Fall 2023 CASE Alumni Newsletter

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CAN CASE Alumni Newsletter Fall 2023


Dear Alumni and Friends, In the midst of celebrating the remarkable growth and success of the University of North Alabama (UNA), I am delighted to present an exciting era for the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering (CASE) underpinned by our pioneering "three school model." This strategic advancement aligns with our recent milestone of exceeding 10,000 students and maintaining an impressive retention rate of over 78%, which speaks volumes about the superior education and enriching experience UNA offers. Housed within CASE and led by three assistant deans, the School of the Arts, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the School of Natural Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics stand as pillars of our "three school model," each fostering a unique academic atmosphere. The restructuring aims to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration, streamline administration, and provide more focused support for teaching, research, and service. By grouping similar disciplines within the same school (please see the rest of this newsletter for updates from each school), we can facilitate interdisciplinary research and collaboration, improve the efficiency of resource allocation, and create a more targeted support system for students, faculty, and staff. We are cultivating creative minds in the arts, nurturing critical thinkers in humanities and social sciences, and developing innovative problem-solvers in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics. This model champions interdisciplinary collaboration, essential for equipping students with a multifaceted skill set. Amidst these structural enhancements, our "Shine On, Gold" Capital Campaign represents a historic stride for UNA. As the largest capital campaign in our university's history, we aim to reach an ambitious $100 2


million goal. With over $61 million already raised, we are steadfast on our path to transformation. Within CASE, our philanthropic focus is on elevating our art programs with new state-of-theart facilities, such as the Music Performance Center. Moreover, we are committed to enhancing student experiences through study abroad programs, research opportunities, internship support, and work-based learning initiatives.

body. Additionally, we are continually building our scholarship funds to provide more opportunities for our deserving students. The success of CASE and UNA at large, including our recognition as one of the top 20 regional universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report for two consecutive years, is a direct reflection of our collective dedication to excellence. Relatedly, the recent awarding of a $2.5 million Louis Stokes Alliance Minority Participation (LSAMP) grant from the National Science Foundation will serve to further propel our mission to

Our fundraising efforts extend to donor-directed purposes, ensuring that contributions align with our benefactors' visions and have a lasting impact on our student 3


diversify STEM fields and foster an inclusive environment where all students can thrive. As we move forward, the "three school model" at CASE will remain a symbol of our commitment to an innovative, inclusive, and interdisciplinary academic community. Our efforts through "Shine On, Gold" are crucial in this journey towards academic distinction and institutional growth. I invite you to be a part of this transformative campaign. For more information and to explore giving opportunities, please visit Shine On, Gold. Together, we will continue to build upon our legacy of excellence and shine on into a brilliant future.

ROAR LIONS! Dr. Ryan Zayac, Interim Dean



e T t a n o o d a y D

Make a difference today by donating to your area of choice.




reetings, and welcome to the School of the Arts (SOTA) at the University of North Alabama (UNA)! We hope you will join us in celebrating great traditions and forging new initiatives during our sixth year at UNA. Our vision is to provide a comprehensive arts education and connect with our community through the events we host, promoting partnerships and arts advocacy in the Shoals region and beyond. We emphasize collaboration between our departments and this year, we have a new group of faculty, staff, and students on our team! SOTA now includes the Department of Entertainment Industry (ENT), joining the Department of Cinematic Arts and Theatre (CAT), the Department of Music, and the Department of Visual Arts and Design (VAD). Our faculty are devoted educators and practicing professionals who embody great personal success and provide many experiential learning opportunities for our students. In September 2023, Visual Arts and Design Assistant Chair Laura McKee organized and hosted the first SOTA Showcase at the McKinney Center on College Street. This event was an open house that featured student and faculty work in every area (music, film, entertainment industry, and visual art), including our talented culinary and hospitality students, who prepared and presented delicious hors d'oeuvres for the evening. Professor Chiong-Yiao Chen curated the showing of Reminiscence - ceramics by alumnus Marissa Childers at the Gallery at 126. SOTA also presented our annual I2E2 Conference (Ignite. Inspire. Educate. Engage.) at Norton Auditorium in partnership with the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion, UNA's First-Year Experience Program, Student Engagement, Disability Support Services, and external artists such as "the Godfather of Shoals Area Hip-Hop," Geoffrey "GMane" Robinson and Firekid. September concluded with Cinematic Arts and Theatre's production of Concord Floral at the George Lindsey Theatre.



In October, the Shoals Symphony at UNA performed Shakespeare in Florence for area students and the public, incorporating theatre and literature elements, partnering with the Department of Cinematic Arts and Theatre, Florence Mayor Andy Betterton, voice faculty, UNA choirs, and the Renaissance Faire. The UNA Choirs presented the Fall Choral Showcase, featuring the Collegiate Singers, Chamber Choir, and Una Voce ensemble, and the UNA Contemporary Ensemble composed and improvised a live score to Alfred Hitchcock's silent film, The Lodger. The UNA Marching Pride supported UNA Athletics at all home games and performed in exhibitions for thousands of middle and high schoolers, and will continue this through November, serving as great


ambassadors for the arts at UNA. The Department of Entertainment Industry held an educational panel of industry professionals at the Mane Room in partnership with the Muscle Shoals Music Association. Visual Arts and Design had several exhibitions between their Gallery at 126 and Elaine Bailey Augustine Art Gallery, including Works by Tara Bullington, Traveling Darshan Exhibition, and held a special event, Draw-a-thon, with activities led by artist Richard Curtis. Work from the Draw-a-thon will show at the Elaine Bailey Augustine Gallery through November, and Bullington's show will remain at Gallery at 126 through midNovember. The VAD Design II class also took a tour-de-force

THE ARTS style field trip to Nashville, which included visits to The Forge, Zeitgeist Gallery, Frist Museum, Hatch Show Prints, and Alan LeQuire's sculpture studio. Students in Fashion Merchandising and Design and Interior Architecture and Design have also taken several study away trips to Atlanta and Nashville this semester, and have more planned for next semester.

