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a letter from the editor

Sometimes the greatest things in life are ever changing. Tradition grounds us, but it can also hold us back. Why do what we’ve always done? Or perhaps a better question is, why not take a risk and try something new?

When faced with the changing landscape of jazz music in the 1940s and 50s, Miles Davis didn’t shy away from breaking with tradition. He not only embraced change, he created it. Davis was one of the innovators of a style known as bebop, which eschewed the traditional structure of big band jazz for the freedom of improvisation. “Bebop was about change, about evolution. It wasn’t about standing still and becoming safe,” Davis said in his 1990 autobiography. “If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.” Similarly, we at Mosaic are coming to terms with the changing face of the magazine industry. The world is becoming more digitally oriented every day. Print journalism is decreasing while the web explodes. The written word, compelling photographs and striking design are all more valuable than ever before. We just have to find new ways to share them with readers. This was a transitional year for Mosaic. Like any great jazz group, we had to improvise. We started the year off with the plan to do things the same way we did last year — one print issue and a weekly-updated website. But as the semester progressed, the Mosaic team began to realize we were capable of more. What if we tried to do the same thing we did in a year in just four months? What if, instead of one magazine, we published two? We had no precedent for this plan, but our team didn’t hesitate to jump in and do the work that needed to be done. And the finished product is something I’m so proud of, because it shows that we are not afraid to change. This magazine would be nothing without our incredibly talented and hardworking team of student designers, writers and photographers, who are always willing to go the extra mile for a story; like getting Big Al to the zoo (pg. 24) or traveling to Marion to document the heart of a changing small town (pg. 11). And even the best of improvisational groups need good leadership. Our editorial team in writing, photography, design and web is unparalleled, working tirelessly not to dictate the creative direction of the stories, but to help our staff shape their work into the best it could be. As the Honors College magazine, it is our mission to represent the achievements of the Honors students and staff here at The University of Alabama. To me, nothing encapsulates the spirit of the Honors College better than the theme of this issue, “freedom to create.” Creativity can take many different forms, whether it’s hand crafting books (pg. 6) or using a 3D printer to study different species of fish (pg. 48). The Honors College allows the freedom to follow your passions and create your education, your research, your college experience the way you want it. Our Mosaic team was given the freedom to create our magazine any way we wanted, and this is what we created. Sometimes the greatest things in life are ever changing. Tradition grounds us, but it can also hold us back. Why do what we’ve always done? Or perhaps a better question is, why not take a risk and try something new? We took a risk and improvised as we went along to produce the first ever January issue of Mosaic. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it.

Emily Williams


contents cultural interaction A New Beginning 2 Breaking the Boundaries of the Book 6 civic engagement Marion Made 10 Photo essays Observe 16 innovative scholarship More Than Just a Pretty Face 34 Music with Meaning 41 Dynamic Doubles 44 Advanced research For the Love of Fish 48 features fighting for an identity 20 saving big al 24 heroes with paws 30


Honors College service-learning program teaches students art of kindness By Rachel Wilburn

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Design by Mitchell Griest // Photography by Laura Wymer

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Her feeble hands swirled through a pan filled with shaving cream and food dyes. Nearly blind and diagnosed with macular degeneration, 95-year-old Sara Turner could nevertheless imagine what the piece would look like in her hands. It was a simple activity, but it carried the weight of a life-changing moment, not only for Turner, but for students from the Honors College’s Art to Life program who were gathered in the room. At the end of the session, art therapist Karen Gibbons asked each of the students to tell Turner what they thought about her piece and how it made them feel. Turner sat in silence, small tears welled up in her eyes. “Sara, did you hear what they said? About your art?” Gibbons asked. “Oh, yes,” she responded softly as the tears spread contagiously around the room. “You have given me my life back.” Her art therapy sessions with Gibbons and the Art to Life students at Caring Days Adult Day Care Center were diffi-

“I’m going to call it,

‘A New Beginning.’”

cult, not only because she couldn’t see, but because she was an artist who didn’t feel like she was capable of creating anymore. But in that moment, the students’ reactions to her beautiful design transformed how she defined herself. She no longer considered herself inadequate because of the progression of her disease, but dignified as the person she was becoming. Daniel Potts, course director for Art to Life, believes this is the heart behind the program. “The important thing ceases to be about you and becomes everything about the relationship with the other person,” Potts said. “The key is to be in the moment, be connected, be vulnerable.”

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Art to Life is an innovative program that strives to bring art therapy and life story preservation to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. After watching his own father thrive in art therapy after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2002, Potts began to brainstorm ideas to increase awareness on the benefits of art therapy. In 2010, Potts started Cognitive Dynamics, a foundation working to improve the quality of life of people with cognitive disorders through education, research and innovative care. Angel Duncan, a well-known art therapist, contacted Potts, wanting to be involved in his research. Potts and Duncan teamed up together to create a college outreach program designed to use art therapy to teach students about the disease and preserve life stories. They presented

the idea to the Honors College, and in 2011, Art to Life was born. The first year, students worked out of participants’ homes to create individualized life story DVDs. In their second year, Art to Life teamed up with the Department of Telecommunication and Film to create a full-length documentary entitled The Art of Healing. While he thought both of those years were incredible in their own way, Potts envisioned a more hands-on experience for students. He felt pulled toward the theme of a continuous story — not only reminiscing about who the participant used to be, but also forming a profile of who the participant is now and who they are in the eyes of the student. “Particularly as a person with Alzheimer’s disease loses their ability to remember all the details of their story, it’s important to see what effect that life is having on another person and let that be part of the story,” Potts said. “Because that’s part of who we are: who we are to you, who I am to another.” Year after year, Potts and his students have seen improvement in the participants’ wellbeing through art therapy, providing their families with 4


beautiful works to celebrate their loved ones. But Art to Life doesn’t just benefit the participants and their families. It’s continuously been life-changing for the students involved. Jacquelynn Myrick, the student facilitator for Art to Life, spent two years working in the program. She spoke of the way the program has influenced her life, not only in her role as student facilitator but as a friend and person. “I’ve always thought I was someone who loved serving... But to practice daily, weekly compassion with people who truly can’t give you anything, who can’t do anything for you? I can’t fix their circumstance, but I can meet them in the moment where they are,” Myrick said. “That’s when I realized that service is more about your availability and your willingness than it is about what you’re actually doing in that moment.” As a student in the program, Jackson Knappen, a junior biology and Spanish major, knows firsthand that Art to Life is a lesson in compassion, empathy and vulnerability. His experience with Art to Life has been a lesson not only in the medical knowledge behind Alzheimer’s and other dementias, but also in life experience. “So far, it’s been both life experiential and book knowledge,” Knappen said. “Dr. Potts has so much experience in the medical field with treating and working with Alzhei-

“There are a lot of things that need fixing about this world.” mer’s patients. But from a life standpoint, it’s about learning about someone’s life who is older than you and has more experience than you.” The program is an opportunity to enter the participant’s world and validate the personhood and dignity of a group of people that is often overlooked, according to Potts. In serving others, as he points out, these opportunities can act as mirrors to truly see ourselves. “There are a lot of things that need fixing about this world,” Potts Said. “If we can develop empathy and get inside the lives of these folks that are hurting and realize that, you know what, that’s really me in there hurting, then maybe I’m going to want to go out and change the world. That’s what I believe in. This is about developing empathy and compassion for them — and for yourself.”

