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dean’s message

{ THE COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES W E LC O M E S R O B E R T E . PA L A Z ZO, P H . D., AS DEAN } I am pleased to share our second edition of UAB Arts and Sciences magazine with you, and I am delighted to do so in my position as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. I have been deeply impressed with the College, and I believe it will play a crucial role in strengthening the international reputation of UAB and the city of Birmingham. The intellectual breadth, scholarship, and sense of rigor exhibited by the College of Arts and Sciences faculty




is invigorating, and their commitment to our students is inspiring. I am honored


to be your dean and thank you for your support as we move the College forward.


Dean Robert E. Palazzo, Ph.D.


A LLISON C ROTWELL , D IRECTOR OF C OMMUNICATIONS phone | 205-410-9128 fax | 205-996-7708 e-mail | VISIT OUR WEB SITE AT

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& contents V O L . 11 , N O . 1 , S P R I N G 2 0 13


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24So What?

By Cynthia Ryan


Pass It On

Commemorative Events Calendar 25CAS

The work of the College of Arts and Sciences centers on the

transfer of skills, knowledge, and experiences—in the classroom and out in the world.

{ F E AT U R E S }

8 Student-Teachers 10 Approaching the Bench 14Uncanny Valley UAB Alumni Teach for America

UAB Students on Mock Trial

UAB Alumni Take California

20Music Makers

Mastering a Different Kind of Keyboard

22ASeenNew Place to See and Be

The UAB Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts

18 Lasting SCAR

Breast Cancer Survivors in the Alabama Project

©2013 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System for the University of Alabama at Birmingham UAB provides equal opportunities in education and employment.

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Capturing the past

for future generations





hen a group of media studies students heard the recorded tales of Birmingham-area African Americans, history, for them, became living, breathing, tragic, hilarious and inspiring all in one audio stream. “I feel like the most important part of history is the emotional and visceral part, not just reading about it academically,” says George Evans, a sophomore English and history major—and a digital historian. Evans and his fellow students in a digital storytelling course collaborated with the StoryCorps Griot Initiative to collect, edit, and archive African-American oral histories in an effort to preserve them. StoryCorps—a national, touring oral history project— brought its recording booth to Birmingham in 2011 and collected narratives from community folks interviewed by their friends or loved ones. The stories will be housed in the U.S. Library of Congress. As a community partner, UAB’s media studies program was granted permission to edit several of the stories, which are avaialable on iTunes U. Students took 45-minute to one-hour interviews—in locations around the community and in StoryCorps’s converted Airstream trailer—and boiled them down to one- to two-minute gems. Interview subjects included many locals with stories to tell such as civil-rights foot soldiers, a musician and poet, and Birmingham Mayor William Bell. “I think it is important to leave some sort of communication with the next generation so that they can be prepared to deal with any issues in the future and understand how we got where we are and pass it on,” Bell says. In his interview, he shared stories with

his son, William Jr., about growing up in the segregated South. “These stories will be beneficial to the next generation in the study of Birmingham history,” he says. Rosie O’Beirne, director of digital media and learning, agrees. “History is a lived experience,” she says. O’Beirne believes that recording personal accounts—whether of major events or simply past experiences— makes history that much richer. Senior Zac Trader, who edited Bell’s story, agrees. “It’s an honor,” he says. “Mayor Bell is a remarkable person with remarkable stories to tell.” Junior English major Olalekan Dada jumped at the chance to edit the interview of his old high-school principal, Yancey Williams. Williams was known at Birmingham’s Ramsay High School as somewhat of a no-nonsense man, Dada says, and he was curious about the no-nonsense man’s story. Dada discovered that Williams’s disciplinary demeanor had a softer foundation: It was his way of showing love, especially to students who didn’t get it at home. “Those kids only want one thing: it starts with an L. It’s love,” Williams said in his interview. Williams told the tale of discovering that one of his students was living in a car. Williams helped that young man graduate from high school and move on to college. “There are so many different stories that don’t get heard—they’re overshadowed by the popular ones,” Dada said of Williams’s story and many others. “I’m honored to help tell them so people can learn what everyday people did to make their own history.” Evans, a native of Montevallo, was in awe of stories told by Joel Boykin, a dentist during the Civil Rights Movement. “He

Senior Zac Trader edited Mayor William Bell’s recorded story into a little piece of audio history.

was incredible,” Evans says of the man, now in his 90s, who saw patients including the children of famous civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. Boykin spoke of living in Birmingham when the Ku Klux Klan bombed the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, leaving four little girls dead. “It was great to talk to someone who lived through history,” Evans says. History major Gabe Turner collected stories from residents of the historic Rosedale community, one of the first areas in Alabama where African Americans were allowed to own land. Among the interviews is a chat between two old buddies, Norman Floyd and Percy Harris, who laughed and reminisced about growing up together in their old neighborhood, Turner says. Harris talked about getting in trouble as a young boy for taking chewing gum from the neighborhood store, with the worst possible outcome: His mother found out. His punishment was to take out the trash for the store’s owner for weeks. Stories like those make history lessons something that rises up from stale-smelling pages, Turner says. “History is more than just memorization—it has life.”

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The science

NEUROSCIENCE • Early Medical Professional Schools Acceptance Program

of mentorship B Y





chance remark from a particularly inspiring teacher, a book, or a vivid experience that leaves a lasting impression—such random encounters can influence a person’s direction in life. For many UAB students, that influencer is less random—UAB’s mentoring program takes a student’s interests and goals into consideration to connect him or her with a faculty member in fields from hard sciences to fine arts for close interaction, one-on-one guidance, real-life experience, and inspiration.


MOLECULAR BIOLOGY • University Honors Program

Senior Katherine Mascia was inspired to pursue a career in science after seeing a friend struggle with epilepsy—she wanted to know more about this condition that caused her friend to experience violent, life-disrupting seizures. Mascia saw the fast-growing neuroscience field as the best pathway to understanding epilepsy and sought out neurobiologist Farah Lubin, Ph.D., who extended an invitation to visit her lab. “The primary research focus at Dr. Lubin’s lab is Alzheimer’s disease,” Mascia says, “but she also has a side project on epilepsy memory deficits. Many patients with epilepsy exhibit deficits in learning and memory. As it turns out, gene expression in neurons is very important when we’re forming memory.” “Dr. Lubin’s lab is very intense, and she expects a lot of her students, but given that it’s such important research that’s so relevant to patients today, that’s to be expected,” Mascia says. “And it’s really good to have a mentor who pushes you to learn about not only the lab techniques but also apply what you are learning to a real-world problem. Dr. Lubin always says, ‘We’re going to cure something.’”

“Dr. Lubin’s lab is very intense, and she expects a lot of her students, but given that it’s such important research, that’s to be expected.” – K ATHERINE

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Kavita Nadendla’s interest in medicine led her to the Early Medical Professional Schools Acceptance Program and a major in neuroscience. That in turn led her to the lab of Rajesh Kana, Ph.D., at UAB’s Civitan International Research Center, who studies autism using functional MRI (fMRI) imaging. Nadendla first met Kana through his undergraduate class on fMRI, in which he talked about his autism research using cognitive brain-imaging techniques. “When I joined the neuroscience program,” Nadendla says, “we were required to do research in a lab related to the field. Dr. Kana’s work had interested me since taking his class so I approached him to see if he would accept a student to work with him in his lab.” Nadendla found Kana to be a knowledgeable and helpful mentor who encouraged the student-researchers in his lab through one-onone guidance and regular group meetings to ensure that they understood the work they were doing. “He took the time to explain all of the different results and techniques involved in the work,” she says. “I had to do a presentation for my neuroscience major at the end of my senior year, and he helped me put that together as well as a poster for presentations at neuroscience competitions.”


