Stokes and Dr. Stephen Black, is a Honors College program where college students learn and teach third grade through high school students the value of chess both as a new skill and a vehicle for structured education. Gathering in a classroom with seven other volunteers and 21 third graders, Beasley said he likes to roam the room, watching the
children play against each other on cloth chessboards. Volunteers teach the students weekly chess techniques using a velcro fabric chessboard hanging in the classroom. They started with the basics but steadily work toward more complex concepts. Beasley and lead volunteer, Amanda Akridge, are in charge of making sure all the students understand the weekly lessons. As mentors, the two have to be adaptable as they balance different personalities ranging from energetic and outspoken to introverted and focused. Beasley said his background in psychology helps him to be a better mentor. “One second kids are happy and laughing, then they get beaten and upset,” he said. “They start crying. You have to be there to fix it and restore the balance in the classroom.” Akridge, a junior education major, said it is important to get on the kids’ level and understand different learning styles. At the end of every match, the third graders shake hands with their partners.
“Identifying what ways the children learn, like audio, visual, or with their hands, helps to teach them better,” she said. “They learn sportsmanship. If you catch one of their pieces, you don’t laugh at them. You make the other person feel good.” Mentorship is a two-way relationship that can be a life-changing experience not only for the mentee, but also for the mentor, Maxton Thoman insisted. Thoman, a junior Spanish and math major, spent his fall semester participating in SpanishOutreach. Through the program, directed by Dr. Shirin Posner, college students who have a major or minor in Spanish spend a semester tutoring Hispanic students struggling in the Tuscaloosa schools. Working six hours a week, Thoman tutored two Spanish-speaking eighth graders: Julio and Bryan. Thoman practiced reading with them and used Google’s Spanish mode to translate historical battles for history. The two really thrived, Thoman insisted.
“Children teach you things about yourself that you would never know. Establishing that one-on-one relationship gives them and you structure.”
Kendal Jones shares her experiences from her semester with Spanish Outreach with new volunteers at a group meeting on a Wednesday night.
Design by Samantha Harber
“Working with someone who tries to learn and who actually enjoys the language, it taught me so much about perseverance,” he said. Posner said the program addresses a serious need in the community because language barriers often cause Hispanic students to fall behind in Tuscaloosa schools. The Outreach project assists English As A Second Language offices in supporting the needs of a growing Hispanic student body. “Both the city and county school system have ESL offices,” she said. “They have paid personnel and tutors that can go into the schools. They have a certain budget they have to work with, but it’s not enough for the amount of need.” As he finishes his semester with the program, Thoman shares his experience with next semester’s volunteers. Parting with the program is bittersweet, but Thoman said he knows the program is in good hands. Katy Buddemyer, a senior Spanish and biology major, tutored high school students for sixhours a week. She found lesson translation to be difficult because only two of her students spoke any English. “It was hard because I had eight students I was running around to in algebra class trying to explain algebra concepts to,” she said. “The rest of the class was really loud and rowdy. It was challenging but really rewarding.” Thoman sees a bright future for both Bryan and Julio. Both eighth graders want to study law after high school, a future he believes they can accomplish. “The issue I have with so many service projects is that they’re a week long,” Thoman said. “There’s that end. When you try to be a mentor, you can’t have an end date. That just generates distrust and dissatisfaction.” Being a mentor means more than just being a teacher—it means being a role model. Role models are examples to live by, and challenge preconceptions through respect and patience. Volunteers must be imbued with all these qualities and set high expectations, director of
Mentor Lexi Jones helps Albernekia Edwards with her homework at Mckenzie Court Elementary on a Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Nicole Rodriguez.
Al’s Pals, Star Bloom stressed. Al’s Pals is a program available through the University’s Center for Sustained Service and Volunteerism where all college-aged students can mentor elementary-aged students within Tuscaloosa community schools. “We always tell mentors that they are role models,” Bloom said. “They are role models with every breath. They’re a role model in the way they dress, in the way they talk, in they way they talk with each other. We think that’s really important.” The program’s one-on-one relationship between the mentee and the mentor allows the two to focus on an area where the student is underprepared. Being able to discuss their education and having encouragement is beneficial for the mentees. The one-on-one bond establishes an outlet for the mentee to work on their social skills, Lakeidra Mims said. “Children teach you things about yourself that you would never know. Establishing that one-on-one relationship gives them and you structure,” she said. Mims, a graduate assistant in the program, manages 48 elementary students and 48 volunteers on Tuesday afternoons at McKenzie Court Elementary School.
Between organizing snack time and guiding homework and enrichment, Mims tries to find a balance between education and social interaction. Activities captivate the students both physically and mentally, fostering education with a hands-on approach. Through entertainment, students become engrossed, engaging in activities ranging from exercising with Zumba to polishing pennies. Mims said her favorite activity was when the mentees made self-portraits using leaves, sticks and rocks. Bloom said mentors have to recognize the students’ assets and assist in maximizing theirpotential. For example, if a kid liked to draw, a mentor could use that as an incentive to get them to do their homework. “You have to set high expectations,” she said. “Often we find we are setting the highest expectations in that child’s life, including the teacher. We have some smart students. Once they’re challenged and see that they really can do things, they can start to soar.”
ng m i in SA F i l rty OO
ve L Po CA S TU Em
m llia Wi
iss Audrey Harris didn’t know how she was going to survive another winter. The roof of her house had begun to collapse, and there were tarps covering the holes. Industrial-sized trashcans collected falling rainwater inside. The home, built in 1894, was not equipped to insulate her against the bitter cold and howling winds. Piling on coats, gloves and scarves just to sleep was all she could do to keep warm. But that all changed when Miss Audrey got the keys to her very own new house, built for her by the organization Habitat for Humanity. Stories like Miss Audrey’s are all too common in Tuscaloosa and across the country, but often go unnoticed due to a lack of awareness. A group of Honors College students took the problem into their own hands and went outside the comforts of the University to document poverty. In the course UH 210 Honors Documentary Filmmaking, the students made a film about the problems facing impoverished people in the Tuscaloosa area with the goal of encouraging others to volunteer. “Our documentary covers kind of a controversial topic: poverty in Alabama,” said Abby Armstrong, a freshman telecommunication and film major. “The thing is, nobody wants to acknowledge that Alabama is a poor state. Our goal with this film was to bring that to light and inspire people to want to help change the situation and help people.” 14
“Our documentary covers kind of a controversial topic: poverty in Alabama.”
Armstrong, along with juniors Jacob Johnson, Maggie Saylor and Blair Bartholf, used Habitat for Humanity as the focal point for exploring problems and solutions associated with poverty. The documentary is published on lightscameraalabama.com, the website for the Honors Documentary Filmmaking class. The group interviewed officers from Habitat for Humanity, a national non-profit that does both new home construction and repair work on existing homes for low-income families. They spoke to worksite supervisors, homeowners and volunteers to gain several different perspectives on poverty and even volunteered with Habitat to help build houses in Tuscaloosa. When the group went to work on the Habitat sites on three separate days this past September and October, they were surprised to learn how common poverty is in Tuscaloosa and how close to campus it exists. “We were going to some low-income housing that had been fixed up by Habitat for Humanity, and it was really like a ten-minute drive,” said Saylor, a metallurgical engineering major. “That was surprising to me because I thought it was all out in the country. It definitely made it more real to go and interview the people and see their lives first hand, where they live and their whole situation.” One of the areas in Tuscaloosa with the most need for Habitat construction is the West End, the area of town west of Lurleen Wallace Boulevard. Some of the houses in the area that need repairs don’t even have indoor plumbing or running water.
The need for low-rent housing in the West End and other parts of Tuscaloosa has increased exponentially since the devastating April 2011 tornado hit. New construction resumed after the storm, but as Jacob Johnson learned throughout the process of making the documentary, not enough of this new construction served those most in need.
“That has really been a door that has been closed to poor people. What we’re trying to do is open that door and improve neighborhoods.” Homeownership is part of the solution to the ongoing cycle of poverty, according to Habitat Tuscaloosa Chairwoman Ellen Potts. She said when people own homes, they take better care of them than rentals. Owning a home is one of the biggest investments a family can make to help ensure future financial security. “Homeownership has traditionally been a luxury of the middle and upper class and the way that most Americans build equity and a future for their family,” Potts said. “That has really been a door that has been
Habitat for Humanity homeowner Melissa Jones is interviewed for the Honors Documentary Filmmaking class. UA Honors
Abby Armstrong operates the camera during an interview.
payment goes directly toward paying off the mortgage. Potts estimated that over the course of the loan, homeowners save $8590,000 in interest. “The homeowners are so thankful,” Armstrong said. “You won’t go to a site without being thanked by them personally. It means the world to them.” One of the hardest parts of making the documentary, the group said, was capturing the emotion of homeowners during interviews. The challenge was to build trust with the subjects, but at the same time inspire viewers to take action. This trust was imperative when the group asked probing questions; they didn’t want the homeowners to feel like they were being exploited but they needed to show the emotion in order to tell a compelling story. “We did have to be pretty delicate because nobody wants to speak about their problems,” Saylor said. “We had to get the seriousness of the homeowners’ situations without them feeling embarrassed or not
“You won’t go to a site without being thanked by them personally. It means the world to them.”
closed to poor people. What we’re trying to do is open that door and improve neighborhoods.” In addition to building houses and rehabilitating existing homes, Habitat provides homeowners with financial literacy and home maintenance education through the Home Depot. “What we do changes the family’s future,” Potts said. “We really try to give them the tools to be successful homeowners.” When the documentary film students went to work on the construction sites, they saw first hand the impact Habitat has on new homeowners. The group observed what Habitat calls “sweat equity,” which is where homeowners work on their home site and other sites to help pay for construction. For a single adult home, the requirement is 250 hours of “sweat equity;” for a multi-adult home, 350 hours. The homes are provided with a zero interest mortgage over thirty years. Otherthan property tax and insurance, all of the monthly home 16
wanting to share the reality of it.” Armstrong said the most impactful interview was with a woman who had been homeless for four years and relocated seven different times before finally getting a Habitat home. “She was very emotional and everybody in the room was emotional by the time she was done interviewing,” Armstrong said. “Afterward we drove her back to the place she was staying, and she gave us all hugs. She told me she felt like a weight had been lifted now that she got to share her side of the story of what was going on in her situation. I was happy that she got to share that in a safe space; that felt rewarding to me.” Bartholf said working with and getting to know the homeowners changed her perspective on poverty. “I grew up in a household where we kind of felt that poor people were lazy and they got that way because they didn’t work hard enough,” she said. “Hearing these peoples’ stories, a lot of them actually touched our hearts on why they’re in poverty. A lot of these people had full-time jobs and had homes, and all of that got ripped away. It’s just sort of eye-opening to see that every story is different.” Misconceptions about poverty were a central theme in the film. Potts hopes the students’ documentary will help change negative stereotypes about impoverished people.