Entertainment Industry Endowed Scholarship will be in Norton Auditorium on November 29, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. The ticket link is https://tinyurl.com/JPWHoliday. The Alabama Conference of Theatre will host the Walter Trumbauer High School Theatre Festival in collaboration with the Department of Cinematic Arts and Theatre, bringing thousands of students and their families to campus from November 30December 2, 2023. Finally, the SSO at UNA will perform alongside choral students for their annual Holiday Concert on December 3, 2023, in Norton Auditorium.

Some of SOTA's upcoming events include the VAD Ceramics Holiday Sale on November 14-15 in the GUC Atrium and a Framing Workshop on November 17 in Visual Arts Building 121 below the Elaine Bailey Augustine Gallery. ENT's John Paul White & Friends "Home for the Holidays" concert benefitting the John Paul White

Our students are a vital part of the School of the Arts organization as part of the curriculum and our extracurricular activities. Their


THE ARTS initiatives this year involve two groups, SOTA Student Leaders and the SOTA Pop Podcast. Our SOTA Student Leaders represent majors from each of the arts disciplines, driving our continued commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration. This year, the leadership team is the most organized yet, and they are hosting regular engagement events this fall, such as the Kindness Social, Halloween Scary-oke, and the SOTA ShowOff talent show. They are involved in service projects, including volunteering at the Trumbauer Theatre Festival. Our SOTA Pop Podcast releases weekly on Wednesdays, and our production team for Season Six records in-house at Norton Auditorium and on-site at events such as Orientation and Homecoming. Our alums are also out in the field working, and we are so proud of the work they are doing! From CAT, Cole Johnson's (BFA Film Production, 2021) latest film was recently screened at the Sidewalk Film Festival, and it was selected from numerous submissions. He's also attending NYU grad school for film production. VAD alum Allye Grisham (BFA Ceramics, 2021) started a one-year Artist Residency at Access Arts in Columbia, MO. Music alum, Dr. Wade Dillingham (BSM Instrumental, 2017) began as Visiting Professor of Single Reeds and Director of Jazz Activities at Louisiana Tech University in Fall 2023. Please see the article spotlighting Ben Bearden from ENT in this newsletter and stay tuned for more features celebrating all of our department alums. You can learn more about us, including several events not mentioned in this article, at www.una.edu/schoolofthearts, subscribing to our biweekly events newsletter on the homepage above, or by following our social media on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram: UNA School of the Arts, UNA SOTA Student Leaders, and SOTA POP. We look forward to meeting you at one of our events soon!




he city of Florence hosts the Walk of Honor, highlighting people from the community who have had a national or international impact in their industry. The Walk of Honor, located beside the Marriott Hotel and event center, consists of bronze cast portraits alongside plaques noting highlights of the accomplishments of the honoree. I am humbled and honored to be included among the 62 inductees, including people who have influenced me: Charles Moore, Nick Nichols, Sam Phillips, Natalie Chanin, Billy Reid, and Norbert Putnam, and this list goes on and on, with all the visionaries who have called this Florence home. Florence is where I get my inspiration and recharge my creative battery; it has always been a constant source of motivation and encouragement. I have had a thriving design and photography business here for the past 23 years, started a magazine, and recently joined the art department at UNA. By supporting, fostering, and promoting creativity Florence is a rich city to live in for everyone. I am honored and humbled to be a part of this community, and I am excited for the future of Florence. With a heart of gratitude and appreciation, thank you, and may the spirit of creativity and collaboration continue to thrive within our city’s heart.








hat inspired you to choose your field? Girls. I’m kidding, obviously - but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have an effect on me. They seemed to look at me differently when I sang. To be honest, once I sang one song with some friends of mine that could actually play, things just clicked. Immediately, I knew that all my energies would be directed at making this a career. Once I started writing songs, I started figuring out who I was, and who I wanted to be. It has become my therapy, my outlet, my way of communicating and connecting. I don’t think I could live without it. What do you believe makes the Department of Entertainment Industry stand out? Real world experience. Our collective staff has years behind them in the business and can give examples that a textbook cannot. There’s a healthy sense of reality involved. We don’t sugarcoat what it’s like in the field but prepare them as best we can for the good, the bad, and the ugly. What advice do you regularly give to students to help them succeed? Do it for the right reasons. This is an extremely tough career. Even when you love it with all your heart, it’s very hard for many to make a living. Make sure that the love is there (bordering on obsession) and make decisions that will allow you to make music on your own terms. Keep your overhead low so that money isn’t affecting the process. How do you believe alumni can best support or engage with current students? Alumni leading by example was very inspiring for me as a student. Knowing someone that sat in those same desks was out there doing the thing was key. When they returned and imparted some of that wisdom, it was life blood. The things I wanted to accomplish seemed more attainable. I try to have some of them come into my classes each year to show them that nothing is stopping them from success. 13