Junior Jarrod Michael Hicks developed his fascination with the brain in high school, participating in the Alabama and National Brain Bees and required weekly community service for juniors and seniors at his school. “Because of my growing interest in neuroscience, naturally I wanted to work in a neuroscience lab,” Hicks says. Carl McFarland, Ph.D., professor and co-director of the UAB undergraduate neuroscience program, directed him to Edward Taub, Ph.D., who specializes in the use of constraint-induced (CI) therapy to treat stroke patients. Now a neuroscience and mathematics major, Hicks has been working in Taub’s lab since 2011. He works closely with graduate student Tyler Rickards. “I’ve learned many of the facets of structural neuroimaging involving how the brain processes information,” Hicks says. “While Tyler helps teach and guide me through research processes and protocols, he also allows me the freedom to discover things on my own.” Hicks is finishing work on the relationship between hyperintensity status, motor function, and response to CI therapy in adults who have experienced stroke. “This has been one of my first major projects,” he says. “I’m very excited that I will be able to present my findings at the UAB EXPO and the Ost Undergraduate Research Competition.”

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Sustaining scholars B Y




ollege of Arts and Sciences students are going places—and they’re getting paid for it. Over the past decade, numerous students from the college have enjoyed exciting educational experiences and graduate education with the help of prestigious national and international scholarships. High-achieving CAS students have brought in Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Fulbright scholarships and been chosen for selective programs like Teach for America, despite strong competition across the country—and the world—for only a few award spots. The awards don’t come out of nowhere, and the students don’t have to endure the rigorous application process alone. Ashley Floyd—UAB’s director of national and international scholarships and fellowships—and a crew of devoted faculty members are there to offer guidance and advice, from finding the right scholarship match to preparing the application to practicing for sometimes dayslong interview sessions. “We work hard to identify students early on, to reach out and build a relationship with them,” Floyd says. “We want to start opening their eyes to all the different opportunities” and to help them start preparing to compete with a world full of other young scholars with big plans. Floyd starts seeking out talented students even earlier than junior year, speaking to classes, holding spring and fall information sessions, and mining faculty committees for leads. Preliminary interviews help identify the most promising students to send forward to national and international organizations.

Perfecting Promise The preparation process is rigorous. Over the summer prior to application, Floyd and her assisting faculty offer advice on stronger resumes, suggestions of scholarly literature

Ashley Floyd (left) with Goldwater Scholar Miranda Collier

to read, and notes on skill sets to strengthen. Writing, in particular, is a frequent sticking point for many prospective applicants—and a crucial aspect of the application process. “Personal statements and essays are very important,” Floyd says. “And if a student can’t write well, their application won’t advance.” Jaclyn Wells, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and director of the University Writing Center (UWC), is a key resource for students with weaknesses in that area. “Talking through ideas and feedback are essential to the process of writing these sometimes daunting statements,” she says. “The UWC is thrilled to play even a small role in UAB students’ achievement by helping them try for these prestigious scholarships.” Wells also is available, Floyd says, to help faculty members polish recommendation letters—a crucial element that can be a tipping point in helping students get inter-

views—that meet the very specific needs of international scholarship organizations. Another important step is for students to hone their resumes, finding a focus to gain the attention of the organizations. “You’re no longer building a resume of breadth. You’re building one of depth,” Floyd says. “The important thing is that you identify a few areas in which you really want to make a substantial impact and pursue those wholeheartedly.” This could include starting a campus organization or working to excel in the lab to demonstrate initiative and leadership. Faculty members help students identify what Floyd calls “building block” scholarships—awards such as the Critical Languages Scholarship or the Clinton Scholarship, or national scholarships specific to their field of study—to find academic opportunities and to strengthen resumes.

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Behind Every Promising Applicant CAS faculty members are, Floyd says, “a tremendous asset to scholarship committees.” Three committees—one for STEM scholarships, one focusing on the Fulbright Scholarships, and a general committee focusing on the Marshall, Rhodes, and Truman scholarships—each are chaired by volunteer faculty members and administrators. “I asked people, ‘Who has an interest in other cultures and sending students away to have international experiences?’” Floyd says. Vice Provost for Student and Faculty Success Suzanne Austin, Ph.D., stepped up to chair the Fulbright committee. History chair Colin Davis, Ph.D., chairs the general committee. And Joe March, Ph.D., an associate professor of chemistry, serves as chair of the STEM committee. “One of my roles is to keep faculty aware of opportunities for their students. We now have a network of faculty who feel it’s their job to help students identify scholarship opportunities,” March says. “We’ve worked with students to help them find their voice to write passionate, honest applications. We offer mock interviews for those who will need to interview. It’s a pleasure to help these students, because it can be very exciting to see the world through their eyes and play a small part in helping them stretch into future leadership roles.” Strong faculty participation goes a long way to influence national and international organizations, Floyd says. The organizations like to see senior faculty who are experts in their fields and deeply engaged with the university. “We’re actually asked to report who’s in each committee,” Floyd says. “It lets them know that our institution takes this very, very seriously.” The hard work and focus are paying off—UAB students have won more than a million dollars in prestigious scholarships and fellowships, from multiple Truman, Rhodes, and Marshall scholarships to countless smaller national awards. And it’s not just because they have the support of an entire college backing them up. “In the end, it comes down to the student’s hard work and achievement,” Floyd says. “We do everything we can to help them prepare, but on the day of the interview, they are in that room all by themselves.”

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Art for Our Time B Y




igital graphics and animation used to be known as “new media” back when they really were new. Today they appear on screens of every size under the name of “timebased media,” reflecting the fact that these works have a beginning and an end and often involve input from the viewer. UAB’s time-based media program lives in the Department of Art and Art History, where it harnesses technology to create a new kind of fine art. A key focus is animation—both hand-drawn and 3D—but that’s not the only emphasis, says Christopher Lowther, M.F.A., assistant professor of time-based media. The students “are very engaged in contemporary practice,” he says. “We’re doing investigations in interactivity using sensors and circuit boards.” The 3D animation even has a virtual-reality component—something that other programs often don’t have, Lowther says.

From Flipbooks to 3D Lowther goes back in time to teach the basics of the field, beginning with what he calls “pre-cinematic devices”—frame-byframe animation using flipbooks and zoetropes—and progressing through more traditional 2D animation and stop-frame animation in the style of movies like Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Oscar nominees Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Other courses concentrate on object-based art; in them, students have used a preprogrammed circuit board called a MaKey MaKey to connect with a computer and make their artwork interactive. The technology grows more advanced from there. In fact, Lowther’s 3D computer modeling course brings the art out of the computer and into the real world, where students can interact with their objects in the School of Engineering’s VisCube, a fully immersive 3D multiscreen display; print them out on the art department’s 3D printer; or create entire virtual-reality environments. The collaboration with the School of Engineering and a variety of departments within the College of Arts and Sciences has helped the time-based media program to stand out nationally. In fact, the Web site Animation Career Review ranked it among the top programs in the South, citing its wide variety of visual-arts offerings and active faculty members and its exceptional facilities to help prepare students for a future in animation.