“I hope that people see that the people we are helping are not deadbeats; they’re hardworking poor people,” she said. Johnson said many of the people they interviewed tried to avoid discussing the problem of poverty directly. “I think a lot of what we got from (the film) is really the attitude towards poverty. We went out to these places and everybody is excited to be working on these buildings but then when you talk to some of the people in charge, nobody really wants to say the word ‘poverty.’ They call it ‘low income’,” he said. “Nobody wants to acknowledge that there are a lot of poor people in the area that we just drive past every day. Even a lot of he people in these situations don’t want to hear that they’re poor.” The group said their goal for the documentary was to change these misconceptions, by putting a human face on the problem. They wanted to inspire others in the community to volunteer with Habitat Tuscaloosa, from high school students to fraternities and sororities to working adults. “Hopefully our video helps raise awareness, but awareness doesn’t build houses,” Johnson said. “People that watch the video and become excited to help others, they’re going to go out and build those houses.”
n 1938, countless families and individuals sought to escape Vienna, Austria under the threat of an imminent oppressive Nazi occupation. One extended family, including aunts, uncles and cousins, fled to Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia, through the assistance of a daughter’s Serbian husband who then financed their passage to the United States. Three generations later, Emma Fick has taken up residence in the country that provided her family’s refuge during World War II and embarked on a new career path inspired by the history surrounding her. “My mother always encouraged me to learn more about our family history, but as a child I was uninterested,” Fick recounted. “The various elements of the story – ‘grandma came over on a boat’ and phrases like ‘World War II’ and ‘Vienna, Austria’ – entered my mind as hazy, exotic and interesting in that they conjured bizarre and fantastical imaginings.” UA Honors
After studying English literature and art history at The University of Alabama, Fick earned a Fulbright scholarship to serve as an English teaching assistant in Novi Pazar, Serbia from September 2013 through June 2014. On the side, she pursued the project of tracing her family history and studying Byzantine frescoes in monasteries. Fick developed an interest in Serbian-Byzantine frescoes during a UA study abroad program for art history in Florence, Italy. And three years later, she learned that her grandmother’s stories about escaping to Belgrade in Yugoslavia referred to present-day Serbia, the home of the frescoes she admired. “I did not register ‘Serbia’ [at the time] but I did register the frescoes. I spent a long time in that tiny exhibit. I just loved the aesthetic,” she explained. “When I learned that the ‘Yugoslavia’ in my grandmother’s stories was present-day Serbia, I had a rather surreal moment in which everything clicked and I realized the art I so loved just happened to come from the country so instrumental in my family’s survival.” Upon receiving her scholarship, Fick was able to locate and contact her grandmother’s cousin, Ildi, who never left Serbia. She spent her first week in Serbia living with Ildi in the very home where Nicky Petrovic, her Serbian relative, sheltered her family in 1938
and where her great-great-grandmother lived for the rest of her life. “Meeting and getting to know Ildi was a vivid experience, both aesthetically and emotionally,” Fick said. “She lives alone in a crumbling, decaying house that looks like it hasn’t changed since 1945. I spent days going through old yellow-edged photos, listening to her stories and getting to know her.” And halfway through her Fulbright experience, Fick discovered a new passion: illustration. “At the time, I was applying for graduate schools for Renaissance literature. Suddenly, my fine-arts side, which had been mostly buried under academics as a student at UA, bubbled up and wouldn’t subside,” she recalled. One artistic outlet Fick took advantage of at UA was an internship with Creative Campus during her junior and senior years, which she credits for allowing her to cultivate what she called “big-picture thinking and detail-oriented project execution.” “Object X, Creative Career Fair, and The Nest are some examples of projects Emma played a significant role in developing,” Creative Campus Coordinator Michelle Bordner said. “Her contributions and passion for making these ideas come to life were apparent in the outcomes of these projects.” Fick began illustrating scenes around the cities she visited during her time in Serbia as a Fulbright scholar, which she published on her blog, Snippets. As her investment in Serbia and her artistic endeavors deepened, Fick pursued a grant through the U.S. Embassy’s Cultural Affairs Office where she had developed
Design by Maria Oswalt
relationships during her time as a Fulbright scholar. “When I decided I wanted to continue on this path of using art as a means to communicate culture, I had very receptive ears at the Embassy,” Fick said. She was awarded the grant to spend four more months in Serbia from October 2014 through February of this year after drafting a proposal and defining the goals of her project. Fick taught illustration workshops at Serbia’s eight American Corners, cultural centers run by U.S. embassies in over 60 countries, and illustrated life from around the country to add to Snippets. “[Emma] is a is a wonderful person and an excellent representative of the United States. We can all be proud,” said Dr. Beverly Hawk, who Fick credited as a tireless resource for her Fulbright application. Her grant experience culminated with an exhibition of her work, and Fick plans to stay in Serbia to work on new projects she has developed as a freelance illustrator. “Right now, I’m remaining open to different collaborative travel opportunities. However, whenever I go back to the States, I plan to spend time in New Orleans to create a collection of illustrations about the culture there,” Fick said. But she’s not likely to stay stateside for long as her memories of Serbia tempt her back to the country that Fick has come to call home. “I have vivid and precious memories from the Serbian countryside where I spent my time exploring villages, meeting families and discovering tiny, tucked-away ancient churches, many of them with exquisite frescoes covering the walls,” she recollected.
BARB BAMA BY ELIZABETH SELMARTEN
bar•be•cue : n. 1 “Any kind of meat that you can slow cook over coals or in a smoker. That’s barbecue.” —Joshua Rothman
BECUE IN AE
very game day, a stretch of food trucks and vendors station themselves just across the street from Nott Hall and along the east perimeter of the quad to provide one of the most integral parts of the day: barbecue. Tailgaters around campus already have their favorite barbecue catered and spread underneath their tents, while others step up to the feat of preparing their own meat. Even Bryant-Denny Stadium ministers to the game day barbecue need by serving Dreamland barbecue nachos. Another option is found on University Boulevard at local favorite Big Bad Wolves. The home of the slathered-on pulled pork, nacho cheese, homemade BBQ sauce, and pickled jalapeños atop tortilla chips does not have a permanent storefront, just a pop-up location only open on home game days. There’s simply no escaping the smell of moist, flavored meat smothered in a savory sauce.
campaign for The Year of Alabama Food in both 2005 But barbecue’s presence in Tuscaloosa is not solely limited and 2012. The Alabama Tourism Department has decided to every home football game. It’s a go-to food choice that to name 2015 the Year of Alabama Barbecue. In fact, the many organizations, both on and off campus, serve at events Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) in 2013 gave University and meetings. It’s the type of food tourists scout out to eat of Alabama history professor and when visiting. It’s also a popular the Summersell Center for Study delicacy for the locals to dine on. “Southern Barbecue is the But most importantly, it’s an closest thing we have in the of the South Director Dr. Joshua Rothman an $18,000 grant to unofficial symbol of the state U.S. to Europe’s wines or publish two papers, one on the and the South. cheeses; drive a hundred miles history of Alabama foodways and “Southern Barbecue,” the and the barbecue changes.” the other on the history of Alabama sociologist John Shelton Reed once barbecue. The Southern Foodways wrote, “is the closest thing we have Alliance released one of them, “Pork Ribs and Politics: The in the U.S. to Europe’s wines or cheeses; drive a hundred miles Origins of Alabama Barbecue,” on February 23, 2015. and the barbecue changes.” Rothman’s fascinating research project consists of more Reed’s words couldn’t be more true, seeing that the state than dining on Alabama’s finest barbecue. His study of of Alabama has celebrated barbecue as part of its tourism UA Honors
when class is out and students are barbecue actually encompasses many less busy. Their first cookout was sects of academia including history, in October and consisted of smoked politics, economics and geography. applewood ribs with loaded baked “We found in our research is that potatoes and rolls. Alabamians’ sort of affection for BBQ goes Poole hopes for the club to expand beyond back,” Rothman said. “Arguably, it goes back to the their current 60 students in order to have huge events and years of Spanish colonization.” eventually represent the university in competition barbecue. At that time, barbecue was not a cooking practice used by The club is active on social media, including Facebook, Europeans. It was something they learned in the New World and hopes to increase membership and awareness through when the Native Americans introduced to them the art of that outlet. barbecuing through their cooking methods of smoking and One thing the tailgaters, Rothman and the Barbecue Club grilling food over holes. all have in common, regardless of their different approaches In regard to another aspect of the barbecue phenomenon, to the Southern staple, is their shared respect of how deeply Rothman points out how barbecue served as a way to bring connected barbecue is to the state and Tuscaloosa. together people who often lived very far apart. Since starting the Barbecue Club, Poole said he has learned “We have to remember that Alabama for most of its that barbecue is more about eating rather than just preparing history, and arguably even now, tends to be more rural than a and cooking it. lot of parts of the United States,” Rothman said. “You have to “For people to gather around and love what they are eating create occasions where people come together. You can do that makes everyone happy and wanting to come back for more,” at church; you can do that at political events sometimes. The Poole said. Rothman put it in a broader one thing that you could also do is “You can’t make barbecue prospective, integrating barbecue and you could have a barbecue. You can’t for one. It’s the kind of the locale. make barbecue for one. It’s the kind of thing that’s going to feed a lot thing that’s going to feed a “Barbecue has an impact in a sense that when people think of a place like of people.” lot of people.” Tuscaloosa, when they think of The Outside of the classroom and the University of Alabama, the kind of associations that they football atmosphere, barbecue maintains another presence make tend to be with things like football, tailgating, barbecue on campus with the newly established official University of and that’s putting aside certain academic things,” Rothman Alabama Barbecue Club. The club, sponsored by the South’s said. “I think that that’s the way it has an impact on our lives Finest Meats and Vegetables, hosts many events where is that the very specific places like that provide a certain members barbecue and eat. Founded and run by senior Austin specificity to Tuscaloosa.” Poole, the club is open to all students, regardless of barbecue Regardless what your opinion of barbecue is, the meat knowledge or cooking skill. prevails as an integral part of the Southern lifestyle, affecting “Our current goals include showing people how to properly tourism and the economy as well as playing a part in the prepare, season and cook certain types of meat,” Poole said. history of the region. The meat also provides a purpose “Since the Club has started, we have [had] smoked pork ribs, in social events and gatherings such as tailgating parties, sausage and chicken. We have extended the knowledge of reunions and even weddings. outdoor cooking to several people and want to continue Needless to say, barbecue isn’t just a slab of meat. It’s a until most of the UA student body knows how to culture revered by many. properly barbecue.” The club events include weekend cookouts 24
The Mosaic staff hosted a blind taste test of six Tuscaloosa restaurants to see which local barbecue would win out. Honors students were asked to sample each and then rank them in order of their favorites. Forty-eight students weighed in and gave their views.