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Breaking the Boundaries of the Book By Bobby Lewis

Learning the art of crafting books by hand

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n the University of Alabama’s W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library, locked in a wooden cabinet, there’s Smoke, written by Honors College professor Amy Pirkle. It’s difficult to call Smoke a book. Removed from its package, it’s easily confused for an old-school pack of

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smokes, like Salem 100’s that someone forgot in the junk drawer. But holding it in the hand, the craftsmanship becomes obvious, especially in the durability of the box and its weight. Inside, there are eight scrolls just like cigarettes, each igniting the concept of what a book can be. Pirkle first discovered book arts,

viewing the book as a piece of art, on a study abroad trip to Cortona, Italy. As an art major with aspirations of also being a writer, she recognized the potential to unite both her passions through a handcrafted book. Pirkle now teaches two classes in the Honors College: Book Arts and Book & Paper History. She said her students


Design by Arielle Lipan // Photography by Kelsey Daugherty

are getting much of the same education she received in Cortona. “The class I took there, is very similar to what I teach here, where you get a little taste of everything,” Pirkle said. In the Book & Paper History class, students learn the more traditional skills of bookmaking; they make blank books that teach them the techniques of bookbinding and papermaking. On the other hand, her Book Arts class focuses more on unique art projects. Foster Lux, a junior computer science and electrical engineering major, has taken both of Pirkle’s classes in book arts. In the history class, Lux experienced all of the technicalities that go into making a book by hand, and in the Book Arts class, she said she is learning how to express herself through making book structures. Her favorite project was an interpretation of a Hedi Kyle invention, a self-portrait flag book, for which she used images of her hometown in the Florida Panhandle to express her identity in the structure. Though Pirkle and Lux use book arts to explain their modern context, these forms and techniques pertain to a very old world. Johannes Gutenberg is credited with the invention of letterpress, a style of printing utilizing moveable metal type. His first press completely changed the concept of the book back in the 15th century. But printing technology has progressed rapidly since then. Now, most printing jobs are done digitally. However, Pirkle said the technique of letterpress is making a resurgence as a form of art, and more people are working as finebinders. Since the ‘70s and ‘80s, book artists have book as a meticulously made craft. Modern printers have even reverted to using

the same alloy Gutenberg discovered, a mix of tin, antimony and lead. Now across the country, there are five major Master of Fine Arts programs focusing on book arts, including Alabama’s MFA in Book Arts, established in 1985, of which Pirkle is a graduate. “When we were in the program, we would be in the studio 80 hours a week,” she said. “It’s all you do for three years.” The focus of the program was “edition, edition, edition”, working on the basics of printmaking and finebinding and repeating those processes. Kyle Clark, a secondyear MFA candidate, shares Pirkle’s enthusiasm for the program. “We take the fine traditions in craft of the book, such as binding and printing, and we make conceptual works of art with those media,” he said.

“Collaboration, I think, is key.” Clark grounds these traditions in the French livre d’artiste, or artist’s book, an early 20th century form that brought artists and writers together in collaboration on one project. These collaborations soon developed into solo ventures that allowed artists to showcase their skills both in writing and in visual art.

“Most of the artists’ books that you see today, the content is generated solely by the bookmaker,” Clark said. But that’s not to say that collaboration doesn’t happen. “A big fundamental aspect of book arts is collaboration,” Pirkle said. “Collaboration, I think, is key.” She often works in tandem with her identical twin, poet Sara Hughes. She is also half of Combo Press, which she operates with the master printer for Pace Editions, Bill Hall. And notably, she collaborated with UA’s MFA in Book Arts director Steve Miller to craft a genealogy book for former first lady Laura Bush. “Here at Alabama, we have a nice blend of things,” Clark said. “We produce top-notch craftsmen, in addition to promoting conceptual work. You 7


can’t really go through the program without thinking. You have to think conceptually in addition to exploring fine craft. That’s why I chose Alabama.” Trained as a visual artist, Clark incorporates his photographs into the books he creates. “My books don’t usually follow a linear narrative,” he said. Rather, he works with his photos as a sequence. The order of the photos, through one photo’s relation to the photos surrounding it, makes the meaning. “Our graduates are pushing the boundaries in the continuation of the book as a conceptual work of art,” Clark said. And since her graduation in 2007, Pirkle has been working towards this goal. She opened her own press, Perkolator Press, in 2005 to publish her limited editions and left behind fine binding, turning towards structural works that better embrace her own content. “Most fine binders now, who are working, are binding stuff that someone else printed — they’re not doing both,” Pirkle said. “I like to create the content for my book.” She finds inspiration for sculptural work in artists like Hedi Kyle, a well respected, avant-garde book artist who creates unique book structures. “I think people like to push the boundaries of what can be considered 8

a book, and this is a way to do that,” Pirkle said. It’s one of Hedi Kyle’s book structures that Pirkle used for her own work, A Real Fighting Man. The book is inspired by her grandfather’s time in the Korean War. As a 20-year-old soldier fighting overseas, her grandfather sent pictures of himself back to the family, with captions on the back. Pirkle replicated these captions—one of which inspired the book’s title—directly into the print of the book, recreating her grandfather’s handwriting. But the braggadocious photos and captions run in contrast with an essay Pirkle’s grandfather wrote at the age 80, remembering his time as a soldier. The juxtaposition of the photos, the captions and the essay shows the attitude Pirkle’s grandfather had about his experience, which he passed down to his son who passed the same down to Pirkle in turn: “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, redress and move on. Be a man.” “Most of my books and work deal with family relationships and personal history because that’s what I’m an expert on,” Pirkle said. Many of her works depend on her collaboration with her sister, like Hands, for which Hughes wrote the text while Pirkle provided the illustration. Pirkle also used this relationship to produce

her own original work dubbed The Twin Code, which explores the instinct behind the twin relationship and how it is embedded in the DNA. The structure of the book reflects this sentiment. It’s a swing-panel accordion book; as the book opens up, panels printed with images of DNA strands are revealed, and as these panels are lifted up, the text is found hidden underneath. And even as the eBook becomes more common, book artists like Kyle, Pirkle and Clark will continue to make nuanced works of art. “I think there will always be a place for books, and there will always be a place for book arts,” Clark said. “Books provide something the digital does not. Most people who read the eBook, they don’t get the full experience of the book — the full experience of the book in holding, reading and turning the pages.”