The students behind the Furby project (from left, Min Young Lee, Josh Davenport, and Eric Boulanger, with Christopher Lowther, second from left) with their complete setup, which includes a customized version of “Operation”

“The program is unique because of the dialogue that’s happening with other departments,” Lowther says. “It’s reflective of the efforts of the College of Arts and Sciences to have more people from different disciplines interacting with one another. It gives students opportunities that they might not otherwise have.”

Life-like Hearts—and Zombies That interdisciplinary education could lead to rapid career success in the field of time-based media, Lowther says. He says that two students in his program are combining medicine and art, creating active and interactive illustrations and visualizations. “Before, it might have been pen and markers and paint, but now, you can animate,” he says. “You can illustrate the digestive tract going through a 24-hour process and do it in 3D, for example. Students are getting their art side and a more pragmatic side.” Senior Kathryn Robinson has developed an animated 3D model of a viral attack on a blood vessel. “I’ve always been intrigued with art, and it’s been a hobby of mine since I was a little girl,” Robinson says. “Medicine was my first choice as a career path. When I discovered that I could combine both, I knew I’d found the career of my dreams.” After college, Robinson plans to become a scientific illustrator—one with an impressive, unusual skill set. “Seeing my design in the VisCube was amazing, and it encouraged me to create more interactive models,” she says. “This course has made me more valuable after graduation, thanks to my new animating skills.”

Junior Josh Davenport, meanwhile, looks forward to a career in animation and already works with UAB’s Enabling Technology Laboratory, but his current project is a little more tangible: He and his classmates are using the MaKey MaKey to create a zombie-themed version of the game “Operation.” Touching the sides of the game while trying to extract an organ triggers a scene of a zombie attack. The same techniques, adapted for less gruesome purposes, could be used to create “a game or art installation where people had to interact with each other physically to reach an outcome,” Davenport says. “Technology has a way of connecting us digitally while further separating us physically, and I think the MaKey could be a great tool for bringing people together,” he explains.

Creation Stations Lowther encourages his students to “create their own opportunities,” he says. Early on in their classes, students learn about programs like Kickstarter to help fund projects and about ways to find realworld applications for their art. “I don’t just focus on the concrete ways of doing things and using computer programs. We’re talking about ideas—innovative ideas,” Lowther says. “The new landscape we’re in requires more complex answers, because the problems are more complex. I think part of the answer is technology—and being innovative. You’re going to have to do something different. You’re going to have to think about making your own opportunities. And that’s kind of exciting.”

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Teach for America sends UAB alumni to the head of the class. B Y



Teach for America matches college graduates with schools in need. The highly competitive program challenges bright students to put their careers on hold for two years while they teach at schools in 46 high-need regions across the United States. To date, 11 UAB alumni have responded to this challenge, working in classrooms from New Mexico to downtown Atlanta. Three of those graduates explain why they chose to join Teach for America, and what the experience has taught them.

Hernandez Stroud

B.S., History/Political Science (2010) Served in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Hernandez Stroud’s Teach for America assignment took him far from home—the Huntsville native was assigned to an all-male, high-poverty charter school in west Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Teaching 10th-grade history and civics, Stroud says he soon found that his favorite part of each day was before the bell rang, when he had a chance to interact with students in the halls and cafeteria in ways he couldn’t in class.

“In Teach for America, you don’t have to have a background in education— they just want people who are interested in making a change. And that’s what I wanted to do.”

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One conversation he’ll never forget, he says, was with a student named José—an undocumented immigrant who had lost his mother to deportation and his father to murder by drug cartels. “He was somewhat of a loner and unkempt, but profoundly bright and funny,” Stroud recalls. “His home life was concerning and unfortunate.” But with time and the attention of teachers who had taken a personal interest in him, José became more engaged in school, and by graduation, Stroud says, José was “bursting at the seams with life.” When it came time for José to apply to college, however, he found himself unable to apply to the University of Alabama in Tuescaloosa—because despite his impressive high school transcript, the document they were looking for was citizenship papers. Stories like José’s were the reason Stroud entered teaching—and why he left. “I thought the classroom was the place where I could make the biggest impact to end educational inequality,” he says. “But in the end, I recognized that I couldn’t have the maximum impact on students’ lives from within the walls of my classroom.” During his time outside of class, he began writing about his students’ circumstances on a public level, trying to shine a light on educational disparities and poor policy. Stroud earned his master’s degree in urban education and education policy from the University of Pennsylvania and has started law school at Washington and Lee University. He hopes to work to influence law and public policy—“a realm where change happens,” he says. “I never entered teaching with the idea of ‘saving my students’— I’m not a savior,” Stroud says. “I just wanted to play some role in helping them realize their ambitions. I couldn’t walk away from teaching and not feel some sort of mandate to continue to fight on their behalf.”

Lindsay Swain

B.A., Spanish (2008) Served in Rio Grande Valley, Texas

Lindsay Swain studied international studies and Spanish at UAB for the express purpose of working on educational disparities in Latino populations along the South Texas border. She hadn’t planned to do that work from behind a teacher’s desk, but Teach for America provided her an opportunity she couldn’t refuse. The graduation rates for Hispanic students in high-poverty areas

are “just outrageous,” Swain says. “In Teach for America, you don’t have to have a background in education—they just want people who are interested in making a change. And that’s what I wanted to do.” Swain was assigned to a high school in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas teaching Texas history—“because being from Alabama, I knew so much about Texas history,” she jokes. A nine-week summer institute with TFA prepared her for her first day in class. Still, “I just remember being terrified,” she says, “and thinking, ‘Why is a 23-year-old in charge of a hundred kids? Is this right?’” Swain says that investing in her students paid dividends in her own life. “My kids were the most rewarding thing,” she says—“being able to spend time with them and seeing their growth, being able to guide their worldviews into something outside themselves, and seeing them talk about going to college.” The Teach for America experience influenced Swain’s personal vision for the future; she is now pursuing master’s degrees in social work and divinity at Baylor University. “My plan is to work in nonprofit organizations as a social worker,” she says. “And I would love to get back to working with students—especially kids in minority settings who are troubled and need somebody to believe in them.”

Christopher Watson

C hri s tophe r Wat s on B.S., Biopsychology (2008) Ser ved in Atlanta, Georgia

Christopher Watson never wanted to teach. “I wanted to go to medical school and do rural medicine,” he says. But a conversation with a recruiter about educational disparities sold him on Teach for America. “I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of,” he says. Watson was placed at a high school in Atlanta, Georgia, where he taught biology. Although the material was familiar to him, he had one hurdle to overcome: a paralyzing fear of public speaking. “I thought, ‘I’m going to have to get up and do it every day for the next two years.’” His first class on his first day was a 30-minute advisement period, and a computer error had left him with two classes’ worth of students. “So I’m in the room with 40 teenage girls,” he says. “And the conversations that were going on—” He broke the ice with introductions and small talk, “and when I finally looked up, we’d been there for an hour and a half.” Watson was shocked to see some of the difficult circumstances his students were dealing with: A girl who seemed to have a bad attitude was forced to sleep outside after fights with her mother. Others had even more staggering home lives. “Sometimes they just need somebody to listen,” he says. “I was an open book to my students, I was real with them, and it created this trust and bond.” Watson earned a master’s degree in health management and policy and is now in his second year at Meharry Medical College—with the ultimate goal of advocating for better policy to reduce health disparities in the rural South. “We get a quality education at UAB,” he says. “We need to go out and spread some of that around.” Lindsay Swain

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You are about to enter the Burr & Forman Mock Trial Courtroom. The people are students. The cases are scripted. The rulings are largely immaterial.