Design by Cara Walker || Photos by Christopher Roper
“Jim N Nick’s is my go-to barbecue place because they have very good pulled pork and sweet sauce.” —Savannah Kiesel, Florida “Full Moon is my favorite in Tuscaloosa because the barbecue is always good, and you get a lot of it.” —Taylor Ragan, Georgia
“Dreamland just has a nice, classic barbecue taste.” —Brett Dunn, Alabama
Jim N Nick’s
Honors College Talks BBQ “Barbecue is definitely one of the things I appreciate about the South, being from Chicago.” —TJ Kory, Illinois “Barbecue helps to differentiate our culture, and it is just another reason we are so rich in culture.” —Lydia Blount, Alabama “I think barbecue is the quintessential southern food, and the stories behind each barbecue restaurant are unique and interesting.” —Justin Chambers, Tennessee UA Honors
â€œ79,â€? a sculpture designed by Maria Oswalt and 3D printed through the UA Makerspace. Photo by Maria Oswalt. 26
Sincerely yours, By Matthew Speakman
or most students, walking around The University of Alabama’s campus is a routine activity, but few realize the same pathways they travel were once taken by famous novelist Harper Lee decades earlier. When Lee released her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, in 1960, Americans turned their eyes to an author from a small town in Alabama. Lee went against the opinions of the majority by showing the world the South’s struggle with racism. Pulitzer Prize winning writer Rick Bragg believes that Lee opened the eyes to the racial injustices occurring in the south during her time. “Sometimes to get people to understand that they are on the wrong path,” Bragg said. “You need to give it to them in a story; in a rich, lovely, admittedly sad story.” Lee etched her name in history after the release of
her first novel, but 55 years later, she has returned to the spotlight with the unexpected release of a second work entitled Go Set a Watchman. The announcement, from one of nation’s most elusive authors, has focused attention on Lee’s history, much of it including her time spent at UA. Lee’s writing skills were originally showcased at the University after transferring from Huntingdon College in 1945. Her father was a state senator and lawyer, so it seemed only natural she pursue a career in law. The University has experienced many changes since Lee was a student. There was no Ferguson Center or Lakeside Dining, and the dorms, such as Riverside and Ridgecrest, did not exist either. In Lee’s day, students were mostly from Alabama, while now the university targets out-of-state students to introduce diversity to UA Honors
Design by Ellie Larson || Photos by Larua Wymer
the University. The campus was also all white, considering that the first African-American student was not admitted until 1956. Even though Lee was a law student, she still contributed to many journalism outlets including the student newspaper, The Crimson White, and the now-retired satire magazine, Rammer Jammer, of which she was editor in 1946. Mark Mayfield, who is an advisor to Mosaic and the editorial advisor and associate director of the UA Office of Student Media, believes that Rammer Jammer was a main reason Lee pursued a career in writing.
“In my reading of her work in the magazine, it strikes me as someone far beyond her years,” Mayfield said. “Her experience with Rammer Jammer definitely paved the way for her career in writing.” Rammer Jammer provided Harper Lee with a medium to showcase her writing skills. Lee would introduce each issue with a segment called “General Delivery,” in which she provided commentary on recent events and proceedings of the University along with the world news. She split up the delivery into multiple sections and tackled a range of topics, covering anything from Greek life to jazz concerts. Lee’s editorial was characterized by quick-witted remarks, dry humor, and her use of jargon. In the 1946 Homecoming issue, Lee displayed her distinct writing voice in the opening editorial “After years of splintered buttons and faded, shrunken garments, the local dirt-chasers have gone a step farther in their independence and are demanding that cleaning be given with each pile of laundry,” Lee said. “Just another variation on the old notickee, no-shirtee routine, we suppose.” Her contribution to the publication laid the groundwork for her soon-to-be literary career. Lee spent four years at the University until she decided to study abroad at the University of Oxford in England. Six months away from completing her law degree, Lee decided to drop her career path to pursue a career in literature, ultimately moving to New York City. Lee published To Kill A Mockingbird 11 years later. The novel gained much acclaim and provided inspiration for future Alabama-based writers, like Bragg. In June, both Bragg and Lee will be among a dozen authors inducted into the inaugural Alabama Writers Hall of Fame. However, Lee has already been recognized with the establishment of the Harper Lee Award, an honor given to distinguished Alabama writers who have accomplished literary success on a national scale. Bragg received the Harper Lee Award in 2009. “It meant a tremendous amount to me to receive an award in the name of the author that wrote one of the most important books of all time,” Bragg said. “I was honored because her name was on it.” The University of Alabama continues to honor Lee’s time spent here despite the lapse of years and transitions since. Even though the times have changed, Lee’s writing still continues to impact through her classic work and the expectation of the one to come. After all, for Lee, who has steadfastly protected her privacy and declined countless interview requests for decades, it is her work that defines her, and by all accounts, she is perfectly fine with that. “Before I can live with other folks, I’ve got to live with myself,” Lee said. “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a
ART THAT STRIKES A CHORD By Emily Williams
Honors Student Mitchell Griest has never waited for instruction; painting outside the lines is more his style. He thrives on exploration and experimentation, creating art that embraces the unconventional. UA Honors
A self-taught artist and musician, Mitchell Griest currently has work on display at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center and was the creative mind behind an interactive installation at this year’s Week of Welcome activities. His signature style is custom aerosol graffiti art and unique mirror designs, featuring vibrant, multi-colored swirls of paint that bounce off the glass. His designs are brightly colored, cosmic, and often feature letters of the alphabet, combining the visual elements of hip-hop culture with inspiration from nature and the world around him. “There’s very few times when my mind is not going: beat boxing in my head or trying to remember Eminem lyrics from 1996,” he said. “The only time when there’s one tone, when there’s not the clamor, is when I’m making something, when I’m focused.” Griest started experimenting with graffiti at age 16, painting poster boards and canvases that he sold at coffee houses, art festivals and farmers markets in his hometown of Brighton, Michigan. He was recognized around town for painting a mural at a coffeehouse, and shortly after, was commissioned for several other projects around town. When he came to college, Griest wasn’t sure he wanted to study art; he had never taken a formal class in high school. His freshman year, he was asked to do a mural for Creative Campus and started doing clandestine installations on the quad, setting up fake archeological digs. It was only after he attended a talk by drawing professor Pete Schulte that he decided to start taking art classes. Griest is now a junior majoring in art and computer science with a math minor. He said Schulte has inspired him to expand his artistic arsenal, experimenting with different styles and materials beyond just spray paint. He now works with oil paints, colored pencils,
charcoal, watercolors, India ink and even house paint. “Pete has instilled in me a pretty strong sense of ‘just try it,’” Griest said. “Don’t sit there and wonder if you put a red dot on the canvas how it’s going to look. Just put it there and if you don’t like it, do something over it.” Schulte said Griest combines his technical skills as a visual artist with provocative ideas and concepts that create interesting and thoughtful art. “He really understands the benefits of experimenting, of trying things knowing that they won’t work out. But then he builds on these experiments to develop the projects,” Schulte said. “You never know what he’s going to bring in next. It’s really exciting.” In addition to his artwork, Griest’s other passion is music. He picked up the guitar at age 9 and through the same experimentation that led him to success in art, taught himself to play. He composes electronic music, playing drums, bass, piano and ukulele and working with synthesizers and turntables as a DJ. Griest said his background in computers inspires his artistic and musical pursuits because he uses coding to enhance the precision of his work. His current piece on display features instruments operated by DC motors, which incorporate movement, mechanics and sound. “I’m at this merging where my music is starting to have aspects of visual art in it, and my art now is starting to have to do with sound more and more,” he said. “Computers are coming into it a lot lately. It’s kind of cool, being in the art school I’m not just painting.” When it comes to composing, he enjoys the challenge of putting music with film, most recently working with Campus Movie Fest and the Black Warrior Film Festival to create soundtracks for student productions.
Design by Maria Oswalt || Photos by Laura Wymer
Griest composed the score for student filmmaker Lauren Musgrove’s movie, which premiered at Campus Movie Fest this January. She said Griest captured the spirit of the film through his attention to detail in creating an emotional, heartfelt track. “I am so happy with the end product,” she said. “It spoke perfectly to the tone I was going for. He made sure every detail of the track was perfect. He put so much effort and heart into a project that he didn’t know too much about; that’s passion.” At the moment, Griest said he can’t decide what he likes best: art, music or computers; he’s balancing them all. “I’m super obsessive,” he said. “If I find something I kind of like, it becomes my world for ten minutes and then I go to one of the fifty other things that I’m obsessed with. I juggle them.” Schulte said Griest’s passion will serve him well no matter what he ends up doing in the future. “Artists tend to be people who are very flexible and can approach problems in myriad ways, can turn them around in their heads and can think critically about something,” Schulte said. “Those kinds of skills translate across the spectrum, so I mean this in the best possible way: I have no idea what Mitchell will be doing but I think he’s going to be pretty successful at it.” In the future, Griest said he is interested in pursuing music as a career and has plans to submit his work to a record label. He said he would also love to continue producing visual art that combines his loves of music and computers. “I want to keep making things forever,” he said. “I think if I’m making things, I’ll be happy. I don’t know what they’ll be, I haven’t found one thing that I like more than anything else, but I’m still working.”
One of eight mirrors in Mitchell Griest’s “Two Accusers, One Accused (Quilt Song).” Photo by Laura Wymer. 32
ELEMENTS by Nicole Rodriguez
Creating surreal images of natural elements spilling out of mouths was an effort to finally realize an idea I have had in my imagination for the past few years. Each element was visualized before photographed, and each photograph was intentional. Black-lipped Pollution was captured as the antithesis to the other elements, as everything has its balance. It is my hope that people will look at these pictures and consider their production, as it was my most creative endeavor yet. UA Honors
Design by Maria Oswalt
F E AT U R E S Everybody Loves Carlos 38 The Man Behind the Mask 44 Us. 50
loves Adopted by an Alabama professor, Carlos the alligator lives peacefully in the Biology Building. Lab assistants, students and janitors often stop by to visit the creature many consider to be a friend.
By Brian Ogden UA Honors
Because of his small size, the bigger alligators would most likely have just picked on him if he had stayed in Louisiana.
aturday morning. Dr. Stephen Secor sat in his office grading tests when he heard a clicking sound outside his door.