Create, a photo by Laura Wymer 9


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By Nicole Rodriguez

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fter driving a little over an hour, a Perry County sign popped up on my right side as the car wound up a hill and rolled into downtown Marion, Alabama. This wasn’t my first visit; I began making trips three summers ago as part of Black Belt Action, an annual honors program which dedicates time and effort to the town a week before the fall semester. Marion lies in the middle of the Black Belt, a region known for its rich, fertile soil. Because of this, many small towns in this area were once home to plantations, making the Black Belt the most densely populated area of the South during the 19th century. Nowadays, the town collects a variety of people; some were born and raised in Perry County, while others came for business, school or agriculture. This mosaic of people is what makes Marion the hodgepodge it has come to be. Regardless of why these people came, they stayed for the community. Four residents allowed me to peek into their lives to put together the pieces that is Marion. One of the full-fledged Marion residents is Byron Turner, a Perry County native who is now managing Lottie’s, a local restaurant known for its southern home cooking. 12

Turner listed a portion consisting of southern cooking like barbecue ribs, catfish, fried chicken, along with typical American buffalo wings, chicken tenders and burgers. When describing Marion, Turner chose the characteristics “quiet” and “family-oriented” as his son giggled in the background playing a smartphone game. The manager described his days playing outside with his cousins, either throwing the ball or shooting hoops. Within a single generation, changes in Marion created differences between how he and his son spent their days growing up in the town. “It’s still the same, good Marion; the only thing different now would be the economics,” Turner said. “We’re actually losing population – lack of industry. We had one plant close down a couple years ago, and now people are starting to migrate for jobs like at the Mercedes or Hyundai plant.” Turner suggested that Marion could work towards keeping students in the town through a YMCA or a similar facility, so they had a safe but fun place to hang out. Starting programs like these could prevent children from growing up too fast, he believes. Some newcomers made their way into the heart of the Black Belt a little over a decade ago. Blake Barnes, co-owner


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Design by Ramsey Griffin


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of Anderson ~ Barnes Antiques & Collectibles with Lloyd Anderson, explained his migration to Marion. Originally from Birmingham, the two business partners flipped properties in Alabama, including Marion lunch hotspot the Artisan Cafe, and their eventual antique store. The duo ultimately deciding to trade in their house-flipping business for the brick-and-mortar merchandiser, and have lived in the rustic town since. While Barnes said he feels at home in Marion, Tim Green, another Marion resident, feels differently. Originally from Atlanta, he moved south to become better at rodeoing, a popular activity within the community. Although he gained valuable experience, Green expressed his desire to return to Georgia, even though he has called Marion home for the past 13 years. As I wandered behind buildings, I ran into a man standing next to a 1972 Cadillac Eldorado convertible; its clean, milk-chocolate paint was protected by a metal roof. Puffing his cigar, he introduced himself as “Charlie or Charles, but not Chuck.” Charles Flaherty led me through the back door and into his bookstore, As Time Goes By. Flaherty’s store showcases how society has changed over

the decades, through a prolific collection of magazines, novels and advertisements. Flaherty can be considered a renaissance man for his diverse resume. The shopkeeper started on the circus circuit, working for the Ringling Brothers which resulted in him working as a “glorified gopher” throughout the IMAX film Circus World, directed by Roman Kroitor. It wasn’t until much later that he would open up shop in Marion. Greensboro was were Flaherty originally made his home, a town less than half an hour from Marion. “I wanted a Victorian house, an old house.” he said. When he later sold the property, many articles stayed in Alabama. After his run with the entertainment industry, he returned to the South, and As Time Goes By was established. Throughout the fluxes of people moving in and out of Marion, Turner said the town had great potential for growth. “I feel like we’d be able to flourish great; we still have a bunch of land, still have places where we could plant or a company wanted to come and just build around,” Turner said. “Still a lot of land, trees, water. Everything you would need to just start over.”

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observe A photo essay by Laura Wymer

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Design by Maria Oswalt

Every day, we pass by thousands of different colors, textures, shapes and shadows, but do we really see them? Just by focusing in on these simple categories, we are able to view the world in a way we might not have before. Everything around us is in a constant state of change, so stop and look around for a while. Maybe you’ll see something new.

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F e at u r e s

Fighting for an Identity 20 Saving Big Al 24 Heroes with Paws 30


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es l g g u r t s s r e v o disc b u l c g n i x o b s u p m a c UA’s first n o t r spo w e n e h t g n i e of b ry by kayla montgome

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’s e Student Rec Center n the far corner of th sunds of dribbling ba north gymnasium, so gs an The clanks and cl ketballs can be heard. the halls, travel back through of weight machines laps echo as patrons run s ep st ot fo of ds un and so mes a e gym. From below co th of p to e th nd ou ar tition of und: the steady repe more unexpected so d the llows of “punch,” an be s, itt m g in tt hi es glov avy bags. rattling chains of he st year, the Alabama Since its inception la of the e this far back corner ad m s ha ub Cl ng xi Bo bers ing outward as num Rec its home, expand e to me, the club has com ho is th In d. ar w up grow ansitiong to determine its tr a crossroads, pausin and ues to occupy a larger in nt co it as y tit en ing id rth gym. larger slice of the no

Club , the Alabama Boxing 14 20 in d he is bl ta Es rdless of e for everyone, rega brands itself as a plac t. e interest in the spor iv tit pe m co or ce en experi to spar, ed the organization in jo ve ha e m so le hi W day, ’s practices, held Mon others attend the club y for pl from 5–­7 p.m., sim ay id Fr d an ay sd ne Wed eness not wship. This inclusiv the workout and fello drew g environment, but in pt ce ac an ed er st only fo ard Day. this year’s Get on Bo at 5 49 of d ow cr a in cers has put the club offi This extreme growth with e rcing them to grappl fo n, tio si po ue iq un in a th spurt to best handle a grow the question of how tgroup has already ou e Th . ns tio or op pr of epic mbative actice facility, the co e grown its former pr , and now occupies th er nt Ce c Re e th at arts room and the , the room next door om ro ts ar e tiv ba m co etball courts. two neighboring bask rrd not to outgrow ou ha ry ve ng yi tr re e’ “W it. t ou ab lk es,” Pelavin said. ta lv ’t se le to ub? Don cl t gh fi of le nization has been ab ru t ga rs or fi e th , The id sa in m he r, ad So fa of the epticism Rec Center members on all ends ith w ve ri At least, that’s the sk e th d th r an fo e s iv he rv su ficers are now the original pitc ectrum. The four of istrators had toward n sp e tio iv es tit qu pe a m is co It . within ub e boxing cl t how to best remain ou ng ri gu establishment of th t fi en ith ud w st ed task mpetitors or Honors College a group, allowing co as s ie Danny Pelavin, a juni en lit y, bi or pa st ca r hi d ei nth an y education g a welcoming enviro tin ea cr ill st t majoring in secondar bu rs h, ce is fi to flour ng. three additional of prefer to avoid the ri ho w e nc countered along with os sa t th rs r fi fo t ’s en ity inm te the Univers and it puts us in this g, in el fe ol co as they sought to crea ly al re “It’s a what get to sort of define we e er wh e tioned boxing club. ac pl re I g d in an st tere f you’re on into meetings, to be,” Pelavin said. “I “We were pretty far ub ri cl se e t th ge t to an w ve e ha ch w I ying, ‘Wait, ey compete against ea th , am te t se member someone sa os gh fi cr d la ne the club is position g a school­-sanctio they do. We’re in th l al ’s ous. You’re not startin at th d an r, he ot t to go, if we choose where we wan club are you?’ n ca we re he w . id sa ,” he “Of course, we said no