But the UAB Mock Trial team itself is quite serious: as many as 30 students divided into two or three squads, all devoting time in class, in the evening, and on weekends to perfect carefully constructed court cases in preparation for tournaments. Their hard work regularly qualifies them for national championship competition and earns special recognition for outstanding attorneys and witnesses. UAB Mock Trial alumni have become attorneys, investigators, corrections officers—and coaches. Co-coach Nathan Mays went from UAB’s Mock Trial team to the team at Cumberland School of Law; now he’s assistant district attorney for Alabama’s 29th circuit. Co-coach Joseph Dease started as a police officer before coming to UAB and serving on the team with Mays; he recently finished his own law studies at Cumberland. Dease attributes much of his professional success to Mock Trial and hopes to see the same for his team members, whether or not they decide to go into law. “The class helps develop students’ public

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speaking skills and their ability to think on their feet,” he says, “and gives them a foundation to determine whether law school is right for them.” They don’t all make that move to law school. UAB Mock Trial alumni also have become accountants, financial analysts, science teachers, English teachers, and entrepreneurs. Skills developed through Mock Trial can be beneficial in just about any field, Mays says. “There is almost no profession in which you won’t be called upon to speak,” he says. “We teach trial skills, but we also practice speech, whether you’re an attorney or a witness. There’s no profession where you won’t be asked to solve problems. And I can think of no more valuable skill than knowing how to work as part of a team.”

Body of Evidence The Mock Trial program was launched in 1995 by John Grimes—a local attorney and former director of UAB’s pre-law program—and Jim Phillips, a former assistant

U.S. attorney now working in cybersecurity for Regions Bank. The two are honored with a plaque in the Burr & Forman Mock Trial Courtroom, a miniaturized courtroom, complete with audiovisual equipment and elaborately carved woodwork, provided by Burr & Forman law firm and located in the University Boulevard Office Building. That room is as much a classroom as any other room with more desks and less engraving. “At the beginning of each season, we teach students the fundamentals of trial procedure and trial advocacy,” Dease says. “Within a few weeks, the team has begun to create a case theme and theory. From that point, we work with students to help them with their directs, crosses, opening statements, and closing arguments—many of our classes consist of one of our squads scrimmaging the other.” Each year’s case comes from the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) in the form of a binder containing all the information and documentation that would be associated with a real-life case—

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“The class helps develop students’ public speaking skills and their ability to think on their feet, and gives them a foundation to determine whether law school is right for them.” JOSEPH


Star Witness

witness statements, scientific reports, incident reports, and any other data that normally would have been dug up by a team of investigators. About 600 teams from more than 300 universities will spend months preparing to try that case in regional and national competition. They’ll be trying their case before a judge, but the judge won’t be determining guilt or innocence—he or she will be judging the prosecution, the defense, and their ability to do their respective jobs. While the mock-trial season starts in the fall, any undergraduate can join UAB’s team in either fall or spring; tryouts at the beginning of each semester determine which students will play active roles and what those roles will be. Students can repeat the course—JS 434—up to four times, earning credit for the first six credit hours. But Mays wouldn’t describe Mock Trial as just a class, he says. “Students work within a team to accomplish goals every week,” Mays says. “Every time they meet, they aren’t just learning information—they’re getting better

at performing their roles, and they’re helping others get better as well.” He describes it as “very hands-on—we do what lawyers do,” from analyzing evidence, devising strategy, and filing briefs to cross-examining recalcitrant witnesses and delivering compelling closing statements.

Mock Trial team members also do what witnesses do. Students serve as character witnesses, as eyewitnesses to the incident in question, and as expert witnesses—medical examiners, forensics experts, and others knowledgeable about the technical details as provided by the AMTA. Experts are expected not only to know the technical material but also to be able to deliver it in a convincingly professional manner; eyewitnesses must not only internalize the facts of the case but also sell those facts to the jury. Particularly skilled witnesses are recognized with Outstanding Witness awards, just like top mock attorneys.

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“The past two years have opened my eyes to the legal world. If it weren’t for Mock Trial, I never would have discovered my passion for the law.” YAMINI

“We help the students create a character, but I wouldn’t consider the coaches to be directors or choreographers,” Dease says. “We take pride in the fact that all of the students create their own material. Also, the majority of the students’ performance at tournaments consists of thinking on their feet.” Students are questioned not only by attorneys on their team but also by the competition’s attorneys, meaning they’ll have to be secure in their characters and their knowledge of the case to be able to answer questions under pressure. “The goal is to connect with the jury and let them draw the same conclusion your side does,” Mays adds. “But not everything we do is staged and choreographed. We need students who understand the fact patterns, the law, and courtroom procedure enough to vary their performances depending on what happens in a trial.” Creating their own material helps students better internalize the minutiae of the provided case, which results in more compelling courtroom performances, Mays says—“A jury can’t connect with someone who isn’t being himself, and a person can’t be himself with material written for him by someone else.”

Making Her Case Sophomore Yamini Bhat had no intention of ending up in a trial, mock or other-

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wise, when she came to UAB. An international studies major with eyes on the Peace Corps and a career with the United Nations, she learned about the Mock Trial team when her team captain approached her after one of her interdisciplinary classes with the University Honors Program. “He knew I was interested in diplomacy and assumed I was pre-law,” Bhat says. “The first thing he asked me was, ‘Can you cry on demand?’” Though she’d never acted before, she replied that she could—“I’m one of those people who like to think I’m capable of doing anything and everything,” she says— and was promptly recruited as a witness. By the end of the opening statements of her first scrimmage, she was hooked. “The students were so impressive, articulate, and—most importantly—welcoming,” she says. A freshman, new to UAB and to Birmingham, Bhat says she found a community in the team. After the Mock Trial team’s strong showing in the 2012 national championship, Bhat found herself with a new aspiration:


mock attorney. Initially, her teammates questioned whether “the girl who’s known for crying on the stand during testimony” would ever make an effective attorney, she says, “but I made sure I gave the best opening statement for tryouts and proved them wrong.” Bhat proved to be not only a good attorney but also an outstanding one, bringing home Outstanding Attorney honors at the Mid-South Invitational tournament last November. But while individual awards are nice, she says, “sometimes I couldn’t care less about them. I would much rather win a team trophy.” To that end, Bhat makes sure she knows the case file backward and forward and, as captain of the gold squad, encourages her teammates to know their material as well. “I spend hours in the courtroom

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reading the case file and rules of evidence and typing up material,” she says. “I practice my opening statements in the shower and in front of my roommates.” All of Bhat’s hard work, determination, and resolute teamwork have resulted in an unexpected aspiration: law school. The woman who initially had no interest in trials of any kind now plans to pursue a career as a defense attorney, a plaintiff’s attorney, or even an immigration or international lawyer, incorporating her international studies into her legal studies. “The past two years have opened my eyes to the legal world,” she says. “If it weren’t for Mock Trial, I never would have discovered my passion for the law.”

which they will be a part—not as lawyers but as professionals,” Wheeler says, estimating that less than half of her students plan to attend law school. A pre-law curriculum is available for law school-bound students to prepare them for the application process and the studies that follow—but it isn’t comparable to other preprofessional programs, Wheeler says. “The substance of what we do at law school really has no counterpart at the undergraduate level,” she says. “Law schools are looking for people who have good critical thinking skills, good analytic skills, and a broad background.” As an assistant professor and pre-law advisor, she sees students majoring in everything from justice sciences to business to theatre. (In fact, Mays recommends

David Ball’s Theater Tips and Strategies for Jury Trials as a resource for prospective trial lawyers.) The pre-law program offers academic advising, contacts and networking for internships, seminars with practicing attorneys in various fields, and guidance in selecting and applying to law schools. Mock Trial and the Trial Advocacy course put students in front of a judge; the Legal Profession class introduces options for prospective attorneys who aren’t interested in seeing the inside of a courtroom. “Students come from a lot of different backgrounds and different fields around the university,” Wheeler says, “and this is an experience that will stand them in great stead for whatever career they pursue.