His students brought back plenty of alligators in the sizes Secor had specified, but they also brought back one small runt. The people at the refuge gave Secor’s students Carlos in hope that they could give him a good home. Because of his small size, the bigger alligators would most likely have just picked on him if he had stayed in Louisiana. One day, Secor went down to the lab where the alligators He looked up, only to see his pet, Carlos, lumber were being held and found the small alligator alone in a through the door. Plenty of people have pets; some even bring large tank. Carlos is Secor’s third alligator and all have had them along to work, but Secor’s pet is a bit different. Carlos is different personalities. He credits Carlos’s temperament to an alligator, quietly living on the fourth floor of the Biology the fact that he handled him a lot when he was younger and Building, unknown to many of the students who sit in class conditioned him to be around humans. below him. “I brought him up here and put him in a little tank, and It’s fairly easy to stumble upon Carlos by accident. He he grew, and I handled him,” Secor said. “I started taking lives in Secor’s lab and generally has free roam of the four him to schools, so he became very important in our outreach rooms that make up the office. The only warning to an programs. He went to schools for many, many years.” unsuspecting guest is a homemade sign that reads, “Alligator Amy Ryan taught at Central High School while Carlos was is in/out of tank.” Occasionally Carlos will tip toe into Secor’s on tour, and he visited her class multiple times. office in search of a treat; however, he spends the majority of “Every single year when [Secor] would bring him out, the his time in the animal room with Secor’s snakes and lizards same thing would happen,” Ryan said. “When he put him on that are used in research. Don’t worry, only Carlos has the the floor, every single one of those students would jump onto freedom to roam. their desks and stand on their desks.” Carlos came to The University of Alabama when Honors Ryan met Secor on the Quad when he had some of the other instructor Secor was doing research on alligators from animals from his lab on display, but she had never met Carlos the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. He sent his before he came to her class. As a biology teacher, she wanted students to the to pick up test subjects from the refuge, which Secor to come talk about the various animals he works with. does its own research and also supplies animals for research She said Carlos particularly grabbed the students’ attention across the country. and remembered times that Secor would allow them to hold “You had to be in a university and provide a lot of the small alligator. information to prove you’re not just getting an alligator for “They got really excited about being able to do that and fun,” Secor said. “You have to be doing legitimate research face their fears,” she said. at a legitimate university. Pretty much anybody in the As Carlos grew, he became more uncomfortable with being country who works on alligators, they all get their alligators out and surrounded by crowds. Secor noticed that Carlos from this place.” seemed nervous and upset so he decided that Carlos would no
Despite his struggle to eat, Carlos is actually very intelligent. Secor talked about how Carlos recognizes people, especially those who are responsible for caring for him. He also knows where his food comes from, which is why he knows the right times to beg. “He knows us individually,” Secor said. “He’s comfortable with the situation he’s in. He sort of has those pet-like qualities where if he wants something, he’ll let you know.” Carlos also seems to know when he’s been misbehaving. When he was younger and more aggressive, he often would jump up and hit the top of his tank. Secor would scold him like he would a dog, and Carlos would sink down into the water and pout. “It’s hard to say, but you know when you yell at a dog, he’ll go off to the side and put his head down? He’ll do the same thing,” Secor said. Although some people might be fearful of Carlos the first time they meet him, Honors student Meagan Reif, a volunteer lab assistant, said she couldn’t imagine anyone being afraid of Carlos because he is so docile and will actually hide from people. “I adjusted really quickly,” Reif said. “He’s not ever scary or anything, so I guess that helps. He’s just always sitting there.” Reif said her friends think it’s really cool that she gets to work with an alligator on a daily basis. She enjoys feeding him and said he makes working in the lab exciting. Secor limited Carlos to the Biology Building once he was retired from school visits, but even now in a known and
The lab assistants love having Carlos around and compare him to an elementary school class pet.
longer travel for outreach programs. He still gets to interact with kids, but only if they come to campus. “He’s settled down. He doesn’t get upset much. He knows we’re not going to hurt him,” Secor said. “There were just so many people, and we were realizing he was scared.” Seven-year-old Carlos stretches to roughly 4 feet long. He’s still growing, but the lab assistants only feed him enough to keep him at the size he’s at. Secor said that if Carlos were placed in a pond with fish and more room, he could easily catch up to the size he should be as a seven-year-old, male alligator. “You can’t have a seven-foot alligator walking around begging for food. Then it becomes ‘Give me food now,’” he said. “It’s your foot or a chicken.” Carlos may not be 7 feet long, but that doesn’t stop him from begging. When lab assistants feed the other animals, he will come out and follow them, hoping they drop a morsel for him to snack on. When Carlos slips into Secor’s office, the professor will toss some dog food on the floor for him to eat to keep him busy for a while. In order to eat the dog food, Carlos must angle his head completely sideways to be able to open his mouth. But once his head is sideways, he loses sight of the food and often misses it entirely. “There’s no real tricks or anything that he does, but you know the reason why he’s following you around is not because he wants to hang with you,” Secor said. “It’s that he’s hoping you’ll give him something to eat.”
Design by Maria Oswalt || Photos by Nicole Rodriguez
comfortable environment, Carlos will scamper away to a corner or under a shelf when visitors come to see him. Visitors throughout the years have often asked Secor what his plans for Carlos are. While he’s still used for outreach programs on campus, Secor said he plans for Carlos to simply be his buddy for as long as he is able to keep him at the University. The lab assistants love having Carlos around, and compare him to an elementary school class pet. Plus, alligators can live to be more than 20 years old, so Carlos is still young. It’s a natural to question if the lab environment is really the best place for Carlos to be. However, alligators are naturally fairly solitary animals, so Secor doesn’t have to worry about Carlos being lonely. The idea of adding more alligators would just cause problems, and he doesn’t need much in the way of entertainment.
He has safety and easy access to food, and that’s all the young alligator needs. “They really don’t interact much except in the breeding season,” he said, “But you can have a whole bunch of alligators sharing a pond. You can also have situations of just one.” The lab assistants call him Secor’s dog, but to call him a canine companion is a stretch. “They don’t want to cuddle,” Secor said. “I can go scratch his head, but it doesn’t go very far. If I do that, he’s not going to come back and have me do that again.” Carlos should be around for many years to come, happily patrolling Secor’s lab and keeping him company. “He’s docile and he’s friendly,” Secor said. “People always show pictures of their dog or cat, and I’m like, ‘Hey, look at mine.’”
BEHIND the MASK FOR WALKER, THE YOUNGEST OF THE JONES BROTHERS FOOTBALL PLAYERS, BALANCING ACADEMICS AND ATHLETICS IS A FAMILY TRADITION By Emily Williams
At exactly 8 a.m. on a Tuesday, Walker Jones slides into Nott Hall room 283, taking a seat at the end of a long, oval table. Professor Betty Florey begins today’s class of UH 210 Behind the British Mask, an examination of British Theater, with a discussion of Copenhagen by Michael Frayn. When Florey asks a question about the themes of the play, Jones’ hand is first in the air. “What is knowledge? What is truth?” he says. “When it’s asking about truth does that mean the overall truth or the truth within the play?” A debate about absolute versus relative truth ensues as students discuss the play’s ideas about the morality of the atomic bomb. Jones speaks confidently, asking questions and contributing thoughtful insight to the discussion, sipping a Gatorade and sorting his notes. In football practice, he’s number 35, the 6’2”/ 238 linebacker. In class, he’s Walker, the finance major on a pre-med track. But with such a multi-faceted lifestyle, it seems unfair to put any one label on Walker Jones. He comes from a line of high-achieving young men, defying expectation and convention, and he doesn’t plan to stop here.
THE FAMILY ROSTER The competition is steep. The elder Jones Brothers set the bar high for their younger brother in both athletics and academics. Barrett Jones was an offensive lineman for the Crimson Tide and played on three national championship teams. He won just about every scholar-athlete award there is: was First Team All-American, a Capitol One Academic All-American of the year in 2012 and a 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy winner, known as the “Academic Heisman.” He graduated summa cum laude from the Honors College with both a Bachelor and Master’s degree in accounting and a 4.0 GPA, and now plays as a guard for the St. Louis Rams. Harrison Jones was a tight end for the Crimson Tide and played on two National championship teams. He graduated in three years with a degree in marketing and, at 21, was the youngest MBA candidate to be admitted into the Manderson Graduate School of Business. But when Walker set foot on the Alabama campus in the fall of 2013, he wasn’t trying to live up to any expectations or outdo his siblings; he set out to forge his own path.
Harrison, Barrett and Walker Jones celebrate after Alabama’s win over LSU in the National Championship game in New Orleans in January 2012. 46
“I’m not into comparisons all the time,” he said. “Some of the comparisons I welcome because I know that both my brothers were really hard workers and that’s something that I’ve tried to do. But at the same time, I think people realize that I’m a lot different than they are and they respect that.” Walker is quick to point out that, unlike his brothers, he plays defense. Also unlike his brothers, he doesn’t have plans to work in the business world. His dream is medical school. “I know that if I go to medical school and if I have success playing football, I’ll be happy with what I have,” he said. “Medical school is not easy—I think it’s probably more difficult than anything they did in school—so they can call me Doctor for the rest of my life.”
THE MAKINGS OF A DYNASTY The Jones Brothers are a dynasty in the world of Alabama football, with at least one brother on the team for six successive years. And at the helm of every great dynasty are great leaders. Rex and Leslie Jones have fashioned a family code of ethics that values working hard, making good decisions, and achieving excellence in everything. As parents of three highly motivated, driven young men, they run a tight ship but never a dictatorship. They pride themselves in never forcing their children down any particular path but providing guidance and support as they helped each son pursue his goals and passions. It just so happens that for each of the Jones boys, those goals and passions led them to college football. “We had no idea growing up that they would all three play college football,” Leslie Jones said. “I don’t even know that
SOME OF THE COMPARISONS I WELCOME BECAUSE I KNOW THAT BOTH MY BROTHERS WERE REALLY HARD WORKERS AND THAT’S SOMETHING THAT I’VE TRIED TO DO. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, I THINK PEOPLE REALIZE THAT I’M A LOT DIFFERENT THAN THEY ARE AND THEY RESPECT THAT.
that’s what we would have chosen for them to do. We just kind of took it as it came and it’s just the way it worked out.” Rex Jones came from a family that valued both sports and education. While at The University of Alabama, he played basketball and got his MBA. His father was a basketball coach and athletic director at the University of North Alabama. In addition, his parents were both teachers; his brother has a doctorate from Harvard and is a dean at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and his sister has a Masters Degree from the University of Virginia. “Education was a pretty big deal in my family. I’m a big believer in the idea that your biggest responsibility as a student is just to reach your potential. If your potential is a C, then you need to make a C. If your potential is a B, then make Bs,” Rex Harrison said. “The bad news for my kids is they all had the potential to make So as a result, I told them that they really needed to work hard and reach
their potential.” While Rex Jones loves all his sons equally, he doesn’t shy away from honest comparison. “Don’t you want to know which one of my kids is the smartest?” Well, since you asked... “Walker is by far, just naturally gifted; he’s my smartest child,” he said. “Things come a little easier to him, so it’s been fun watching his brothers watch him cruise through school.” Through their high expectations, Rex and Leslie instilled in their children a work ethic and self-discipline that is applicable to more than just sports. “Behind every great football player is a good mother and my wife is no exception,” Rex said of Leslie, who he calls ‘the shining star of the family.’ “She is a great lady and she is responsible for most of the great things that have happened to my kids.” It was Leslie who pushed her kids to develop interests outside of sports, most notably starting them on the violin at
3 years old. The three brothers would take their violins to nursing homes and perform for the community. Walker went on to take piano lessons for four years, which he said he preferred because it was something he learned that his brothers never did. He said playing instruments taught him the value of hard work. “My mom used to make us practice over and over and over and we would get so sick of it,” he said. “But honestly, a lot of the time that’s how sports are: you love the sport but you’re going to get sick of practice. Coach Saban says all the time, ‘You have to make yourself do things that you don’t want to do.’ You have to make yourself uncomfortable; that’s really the only way to succeed.” Eventually, all three boys quit music because of sports, but Leslie said music played an important part in developing the mathematical, logical side of their minds. “I started them in violin early because I wanted them to be well-rounded,” Leslie said. “I just tried to expose them to a lot of different things, but in the end I kind of knew sports would win out.”
Barrett, Walker and Harrison Jones play violin at a school in Honduras on a mission trip 2001. UA Honors
Oddly enough, their first experience with sports was not with football. The boys played soccer and AAU Basketball growing up. Rex didn’t want his kids to get burned out in the competitive world of sports, so he didn’t start them in football until 6th grade. But in the end, fate or destiny or the football powers-that-be intervened, and all three boys found themselves shaking hands with Nick Saban on the field of Bryant Denny Stadium. Rex and Leslie now make the almost four-hour drive from Memphis down to Tuscaloosa for every home game and, while their sons have been playing, they have missed just five of the last 80 Crimson Tide games. While all three considered other schools—Harrison was very interested in North Carolina and Walker loved the academic reputation of Vanderbilt— Alabama won out because of a combination of academic and athletic opportunities. “The Honors College was a big part of the decision for all three of them,” Leslie said. “They really felt like they could get that extra challenge academically and still go to a school where their heart was.”