I

Finding Its Footing

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g sed on implementin cu fo s ay st am te ip leadersh ntain its rs for success to mai lla pi ur fo s p’ ou gr e th integrity. I share the club officers and es pl ci in pr ur fo he “T ve fun, arn, we’re going to ha are we’re going to le and treated with respect be to g in go is y od everyb . erybody safe,” he said ev ep ke to g in go re e’ w ’t its current level hasn Growing the club to ity rs allenges. Being Unive come without its ch rtain ce ith p must comply w ­sanctioned, the grou tion is id that the organiza sa is w Le d an , ns tio regula d goals y what its purposes an if ar cl to ng ki or w ill st University. lin re es et hl are in the eyes of the at ant , ng ri ng xi bo e th e moment, doesn’t w th at , ity rs When entering is ve tle ni U lit ry he “T e cannot eir surroundings. Ve ring,” Lewis said. “W ar sp ge y quish control over th er an em do ill to w us ar. ne fact that someo tition if we cannot sp pe m co r fo n ai certain, besides the tr ly proper nd who we they don’t understa at th d ne victorious. er to nc re co pi as I’m members who To ensure that team , are and what we do.” ot at being successful sh st be e th ve ha te compe its pracub focuses much of Lewis said that the cl perentals imperative to am nd fu ng ri te as m tice on is a boxer and is is simple: The club sport. A competitive it e t th ha w in ll n, vi we la g Pe in To rm fo Lewis ng. What they for over two decades, ts interested in boxi en ud st of p ou mixed martial artist gr , ill ts ple. How the group w o to teach his studen m tw si or so g ite in qu th t a s no ha is he said will do has expeing to listen. amount of growth it s as m e th to st ju g granted they are will ad u rmined, but one thin gs as a boxer that yo te in de th un of t be lo ill a st e ar ay m re “The rienced Club is things the Alabama Boxing er,” Lewis said. “The e, ov l m sa ro e nt th co n ve ai m ha t re n’ ill do e you’re w er of the Rec. are what kind of shap find it in the far corn o wh l al to en that you can control op be ld your opponent shou in. There’s no reason sponre ur you are. That’s yo in better shape than nent ing is that your oppo sibility. The other th of the g better understandin a ve ha r ve ne ld ou sh at’s where we share Th . do u yo an th ls ta fundamen a responsibility.” fe is keeping members sa The responsibility of es, e coach, and is, at tim th of y lit bi si on sp re also a xing full contact sport, bo A t. ul ic ff di t os m e th but the nt risks, Lewis said, brings with it inhere

open if we want to remain want to compete or y to everybody.” e team has effectivel th s ve lie be n vi la Pe So far, leaving ing anyone back, or ld ho d oi av to le ab been ructure. ugh their practice st anyone behind, thro , ith coach John Lewis w ks or w p ou gr e on While a large gst themselves. With on am s rk wo r he ot n an d few coaches, Pelavi an rs be em m ub cl number of ng es much of its learni said that the team do through teaching.

y

A Shared Responsibilit

Design by Maria Oswalt // Photography by Bobby Lewis

Who they are

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SAVING BIG AL By Elizabeth Selmarten

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ne of Big Al’s kind is killed roughly every 15 minutes, according to a recent study by National Geographic. In the span of a generation, the African elephant could be extinct in the wild due to illegal ivory poaching and human-element conflicts in conjunction with a lack of conservation efforts. If this trend continues, The University of Alabama could potentially be the first major university in the South to have an extinct animal for a mascot. Students at UA are taking an initiative to save their beloved mascot’s species through a program called Tide For Tusks. Inspired by The University of Missouri’s Tigers For Tigers conservation program, Tide For Tusks works to raise awareness about the endangered African elephant and fund scholarly research towards mascot conservation. “We all know what the African elephant represents to us,” said Randy Mecredy, president and CEO of

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Tide For Tusks. “We all recognize Big Al.” Outside of the realm of crimson and white, the African elephant plays an entirely different role in an African ecosystem. “Elephants are a keystone species in the African plains,” Mecredy said. “They use their tusks for foraging and for digging watering holes, which will be used by all the other animals in the ecosystem. Their manure fertilizes the grasslands, and the forest-dwelling elephants are an important agent for dispersal of seeds.” Mecredy worked with former UA Creative Director for Special Projects, Reata Strickland, and Cathy Butler-Burnett from University Relations as principal investigators to propose and start a mascot conservation program at UA. That idea became reality when the Tide For Tusks non-profit organization launched shortly afterwards. It later evolved, welcoming a partnership with The University of Alabama through a Tide For Tusks Honors

“WE ALL KNOW WHAT THE AFRICAN ELEPHANT MEANS TO US. WE ALL RECOGNIZE BIG AL.” College seminar taught by Mecredy in the Spring 2015 semester. The Honors College is offering a similar course, the African Elephant Project, in the Spring 2016 semester. The “pilot program” Spring 2015 seminar dealt more with being on the ground, fundraising and promoting awareness, than directly working on solutions with the Tanzanians, which is part of the new course. “What we are going to do is look for students from a lot of different backgrounds and work together to try and come up with some sort of intellectual property or academic work that we know will be effective and valuable,” said Honors College instructor Henry John Latta . “To do that, Randy’s class will talk to the people in Tanzania; get them to


Design by Brian Ogden // Photography by Chris Roper

come talk to the class and say this is what we need, this is what will work, here is some technical problems, here are some cultural problems: how can you help us handle that.” Latta and Mecredy embarked this past summer to the African Wildlife Trust’s Ivory Orphans orphanage in Tanzania. With them was Maddie Khuri, a 19-year-old biology major from Atlanta who took the Spring 2015 seminar. Together, they represented the UA Tide For Tusks program as Ambassadors of Goodwill. Ivory Orphans’ main objective is to aid elephant calves orphaned by poaching or human element conflicts by providing refuge and rehabilitation as needed until they are in a stabilized condition. The goal is to reintegrate them into protected areas of the wild. Both adult male and female African elephants have ivory tusks, making a target for poachers. Poaching has a direct effect on a herd overall because there is no known way to extract the ivory without mortally

wounding the mammal. “There’s multiple ways poachers can go about [obtaining the tusks],” said Laura Schillinger, Trails of Africa zoological manager at the Birmingham Zoo. “They hunt them, they shoot them. There’s also poisoning, which not only poisons the elephants, but it will poison anything that feeds on the elephant’s body.”