Bringing Order to the Court That kind of discovery is the goal of UAB’s new legal studies minor, says Anne Wheeler, J.D., associate professor in the Department of Justice Sciences and director of the pre-law program. “We offer programs in our department that students take not because they’re preparing for law school but because they’re deciding if they want to go to law school, or deciding what kind of law they might want to study,” she says. “I teach a trial advocacy course that is kind of a companion to the Mock Trial program, going more into the aspects of planning and assembling a lawsuit from start to finish. That class and Mock Trial give students the opportunity to fill the role of lawyer, to learn what’s involved in preparing a case for trial, and to learn what it feels like to get on your feet and do it. For someone who’s thinking about going to law school, that can be invaluable.” A student might discover an interest in tax law or corporate law over trial law—or no law at all, Wheeler says. The legal studies minor also draws students who have no interest in lawyering but plan for a future in law-adjacent fields such as corrections, social work, or forensic science, she says. Courses in criminal law and procedure, mediation, and the U.S. judicial process prepare them for a life in law on the other side of the bar. “We offer the lawrelated courses to help them understand the underpinnings of the judicial system of

LAYING DOWN THE LAW The process of becoming a lawyer can be lengthy and difficult starting long before the first day of law school. Strong candidates for law school back their applications with rich resumes, compelling personal statements, high LSAT scores, and a straight path following all the right steps. An undergraduate student going it alone could easily get lost along the way. Luckily, UAB undergrads aren’t alone. The student-built and student-run PreLaw Society “is geared toward providing resources for students who wish to get into law school—help on the LSAT, writing personal statements, listening to admissions counselors, presentations from current attorneys on their career path, and so on,” says Rob Robinson, Ph.D., assistant professor of government and faculty advisor to the society. Robinson says the students tend to find the most value (and the best attendance) from services and advice geared directly toward getting into law school. “That generates a great deal of anxiety among them, so that’s what we do,” he says. “The society’s activities complement our coursework because they focus on the specific processes and obstacles students will have to overcome to succeed in their career goals. Academic classwork typically doesn’t address that.”

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Uncanny Valley UAB alumni take California B Y



The phrase, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

has a particularly

Southern sound to it. It is something one would expect to hear more often in Alabama or Texas as opposed to, say, northern California’s Silicon Valley. In fact, there is almost no reason to ever use that colloquialism in the West Coast technology haven. That’s because the people who live in Silicon Valley already know that nearly everybody in the region is not from around there. They seemingly all showed up from other places, including several alums of the UAB College of Arts & Sciences.

“The thing I love about California is that most people here are from somewhere else,” says Debbie Jo Severin, who received a master’s degree in mathematics from UAB in 1983 and moved to California in 1992. “We all have family that live somewhere else. So while the friendships and your infrastructure take a little bit longer to build up, they are stronger in some ways because we don’t have our family around us to rely on. That gives us a common aspect in our lives that makes us bond. “And if you are in technology or the sciences, there is this rejuvenation around here that goes on all the time. Startup companies are huge. You always know somebody who is starting up some new thing. It keeps your learning and curiosity alive. That’s one thing that I really like about the area.” Indeed, from a professional standpoint, Silicon Valley is the place to be for these CAS alums. The dotcom craze might not be as strong as it once was, but the Internet and other technological innovations keep the region vibrant with ideas and filled with people eager to turn those concepts into companies.

A Very Good Place to Start “There is just this buzz of technology in Silicon Valley,” says Pravat Lall, who earned a master’s degree in computer and information sciences at UAB in 1994

before relocating to California. “You walk into any restaurant and you hear people at the tables around you talking about technology and startup companies. There is just this big entrepreneurial spirit in Silicon Valley. “And there are so many forums and avenues for you to get connected and get close to the people who have been successful in technology. At the same time, you see all these young entrepreneurs who come in with a glint in their eye who try to make it big. It’s that spirit and initiative that keeps us here.” A passion for technology is one of the few common links between people in Silicon Valley, a region that proudly boasts of having a population with a wide range of backgrounds, personalities, and interests. When everybody is so different, nobody stands out— not even a small group of UAB grads, who now find themselves living more than 2,000 miles away from where they went to college. “California is so crazy diverse. If you pick 10 people at random you’ll probably get somebody from every continent, and at least one culture that you don’t know anything about,” says Kenny Pate, a Birmingham native and UAB graduate who has lived in California since 1998. “So having somebody here from Alabama fits right in. It’s just one more person with a different background.”

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Here is a brief look at five such people, graduates of the UAB College of Arts and Sciences who now call California their home sweet home.

Kenny Pate Kenny Pate made the move to California the old-fashioned way: He simply loaded up his car and headed west, determined to carve out a new career on the other side of the country. The decision paid off in 2002 when Pate began working for Internet giant eBay Inc., where he has remained ever since, working his way up to the office of vice president of product management. At eBay, Pate is part of a multibillion dollar business with operations located in more than 30 countries. But he says he might never have made it to his current position if not for the time he spent working at UAB’s student newspaper, Kaleidoscope, where he was the editor in the mid 1990s. “My experience working on the student newspaper was formative. That was absolutely invaluable,” says Pate, who originally left UAB before graduating but later received a degree through an individually designed major in communications. “Running Kaleidoscope as the editor is not that dissimilar from running a team of 100 people in business. You’re always trying to keep up with who’s doing what, who’s where. Plus, just the writing skills that I learned at UAB—if you can’t communicate well in a corporate job, you’re in trouble. So the communication skills that I learned at UAB and working on the paper have just been absolutely invaluable.” A native of Birmingham, Pate says he originally went to UAB because he wanted to pursue a career in media and communications, “and all the biggest media outlets in the state are in Birmingham.” In addition to working on Kaleidoscope, Pate did an internship in the UAB media relations office, writing press releases for UAB Hospital, and picked up work with Cooking Light magazine and the Orlando Sentinel, bringing those publications online. “After two years I decided if I’m serious about this Internet stuff, I need to move to Silicon Valley. So I packed up my car and drove to California,” Pate says. “UAB certainly helped me get here. It began to expose me to a lot of different people and ideas that I didn’t see growing up.”