WE REALLY STRESSED TO THEM THAT THEY DIDN’T NEED TO DEFINE THEMSELVES AS A FOOTBALL PLAYER OR A MUSICIAN OR AN ACADEMICIAN. WE WANTED THEM TO DEFINE THEIR IDENTITY IN CHRIST.
A TRUE SCHOLAR-ATHLETE Over the years, professor Betty Florey had the opportunity to interact with both Walker and Barrett Jones. It was Barrett that recommended Florey’s class to Walker, after taking two of her classes and an independent study. Florey said she recognized Walker immediately because he had the same poise and presence as Barrett. While understands the demands of the football schedule and tries to be accommodating in
Harrison, Leslie, Barrett, Rex and Walker Jones in Baton Rouge after a win against LSU in 2012. 48
class, she said Walker receives no special treatment, nor does he seek it out. “I think it’s wonderful for the Honors College to have a football player in our midst,” Florey said. “But he doesn’t invite that celebrity. He doesn’t try to get attention; he fits in. We don’t even talk about the games.” After attending a private Christian school his whole life, Walker said he found the Honors College an easy transition that fit what he was looking for in a college experience. “Both my brothers did the Honors College, so I knew it was a great program,” Walker said. “I wanted to challenge myself. It provides me with smaller classes and more personal relationships with teachers.” Walker has taken several Honors classes so far in his first two years, including Honors Mentoring, where he met with a student for breakfast once a week. He said the small class sizes were helpful in Honors accounting and Honors macroeconomics, which are required for his major. According to Leslie Jones, Walker wasn’t sure he could make the Honors College fit with his rigorous football schedule and course load, but Dr. Shane Sharpe, dean of the Honors College, helped him find classes
Design by Brian Ogden || Opening spread photo by Laura Wymer
Walker volunteers on a mission trip in Pignon, Haiti in 2011.
that fit his schedule so he could do both. “Walker is a very dedicated, hard working and focused young man who has definite goals for himself,” said Dr. Sharpe. “He’s absolutely the definition of a scholar athlete.”
A HIGHER PURPOSE Beyond touchdowns and tailgates, GPAs and MCATs, the force that holds the Jones family together is their strong Christian faith. Both Rex and Leslie said that faith is at the center of their marriage and is the basis of how they taught their children to make decisions. “We told them that we didn’t want anything they got involved in to define who they were,” Rex said. “We really stressed to them that they didn’t need to define themselves as a football player or a musician or an academician. We wanted them to define their identity in Christ.” One way that Walker, who said he’s never missed a Sunday church service, connects to his faith is through mission trips. The Jones family has taken a mission trip during every spring or May break since their sons have been in college and have traveled to Haiti, Honduras,
Nicaragua and Ukraine. “I love traveling because it gives you a whole new perspective on things,” Walker said. “I’ve learned that the world is a big place, and God is a huge god, and there’s a lot of people out there that need help.” Leslie Jones said she wanted to make travel a part of her children’s’ education. In addition to mission trips, the family has taken vacations in Greece Tunisia, London, Paris, Rome and across the United States. Spending all this time together as a family has bonded the brothers. “Our boys are best friends,” Leslie said. “They love being together. They would rather go do something with their
brothers than they would with anybody else.” Right now, what they’re bonding over is golf. Leslie said Rex and the boys get just as competitive out on the green as they do about most everything else in their lives. But where the trash talk and what Leslie calls “mental warfare” stops, the best friendship picks right back up. The boys’ relationship makes their competitive nature even stronger, but it never leads to jealousy or bitterness. In fact, all three sons support and encourage one another in their diverging athletic, academic and career paths. “When Barrett was already in college and he saw how well the younger two were doing in sports and how much they were being recruited, he said, ‘I hate to admit this, but I think I’m actually the worst athlete in the family!’” Leslie said of her NFL-player son. Athletics aside, family is the key to the success of Walker, Harrison and Barrett Jones, and it will still be the key to success long after their football careers have ended. “At the end of the day, what I love so much about my family is just how much we love being together,” Rex Jones said. “Sports are important, academics are important, but I think that the love that my family has for each other is what I encourage most.”
SPORTS ARE IMPORTANT, ACADEMICS ARE IMPORTANT, BUT I THINK THAT THE LOVE THAT MY FAMILY HAS FOR EACH OTHER IS WHAT I ENCOURAGE MOST.
US Embracing a changing campus and a new conversation. By Allison Ingram
n many ways, the landing of a plane ushers out an isolated journey in favor of a claiming shared narrative. At least, that’s how Dr. Sharony Green sees it.
Green, who began her second year at Alabama this August after earning her Ph.D from the University of Illinois, specializes in gender and race studies and cultivates a distinct perception of Tuscaloosa as a writer, artist and teacher despite the brevity of her time on campus. She also spends a considerable amount of time stretched in the air between Chicago and Tuscaloosa, and equates the landing of the plane as a metric for advancement; she, a black female college professor, forging
common ground in conversation with white middle-aged businessmen, all over the mention of The University of Alabama. “The landing of the plane, maybe that’s one place we can see progress,” Green said. “Maybe, because we know that it’s finite, like the plane is about to land, and so for 10 minutes, we just have got to be real with each other. So you talk to someone and sort of calm down, and you find this common ground.”
“I guess it’s kind of like Alabama football, the landing of the planes,” she added, laughing. These days, with a booming campus of 36,000, common ground beyond the football field has become harder and harder to forge for both students and faculty alike. In the past 10 years alone, the University has transformed from a state institution into a resounding metropolis of geographic and demographic diversity. And whether it’s football’s allure or the targeted recruiting methods that draw the masses, students are forced to reconcile with a shifted dynamic. There are more than just new dorms, dining halls and parking decks emerging over the landscape; the transformation ushers in new culture.
“Being able to see this university as their own is something I think students should be able to see instead of seeing themselves as part of a group that so happens to be at this university.” In Fall 2013, Alabama’s name surfaced on national headlines for more than just a scoreboard when The Crimson White ran an exposé entitled, “The Final Barrier” and uncovered the dark side of Alabama’s notable Greek system. Organizations barred a girl from acceptance because of her race, and this time, she wasn’t going to slide unnoticed into the system’s recesses. “It’s one of the pretenses you come to Alabama with; you expect the South to be more racially polarized,” said Megan Smith, a junior from Hartselle, Alabama. “You expect the South to still have those traces of segregation, but I think that in a lot of ways, “The Final Barrier” story came out and was brought to light, and I think it magnified it for a lot of people.” In the months that followed, students and national audiences walked alongside a campus struggling with the harsh realities of 21st-century segregation. One girl’s story gave a face to the pains of exclusion, and for many, uncovered just how deep divisions run on campus, including student groups, individuals’ backgrounds, and
existing social constructs. The incident grazed the tip of the iceberg and forced students and administrators alike to look beyond the expansion blueprints and fully address the implications of a shifting culture welling up to the surface. “This brought attention to diversity on campus, but it brought attention to one kind of diversity: diversity in the Greek system,” said Terrence Lonam, Honors College Assembly’s Director of Diverse Dialogue. “But there are so many things we need to be thinking about too. I think it’s everyone’s collective duty to make sure we put attention on other areas too.” To weather a rapidly evolving campus, sectioning off into graspable groups is a survival technique at the least. The Honors College, Greek houses, Mallet Assembly, advocacy groups and athletics encompass a diverse and speckled student body. But the question remains of the groups’ benefit to the University as a whole if there’s a void in the marketplace of ideas. If anyone understands this societal polarization, it’s sophomore Victor Cuicahua. An undocumented immigrant from Mexico City, he moved to Birmingham at 6. Upon high school graduation, he became one of the nation’s leading advocates for immigration reform, featured on the cover of TIME magazine for his work in the state and in Washington D.C. After a three-year-long battle to attain eligibility, he entered The University of Alabama, but rather than continuing his work, he found a stalemate. “When I came on campus, I saw there was such a need for people to actually take ownership of this campus rather than see themselves as transient beings,” Cuicahua said. “Being able to see this university as their own is something I think students should be able to see instead of seeing themselves as part of a group that so happens to be at this university.” Due to the Greek system’s nature as an institution with a clear acceptance or denial process and heavy upper influence, it became a starting point. But “The Final Barrier” invited a shifted dialogue to examine Alabama beyond this context and to address diversity across several mediums, fully investigating the repercussions of an extensive campus. “Last year was interesting because we had all this national attention on an issue that to be completely honest, I feel eclipsed a lot of different issues,” Cuicahua said. “It’s so simple to boil things down to fraternities or sororities or whatever, but that’s such a simplistic way to look at it. It’s divisive.” The student dynamic now eclipses far more geographical, ethical, and racial distinctions than made up the campus 10 years ago. African American students make up 12.3 percent UA Honors
Students enjoying a BLEND meeting
of the population, and 3.6 percent are Hispanic. And then, there’s the 51 percent of students who hail from outside of Alabama with 4.7 percent from overseas. But despite a prolific student body, there was 22 percent transfer rate in the most-recent cohort year. It’s evident that students are drawn to Alabama for many new reasons. While Alabama’s situation is magnified due to the crossnational influx and a past riddled with racial tension, it’s only one of many colleges and universities struggling to generate a campus dialogue. Lane McLellan, director of UA’s Crossroads Community Center, saw this challenge formulate as she sat in a session at the Student Diversity National Conference beside representatives from the likes of Harvard and Stanford, all the way down to small Midwestern liberal arts colleges. “What was interesting to me was that I thought those were all Alabama problems,” she said. “In some ways, it would make it easier if it was just Alabama because then it would seem like if we could just be like them, then we could just find out what they’re doing and do it.” Crossroads was formed in 2006 as a resource for multicultural cooperation on Alabama’s campus. 52
They champion diversity across multiple avenues, foster conversation through Sustained Dialogue, and provide resources for all students to address issues of diversity. While other schools designate an office of diversity for this specific purpose, the University designed Crossroads to fulfill the same niche by generating a place where difference comes together. When McLellan entered Crossroads from her former position in New College in early 2013, the organization’s focus shifted toward finding ways to build cross-campus relationships. But more so than launch Crossroads’ own singular attempts, she wanted to unite the campus with all leaders and groups into a collaborative and systemic effort to actively alter the way Alabama views race. Often, vehicles of change reflect the group’s nature. For Panhellenic, where the discussion gained its propulsion, change can be measured in numbers. In the months leading to Fall 2014 recruitment, McLellan worked alongside sorority presidents and Panhellenic Executive members to brainstorm organic measures for change. In August, 2,276 women entered the largest Panhellenic recruitment in the country, and of the 2,054 who accepted bids, 190 were minorities.