en Bearden is a northeast Alabama native whose parents were both teachers. He was heavily involved in music at school, church, and in the community in his formative years. His degree (Bachelor of Science in Communication Arts - Entertainment Media Production, 2012) was conferred at UNA when Dr. Garfrerick and Mrs. Malone restructured the Entertainment Industry degrees. We’ve asked Ben a few questions about his education and career. How did your education and experiences at UNA shape your career path? I got my first job out of school from my internship that I did through UNA. I also worked in University Events part-time while at UNA. Through the courses at UNA, I learned about all corners of the industry. I could then decide what facet of the industry I fit best in. While I enjoyed the studio side, I knew my place was in live entertainment. How has your education prepared you for your career? My education at UNA helped prepare me for the real world. It gave me the tools needed to be able to step into a conversation with someone and not be lost entirely. I may not have known the answer, but I at least knew what they were talking about because of my time at UNA. Can you share details about your recent career experiences? In recent years, I've gotten to what I consider to be a good place in my career. I currently work as the Lighting Crew Chief for Chris Stapleton and as the Lighting Director for Jason Bonham when I'm available. In the last couple of years, I've also managed to work with such acts as STYX, REO Speedwagon, Loverboy, Kane Brown, NEEDTOBREATHE, Greta Van Fleet, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Trey Anastasio Band, Goose, Midland, and various magicians and circus acts. Because of work, I've been lucky enough to travel to countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Canada, England, Scotland, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Belgium.



What challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them? There have been a lot of challenges. The first few years were tough. In this industry, where a lot of work is freelance and as an independent contractor, it's difficult to fill all of your time. But take all the opportunities that you can. The more you work, the more you learn, and the more people you meet. It's all connected, and your reputation means a lot. Keep a good attitude and work hard. Ego can get in the way, so I've done my best to pay attention to that. Once all that happens, the industry becomes smaller than you'd think. Browan Lollar (Guitarist for St. Paul and the Broken Bones) and I once ran into each other at a Blues Festival in the Netherlands. We were both very surprised to see someone we met in Florence, AL. Ben's advice for current students aspiring to enter his field would be to "take opportunities even if they seem scary or risky. Sometimes, they don't work out, but most of the ones I've taken have paid off. Work hard, listen to people that have experience, but also think for yourself. Learn how to keep calm under stress. That's a big one. Also, know your value, but be aware that you have to work hard to get there." Current students and alums can connect with Ben by following his IG @bearden_ben.

Ben Bearden 15


Get in Tune with the Marching Pride!


he 240-member University of North Alabama Marching Pride had a notable fall season entertaining thousands of fans across the state of Alabama. This group of outstanding student-performers traveled to Montgomery for the Kick-Off Classic at Cramton Bowl to deliver a sizzling halftime performance in the 102-degree weather. The very next week, the Marching Pride hosted over 700 student-performers from over 80 high school bands across Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi for the annual Marching Band Extravaganza. The high school students rehearsed with the UNA band members all morning and then performed with the Marching Pride during halftime of the Labor-Day weekend home football game.



The Marching Pride has been performing for record crowds, providing exhibitions at nine different band competitions in front of more than 140 high school bands for an estimated 110,000+ students. On November 18, the Marching Pride will entertain over 70,000 spectators in Tallahassee, Florida at the UNA versus Florida State football game. Dr. Lloyd Jones, in his 24th year as Director of Bands, is excited to announce a year of celebration in 2024 commemorating 75 years of making music and entertaining audiences with special performances. Plans for alumni gatherings are underway, along with the organization of the UNA Band Hall of Fame, and the 1949 Society. Alumni are invited to participate, celebrate, and support the current members of the UNA Band program as we march on!

Dr. Lloyd Jones Director of Bands 17



reetings from the new School of Humanities and Social Sciences at UNA! I am happy to have the opportunity to introduce both myself and our new school. The seven departments which constitute the school—Communication, History, English, Foreign Languages, Military Science, Psychology and Sociology, and Politics, Justice, Law, and Philosophy—represent the heart of a liberal arts education. The School of Humanities and Social Sciences is an intellectual community dedicated to exploring the complexities of the human experience as well as the societal structures that shape our world. Our course offerings allow students to cultivate a deep understanding of cultural diversity, historical contexts, and contemporary social challenges and communicate this understanding effectively.