“THEY HUNT THEM, THEY’ SHOOT THEM. THERE’’S ALSO POISONING, WHICH NOT ONLY POISONS THE ELEPHANTS, BUT IT WILL POISON ANYTHING THAT FEEDS ON THE ELEPHANT’’S BODY.” 27


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“ I SAW HOW MUCH NEEDED TO BE DONE AND HOW MUCH HELP THEY NEED. IT’’S JUST CRAZY TO ME TO SEE THERE STILL IS ALL THAT POACHING GOING ON.” Ivory trading has been made illegal in the majority of countries, which has increased the numbers of elephants in the wild. Efforts have been made to ban the sale of illegal ivory in the United States, which is named second to China in purchasing illegal ivory, Schillinger said. Although these approaches have helped, poaching remains a constant threat today as the black market demand for ivory is still increasing, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “[Elephants] have a matriarchal society,” Mecredy said. “The females teach the young elephants about locating food and water sources in the dry season. They reign in the young bulls and will only leave the herd if they die, or they are forced out. Older elephants teach the herd about survival.” The calves’ chances of survival in the wild diminishes with the poaching of older elephants, especially their mothers due to their dependency, Mecredy said. Even if rescued and pulled away to be nurtured and cared for after poaching has occurred, the calf can still die from stress. Regardless of success, rescue attempts, which includes airlifting

the massive offspring, are costly for Ivory Orphans. “The cost of transporting alone can run $6,000 or more depending on the location,” said African Wildlife Trust CEO Pratik Patel. “And, then there are costs for the veterinarians, biologists, rangers, ground transportation, drivers, field staff, housing, formula, medical supplies and around-the-clock caregivers.” While the Ivory Orphans’ facilities weren’t fully operational this past summer, the Ambassadors of Goodwill were still able to observe the difficulties they face on a daily basis. “I saw how much needed to be done and how much help they need,” Khuri said. “That kind of inspired me to get people to go, because they need help and they don’t have any money coming in. It’s just crazy to me to see there still is all that poaching going on. ” Khuri, along with Maddie Karwich and Matthew Barrett, two of her classmates from the seminar, started a club aspect of Tide for Tusks as a final project for the class. “We wanted to keep it going,” Karwich said. “The class was coming to an end and there needed to be a bridge between the spring semester classes since it was only going to be offered in the spring.”

In addition to continuing the spirit of the class, the trio wanted to open up the program to students outside the Honors College. The non-profit and club have recently teamed with online apparel company The Elephant Pants. The Elephant Pants has agreed to donate $2 to Tide for Tusks for every pair of UA collection pants sold. The company donated $1,611 in September, according to Tide For Tusks’ website. As its funds, man-power and awareness continue to grow, Tide for Tusk as an organization continues to grow as well. However, as Karwich explained, its goal remains the same. “So basically, we are going to save the elephants,” Karwich said.

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HEROES with

A look into how pets influence stress and mental health in their collegiate owners By Kaci Davis

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Shelly Turney enjoys playing with her dog, Kasha, on the quad.

t The University of Alabama, many students spend time on the campus’ grassy quad studying under the trees, rushing to class or tossing a Frisbee. Some students are with groups of friends, but others choose to spend time with their four-legged companions. “It’s just been really cool to have someone who’s there for you,” said Rachael Giles, a junior in the Honors College majoring in telecommunication and film. “It’s helpful for me personally to have something to take care of. It keeps me on a schedule and responsible.” Giles is referring to her pet cat, Artemis, whom she rescued nearly a year ago. Giles is not alone as a student pet owner. Many students choose to have pets in college because they are accustomed to having pets at home or want to experience the fun of having a pet for the first time. Giles said the responsibility of having a pet in college is worthwhile but should not be taken lightly. “You have to remember that it’s an animal that’s dependent on you,” Giles said. “So when I

get home, and I’m tired, and I just want to veg out, he will jump on me. He will not let me touch a book until I have given him my undivided attention for 15 or 20 minutes.” According to Giles, pets are more than just fun and games. She said pet ownership can also relieve stress. “I knew I was a lot less stressed with my pets at home than I was when they weren’t around,” Giles said. “It definitely relaxes me a lot. If I’m stressed out, playing with him or petting him is just really helpful. It’s relaxing because it’s not something I have to think about. It’s sort of like social interaction.” The academic stress described by Giles is a growing epidemic for college students according to Lee Keyes, executive director of The University of Alabama’s Counseling Center. “I believe today more students are [experiencing] a higher rate of stress than they did 20 years ago,” Keyes said. “Some

“I believe today more students are [experiencing] a higher rate of stress than they did 20 years ago. Some of that has more to do with marketplace issues, concerns about actually get a job after [graduating].”

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Artemis likes to spend time in his recylced box.

with a fear of flying remain calm during commercial flights. The University of Alabama works individually with students who require medical accommodations in campus housing. Students with emotional support animals gain approval through the Office of Disability Services by formally requesting medical accommodation and providing medical documentation from a clinician. These students agree to follow the guidelines of having an assistance animal in campus housing and are solely responsible for the animal’s care. Kimberly Sterritt, associate director of Housing Administration at The University of Alabama, is the primary liaison for students with medical accommodations. In the case of emotional-support animals, she ensures students are prepared to care for the animal and answer questions about having the animal in campus housing. “We have a talk about their schedule and how long they are going to be away from their animal,” Sterritt said. “If they have class from 8p.m.–5p.m., that’s not fair to the animal.” Whether the issue is stress or mental illness, students can benefit from spending time with animals. Giles said despite scheduling occasionally being difficult with a pet, she has never regretted adopting Artemis. “The reward of having someone being around that loves you unconditionally is really great,” Giles said. “It feels cool to know that no matter what other people think about me or say about me, he likes me.”

Design by Amelia Neumeister // Photography by Rachel Wilburn

“If I’m stressed out, playing with him or petting him is just really helpful. It’s relaxing because it’s not something I have to think about.” of that has more to do with marketplace issues, concerns about actually getting a job after [graduating]. When we had the recession in 2008, that prompted a lot of those sorts of fears. It raised stress amongst students.” Keyes said taking care of a pet and feeling responsible for it proves rewarding for people, and a study from The University of Missouri at Columbia shows that pet ownership also decreases the physical signs of stress by lowering blood pressure and decreasing stress hormones. “Pets can be very stress relieving,” Keyes said. “They can lift moods. Some of how that happens is through distraction or activity. If you’re outside playing with your pet, that’s better for your mood than staying inside and being on a game all day. They have very good benefits for mental health.” Students with mental illnesses can also benefit from relationships with animals. Emotional support animals are prescribed by clinicians to alleviate symptoms of a variety of disabilities, including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. For example, they often help individuals

Kasha enjoys a quick break from playing.