Demographics at The University of Alabama
AFRICANAMERICAN (12.3%) HISPANIC (3.6%) OTHER (3%) WHITE (81%)
OUT-of-STATE (51%) ▶ 46% from U.S. ▶ 5% from overseas
Foster Auditorium at The University of Alabama
Meanwhile, the Honors College Assembly office of Diverse Dialogue looks to celebrate the diversity of the Honors College, be it gender, race, socio-economic status, or sex. This year, they hope to add pecha kuchu presentations to their offerings in addition to Diverse Desserts. Named by the Japanese word for “chit-chat,” these rapid-transition power points allow speakers to discuss their story or perspective toward diversity in a creative manner. Lonam hopes that by partnering with other on-campus organizations to sponsor these speakers, the Honors College will pierce more than the social stigma of diversity, but also the isolation the college can experience. “People have a really strong tendency—and we all have this tendency to do it—to identify people by the group they’re in,” Lonam said. “We create these really arbitrary divisions among ourselves based on sort of membership in groups. I think a really important part of us moving forward and actually creating a sort of diverse or more inclusive campus means breaking down some of these barriers.” UA Blend, a group determined to alter past divisions by inviting intercultural relationships and dialogue, uses lunch tables as catalysts. Each Wednesday, all individuals are invited to share at a joined table for lunch in the Ferguson Center. In addition, Blend hosts nights of discussion guided by fellow students and teams with other campus groups to sponsor events.
Students enjoying a BLEND meeting 54
McLellan finds class structures to be effective, using faculty leadership to create a context for students to follow. Programs like Sustained Dialogue and the Interfaith Initiative guide discussions to explore the complexity of diversity, and similarly, juniors Khortlan Patterson and Steven Becton use their Honors College course, Deconstructing the Myth of Absence, to address the lasting implications of segregation and allow students to trace struggle for identity. At the moment, diversity or race relations span every headline in the country. For a semester, students watched conflict unravel in Ferguson, Missouri, proving that racial wounds still fester in 2014 and beyond the southern border. They watched Emma Watson launch a firestorm for gender equality following her UN speech championing He for She, but they also read articles uncovering the disparity of women employees everywhere from the Silicon Valley to Wall Street. They witnessed President Obama issue an executive order affecting millions of illegal immigrants, like Victor, and usher in a new approach to ethnical divides. Race isn’t a new topic, nor does it dissolve post graduation. “You are here to get an education but you’re also here to learn how to be a democratic, fair caring citizen,” McLellan said. “And a university or college campus is a perfect microcosm of what’s supposed to be a small democracy to learn how to be a participatory citizen.”
Design by Will Ruppell || Photos by Nicole Rodriguez
“You are here to get an education, but you’re also here to learn how to be a democratic, fair caring citizen.” For 10 months of the year, 36,000 vastly different students reside in a concentrated arena optimal for interaction, but because of social lines, accepted norms, or fear, a resource remains untapped. Just like on a plane, individuals wrap themselves up in schedules, groups and lives until they find the final approach; the way to land. By initiating conversations and working together, common experience emerges. Gaining these tools to relate to one another does more than develop a responsive environment at Alabama, but prepares students for the new world. “I think my wildest dream for Alabama is the same as anyone else’s. I want that full well-rounded college experience where I have this wide range of perspectives accessible to me,” Smith said. “And I think that my college experience is kind of what I want other people to have where they are being challenged and constantly forced to evaluate these new things and really having to introspectively look at.” These conversations allow students to develop the tools to face the hard topics. And none of the methods fit the same mold: some are discussion panels, some are classrooms, and some are conversations waiting in line for coffee. No matter how small the efforts, they build and resonate with each other, slowly molding an environment where diversity doesn’t have to be discussed because it’s a natural inclination. The space becomes shared, rather than a grid of separating constructs. And while many wounds still fester from the past two years, daily students are making honest effort to mend them. “About the time when I feel defeated,” McClelland said, “then I remember that the only thing that’s ever changed in my life, where I’ve seen real change happen, is when people formed a relationship where they could trust each other enough to work on it.” Pins and Pamplets promoting BLEND UA Honors
Photography, for me and many others, has always been about seeing the world from a new perspective and documenting it. We take ordinary things and make them into extraordinary images. Photographing commonplace objects has always been a fun challenge for me. I want my audience to see something other than a shoe, or a watch, or a flower, and instead see something totally different.
Design by Cara Walker
FIND YOUR “
It’s an individual choice. Whenever anyone considers doing it, whether it’s between high school and undergrad or between undergrad and graduate school, it also has to be intentional.
GAP By Drew Pendleton
hile students on The University of Alabama campus experienced unseasonably cold temperatures last winter and a post-snowfall frenzy, Jordan Moore spent the first months of 2014 across the world, surrounded by the temperate mountains and countryside of Southeast Asia. A senior English major, Moore works for a missionary organization and received an opportunity to travel to East Asia. With the chance at her fingertips, Moore elected to take a gap year, an experience for students to spend a year away, domestically or abroad, from their college campuses and expand their horizons. Moore’s journey took her from Beijing to Bangkok, from the Great Wall of China to the Angkor Wat monuments of Cambodia, and culminated in an experience she described as more than just a study abroad program. “I took classes from 8 to 12 everyday, then would go out and make friends and meet people the rest of the day,” Moore said. “It
wasn’t just study abroad. It was also like a job. I raised support to go over there and did it during vacation time.” Nancy O’Brien, the Honors College director of Intercultural Experiences, strongly supports the gap year but acknowledges that students must also take certain provisions and logistics into account before making their decision. “I’m all for it,” O’Brien said. “It’s an individual choice. Whenever anyone considers doing it, whether it’s between high school and undergrad or between undergrad and graduate school, it also has to be intentional.” Carolina Robinson, director of Capstone International, worked in study abroad programs for almost a decade. She said she found that students looking to spend more time abroad desire a more immersive experience. “We find that students who do longer abroad experiences are more independent and are looking for the opportunity to dive UA Honors
into another culture as much as they can,” Robinson said. “They’ve traveled in the past and now they want to do something solo.” While halting in the midst of undergraduate courses or before entering the workforce may seem daunting, O’Brien, Robinson and Chris Chirino, a career advisor at the University’s Career Center, all agree that intention and clarity are key to the experience. “The very first question I ask someone is why they’re considering it: if it’s because they’re uncertain about something or if they’re tired of the routine,” Chirino said. “We then try to create a plan of a casual curriculum to outline what would happen and what they would do, then how to translate that for a resume or employers when they come back.” Anna Van Der Like, a junior journalism and English major, put Chirino’s advice into action with an independently planned experience that began in January 2015. “My mom called me one day and said she wouldn’t mind if I took a year off, so we started looking into what I could do,” Van Der Like said. “I didn’t want to take a year off for the sake of it.” That conversation blossomed into an internship with a publishing company in Dublin, Ireland. During the internship, which will last until at least May, she will take online courses through the University of Alabama and a local Dublin college before taking part in a official study abroad program in the fall. After a spring break vacation cemented Ireland as her destination of choice, Van Der Like emailed multiple publishing companies hunting for an internship before landing her “month-to-month” gig with Liberties Press in Dublin. “They liked my enthusiasm,” Van Der Like said. “They 60
We find that students who do longer abroad experiences are more independent and are looking for the opportunity to dive into another culture as much as they can.
want me to be hands-on, so I get to read submissions and write blog posts and actually work. It’s my first internship, so I’m excited and kind of terrified to see how it’ll turn out.” While O’Brien and Van Der Like both said that finances and scholarships play a huge role in deciding whether or not to take a gap year, O’Brien added that communication plays a major part as well. “You have to check with your advisors and make sure you’re communicating to everyone who will be affected,” O’Brien said. “Keep them informed and let them help you, because you never know if there may be another opportunity coming that your advisor may want you to consider.” Robinson agreed that preparation is key in terms of planning an extended amount of time abroad, and that various elements such as course credits, insurance, safety, housing, and more need to be addressed beforehand. You have to be flexible and adaptable,” Robinson said. “When you’re dealing with providers in a different country, there isn’t always a quick turnaround. You have to persevere and be consistent about what you want.” Chirino said many students are concerned about the gap year’s potential impact on their professional or academic careers. “The truth is, if the student’s wanting to use it as an opportunity to answer larger questions about who they are and what they want and want it to be productive, then it would be good as long as they aren’t using it as an excuse for a vacation,” Chirino said. “They want to know that it had an impact.” Heath Thompson, a study abroad advisor for Capstone International, has an ample amount of abroad experiences tucked away under his belt, having spent time in Argentina, Italy and Spain during his academic career. He said the experience of studying abroad can make a massive impact on students, and that gap years can help them with employers.
“You’ve got to keep an open mind because if you’re open, you’ll experience things that are incredibly beneficial,” Thompson said. “In terms of gap years, I understand the finish-in-four idea, but there’s a lot to be said about taking time that’s beneficial and enhances your experience. It really diversifies your experiences when you’re looking at employers; it sets you apart.” Moore’s experience abroad managed to combine both work and play; her travels sending her into a deep cultural goldmine in Southeast Asia. Her experience included visits to the markets, beaches, jungles and waterfalls that speckle the region, and she also explored several historical sites, including Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the most striking, a monument to the victims of the country’s former Communist regime known as the Khmer Rouge, located inside a former Cambodian detention camp. “It kind of looks like Denny Chimes, but the outside is all glass and there’s just layers and layers of skulls.” Moore said. “You could just feel the darkness. I had no idea until I went in what had happened there. It’s incredible to learn about a culture and its history that way.” O’Brien’s intercultural expertise spreads beyond the classroom, with several years of overseas experience under her belt. After studying in Germany during her undergraduate education, she worked abroad for five years:
“ Design by Cara Walker
In terms of gap years, I understand the finish-in-four idea, but there’s a lot to be said about taking time that’s beneficial and enhances your experience.
three as an English teacher in Japan and two as an Englishlanguage corporate trainer in Munich, Germany before returning to the United States for graduate school. “I had many opportunities to go abroad, and they’ve all shaped me in some way,” O’Brien said. “They’ve all done it in a different way, but they were all good.” Chirino took a gap period of his own for eight months between undergraduate and graduate school. Through active journaling and career research, he determined exactly what he wanted to do.