Experiential learning and career preparedness are core tenants of our school pedagogy. This fall, we hit the ground running by winning a $5,000 Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) grant to promote career awareness and readiness to undergraduate humanities and social sciences students. The grant funds several initiatives, including tailored career modules that instructors can use in their classes and small grants (up to $500) for instructors to fund speakers, field trips/work, or other career-based learning activities. So far, we have gotten proposals to take students to a professional conference and a career panel for English majors. The grant is also funding a career expo in April. If you are a graduate of a humanities or social sciences field and would like to participate on a panel during the career expo—please reach out! We want to show our students that vibrant and fulfilling careers are waiting for them after graduation. Education abroad is another experiential learning opportunity offered 18


by our School. For the summer 2024 terms, our departments are organizing four trip options: France (Foreign Languages and Visual Arts and Design), England (English), Spain (Foreign Languages), and South Korea (Foreign Languages and Engineering). When students return from these trips they have an advantage on job and graduate school applications as well as prestigious national awards. Over the years we’ve had multiple education abroad participants go on to win Fulbright awards. Currently, Spanish major Ellie Talbot, who studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain, is spending her Fulbright year teaching English in Mexico. As a leader of education abroad trips myself, I can attest to how

enriching and transformative these trips are for students—in terms of both course content and personal growth. The majority of students come home from these trips with greater independence, confidence, and a love for travel. While it takes a lot of hard work, many of my favorite teaching moments have happened during an education abroad trip. With seven active departments, the school hosts a variety of events all year long. Already this semester, we’ve seen welcome back receptions for students, lectures, panels, and visiting speakers. Instead of attempting to list them all, I want to particularly highlight a few events I’ve particularly enjoyed so far this year. 19


The Communication department hosted one of their alumni—Roderick Sewell—who spoke at the Disability Visibility Student Experience Panel. Roderick is a Challenged Athletes Foundation Ambassador and motivational speaker who won gold and bronze medals at the 2014 Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championship and is currently a member of the US Paralympic Swim Team. He shared his inspirational story about the sacrifices his mother made, and the challenges he faced, in becoming an elite Paralympian. The department also recently celebrated two outstanding Public Relations students: Caroline Vance and Aubree Poag. Caroline was chosen as

one of UNA’s Promising Young Alumni, while Aubree won the Public Relations Council of Alabama Student of the Year. I know both these students will continue to make UNA proud in the coming years. At the Hispanic Heritage Month, Germanfest, and French Week celebrations hosted by the Foreign Languages department, students were treated to delicious food, fellowship, and cultural activities. The department also hosted its inaugural Germany on Campus event, a browse fair and information session that brought representatives from the German Embassy and German companies in Alabama to campus. High-school and UNA 20

HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES students got to learn about Germany, as well as about job opportunities, study abroad options, internships, and travel scholarships to the country. The event was organized by adjunct German instructor Dr. Rebecca Linam and was made possible by a nearly $5,000 grant from the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. We welcome alumni and friends to attend these events. Follow our social media pages to learn more about school events that are happening at UNA. We also have big news coming out of the Social Work department. The faculty have been working hard on developing a new doctoral degree in Social Work. The decision to offer a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) is based off student interest, personnel shortages within the field, and the successes of our Master’s in Social Work (MSW) program. Not only has the enrollment in this program been competitive and robust, but this summer the MSW program received initial accreditation from the Council for Social Work Education after a three-year long process. Recently, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education gave approval to move forward with the creation of the DSW. We are in the process of applying for approval from our university accrediting body, SACSCOC, with an anticipated program start date of fall 2025. The DSW will be the first doctoral program for CASE, and we are proud of the department’s accomplishments and all their hard work. Finally, I would like to share a little about myself. I am an Associate Professor and stepped into the role of Interim Assistant Dean after having previously served as the Chair of the English department. My area of academic specialization is nineteenth-century British literature—so be forewarned that if you mention Jane Austen or Bram Stoker within my earshot you will have made a new friend. As Interim Assistant Dean, I serve as a point person for the seven departments within the School, but I also organize education abroad for the College. I am excited to help spread the word about the School’s award-winning faculty, students, and programs as well as alumni! I would love to hear more about your post-UNA journey and successes, so please reach out with updates!






over 10% in my two years in that position and started the accelerated bachelor’s to master’s program called Faster Master’s. I then had the opportunity to come back to my field as Department Head of English, and we have made many improvements since 2020, from revising our undergraduate major to creating the university’s first two graduate microcredentials that carry the Alabama ASSET designation.





he team of 10 students will be headed to Erfurt, Germany from November 17-25. They will represent the countries of Algeria, Angola and Kuwait in an English language global simulation held between two locations in Erfurt: a 200+ year old town hall in the city center as well as a former Stasi prison-turned-museum. The group will attend several cultural tours including Wartburg Castle, Point Alpha, and the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Following these tours, they begin the UN simulation covering such topics as the right to food in periods of violence, sustainable development, and corruption all in one of the most accessible and beautiful spots in the former DDR. The Model United Nations team originated in Spring 2011 with just a few students going to Midwest Model UN in St. Louis and it became a club and a class within a couple years of that. The class and team has remained a steady force on campus; attending two national conferences a year most years and even inviting local middle school students to participate in an Aztec Empire simulation several years ago. The current UN team started mostly in the later stages of COVID when travel was always a bit uncertain, so the opportunity to go abroad to represent UNA is a really big deal!