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More Than Just a Pretty Face Megan Smith, a Crimsonette and University Fellow, leaves her mark at The University of Alabama. By Kaci Davis 34


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n any weekday afternoon in the fall, nearly 400 men and women march across Butler Field, home of the Million Dollar Band. But musicians are not the only performers on the field. The band’s auxiliary teams toss batons and flags into the air in perfect precision. Come game day, sequined uniforms and big smiles are a constant for the women in the Crimsonettes, the Million Dollar Band’s majorette team. Megan Smith, team captain of the Crimsonettes, twirls her baton with ease as the team progresses through the show’s choreography. Smith — a senior in the Honors College majoring in economics and political science with a minor in education studies — said that she has to balance school with Crimsonette practice carefully. “We have practice from 3:30p.m. to 5:30p.m., and if we’re learning a new show, we’re practicing at 6p.m. on Sunday,” Smith said. “I think the record for the latest I have been out on that field was 1:30 a.m. The rule of thumb is if you have homework due at midnight, do it before Crimsonette practice.” Despite dancing for her entire life,Smith didn’t start twirling until she was in sixth grade. “I went to my first baton lesson, and it was just a natural thing; I was hooked,” Smith said. “Then I came to a football game and saw the Crimsonettes for the first time, and my mind was made up.” Marion Powell, coordinator and choreographer of the Crimsonettes, said she chose Smith to be captain of the team because of her good work ethic and leadership abilities. “When you are a team, you’re going to have good work ethic, and you’re going to support each other and you’re going to motivate each other,” Powell said. “Those are things that Megan is good at bringing out in each of the girls.” In addition to devoting so much time to her Crimsonette duties, Smith is actively involved in a variety of other organizations on campus. She manages academic demands alongside serving as president of

several organizations, but she said people are sometimes surprised that a Crimsonette is in the Honors College and involved across campus. “I’ve encountered those stereotypes many times, but we have some incredibly intelligent, well-rounded women on the team,” Smith said. “The thing that pains me the most is when people make those stereotypes and think there is a preconceived notion behind the hair and the boots.” Smith said she uses conversation as a means of overcoming stereotypes. “I’ve tried to capitalize on opportunities where I get to talk with someone about the things girls on the team are involved in,” Smith said. “We have several girls that are in the Honors College. I really work through the other things I’m involved in to spread a positive reputation for the team.” Smith started spreading a positive message when she was accepted into the University Fellows Experience, an Honors College community that emphasizes leadership and service. According to Smith, a huge component of the community is the Black Belt Experience, where students pack up their bags and move to Perry County for the month of May following their freshman year. Smith said the Black Belt is a very economically deprived area. “We get to implement a community initiative, and for mine, I worked in a classroom,” Smith said. “I led students through this course on social innovation, what it means to identify a problem and how you can solve it strategically using the connections you have. I worked with students at the school to build an outdoor classroom and really let them have ownership in that process.” Smith is now an intern for the University Fellows Experience Coordinator, Stephanie Brewer, who describes Smith as a perfect fit for the position because she exemplifies all of the desirable qualities of a strong worker. “She’s highly organized, [and] it works very well with what she does for Fellows in her intern position,”

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Brewer said. “But she also has that flip side as well. She’s very social, people-oriented and motivated. She has a fantastic personality. She cares about people, and she has very high expectations of herself.” Brewer said Smith’s responsibilities as an intern include planning the recruitment process and interview weekend for high school seniors applying to join the University Fellows Experience.

“Megan has helped revamp our communications and our recruitment process,” Brewer said. “She’s our recruitment guru, and she is the one who is going to be pulling in next year’s class of Fellows.” Working with students as a University Fellow helped develop a passion she had discovered during her freshman year. “I am very passionate about the world of education, and that’s something I didn’t realize until I got here,” Smith said. “I took an Honors seminar called Bricks to Books and fell in love with it.” A pivotal point in Smith’s life occurred after Emily

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Schultz, the governor’s Education Policy Advisor at the time, came in as a speaker for the class. Smith scheduled a phone call that resulted in her becoming an intern for Schultz the summer after her freshman year. After her internship, Smith became even more involved in the world of education. She completed her Capstone Research Project, titled “Modern Segregation Academies: Myth or Reality?: Understanding Racial Composition of Private Schools in the Alabama Black Belt” last year and won the education division at the University of Alabama’s Undergraduate Research Conference. “It started with a general belief that every child deserves a quality education,” Smith said. “I looked at what the racial composition is of public and private schools in Alabama in the Black Belt and did a historical analysis of when those private schools popped up in correlation to the Civil Rights Movement.” Smith’s involvement in education led to her becoming a founding member of Unlocked UA, a student organization that advocates for education equity. She now serves as president of the organization. “[Unlocked UA is] an outlet for nuanced conversation surrounding issues in education,” Smith said. “We try to host events for our members and for the general campus population that start challenging conversations [by presenting] information objectively.” Smith’s passion for education is not the only way she has left her mark on campus; she is also the founder and studio lead of Design for America, a new student organization on campus. Design for America teaches students to use human-centered design to solve societal challenges in society. Smith said that getting Design for America to UA’s campus was a long journey. “There’s a full, year-long application process that


Design by Rachel Berry // Photography by Kelsey Daugherty

you go through with nationals,” Smith said. “They sent representatives to our campus to see what campus culture was like. Then we had to do a pilot project. We partnered with Tuscaloosa Public Library, and we created this Lit Link, which we eventually took to several area doctor’s offices.” Lit Link is a one-stop station that presents concise visual material and audio recordings to guide individuals through various processes, like reading a nutrition label or applying to get a recycling bin. “These are processes that are very difficult for people who are functionally illiterate in the Tuscaloosa community,” Smith said.

Design for America was accepted at the University of Alabama in May, and this year’s studio has 24 members divided into four project areas. “We have teams working on projects in healthcare, disabilities, campus sustainability and education,” Smith said. “They’re researching what those different topic areas look like, and they’re starting to identify what specific issue they want to focus on. Design for America formats everything in a ‘how can we?’ [format], so they’re asking questions like, ‘How can we improve the life of a parent of a child with Down Syndrome?’” Watching Design for America grow has been one of

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Smith’s most rewarding experiences as a student. “Our first studio meeting was the most awesome feeling — to stand at the front of the room with people there who wanted to participate and wanted to be engaged and really wanted to create change in Tuscaloosa,” Smith said. Brewer said Smith’s organizational skills and motivation have helped her balance all of her different roles on campus. “She is her own life coach,” Brewer said. “She thinks very intentionally about what her goals are, both short term and long term. She has thought through over the course of her four years what the various experiences are that she wants to make sure she has but also what impact she wants to make.” With all of her various commitments, Smith’s schedule is not easy. She said there are difficulties associated with being involved in so many different organizations. “I think those moments where I have to miss things that I love — because naturally the schedules do overlap — are the most challenging thing for me,” Smith said. “It’s a lot of shifting gears quickly, but my motto is if I want to do something, I’m going to make time for it.” Brewer said Smith is a great example to other students, because she is a relatable person beyond all of her achievements. “She has bad days, and she’s not afraid of sharing those moments with other people,” Brewer said. “I think that while she’s very impressive and she’s accomplished a lot of things, she’s got a lot of great things coming to her. She’s also very relatable, and I think that’s healthy for other students to see.” Despite facing stereotypes and busy days filled with meetings and Crimsonette rehearsals, Smith said she would never regret being so involved on campus. “I would not have it any other way,” Smith said. “The diversity of my experiences has been the best part of my college experience.” Powell said Smith has been a great asset to the Crimsonette program despite her involvement in so many other organizations. “It’s rare that you find someone who can do as many

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things as she can and do them well,” Powell said. “She likes to be involved. She’s passionate about being in different organizations.” Smith encouraged other students to diversify their experiences across campus to become more involved. “I think reaching across corners of campus and going to meetings where you might feel out of place, or exploring something that you think might make you feel anxious, is absolutely the best thing you can do,” Smith said.