“There were things I wanted to find out about: what I was passionate about, what my goals were in life, whether or not I wanted to start working or learn more,” Chirino said. “I did a lot of reflecting and worked part-time while I did a lot of soul searching in terms of what I wanted.” While the logistical elements of a gap year may be overwhelming at times, O’Brien said the benefits that can come from the experience are endless. “The positives [of a gap year] are fantastic,” O’Brien said. “You get more experience, and when you come back the classes you take are that much more meaningful. You may meet people you may have not met before, and you grow professionally, personally and interculturally.” Van Der Like said students considering gap years should make sure they are doing it for personal benefit, not just for a vacation. “Do what is best for you, especially if it’ll be beneficial,” Van Der Like said. “UA [Study] Abroad’s great, but if you want to do something, you just have to go do it. If the University’s too expensive or they don’t offer what you’re looking for, take the initiative and make the right connections to find what you’re looking for.” Moore emphasized that within the college years lies an opportunity for students to explore the world and learn not only about themselves, but also about other people and their lifestyles. “There isn’t a better time in life, where we have no commitments or responsibilities,” Moore said. “Lots of people think that it’s just us, but there are so many different cultures and histories people need to see. It opens up your mind to new ways of doing things when you see how other people were raised and how they live, and it gives you a new way to learn about not just yourself, but also other people and the entire world.” UA Honors
THE PATH By Graham Byrd It had been another smoldering summer day in Mobile, Alabama, and I opened my new, college-ready MacBook Pro. I eagerly checked my recently created Crimson E-mail account. Amid the usual flurry of messages that were already beginning to pour into my inbox, an email from an unknown sender caught my eye. My curiosity compounded into excitement as the contents of the flattering message extended an invitation to join the first cohort of a new program offered through the University that â€œfocuses on attracting high-quality undergraduate students majoring in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines to allow top students to complete the Master of Business Administration in one additional calendar year.â€? It was signed, sincerely, by Dr. Rob Morgan, who was a Marketing professor at the time, and creator of the program. I did not know it that summer of 2011, but the STEM Path to the MBA would prove to define my collegiate career and professional aspirations. 62
he STEM Path to the MBA is a dual enrollment at the professional setting. curriculum that keeps Honors students in “I think STEM has helped me develop in three main ways: STEM the program centered on their undergraduate has developed me professionally, improved my business acumen, coursework while introducing them to the concepts and allowed me to think about innovation beyond simply the of the Master of Business Administration through a 1.5 credit creation of a new gadget or feature,” Oberkor said. hour course each semester. John Oberkor, a chemical engineering In addition to preparing students for the rigors of graduate major and a member of the senior STEM class, reflected on what school and the responsibilities and expectations associated with first attracted him to the STEM Path in Fall 2013 with a cohort a professional atmosphere, STEM seeks to empower individuals of 78 students. in the program through exposure to academic fields that benefit “I heard about it during the summer before freshman year, so I students pursuing an MBA. was in the first wave of recruiting. I committed to doing it before I Paul McFadden, another member of the senior cohort, believes arrived on campus,” Oberkor said. success at the graduate level is centered on the proper mindset. He had been initially skeptical about joining a program that “Success in STEM is all about the professional mindset,” had no pedigree. However, after careful deliberation, Oberkor McFadden explains. “And the professional mindset only comes decided to apply, understanding through experience in what the valuable relationship between matters, and what matters is what “STEM has developed me technical sciences and you are studying, obviously.” professionally, improved my business applications. The STEM Path includes “At first, I was very unsure business acumen, and allowed courses that introduce aspects of because I was an engineering the various business disciplines: me to think about innovation major,” Oberkor admitted, “but economics, finance, accounting, beyond simply the creation of marketing, operations after I learned that engineering and business are very closely related, management, and leadership. a new gadget or feature.” I realized a STEM MBA was a “You have to understand the valuable experience to have. There background, the foundation, of were about 40 people in both sections I believe. The first few weeks your curriculum,” McFadden continued, “you have to know I bought into the system and really began to see how I could learn where you are coming from, then you can make informed from the program.” decisions. It’s really all about trying to be the best leader you can Within the graduate level courses taken each semester be, as far as honing you effective potential.” of undergraduate study, STEM students are exposed to the The importance of extra-curricular activity in any program fundamentals of constructing an effective business model. does not need mention, and STEM offers various opportunities to Through “elevator pitches” that are five minutes in length, step outside the classroom to find new experiences. To facilitate students give presentations on innovative start-up business networking, representatives of numerous companies are brought ideas multiple times a semester. Usually assigned every five in as speakers to connect with STEM students several times a weeks, these projects are developed through randomly assigned semester. STEM has hosted guest speakers such as Mr. Rob High, teams that encourage class cohesion, and continued innovation. Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Watson Group, Dr. Bharat The program strives to prepare students, all members of the Balasubramanian, executive director of The Center for Advanced Honors College, for their entrance into the Manderson School Vehicle Technologies at UA, and Ms. Rosemarie Truman, the CEO of Business upon completion of their undergraduate degree, by of the Center for Advancing Innovation. developing concise reasoning, effective communication skills, “The speaker series and the opportunity to speak with business and team coercion and management—all characteristics of leaders who are interested in our skill set has been the most what STEM embodies as a successful individual and leader interesting outside perk of the STEM program,” Oberkor was
explained. “Boy was I wrong to delete that email.” He claims it was the persistence of a friend who was already in the STEM Path that convinced him to reach out to Dr. Morgan toward the end of his first semester, to see if there was any possibility of joining the first cohort. McFadden said the process could not have been any easier, thanks to the kindness of Dr. Morgan.
The program has numerous students who have benefitted through co-ops and internships from the networking potential of the STEM Path to the MBA. “I owe a lot to Dr. Morgan,” McFadden said. “He let me in the program late, he and his remarkable program are definitely responsible for my Alabama Power internship, which I have had for two summers now, and he has even been very supportive of my major change.” McFadden switched from chemical engineering, to the statistical mathematics this past year, citing his changing career aspirations, and realigned values as the reason for the switch. “The STEM Path to the MBA really has been my foundation during my time here at UA,” McFadden stated.
Design by Maria Oswalt || Photo by Laura Wymer
quick to say. “In addition, Dr. Rob Morgan has done an excellent job helping to introduce students to exciting internship opportunities.” Oberkor spent three semesters co-oping with International Paper located in Selma, Alabama. Amazingly, Oberkor has managed to rearrange his class schedule to enable him to graduate in four years, contrary to the typical five it takes for most co-op students to finish. Much like a business, STEM is built on efficiency. Students are given the necessary academic load and instruction, in a way that does not impede their focus on their main academic work, and still enables them to complete their MBA a full year earlier than tradition. “What I have liked the most is that the STEM program did not force us to take classes we were not ready for,” Oberkor described. “All of the classes fit seamlessly into my schedule. I was even able to participate when I was cooping like several of my classmates. All in all, the system they have in place works very well.” Oberkor’s story is not unique to the STEM Path. The program has numerous students who have benefitted through co-ops and internships from the networking potential of STEM. McFadden again describes how he directly benefitted from the raw opportunity the program cultivates. “I’ll never forget how easy it was to get my internship through STEM,” McFadden said, laughing. “Dr. Morgan sent out an email asking if anyone was interested in working with Alabama Power that summer after my freshman year, so I replied yes, and boom, I landed it,” McFadden exclaimed. McFadden could not reiterate enough how thankful he has been to be accepted into the STEM program. He went to great lengths to describe his journey through college, and how originally, he was not even admitted to the program. “I blew off the original email asking me to apply, not really knowing what it was,” McFadden
A taxidermied tarantula perches on a shelf in Dr. Stephen Secorâ€™s office. Photo by Nicole Rodriguez. UA Honors
Paul “Bear” Bryant installed the privacy fence surrounding The University of Alabama football team’s practice fields as the team prepared for the 1971 season. Today, the same fence still stands, and each year fewer people are privy to what exactly goes on behind it. Every season, some Alabama students have the opportunity to work with the school’s athletic programs, and here they share how the experience behind that fence helps shape their future.
meets prospective students for lunch at Lakeside Dining and gives them a chance to ask questions and really get a feel for life at the Capstone. She acts like a mentor for a few hours, creating a welcoming environment for the student. Every Saturday, a cloud of crimson and On game days, Chandler arrives at the houndstooth overtakes The University of Athletic Facility 8 a.m. and receives a Alabama. The sweet smell of BBQ drifts from prospective football player ‘match.’ She every grill and the sound of the Million Dollar provides guidance and insight as she takes Band resonates throughout the entire town. them on a tour of the Athletic Facility and Over 102,000 fans cram inside Bryantaccompanies them to a football game. The Denny Stadium, jumping and screaming for recruitment team and their matches sit in a a receiver to finally get a burst of speed, or reserved section in the North End Zone of the begging the quarterback to just run the ball, stadium. After the game, Chandler, her match or chanting the lyrics to “Rammer Jammer” and the rest of the recruitment team watch after a victory. But behind all the excitement Nick Saban’s press conference and return to and 15 crystal trophies, is an army of students the Athletic Facility. that make it all happen. Chandler’s goal in pursing a spot as a For four students, the athletic program has recruitment hostess was to gain experience offered them more than just a job. It’s given working with others and promoting the them a backstage pass to one of the biggest University. She is currently majoring in sports programs in the country. public relations and expects to graduate “I get to say I was part of something bigger,” in May 2015. She believes the University said Morgan Chandler, a junior recruiting position will open many doors for her as hostess. “It is a privilege to get to see and hear she begins her job search and attends everything that goes on behind the scenes.” graduate school. Chandler works with both prospective Hayden Clark works in the Athletic Office as students and student athletes through the a videographer for the football team. Like the recruitment team. During the week, she football team, Hayden arrives at the Athletic
n a town where “Roll Tide” is an acceptable response to just about anything and every Saturday is like a holiday, it’s hard to not get sucked into the college football vortex.
Caitlin Hart assists Alabama football players in overcoming injuries through various physical therapy programs and exercises. Photo submitted by Caitlin Hart.
office at 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and receives a practice schedule. He and his co-workers set up the video equipment in each of the four towers surrounding the practice football field and get in position. They film practice and games and help coordinate getting game film from opponents. He breaks the film down and puts it in the computer to be edited so the coaching staff can use it. On game days, Clark helps with communication between the press box and sidelines regarding controversial plays and calls. “I’ve wanted to be a coach since I was eight or nine years old,” Clark said. “I remember telling my dad I wanted a ring next to Stallings’.” One year ago, Clark was presented with a tough job decision. He was offered both a 68
position as an assistant coach at a local high school as well as a videographer position at Alabama. Despite his dream of becoming a football coach, Clark chose video. “It’s hard to get a job here because everyone wants it,” Clark said. “So I couldn’t turn it down.” He believed Alabama’s strong football program would open up many doors for him in the future because of Alabama’s superior program. Clark said his current job provides him the opportunity to see how the athletic program is run. Clark never takes his job for granted and said work doesn’t even feel like work anymore. It’s his passion. Caitlin Hart and Katie DeLost are part of the student-training program. They work alongside professionals to develop skills
they will need to further their careers in athletic training. There are rigorous prerequisite courses and GPA requirements to be accepted into the program. Following acceptance to the program, students complete 85 hours of courses, both clinical and academic. Hart and DeLost are both seniors and are finishing up their courses before attending graduate school next fall. Students in the program spend two semesters in the on-campus athletic training facilities. Each student is assigned a sport to focus on. Both Hart and DeLost were assigned to football and attend every game as well as work several hours a week in the football facility. During the week, they help players recover from injuries and provide them support as they go through tough physical therapy sessions.
Design by Ellie Larson || Photos by Will Ruppell
“It is definitely a privilege to work with the football team,” DeLost said. “We are held to a high standard.” Although they ended up in the same place, Hart and DeLost have different reasons for choosing their paths. Hart was part of the Sports Medicine Club in high school. She became interested in getting injured players back onto the field and in perfect condition. DeLost got hurt her sophomore year of high school and became close to those that helped her heal. “There is no reward or gain without determination,” DeLost said. Those who helped here were determined to do so and she strives to do the same thing in the athletic training program. Both girls said there is no better feeling than knowing they helped an athlete get back on their feet, especially when the athlete shows gratitude towards the work they put in. Hart and DeLost believe their connection to UA will get them far in their careers both because of the reputation of the program and because of the high-end education they are receiving. Although they all came here with different backgrounds, different reasons and different goals, Chandler, Clark, Hart and DeLost found that UA athletics provided them with the experience and tools they will need to succeed in their fields. Their hard work comes with many benefits such as wardrobe, football tickets, and even national championship rings. They all agree; however, that the best benefits are the connections they make that will open up so many opportunities in the future. When these students chose the Capstone, they knew the large sports program would assist them in their careers, but they never expected football would change their lives.