For More Information: Dr. Leah Graham lgraham1@una.edu | 256.765.5087




elicia Jones is a Lecturer in the Department of English at UNA, where she teaches first-year composition and literary survey courses. She earned a Master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University and her Bachelor’s degree from UNA. What advice do you regularly give to students to help them succeed? I am an optimistic person, and I firmly believe positivity is contagious. It is my personal commitment to infuse every aspect of my work with positivity, and the classroom is no exception. Every week, I share uplifting affirmations with my students, reinforcing the idea that no dream is too small, and no goal is too big. Success awaits those who persevere without surrender. They must simply trust the process, not rush the process. I also regularly remind my students of the importance of writing and thinking critically. A connection to knowledge and power lies in the capacity to articulate information, enabling students to make informed decisions, influence others, and advocate for change as necessary. Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives you’re excited about? For the summer of 2024, I have been tasked with working with a

Ms. Felicia Jones Lecturer, English 26

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT committee to vet Open Educational Resources (OER) texts for First Year Composition courses. I am thrilled about this opportunity because it allows me to actively participate in shaping the course materials and curriculum, helps meet the specific needs of our students, and potentially leads to a more engaging learning experience. It is also a great opportunity to make quality education more accessible and affordable for students, which can be highly rewarding. How do you believe alumni can best support or engage with current students? The University of North Alabama has always held a special place in my heart. Having graduated from UNA in 1998, I am thrilled to return to my alma mater and play an active role in educating students. Fellow alumni can likewise provide invaluable support to current students through active engagement with the university community, bolstering scholarship funds, and participating in initiatives that foster a vibrant educational environment. If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself as a young scholar, what would it be? If I could go back in time and give advice to myself as a young scholar, I would say this: “Seize life with open arms; soak up knowledge like a sponge, and always bear in mind that learning is a lifelong journey. Stay curious. Venture into uncharted intellectual territories and nurture an authentic love for teaching. Remember, enthusiasm is a powerful catalyst; let your fervor for writing and literature ignite inspiration in others. Always be ready to ROAR!”




r. Carrie Barske Crawford became the Executive Director of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area in 2017 after serving as an Assistant Professor of Public History at UNA. She has a PhD in History from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. What inspired you to choose your field? I grew up in a family who valued history, research, curiosity and exploring. I knew I was going to be a history major well before I began college. I didn’t, however, know anything about public history until I started my MA program. Traditional history certainly creates opportunities for engagement with people outside of the classroom, but such engagement is at the heart of the work of a public historian. As I studied public history, I quickly became fascinated by how it exists at an intersection of history, activism, and storytelling – and how it encourages people to listen to one another, to solve problems, and overcome differences. I was hooked! What do you believe makes the university's program in your department stand out? The Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area (MSNHA) is one of two NHAs located in Alabama. We are funded by the National Park Service and work to interpret, protect, and preserve the natural, cultural, and historical resources of northwest Alabama. Because of this mission, we get to work with many different community organizations and local governments. Connecting students to these projects gives them handson learning opportunities that can have a transformative impact on their education and subsequent career. Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives you're excited about? While much of the work of the MSNHA is connected to public history, we are also engaged with recreational resource development and management. Two projects stand out – the Tennessee RiverLine and the Singing River Trail. Both projects will expand recreational opportunities across north Alabama – and as someone who loves the outdoors as much as I love history, I’m excited for the positive benefits both of these


STAFF SPOTLIGHT projects will bring. I’m also always excited about where our Hidden Spaces project is headed next. We just finished up exploring the three major historic roads of the MSNHA – the Natchez Trace, the Byler Road, and Jackson’s Military Road. This project has taught me so much about the MSNHA since we launched it with the UNA Public History Center and Abraham Rowe Photography back in 2017. I’ve traveled down many dirt roads, through cotton and corn fields, crawled around in historic homes, waded in creeks, and have eaten some great gas station food and tamales because of it. Are there any alumni from your classes that have particularly stood out or made significant contributions in their fields? I’ve always been so impressed with the places public history alumni have gone after their time at UNA. We’ve had graduates find positions at the Alabama State Archives, the Alabama Historical Commission, Pond Spring: The General Joe Wheeler Home, Florence City Arts and Museums, Old Alabama Town, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Huntsville Madison County Archives, and many more places both in Alabama and outside of it. Seeing these graduates thrive in their chosen field always brings me joy. I also always appreciate their willingness to visit with current students and share what they’ve learned as they have progressed in their careers.

Dr. Carrie Crawford Director, Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area




he newly formed School of Natural Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics (NSEM) within the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering promotes a passion for discovery and empowers students to become the problem solvers and innovators of tomorrow. With a diverse range of programs spanning the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, we provide a comprehensive education that combines theoretical knowledge with handson practical experience. Composed of the Departments of Biology, Chemistry and Physics, Geoscience, Engineering and Industrial Professions, and Mathematics, this School offers numerous undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as professional certificates, both inperson and online. One of UNA’s goals as laid out by our Strategic Plan Themes is Transformational Student Experience. The School of Natural Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics has been hard at work in fulfilling this goal. I would like to highlight a selection of accomplishments from our students and faculty in the last several months that showcase how our departments are succeeding in this endeavor. Our students have proven themselves as leaders in research and innovation. Three of our students Helena Heiberger (biology), Neely Lovvorn (mathematics), and Rachel Hill (mathematics) participated in Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) since last spring. An REU is a competitive summer program that offers undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in hands-on research projects. These students attended programs at North Carolina State University, Youngstown State University, and Iowa State University, respectively.