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Debbie Jo Severin On the surface, Debbie Jo Severin’s career doesn’t seem to add up. She graduated from UAB in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, received her master’s in mathematics from UAB in 1983, and then taught in the school’s math department for nearly four years. In 1992 she moved to California, where she was worked for most of the past two decades in… marketing? “Whenever I go back and talk to Dr. (Jeanne) Hutchison and other people at UAB, they’re always asking, ‘How did you end up in marketing?’” Severin says. “But the jump from mathematics to marketing isn’t as far as you would imagine. Because marketing has become much more scientific, being a mathematician gives me a lot of advantages, especially in Silicon Valley. It gives me credibility working with all the talented engineers and scientists out here. Having that critical thinking has been an enormous help for me.” A native of Atlanta, Severin moved to Birmingham with her family at age 10. After college, it was there that she met her husband, a software developer, and she followed him to Silicon Valley. After that, she says “you need a road map” to track her career. Severin began in strategy and research at Pacific Bell, then briefly went to Los Angeles to work for a media company before returning to Silicon Valley, where she spent time with several startup companies. She then worked for six and a half years as the vice president of marketing for Covad Communication before switching in 2009 to her current position as the chief marketing officer for 8x8, Inc., which provides voice-over-IP services to small to medium-sized businesses. “Maybe I have a natural inclination, but I can talk to both the engineers and the financial people, and I think a lot of that has to do with what I learned at UAB,” Severin says. “I’m very analytical, and I understand business acumen. I can’t imagine doing what I’m doing today without my degrees from UAB. I don’t know that I’d be in this job without that.”

Nanette Solvason Nanette Solvason, Ph.D., left her hometown of Birmingham 20 years ago, but she has often looked back. In particular, she says she has stayed in contact with John Kearney, Ph.D., a professor in UAB’s Department of Microbiology. “I worked in his lab when I was at UAB and have stayed in touch

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“Moving to Silicon Valley from Alabama with him ever since,” says Solvason, who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UAB’s Department of Biology and her Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology, also from UAB. “He’s a constant resource. I still contact him with questions if I get stuck on anything, or just for general guidance.” Solvason concentrated primarily on B-cell development while working in Kearney’s lab. She says that experience enabled her to receive a postdoctoral fellowship at DNAX Research Institute in Palo Alto, which is how her California biotech career began. She then had stints working at Anergen, Corixa Corporation, and Eos Biotechnology before joining Bayhill Therapeutics in 2001, where she was a senior scientist and director of immunology for 11 years. “When I left UAB, I came here and worked in biotechnology and learned how to develop drugs,” Solvason says. “Really, what you need for that is a strong science background. You need to be able to run models effectively and understand what the results of the experiments tell you, so you can make recommendations for your management in terms of whether to move forward with a particular compound for further development. The training and the scientific method at UAB are what have really stood out for me in my career.” Late last year, Solvason made what she calls “a big career change” when she left biotech to accept the position of Dean of Biological and Health Sciences at Foothill College, a community college located in Los Altos Hills, near San Francisco. “Moving to Silicon Valley from Alabama was a huge thing. It was like going to a new planet,” Solvason says. “We have long and deep roots in Birmingham and we still go back there. But coming out here was a good career move, and it’s home now.”

Sherry Yu Sherry Yu spent only one year at UAB, but she considers it to be one of the most important years in her life. A native of China, Yu received her master’s degree in computer and information sciences from UAB in 1999. That led to a job at Sun Microsystems in Silicon Valley. “UAB has a very good program that is friendly to foreign students, and I was very lucky to get admitted there,” Yu says. “The CIS department laid the foundation for me to build up my academic background and also some practical background.” Yu spent nearly 10 years as a programmer at Sun before it was acquired by Oracle in 2010 and then remained at Oracle for seven months. She followed this with a job at VMware, a virtualization and cloud-computing company, before a colleague invited her to join Red Hat, a company that provides open-source software technol-

was a huge thing. It was like going to a new planet... It’s home now.” NANETTE


ogy. Yu is a principal enterprise architect at Red Hat, responsible for building solutions around SAP in key technology areas such as virtualization, cloud, and database. “The CIS program at UAB offers a combination of computer science theory as well as practical programs like Java programming, which was a solid foundation for me to be able to get my first job interviews,” Yu says. “And I was able to get certified as a Java 2 programmer shortly after graduation, which helped me to get a job at Sun. UAB really enabled me to start my career.”

Pravat Lall A native of India, Pravat Lall came to UAB in 1991 to pursue his master’s degree. He was attracted to the university because of its offerings in compiler design, his primary focus and research topic while he was at school in India. He says his time at UAB furthered his interest in the subject and led to a job with a company— Microtech Research—that was focused specifically on compiler design. He also says the way the courses were taught at UAB helped create an easy transition for him from academics to professional life. “A clear contrast for me between getting my bachelor’s in India and my master’s at UAB was how much focus there was at UAB on the practical applications of technology of all the theories and concepts we were learning,” Lall says. “The faculty and teaching assistants did not just focus on the theoretical science. They were promoting thinking about the practical applications of the technology. So I was able to extend all those concepts—even some of the things I had learned in India—into practical applications.” Following graduation, Lall says some friends of his who lived in California insisted that the best place for him to pursue his career was in Silicon Valley. He became interested in computer security, leading him to join a company called Internet Security Systems in 2000. He then spent time with a startup—Caymas Systems—before joining McAfee, a global computer security software company headquartered in Santa Clara. Lall currently is the vice president of engineering at McAfee in the consumer products division, managing a team that produces the core consumer security sweep for McAfee. Though Lall is content with his life in California, he says UAB will always have a special place in his heart. “UAB was my very first exposure to diversity, both from a cultural and an intellectual standpoint,” Lall says. “I was meeting people from different countries and different backgrounds. That presented a healthy platform to exchange thoughts and ideas. It was sort of a prep session for me before I went into professional life. I loved my time at UAB. Those were foundational years for me in this country.”

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Lasting SCAR B Y





J A Y / T H E


Opportunities to “pass it on” emerge just about every day at UAB. But they also occur away from the classroom and the laboratory, sparked by a genuine desire to help others walking through an experience that we’ve faced firsthand.

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More than twenty years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29. Although plenty of women who had experienced the disease were willing to share their personal struggles with me, I lacked a community of survivors my age who could talk frankly about the particular challenges breast cancer posed for us twentysomethings. When recently invited by photographer David Jay to participate in a project involving young breast cancer survivors in our state, I immediately jumped onboard. The project quickly grew, propelling our collective of survivors, artists, community partners, and people at UAB into action. And in the process, I discovered a surprising new role.

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Connecting and Conversing Our collaboration began when David Jay, a fashion photographer whose work has appeared in magazines including British Elle and Vogue, Self, and GQ and the creator of the SCAR Project—a series of large-scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors—contacted me in 2012. He’d just finished photographing five young breast cancer survivors from Alabama and wanted a writer to interview each woman and tell her story alongside the documentary-style images he had captured. Over the course of a few weeks, I traveled to Demopolis to interview Leah Price, diagnosed at age 17, and then to Bessemer to talk with Melanie Hoskins, diagnosed at 30. I finished up the interviews with Brittney Bass Gray, Raquel Smith, and Whitni Collins, all living in Birmingham and diagnosed at ages 24, 27, and 24, respectively. As the richness and complexity of each woman’s breast-cancer experience surfaced, more local partners joined the project. Joey Kennedy from published a story about Price, and Joe O’Donnell from B-Metro agreed to a photo-essay featuring all five survivors. National outlets like the Huffington Post and Cancer Today also picked up stories about these special breast cancer survivors. CAS Dean Bob Palazzo approved a combined exhibit of the Alabama Project and selections from the SCAR Project to be shown at the UAB Visual Arts Gallery, and Interim Gallery Director John Fields and I got to work planning the show. Ellen Zahariadis, executive director for Susan G. Komen North Central Alabama, pitched in to make the exhibit a success. The Susan Mott Webb Charitable Trust offered support for the opening reception and printing and mounting expenses. And we reached out to Andres Forero, M.D., a medical oncologist at UAB and physician for four of the Alabama women featured in the exhibit, as well as Kimberly Robinson from UAB, who facilitates the New Light Support Group in which many of the survivors participate. The opening night reception brought together people from Alabama and beyond, all united around an important conversation about young women and breast cancer.