Katie DeLost uses the skills and techniques learned in her classes to both prevent and recover from injury on the football field. Photo submitted by Katie DeLost.
PRESSURE Mosaic staff talks stress By Drew Pendleton and Jenna Heard As the school year winds down to its final days, The University of Alabama campus becomes swarmed with students thick in the final stretch of their semester. An itinerary of projects, papers and exams surfaces, and with it, students’ stress levels. The tension heightens, pressurized and palpable, as the campus libraries become a proverbial safe haven for students. Dr. Lee Keyes, director of the University’s Counseling Center, said the increased stress level among students has been a rising trend in recent years. He attributed the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and the development of a world where terrorism, war and the changing global marketplace dominate the headlines to the particularly dramatic shift. “In the early parts, depression was the number one cause (of stress), but somewhere it flipped to stress-based anxiety,” Keyes said. “Students are experiencing a greater sense of threat that things may not work out well. Those things weren’t in my mind as an undergrad; I didn’t have to worry about graduating or getting a job. It’s just a different world.” 70
However, Keyes said that while the number of anxiety and personal-distress cases has risen dramatically, the number of mental illness cases has not followed suit. He related these cases to the multiple forms of crisis students may experience; ranging from personal, religious, social and finally what he deemed most prevalent, academic. “Academic stress is constantly in the background of a student’s life,” Keyes said. “It’s cyclical, in that what they feel in September is different from what they feel from October, and that’s different from December and so on. Mental health is very seasonal in that way; it has peaks and valleys.” As the semester winds down to a close, Keyes noted that the weeks preceding the spring semester’s final exams are one of the busiest times at the Counseling Center, when students confront the varying incarnations of stress with the end in sight. With that in mind, Keyes and members of the Mosaic staff shared their own methods for dealing with various forms of stress.
ON THE CAUSES Jenna Gray, Writer
“I would say the time I get most stressed is actually when I am home. As I approach graduation in a little over a year now, my parents are always hinting at some internship or organization I should join that can help me with my future. I always feel like I have to say something to impress them, so in the days leading up to my homecoming, I tend to get pretty stressed out.”
Will Ruppel, Designer
“Like any other high schooler, I procrastinated until the last minute. Looking back, I know this put me under a lot of unneeded stress but I feel like it really prepared me for college. Now, I don’t have nearly as much work to do but now I stress out over not knowing how to cultivate a social life.”
ON HOW STRESS AFFECTS US
Graham Byrd, Web Editor
“I think stress is one of the best-kept secrets about college life. As a senior in high school, I will never forget listening to my older friends tell me about all the free time they enjoyed day in and day out as a college student. I quickly found out, however, that time is free only if you want it to be. There is always another assignment due, or another chore needed done.”
Design by Allison Ingram
ON COPING Brian Ogden, Writer
“Ultimately, I can always remember that most of the things that stress us out have little to no eternal significance. I had a high school baseball coach who liked to remind us of this. When you come back in the dugout after going 0-3 on the day, he would remind you that it has no eternal significance and tell you to get back out there and start fresh.”
Sarah Rumfelt, Writer
“Stress has become so prevalent in our daily lives that we just accept it as a social norm, especially in college. For most college students, studying consists of stressing out, cramming for a test while eating pizza from Dominos you bought with your dining dollars because, let’s be honest, we have no real money, and stressing out even more because we used half our dining dollars in the first two weeks of the semester. But what’s even crazier is that the stress doesn’t actually come from teachers, parents or friends; it comes from us. We push ourselves to get a perfect GPA because that’s what we think we are supposed to do.”
Emily Williams, Managing Editor Paige Burleson, Writer
“For me, dealing with stress has come down to organizing and prioritizing. As much as I hate schedules, I’ve found I have to plan out my busy days and literally schedule time for workouts and time with friends. And as much as I’d love to say yes to every invitation and make every night a night to remember, sometimes I have to remind myself of the value of a good nights’ sleep. College is not about avoiding stress, it’s about learning how to handle it and learning what’s worth stressing over and what’s not.”
“There is a constant stress but also a constant light at the end of the tunnel. I get through the stress by talking about it. Most people around me are also going through similar stress. When we get together and encourage each other, it honestly helps the most.”
Last summer, I gladly handed over three months of Alabama humidity in exchange for what I idealized as weeks of eating crêpes along the Seine, wandering aimlessly through art museums, and zipping through the City of Light via moped. Extravagant? Perhaps, but that’s what fills one’s daydreams when they sign on for a month in Paris, the longtime goal of the 13-year-old me who spent hours conjugating verbs in the back of a French classroom. Blame it on eight years of escalating anticipation, but I believe that one of Paris’ most endearing qualities is that she not only matches every dream you’ve ever woven together, from the corner cafes to the rainy afternoons, but augments your simple estimates beyond wild measure.
The Eiffel Tower really does sparkle at midnight as bystanders dine on wine and cheeses at its feet. It’s easy to lose yourself in the tangled alleyways, read books on the Metro, and sip away far too many euros on café au laits in the late mornings. You become fascinated by the Parisians: their wardrobes, their poise, and yes, even their unapologetic French nature that to many, tastes more like arrogance than cultural appreciation. My French host-mother, Marie-Christine, adopted our broad of American girls into her cozy home tucked away in the 20th arrondissment, just a short walk from the famous Père Lachaise cemetery. And just like a true Frenchwoman, she insisted on a quality of living and conversation just as if we inhabited an extravagant apartment overlooking Île St. Louis. She was frank, opinionated, and enamored by our musings, carrying on our dinners far into the night and filled with engaging discourse. She wanted our opinions on American politics, soccer match outcomes, elections, and whatever grazed the headlines of Le Monde; anything that made us exert our stance. At the time, we believed she was attempting to iron out our muddled French, but it wasn’t until returning home that I realized her true intentions: she wanted us to think. Millennials get a bad wrap for lazily following the crowd; letting the popular dialogue form our opinions but never ultimately acting on our ill-informed sentiments. In fact, Washington Post writer Dana Milbank defined the attitude as Slacktivism, or “a uniquely American form of engagement in which statements are made without any real sacrifice.” In his opinion, the Millennial Generation is plagued by an ideology that confuses action with
significant emotional trends, carried mostly by the vehicle of social media. Ours, he claims, is a generation that is quick dump water on our heads to stop disease, tweet about saving girls we’ve never met, and take up arms over tyrants because of a hashtag. But as trends fade, so does our interest, leaving many to speculate what was even accomplished. I once read that our generation has the potential to become the most barbaric; ultimately rendered numb to these horrors that have become commonplace in our lives. After all, our formative events included Columbine, 9/11 and the War on Terror, all which left a legacy of uncertainty and ambiguity. Now, we’ve grown accustomed to nervously eying exit doors in any public sphere, from movie theatres to classrooms. We no longer blink when bombs ignite foreign cities or airport security rigorously checks our belongings. We’ve faced climate change, disease and ensuing threats, and as we enter the dawning future, we face a tragic landscape with only two possible responses: apathy or action. The other part of that theory is that we will take our experiences and become the most compassionate; that we resolve to respond to transgressions by using the tools as ingrained our upbringing. Social media and the Internet supply an outlet to put a face to injustice and provide a forum for the hard conversations. I’ve seen the Internet dialogue open eyes to domestic assault, racial injustice, and mental illness, and watched many express frustration over glazed-over justice and preventative loss and injury. It’s more than a forum for budding trends and a culture of hyperinflation, but also a vehicle to express outrage and potential for innovation. It supplies
Design and illustrations by Maria Oswalt
the tools to ask others about what it is we really believe, and better yet, whether the accepted is right. In the six weeks that I drifted through my Paris-colored daze, I became enchanted by a culture that exuded vigor to express. The French, I realized, are deeply passionate, and not just about food quality or the architecture of their beloved city, but about every facet of their lives. And just as I saw it in the way they dined, savored and spoke, I also saw it in the way they protested. While I was there, I witnessed a train strike, a near shut down of Charles DeGaulle, and several traffic-stopping rallies. And six months later, I saw it again as I watched from my couch on a Sunday morning at the sight of millions marching through the streets of my beloved city, only minutes from my month-long home, in favor of solidarity against terrorism. Just like the true Frenchmen and women I grew to know this summer, I saw them face five days of horrendous violence by taking to the streets to vocalize their resolve. And this time, they had dozens of world leaders guiding the masses. The symbolism was powerful, but as the news commentators noted, filling the streets won’t stop terrorists just like Facebook shares won’t cure cancer or bring troops home. The responsibility rests within all of us, from François Hollande, to Marie Christine, to an American college student, to do more than just feel deeply, but to respond beyond the ease of our fingertips: to speak up and to act. And for that, I think we can take a couple pages from Parisians’ books, and not just the ones about art, delicacies or perfectly coiffed hairstyles. We can resolve to respond to our environments and refuse to yield to indifference. We can choose to become the most compassionate generation, not the most jaded. And we can, like the French have, accept the face of fear and hurt and carry a banner that reads, “Je suis Charlie.” I am Charlie. We are 9/11. We are Colombine. We are genocide and ISIS and lingering racism. We are all those inescapable marks of our adolescence, but we refuse to subject to them. We can resolve to alter and act, to change the dialogue, to discuss around the dinner table, and take to the streets when we feel necessary. We can choose to feel deeply, and in the words of another fellow Francophile, Ernest Hemingway, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”
Mosaic Magazine Staff The University of Alabama Honors College students who produced this yearâ€™s edition of Mosaic Magazine and its accompanying web content at mosaic.ua.edu. Advisors: Chip Cooper, Dr. John Latta, Laura Lineberry and Mark Mayfield Not pictured: Alex Brittenham, Jenna Heard and Tori Robinson
Allison Ingram, editor-in-chief
Emily Williams, managing editor
Brett Dunn, audience development Graham Byrd, web editor 76
Maria Oswalt, creative director
Laura Wymer, photo editor
Raiha Baiwa, writer
Sabrina Berman, business team
Paige Burleson, writer
Jenna Gray, photographer
Samantha Harber, designer
Ellie Larson, designer/writer
Brian Ogden, writer
Elise Ott, designer/photographer
Drew Pendleton, writer
Nicole Rodriguez, photographer
Chris Roper, photographer
Sarah Rumfelt, writer
Will Ruppel, designer/photographer Elizabeth Selmaten, writer
Matthew Speakman, writer
Grace Turner, writer
Cara Walker, designer
Matt Wilson, writer UA Honors
The University of Alabama Honors College Box 870169 Tuscaloosa, AL 35486-0169 email@example.com Copyright ÂŠ 2015 University of Alabama Honors College All Rights Reserved
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA 2015