Additionally, we had four biology students participate in summer internships. Helena Heiberger completed a research internship in the ASPIRE program at North Carolina State University in the summer of 2023. Emily Ingle participated in the Huntsville Rural Pre-Medical Internship (HRPI) program this summer, sponsored by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heersink School of Medicine. Hanna Joy Jefcoat earned an internship at HudsonAlpha as the Dementia Genomics Intern, where she performed gene knockdowns on candidate gene enhancers linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. Olivia Morris was also awarded the opportunity to be an intern at the

Sara Cooper Lab at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. She was the cancer genomics intern and worked on a computational project exploring variants of uncertain significance in the noncoding regions of known breast cancer-related genes. Under the direction of our outstanding faculty, our students presented and published research results at multiple venues, and won several awards. Olivia Dawson, Sabrina Stout, and Victoria Rollins from our Occupational Health Science program assisted Dr. Leshan Kimbrough in a research study that evaluated a shortened respirator fit test protocol. A manuscript summarizing findings



was published in the Journal of the International Society for Respiratory Protection. These same students also presented two research posters summarizing the results at the national American Industrial Hygiene Conference (AIHCe) in Phoenix, Arizona where they received a 3rd place award for “Best in Show” in the Student Poster Session. This accomplishment is even more impressive considering that these students are undergraduates, while all other student poster submissions were from graduatelevel students. Helena Heiberger participated in several research endeavors. First, she had a research project with


Dr. ByungHoon Brian Kim titled, "Shade avoidance response in Arabidopsis thaliana under the influence of exogenous abscisic acid." She presented this work at the Plant Biology meeting in Savannah, GA. As an S-STEM scholar at UNA, she also presented this research project at the 2023 S-STEM meeting in Washington, D.C. Additionally, she conducted a project with Dr. Cynthia Stenger titled, "Characterizing variants of ABCG5 associated with sitosterolemia." She presented this research at the 2023 CODE Student Symposium at HudsonAlpha in Huntsville, AL. During her REU, Helena worked on a project titled, "Exploring how bacteriophages infect the peach

NATURAL SCIENCES, ENGINEERING, AND MATHEMATICS pathogen, Xanthomonas arboricolapv. pruni." She presented this project at the OUR Summer Symposium at NC State. Two additional students completed research as part of the CODE initiative with Dr. Cynthia Stenger. First, Hanna Joy Jefcoat presented her project researching a genetic variant that may be linked to Parkinson’s disease at the UNA STEM Poster Session, several Chemistry 101 classes, the CASE Advisory Council, and the HudsonAlpha Student Symposium. Olivia Morris also worked on two projects under the CODE initiative. These projects explored variants of uncertain significance on genes related to the genetic disorders Hemophilia A and Hemophilia B. She presented her research at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research, the HudsonAlpha CODE Student Symposium, the UNA STEM poster session, and the Alabama Academy of Sciences Poster session. All three of the CODE students (Helena Heiberger, Hanna Joy Jefcoat, and Olivia Morris) were chosen for the Scholars Transforming through Research (STR) Program. The STR Program is a competitive application-based professional development opportunity for teams consisting of a campus representative and one to three undergraduate students. The UNA team was one of only 35 selected from across the entire nation! Led by Dr. Cynthia Stenger, this team will participate in a six-month program aimed at developing their communication and advocacy skills through undergraduate research. They presented their research at Washington, DC this semester. In addition to the impressive research being conducted, our students and faculty have received several honors. We had 12 students accepted into various health professions schools, and nine inducted into KME - the national mathematics honor society. Under the direction of Dr. Sayeed Shohag in the Department of Engineering and Industrial Professions, UNA’s LeoSink team was selected as semifinalists in the 2023 ASME K-16/IEEE EPS Heat Sink Design International Competition organized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and General Electric. The leader of this team, Briar Allen (MSAME), also received the 33


2023 CASE Outstanding Graduate Student Award. Faculty member Dr. Ashley Johnson from the Department of Mathematics won the Academic Affairs Outstanding Advising by Faculty award last semester. In our ongoing pursuit of transformational student experiences, we have been actively engaging with the community and fostering impactful learning opportunities. Here's a glimpse of our recent events and outreach endeavors. Dr. Humayun Kabir from The Department of Chemistry and Physics organized a Faculty Research Showcase that took place on Wednesday, September 6. There were 15 faculty presenters and about 70 students who came through to talk to faculty about research project ideas. Dr. Mario Mighty hosted a three-day drone workshop for Alabama K-12 teachers on the UNA campus. More than a dozen participants learned how to fly drones and use the imagery acquired from them. Each teacher received a drone to take back to their school. The workshop was funded by the William R. Strong Endowment for Geographic Education. The story was featured in the Times Daily and on WHNT News. Dr. Greg Buckley and Dr. Melissa Moore taught sustainability courses in Guiyang, China, as part of the UNA-Guizhou University collaborative program. More than 80 students are currently enrolled in the UNA-GZU Sustainability program. As we continue to focus on offering our students exceptional experiences that help prepare them for the future, we have held and planned several events and opportunities. The School of Natural Science, Engineering, and Mathematics, with the UNA Career Center, hosted a TVA Career Panel on November 14, where 10 TVA representatives discussed job and internship opportunities for majors from all NSEM departments. On November 28, there will be a STEM Career Panel featuring representatives from IFDC, Constellium, Southern Company, ULA, Lockheed Martin, and Florence Water/Wastewater/Gas. Students will present research results at a 34


STEM Poster Session following the STEM Career Panel. On November 30, the Mathematics Department will be holding a Careers Using Math panel as well.