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Marion, a photo by Nicole Rodriguez 40


Design by Kelsey Daugherty // Photography by Erin Keats

By Matthew Speakman he ability to express oneself through music can be therapeutic in many ways. Often times, musicians write songs to help them relieve emotions they have been struggling to express. Psychologists across the country have established programs in universities to allow therapists to implement music into a form of mental therapy. The University of Alabama’s Music Therapy Department, established in 1984, uses music to work with various medical groups around the community of Tuscaloosa to bring therapy to mental health problems. Students involved in the program are admitted through the School of Music based off of musicianship and often times academic standards. Many of the students involved in this program thrive in an academic setting, being involved in other programs, such as UA’s Honors College. “The Honors College has helped me meet more people on campus outside the music school and advocate for music therapy awareness to them,” said Jill Pocius, a junior music therapy major. Music therapy is the health profession in which therapists use music to help aid the needs of patients struggling with physical or mental disabilities. Practicing therapists use song to help the patient cope with or 41


“Everything we do is based off of the clients or the students and what their needs are”

their needs are,” said Andrea CevascoTrotter, head of the music therapy department at UA. The University of Alabama’s music therapy program trains students in music theory and musicianship while also teaching them how to use those skills to interact with different types of people with mental disorders. Members of the program gradually engage in more hands-on experience as they learn more about what music therapy is and how to practice it properly. improve their situation, according to the American Music “I think the program here is excellent, because you Therapy Association. “You set non-musical goals such as socialization, commu- constantly get real-world experience as you progress nication or coping skills,” Pocius said. “Then, you use music through the program,” said Ryan Johnson, a senior music therapy major. to achieve those goals.” Sophomores learn how to interact with clients through Approved therapeutic physicians and programs work directly with patients of all types of mental backgrounds. For sessions at Caring Days, a facility in Tuscaloosa for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Once they become upperinstance, they work hands on with special needs children, classmen, they go out into the community and participate using music to help the kids develop social skills, as well as hour-long sessions with patients that involve live music, the tools they need to learn in a classroom setting. listening to music and being active to melodies. “There are lots of things that you need to learn to do in “I love learning about how to be professional with order to learn in school,” said Ellary Draper, a music therapy clients and other professionals, as well as how to work professor. “So, through music, we are able to teach the kids within the Behavioral-Cognitive model of music therapy,” that it is OK if you don’t get what you want right away. We are still going to do music, we are still going to have fun and Johnson said. The students genuinely care about the patients they are we are still going to learn.” dealing with. Even though their classes are focused on how Music therapy is not just playing songs for patients; it is a way to structure a safe environment that allows the patients grow and improve. In this case, they use music to show the children that they can share and have fun while still learning important social and knowledge-based skills for the future. Not all therapy deals with behavior skills. Music therapists can treat patients as early as infancy, guiding premature infants through melodies and massage to help them cope with the various types of noise and distraction they hear throughout the early stages of their lives. The therapists sing to the babies to get them accustomed to noise being a pleasant aspect of life. “Everything we do is based off of the clients or the students and what

“You set non-musical goals such as socialization, communication or coping skills. Then you use music to achieve those goals.”

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to evolve on as a therapist, that does not take away from their overall goal: to help the patients. These are young students doing everything they can to go out and help patients struggling with different disorders, Pocius said. “We give the students the chance to learn and grow and develop in a very safe environment,” Cevasco-Trotter said. In one particular class, the students had to reflect on positive things that occurred in their sessions. As the students discussed their interactions with the patients, the entire class looked on and smiled, clapping and congratulating each small victory. The mood in the room was focused on positivity as the professor urged each student to share their experiences and how they have grown as therapists. The program encourages the students to not only care about their patients, but for each other. “Everything we do is based off of the clients of the students and what their needs are,” Cevasco-Trotter said.

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DY

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NAMIC DOUBLES Exploring the world of students with unusual double majors By Lauren Williams

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here are a few combinations of majors that people hear everyday, like international studies and a foreign language or finance and accounting. However, some UA students like to think out of the box and combine majors that are a bit more unusual. At first glance, the connection between ceramics and dentistry is not an obvious one, but Catie Lee Bruni makes it work by combining them as her double major. Bruni is a sophomore studying biology and studio art with a concentration in ceramics. As a pre-dental student, she was recommended to take art in addition to her science classes, as dentists need to be able to work with their hands when making molds of teeth or sculpting teeth. “I’m actually going to be using both majors in the real world as they com-

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plement each other so well,” Bruni said. It was convenient for Bruni that art and dentistry go together so well, because she had always loved science and fell in love with art in high school. Bruni has found connections between classes for each major; studying art simultaneously gives her a unique attitude towards her science classes and vice-versa. “You wouldn’t think art and biology connect, but after listening to the two different teachers, it opens your eyes,” Bruni said. “It makes you pay attention because you understand the science side of nature, but you also respect nature because you can look at it from a different perspective.” Like Bruni, college has given sophomore Grace Elbert the opportunity to study two subjects she enjoys. She feels lucky to have been able to find a university where she is able to study

both biology on the pre-med track and piano performance as she has always wanted to go to medical school and always enjoyed music. “This is what I’m passionate about and I’m lucky to have found a way to combine both of my passions,” Elbert said. “I love being able to shadow neonatologists and rock babies in the NICU, but I also love to play piano.” On a day-to-day basis, combining these majors is pretty difficult for Elbert. Not many classes overlap, so she struggles to fit in requirements and prerequisites for her biology major, pre-med track and piano performance major. “It’s difficult, but I try not to complain, because I’m the one that put myself in this situation,” Elbert said. “For example, on Monday, I had music theory, cell bio and organic chemistry tests all in one day. It was tough, but


Design by Maria Oswalt // Photography by Laura Wymer

I have to keep the mindset that I’m lucky to study both of the things I love.” When she finds a balance between science and music, Elbert hits her groove. “When I get stressed out studying for organic chemistry, I go practice,” Elbert said. “I’ll bring a textbook in the practice rooms, so if I get frustrated practicing piano, I’ll take a break and study. One is a stress release for the other. It’s almost a relief to study something different.” Elbert plans to attend medical school at The University of Alabama at Birmingham or at a Kentucky school after graduation in May 2018 and see how music works its way into her life. It could be teaching or performing, but she is adamant that music will always be a part of her life. “I don’t have to have a nice car or a nice house, but I have to have a nice piano,” Elbert said. Performing also plays an important role in Ginny Cooper’s life. When the now senior began college, she knew she was not ready to give up her love of performing but did not want to depend on just a theater major after graduation. Therefore, she chose a dual degree in finance and theater.