The conversations begun with Leah, Melanie, Brittney, Raquel, and Whitni continue. Each of us experiences breast cancer uniquely, from the specific diagnoses we receive to the access we have to health care to the support offered by our particular circles of family and friends. Yet we’re realizing the strength that comes from passing on what we’ve learned, survivor to survivor. See more photos from the SCAR Project at

Passing It On, Survivor to Survivor While I can’t say enough about the amazing support and efforts of so many people involved in this work, a far more personal and meaningful thing happened along the way: I found myself fielding questions from the women I was sent to interview. They wanted to know how I’d gotten through the initial diagnosis and treatment stage—and more importantly, how I’d moved on with my life since. From their perspective, I was someone who had been there, done that, and could offer some strategies that had carried me through two decades of survivorship.

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Music technology students master a different kind of keyboard B Y



It’s the kind of equipment that makes engineers swoon. It controls 90 channels and flips over and expands to three times its normal size at the touch of a button. It looks like the deck of the Starship Enterprise and sounds like a symphony. And it exists at UAB solely to give music students an opportunity for hands-on training to complete their music-technology education, to bring an impressive, professional-level skill set to prospective employers after graduation.

The Department of Music’s new AVID System 5 Fusion console, the crown jewel of the department’s newly renovated recording studio, “democratizes these opportunities for students to work and learn,” says University Professor of Music Henry Panion III, Ph.D. Panion was responsible for the establishment of UAB’s nationally accredited music technology program in 1994, and it was his connection as a member of AVID’s educational advisory board that led UAB to become one of only a handful of AVID Learning Partners across the country. “For us to have this level of technology at the university gives our students a unique opportunity for hands-on training that they would not be able to get not only in this state but in this region,” Panion says. With the new system in place, music technology students will be able to learn not only the mechanics of music mixing but also gain experience on the very same highend equipment they’ll be using in professional recording studios—graduating with both a bachelor’s degree in music technology, AVID certification, and a music education available to few of their peers.

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“The real emphasis of our program is music, and our goal is to enhance the musician’s ability to incorporate technology into their music,” Panion says. “It’s not to just study the knobs, where the music doesn’t even matter. Advances in music technology are such that this degree is designed to really enhance what a musician does.”

A Joyful Noise Already a recording artist and a worship leader at her church, senior Michala Mesler is majoring in music technology with Panion. But rather than distracting from her dreams of the stage, she says the technological aspects contribute to her abilities as a musician—”As a music technology student, I’ve grown in the areas of music theory, vocal performance, and technology, and I’ve been able to tie them all together in my creative projects,” she says. That the technology is AVID greatly improves her prospects for a successful music career, she says. “As students, having access to AVID technology and equipment gives us hands-on experience using industry-standard technology,” Mesler says.

“That enables us to bring a new level of professionalism to our projects, which hopefully will result in better career opportunities in the future.” As a musician, Mesler generally finds herself more inspired by the singing and songwriting aspects of her musical education. However, “knowledge and experience running live sound, understanding the process for recording in the studio and being able to record on my own, notating my music using computer software—all of that only betters my life as a musician,” she says. “It enables me to stretch my creativity even further.”

The Art of Sound In film, “foley” is the addition of sound effects to enhance the tiny sounds that don’t always get caught by microphones, making squeaky doors squeakier and footsteps more menacing in a darkened alley. It’s the dream for senior Lauren Miller, who plans to turn her music technology degree into a career in foley and sound design, and the dream is made dreamier by the opportunity to play it out on UAB’s high-tech equipment. Miller says she’s always been interested

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in knowing how things work, even taking apart small objects like clocks “just to see the inner workings,” she says. The AVID gear applies that to music on a massive scale, laying out the cogs and gears of sound mixing and editing on a computer screen for tinkering. “Although I love my performing, the technical side of music is just so much more appealing,” she says. Those performances have come with groups from UAB’s marching band down to the clarinet choir, and she says her technical training has made her a better musician. “It enhances the innate ability we’re already making music with,” she says. “It gives us more avenues to make music.” It also gives them more avenues for employment. “Technical training along with musical training is such a big deal,” Miller says. “As the world is becoming more technical, everyone who has technical training is becoming more qualified for more jobs.” And UAB students like Miller who have trained on pro-level AVID equipment “have the upper hand on others who don’t have this type of access,” she says.

Outside the Box Senior Kevin Peek dropped out of UAB in spring of 2007 knowing only that he wanted “to work in music,” he says. In spring of 2010, he re-enrolled at UAB to work in music. He’d spent two years with a rock band, learning the technology as best he could to record on his own, when a UAB Computer Music Ensemble concert caught his interest. “Just seeing what UAB had to offer in the field was enough to give me that push” to come back, he says. One of the drawbacks to most music technology training, Peek says, is that projects are done “in the box”—entirely on the computer, with minimal access to the mixing board they’d be using in a professional setting. “Being able to apply the skills in the studio will help prepare students who want to dive further into recording after getting their degree,” he says. “Pretty much any studio you walk into in the U.S. will be running Pro Tools, and having the official AVID certification will give me a leg up when trying to find work in a studio.” But the music technology program is as

much about music as it is about technology—Dr. Panion says that he doesn’t want students to just know how to “tweak the knobs” but also wants them to be “musicians first,” Peek recalls. “I think it’s a great approach. While there are certainly people who gravitate more toward one side or the other—I’d definitely consider myself more on the technical side—I think it’s useful for students to have some technology training.” In the past four years, Peek has progressed from self-recorded garage rock to award-winning theatre music. Last spring, Peek took second place in the nation in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for his original music for Theatre UAB’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle.” Assistant professor William Price, D.M.A., “has always spoken about how having a large set of tools in your musician’s toolbox is one of the best ways to guarantee success,” Peek recalls. “I’ve been able to develop a massive set of tools thanks to all the music program has to offer.”

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A New Place to See

Be Seen




The UAB Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts (IVA)

has a vision:

The final piece of the UAB Cultural Art District, it sits across from the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center on 10th Avenue South and sees itself as a community center where complex social and cultural challenges affecting the city, the state, and the world can be expressed through contemporary art and discussed by visitors, critics, and scholars.

“It will be a place where students’ perspectives are enriched, minds are stimulated, and arts are created, curated, and exhibited,” says Dean Robert E. Palazzo, Ph.D. “It exemplifies the College of Arts and Sciences’s dedication to showcasing art and innovation and providing education in a welcoming and stimulating atmosphere.” The Abroms-Engel IVA is also home to the UAB Department of Art and Art History. UAB art stu-

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dents—already renowned for placing exhibits locally, regionally, and nationally—now have a state-of-the-art facility to call home. “Easy access to classrooms and studios is great, but the possibility of having multiple exhibitions going on at once is what excites me,” says Christina McCoo, a senior art studio major. Ryan Meyer, a junior majoring in fine arts, recognizes the beauty of the design, the attraction of the facil-

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In Memoriam It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of much-loved and respected Birmingham philanthropist Mr. Marvin Engel. His legacy will remain through the many community projects he and his wife have supported, including the AbromsEngel Institute for the Visual Arts. Mr. Engel and his wife, Ruth, played an instrumental role in bringing this project to fruition with their generous lead gifts. Mr. Engel believed strongly in the Abroms-Engel IVA and was committed to seeing the institute become a reality to benefit both UAB and the Birmingham community. His leadership and commitment to the project, the Department of Art and Art History, the College of Arts and Sciences, and UAB as a whole will be truly missed and always remembered. Says Dr. Robert Palazzo, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, “From my first day at UAB, I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the Engel family. Their investment in the lives of our students and their commitment to arts education will endure through this incredible new facility that they helped make possible.”