Master of Science in Occupational Safety and Health Management degrees. The Bachelor of Engineering will launch in Fall 2024 and the online MS in Occupational Safety and Health Management will begin in Fall 2025.

The Department of Biology will be offering an education abroad trip to Costa Rica in May 2024. This trip involves 10 days at three biological stations that are in different biomes. Students will be able to go on naturalist- and instructor-led walks and hikes to see the indigenous flora and fauna as well as conduct some small projects of their own.

In closing, the achievements showcased in this update are a testament to the passion, dedication, and hard work of the students, faculty, and staff within the School of Natural Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics. We are not just educating students; we are shaping futures and providing an exceptional education that goes beyond classrooms and textbooks.

The Department of Geoscience is organizing two education abroad programs for Summer 2024. One of these will be to Jamaica in May, under the leadership of Dr. Matthew Balentine and Dr. Mario Mighty. The other will be to Iceland in August, under the leadership of Dr. Melissa Moore and Dr. Michael Pretes.

As we celebrate these accomplishments, we also look ahead with anticipation. We are immensely proud of what we have achieved together, and we are grateful for the continued support from our university, community, and partners. Thank you for being a part of our journey. Together, we are creating a future where knowledge knows no bounds, and innovation knows no limits.

Lastly, as we continue to expand our academic offerings for our students, we are excited to announce the upcoming Bachelor of Engineering and 35



hat inspired you to choose your field? I feel as if I have two fields technically - mathematics and STEM education, both come with different inspirations. The inspiration for the field of mathematics came from the encouragement of many amazing professors at my undergraduate institution (Cleveland State University [CSU]). I originally was a finance major, as I was working in the market at the time. When taking business calculus, my professor noticed I was tutoring most of my fellow classmates and had no struggles with the mathematics we covered in class. Even though I did not need any additional math classes, this professor encouraged me to just take another math class and see if I enjoyed it. I have always had an affinity for mathematics - but was never encouraged to pursue higher education until this moment. I took nearly every mathematics course offered at CSU and earned my first two degrees. While earning my master’s degree, the chair of our department was awarded a grant to help STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students who come in at the precalculus level complete the courses and earn their STEM degree. I became involved in this program and helped build many of the education components for these students. During this process I realized I have a passion to help and see these students succeed.

Dr. Candi Quinn Assistant Professor, Mathematics

18 36

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT What advice do you regularly give to students to help them succeed? Try, fail, try again! Mistakes are a way to learn, especially when it comes to mathematics. Do not be afraid to fail at an assignment, but make sure you learn from the experience. I often say to my students, if the material or class is “easy” then I’m not really teaching you anything. Learning is hard! But it should also be rewarding. If you need accommodations do not hesitate to register with DSS. Often students want to “try” without accommodations, and this is not “fair” for them. Learning is supposed to be hard, but not so hard it hurts. Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives you're excited about? I am extremely excited about the new $2.5 million-dollar Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) grant we received from the National Science Foundation. This upcoming program will be designed to recruit and retain underrepresented minorities (URM) undergraduate students who are majoring in a STEM discipline at UNA or other universities in the Tri-State area (i.e., University of Tennessee Martin, Mississippi University for Women, and Northwest Shoals Community College). This will be the second LSAMP program I have the privilege of designing and implementing. The program will include a summer bridge that will help these students make the transition into higher education. The program also includes recruiting and training for undergraduate tutors in the core “gateway” classes that are often a barrier for students earning their STEM degree. Additionally, the students in the program will be matched with faculty in their STEM field and engage in undergraduate research. The goal of this program is to diversify the STEM fields as well as the students in our major STEM courses. Having run a program like this in the past, I am excited to see a new set of LSAMP Scholars in the south thrive in a community that is focused on helping them reach their full potential and find success in their future.






eannette Piña, a Florence native and the proud daughter of immigrants, was the first in her family to earn a Bachelor's degree. Her post-secondary educational journey began at the University of North Alabama (UNA) where she pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry with a minor in Mathematics. UNA's unique emphasis on practical experiences greatly influenced her career trajectory. At UNA, Jeannette encountered transformative professors, courses, and experiences that shaped her scientific pursuits. As a Lab Assistant under the guidance of Dr. Sara Johnson, Jeannette delved into lab management, chemical handling, and planning experiments. Her exposure to synthetic research with Dr. Amanda Coffman solidified her path as a researcher. Jeannette’s UNA education not only equipped her with technical knowledge, but also honed her communication skills. She credits a diverse range of courses for providing her with the tools necessary to succeed and become a well-rounded researcher with the ability to communicate her work in oral and written forms. Jeannette graduated from UNA in the Spring of 2020, and is now pursuing a Doctoral degree in Chemistry at Texas A&M University. As an organic chemist, she develops synthetic methods and studies chemical reaction mechanisms. She is the co-founder and co-president of the student organization, Alliance for Diversity in Science & Engineering (ADSE) Texas A&M University Chapter. Recently, her research was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, which is a prestigious journal that publishes cutting-edge science advancements. Additionally, she is a 2023 recipient of the Underrepresented Chemists of Color Merck Research Award, which is a national award for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Jeannette plans to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry with hopes to apply her expertise to provide patients with relief from their illnesses. Jeannette would like to thank all of her professors at UNA for their feedback and help throughout her time as an undergraduate student. 39