Grace Elbert at her piano

Catie Lee Bruni sits in the ceramic studio in Woods Hall

Her mother had majored in finance, and after taking a class in high school, Cooper loved it. She decided to stick with it through college and combine it with her love of the stage. “Sometimes there is a bit of culture shock going from an upper-level Capital Investments course into Stage Dialects,” Cooper said. “But the back and forth keeps me on my toes and prevents me from feeling monotonous in a full day of just one subject. Also, God bless the person who designed this campus so that Bidgood and Rowand-Johnson would be right next to each other.” While she admits her majors are

not a traditional combination, Cooper loves the delicate balance of studying such different topics. “Being able to use my creative side in a stage movement class after a few hours of working on equations is almost always a welcome change of pace,” Cooper said. “Likewise, theater classes can be physically and emotionally draining, so it’s nice to walk in and quietly work on spreadsheets by myself when I get tired of Shakespeare.” After graduating in December 2015, Cooper plans to go to law school, as she’s been drawn to the legal side of both the financial and entertainment industries in classes. “In a perfect world, I’d love to work on the business side of a theatre or entertainment company,” Cooper said. “These majors allow me to use both the creative and logical sides of my brain in a way that will, hopefully, be useful to future employers.”

Elbert holds up a molecular model

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By Rebecca Sedlak

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arissa Clay was no different from many other children when she first dreamed of being a marine biologist. Ten years later, she is preparing to graduate from The University of Alabama with the degree she has been set on since fifth grade. “I’m the marine science and biology wannabe who never grew out of it,” Clay said, “So that’s a big thing. I stuck true to it, and I love it.” Clay, a senior Honors student with a double major in marine science and biology, said her elementary school passion only increased as she moved into high school. During her junior year, she began volunteering at an aquarium in Birmingham, her home town. Clay never saw it as just another job. “I’ve always kind of loved taking care of fish more than anything else,” she said. After enrolling at UA, Clay looked for ways to continue working with fish. She volunteered during her freshman year with paleontologist Dana Ehret. Clay’s work and research began to change quickly in the fall of her sophomore year, when she volunteered to learn 3D scanning and printing to make plastic models of Ehret’s fossils. “I barely understood how the technology worked,” Clay said. “It just sounded cool.” She was quickly trained on the University’s 3D scanners and printers in Rodgers Library as well as the larger Makerspace Lab located in Hardaway Hall. Through experimentation and a lot of patience, Clay 50

learned the art of taking dozens of scans of a single, small object and aligning and blending them until the entire structure is fully recreated in the scanning software. The scanner collects all of the object’s dimensions, texture, shape and color data so that it can be printed out in precise detail. “It’s fun because you spend hours and hours working on it and getting it just right, but then you can hold the printed model in your hand and know you made it,” Clay said. “You took it from the beginning all the way to the end.” Within a few short months, Clay, the girl who loved fish, became a local expert in 3D scanning. “I got handed a fossil, and the next thing I know, I’ve printed out multiple different types of fossils and scanned things that people didn’t think were possible,” Clay said. “I was doing demonstrations at engineering events, which is funny because I’m not an engineer.” Clay feels her experience demonstrates that a person’s primary interest or skillset does not limit them from doing anything else. “You don’t have to be an engineer [to work with technology such as 3D printing],” Clay said. “To me, it’s like a giant puzzle. It’s all about figuring out what goes here and what goes there.” Her newfound expertise became invaluable as she pursued her career in marine science. As part of the University’s Emerging Scholars program, Clay began research with biology professor Ryan Earley during the second semester of her freshman year. Earley


Design by Maria Oswalt // Photography by Ramsey Griffin

runs a large lab conducting wide-ranging, highly-integrative research in animal behavior and life history. “Carissa’s awesome,” Earley said. “She has this motivation to go after questions. She really loves to watch the fish, and she’s been really extraordinary. It’s just the combination of her skillset and her enthusiasm. I think she’s going to succeed in a grand fashion, because she’s got it. That’s what she wants to do.” Clay’s project evaluates the personality and fitness of mangrove rivulus, a small species of fish that has an unusual ability to make large jumps on land to get back to water. The goal is to see how certain personality parameters such as aggression and their ability to move around on land affect the fish’s survival in different environments. Her 3D scanning abilities were incorporated into the project when the team began preparing for the aggression test. The fish have to be tested against a model instead of a live fish to be sure that the behavior of the fish being tested is due to its own personality and not simply a defensive reaction to another fish’s aggression. “Carissa seemed really excited about this personality and fitness project, and I think she got more excited when we determined we were going to be scanning fish and generating the models,” Earley said. “In the past, we’d used hand-painted models that were good but not perfect. With 3D printing, we can scan a real fish and then print one that looks just like it.” Aside from learning more about the role of an animal’s personality in survival, Earley explained that studies like Clay’s can also help to understand the human condition, due to the surprising similarity in the brain structures of fish and humans. “Everything has personality, whether you think it does or not,” Clay said. “I’ve seen too many people treat things badly, especially ocean creatures, but we need to respect that they’re living, too.” Taylor Millirons, a pre-med senior majoring in chemical

engineering, has been Clay’s partner on the project since the beginning. He believes Clay’s value of life is closely related to her naturally caring and passionate nature. “Carissa’s very friendly and always pleasant to work with,” Millirons said. “She definitely values people too. It’s neat to see her interact with them and how she lights up when she gets to tell them about the fish.” Millirons also noted the uniqueness and value of Clay’s single dream for her future career and the hard work she has put into it. “A lot of college kids don’t have that dream for what they want to do,” he said. “It’s cool to see her have that.” After everything Clay has done in college, and as skilled as she has become in 3D scanning, her passion for fish is even stronger than it was when she was in fifth grade. After her May 2016 graduation, she plans to attend graduate school, where she will continue to study marine science and then work at an aquarium. “I like all the sea creatures,” Clay said. “I just don’t want to focus on one because they’re all so fun and different and I like knowing a little bit about all of them. The ocean is weird, but that’s what makes it wonderful.”

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“The Office!”

W Rac rit h er el /P W ho il to bu gr r ap n he r

Ph M ot eg og a ra n H ph a er ll /D so es n ign er

r

ho R to od gr r ap ig he ue r z

NI c P ole

La

W ure rit n er W /D il es lia ign m er s

Ph ot W og ill ra R ph u er pp /D el es ign e

Ph La ot ur og a W ra ph ym yE e di r to r

W Pai eb ge Co B nt ur en le t E so di n to r

M

Cr a ea ria tiv O e D sw ire al cto t r

c De hel sig Be ne rr r y

Ra

ew

an

W Sp rit ea er k m

th

M at

M y

er

W on rit tg er om

Ka yla

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n

W ew rit W er ils o

M at

De Kel sig se ne y D r/P a h o ug to he gr rt ap y he r

“True Detective.” “Jessica Jones.”

“NCIS: Los Angeles.”


Mosaic Fall 2015  

The student publication of The University of Alabama's Honors College - Fall 2015 Issue

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