ity, and the allure of an art district as a stimulant for the future. “The IVA will brighten the art program, attracting a larger, more serious-minded art student body that will continue to grow and help UAB achieve a more cultured and respected status,” says Meyer. “Birmingham has the great potential to be a thriving arts community, but it needs the power and influence of UAB to be the catalyst for growth.” The institute owes its distinctive shape to Randall Stout Architects of Los Angeles. Stout was senior associate to legendary architect Frank Gehry from 1989 to 1996, and his work is known for challenging convention and capturing the surrounding world. Designed to be visually striking inside and out, the AbromsEngel IVA also houses an art history visual-resources library that is open to the public and the university art collection, previously held at the Birmingham Museum of Art, which includes Andy Warhol photographs. The IVA is named for Judy and Hal Abroms and Ruth and Marvin Engel, longtime patrons of the arts, whose gifts have helped support UAB’s vision for visual arts education.

Erin Wright, chair of the art and art history department, has more than 20 years’ experience as a designer and teacher. His award-winning work has been exhibited in New York City, Los Angeles, Moscow, and Beijing, to name a few. Wright says the Abroms-Engel IVA is a gallery that artists will be proud to list in their portfolio. “A strong visual arts center should be more than just a place to exhibit art—it should be the life of a community. That is our vision for the Abroms-Engel IVA as it becomes more established around the country and the world,” says Wright. “A venue like this enhances our ability to educate and train the next generation as well as impart the importance of visual arts in the lives of all who enter.”

“A strong visual arts center should be more than just a place to exhibit art—it should be the life of a community.”



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SO What B Y




What happens in CAS doesn’t stay in CAS. As educators, we’re committed to taking the discoveries we make each day inside the classroom, the lab, and the studio and passing them on to those facing challenges in Alabama and around the world—which means that all of us in the College of Arts & Sciences find ourselves, at one time or another, in the travel business. Our ideas, our people, and our passions have destinations beyond the university, and we recognize that it’s our job to ensure their safe arrival. There’s plenty of evidence in this issue of UAB Arts & Sciences to illustrate that point. Several articles showcase students who have literally packed their bags and taken off to explore other parts of the U.S. The contingent of UAB alums now living in California’s Silicon Valley is one example of students going to the places where the knowledge and skills gained at UAB can best be put to use, whether in Pravat Lall’s position as vice president of engineering at McAfee or Debbie Jo Severin’s role as chief marketing officer for 8x8, Inc., a company bringing voice-over-IP services to small business owners. Both Lall, who earned a master’s degree in computer and information sciences, and Severin, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from UAB, credit the foundational knowledge they gained in their respective departments as well as the forwardthinking mentorship of their professors for their ability to meet the demands of work in challenging new environments. Other graduates also are on the move, many choosing to pass on the educational opportunities they’ve been given by stepping temporarily into educator roles through Teach for America. From Pennsylvania to Texas, CAS alumni are helping students enrolled in schools located in underserved areas not only to envision but also to prepare for their future. Sometimes, those of us in CAS become onsite tour guides, inviting others in to explore the ideas we’re working on. When current and former students, community members, and visitors from around

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the region come to the UAB Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts to experience the most exciting local, national, and global exhibits, for instance, we’re counting on them to pass along what they see. We’re confident that the national StoryCorps Griot Initiative—to which UAB’s Digital Storytelling/Oral History students contributed—will reach many ears within and away from Birmingham as well. Featuring oral histories by some of Birmingham’s finest— including those who marched for civil rights, local artists who document the look and feel of our culture, and a prominent politician or two—StoryCorps will eventually land at the Library of Congress, where people who have never ventured to Alabama can get a taste of who we are, past and present. Anyone who travels knows the importance of pre-departure planning. That’s why CAS faculty and students also devote plenty of effort to being prepared for what lies ahead. One example of pre-departure readiness is the role scholarship committees, consisting of UAB faculty and previous recipients, play in preparing students for the application process. Working with students in STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and math) and the arts and humanities, committees do everything from reading and assessing personal statements to reviewing resumes to holding mock interview sessions to ensure students offer their best to the bodies evaluating their promise as researchers and academicians. CAS faculty and staff also are invested in equipping students with the knowledge needed to survive in a physical climate that is largely unpredictable at the start of the 21st century. Through the efforts of students like Dexter Forbes, a major in African-American Studies and English, and other members of UAB’s Sustainability Committee, we’re acting now to create a more sustainable future—wherever our students may travel. What happens in CAS doesn’t stay here. We hope you agree that’s a good thing. Cynthia Ryan, Ph.D., is an associate professor of English specializing in composition and rhetoric.

50 YEARS FORWARD We Commemorate “The Movement That Changed the World” Upcoming College of Arts and Sciences department and program events in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the events of 1963, which played a pivotal role in civil rights in America. To learn more, visit


S E P T E M B E R 5 , 2 0 13

S E P T E M B E R 2 8 , 2 0 13

Tim Pennycuff presents “Order in the Midst of Near Chaos.” Tim Pennycuff, university archivist, assistant professor, Lister Hill Library, speaks on integration at the Medical Center in Birmingham at 7:30 p.m. in the Hulsey Recital Hall at the Alys Stephens Center.

*Music presents The Blues and Bill Sims, Jr., a documentary film by Martin Scorsese and musical performance by Bill Sims, Jr. The film begins at 6:30 p.m., with performance to follow at 8:00 p.m., at the Alys Stephens Center.

S E P T E M B E R 10 , 2 0 13 Media Studies presents “Birmingham Movement: A Screening of Student Films.” In the spring of 2013, UAB Media students went into the Birmingham community to meet movement leaders and footsoldiers. In a series of documentary films, they share their personal, intimate accounts of some of the most dramatic events of the 1950s and 1960s at 8:30 p.m. in the Sirote Theatre at the Alys Stephens Center.

S E P T E M B E R 17, 2 0 1 3 *English presents a lecture by Keith D. Miller, professor of English at Arizona State University and author of Martin Luther King’s Biblical Epic: His Final, Great Speech and Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr. at 7:00 p.m. in the Hulsey Recital Hall at the Alys Stephens Center.

O C T O B E R 10 , 2 0 13 *English presents Christopher Paul Curtis, author of The Watsons Go to Birmingham, in partnership with the Birmingham Children’s Theatre, at 7:00 p.m. in the Hulsey Recital Hall at the Alys Stephens Center.

N OV E M B E R 21, 2 0 13 *History presents a lecture by Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, author of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery and many other books, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize, at 7:00 p.m. in the UAB Alumni House. *Sponsored by the Jemison Visiting Professorship in the Humanities

D AT E T O B E A N N O U N C E D *Art and Art History presents the Civil Rights-era photography of Bob Adelman.

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UAB Arts & Sciences, Spring 2013  

Highlights of the Spring 2013 issue of UAB Arts & Sciences magazine include: Pass It On: The work of the College of Arts and Sciences cent...

UAB Arts & Sciences, Spring 2013  

Highlights of the Spring 2013 issue of UAB Arts & Sciences magazine include: Pass It On: The work of the College of Arts and Sciences cent...