Building for the Future


e are delighted to bring you the latest updates on a project that promises to redefine the landscape of our beloved campus. The new Computing and Mathematics Building, set to open in late spring 2024, is well on its way to becoming a cornerstone of innovation, education, and collaboration in the fields of computing and mathematics. Nestled atop Founder's Hill, adjacent to Stevens Hall, Wesleyan Hall, and Collier Library, the Computing and Mathematics Building boasts a prime location that fosters connectivity with existing academic facilities and the picturesque surroundings. Its architectural design beautifully blends tradition with modernity, setting a bold tone for our university's future. This remarkable facility spans approximately 41,500 square feet, spread across three floors, each thoughtfully designed to serve various educational and research functions. Faculty offices, modern classrooms, cutting-edge laboratories, and inviting student common areas are poised to redefine the campus experience for our students, faculty, and staff. The Computing and Mathematics Building will be home to the Department of Mathematics within the College of Arts, Sciences, and



Engineering, as well as the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems in the Sanders College of Business and Technology. This new facility will include a range of modern features:

Student Common Areas: Inviting spaces that nurture friendships and academic excellence. With each passing day, we draw closer to the anticipated grand opening this spring. This building is not just bricks and mortar; it symbolizes our commitment to the future of education and research at UNA. We eagerly anticipate the moments of discovery, learning, and growth that will unfold within its walls. Stay tuned for more updates as we journey toward this exciting milestone.

State-of-the-Art Classrooms: Equipped with the latest technology to foster interactive learning and creativity. Cutting-Edge Laboratories: Designed to support studentfaculty research and innovation. Spacious Office Spaces: Modern offices for our dedicated faculty and staff, promoting productivity and collaboration. 41


Ready for Launch!


he University of North Alabama has recently been accepted into the prestigious Alabama Space Grant Consortium (ASGC). This inclusion marks a significant milestone for the institution and opens a vista of opportunities for its students and faculty, particularly within the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. The ASGC is part of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, which was initiated by NASA to foster a strong educational base from elementary through university levels in the aerospace fields. UNA’s acceptance into this consortium underscores the university’s commitment to excellence and innovation in science and engineering education and is a natural progression for the institution, which already boasts a proud legacy of alumni who have made significant strides in the aerospace industry and at NASA. Programs within the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering at UNA are poised to play pivotal roles within the consortium. For example, in collaboration with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville (an existing partner), the Public History program can offer unique insights into the historical context of space exploration, preserving and interpreting the rich history of aerospace achievements. This program can work on curating exhibits, organizing conferences, and developing educational materials that narrate the story of space exploration to the public and students. Students specializing in technical writing at UNA stand to make substantial contributions by producing clear and concise documentation essential for the complex projects facilitated by the ASGC and throughout the growing technology sector in nearby Huntsville. Technical writers from UNA can work on grant proposals, technical manuals, research papers, and promotional materials that communicate complex information in an accessible manner, facilitating the collaboration between engineers, scientists, and other stakeholders.



Engineering students and faculty can engage in cutting-edge research and development projects, ranging from propulsion systems to sustainable materials for space applications. Through participation in ASGC, engineering students can access internships, fellowships, and research funding, propelling them to the forefront of aerospace innovation. Furthermore, UNA’s offerings related to our on-campus Planetarium are an asset to the consortium. The Planetarium can serve as an educational and outreach hub, hosting interactive shows and workshops that inspire K-12 students and the community about space science. The Planetarium can also be a venue for simulations and visualizations for complex space missions, providing a tangible experience of space to students and researchers alike.



UNA’s accession to the ASGC reflects the institution's broader vision to be at the nexus of education and industry, bridging the gap between academic study and practical application. With the support of ASGC, the university can leverage these programs to prepare a skilled workforce ready to meet the challenges of the aerospace sector. The synergy between UNA’s programs and the consortium’s objectives is clear. Through this partnership, the university is set to enhance its research capabilities, enrich its curriculum, and provide its students with unparalleled opportunities in the field of aerospace. As UNA integrates into the ASGC, it is not only raising its profile but also contributing to the nation's space exploration efforts, one small step for UNA, one giant leap for educational excellence in Alabama. For more information about the academic programs mentioned above, be sure to visit www.una.edu



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Leading Lions is a new initiative designed t lead with kindness and intentional

👏 Congratulations to Lindsey Price! 🦁 Leading Lions Spotlight: Lindsey

loves our beautiful campus and always does her best to help keep it clean!

📚 Major: Biology; Minor:


🎓Classification: Freshman



to highlight exceptional CASE students who lly support our college community.

👏 Congratulations to Katelynn Goggans! She is the first recipient of the Leading Lions Spotlight.

🦁 Leading Lions Spotlight: Katelynn goes above and beyond to help her classmates study for lectures and labs.

📚Major: Professional Biology 🎓 Classification: Junior






College of ARTS, SCIENCES, and ENGINEERING UNA Box 5021 • Florence, AL 35632 256.765.4288 • case@una.edu

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