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The University of Alabama

Students Compete in Final Round of UA Moral Forum’s Tornado Recovery Initiative

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – As part of a service-learning course sponsored by The University of Alabama Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility, 81 Honors College students are vying for up to $15,000 to implement student-designed projects to aid in Tuscaloosa’s recovery from the April tornado.

The course culminates with the final round of competition on Monday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. in Lloyd Hall Auditorium (Room 38). Eight groups will present their projects to a grant-awarding committee consisting of Dr. Mark Nelson, vice provost and vice president for student affairs, Dr. Shane Sharpe, Honors College dean and director of the Computer-Based Honors Program, and Dr. Jacqueline Morgan, associate dean of the Honors College and director of the University Honors Program. The event is free and open to the public.

This fall, UH 101 Moral Forum students dedicated more than 1,280 service hours to helping local relief agencies, schools and the community recover from the April 27 tornado. While volunteering in the community, these students, working in teams of four, developed  project proposals to address ongoing, long-term needs they witnessed and heard about from school children, parents and community leaders.

The most innovative and thoughtful project proposals will compete to receive up to $15,000 in seed funding.

These final projects include:

-An initiative to engage children at the Boys & Girls Club in local volunteer efforts, sponsor the children in the creation of their own volunteer projects and introduce them to philanthropy as the children research and decide how to distribute $1,000 to local nonprofits.

-The creation of an annual service-learning course, designed in collaboration with the City of Tuscaloosa, that will provide student volunteers to meet city-identified needs. The first year, the city will train students on zoning and building permit guidelines, and the students will act as liaisons between the city planning department and Tuscaloosa property and business owners.

-A collaborative, therapeutic art project with the children of Alberta Elementary School and the UA psychology and art departments to take place over the course of the spring semester and culminate with a community-wide celebration and unveiling of the artwork.

-A joint effort with the Druid City Canopy Coalition and the Alabama Forestry Commission to host an educational day camp teaching University Place Elementary students about environmental stewardship and culminating with an afternoon of replanting trees in the Forest Lake area.

-A partnership with UA Recycling and the City of Tuscaloosa that empowers children to protect their environment and recycle as their families and the community rebuild a greener, cleaner Tuscaloosa. The pilot program will be launched at Holt Elementary School.

-An effort to enhance library recovery efforts at Alberta Elementary and University Place Elementary by purchasing and implementing technological improvements, showing students and teachers how to use the technology and assisting librarians in cataloging and shelving book donations.

-A tool kit to help facilitate affordable housing and project supervision for universities across the country as they organize Spring Break service opportunities in Tuscaloosa.

-The development of a university-wide, required online tornado education program to ensure all students know what safety measures to take during tornado warnings.

In previous years, Moral Forum has been organized around the analysis of one particular controversial “moral” resolution and the course culminates with a debate tournament.  However, after the April storms, the UA Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility decided to restructure the course to focus on examining the multifaceted challenges Tuscaloosa faces and to encourage students to develop thoughtful projects to address these challenges as the city rebuilds and recovers, organizers said.

As they developed their projects, students attended an intensive, seven-week, multidisciplinary lecture series on Tuscaloosa’s response to the April 27 tornado, natural disaster preparedness, the challenges of disaster recovery in low-income areas and the resources and planning needed to successfully rebuild a community. Guest speakers included tornado survivors, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, members of the Tuscaloosa Forward planning commission, representatives from local relief agencies and FEMA, social service experts and Bob Berkbile, an architect and 2009 recipient of the Heinz Award from Theresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation for his leadership in sustainable building and his commitment to the environment.

“The students were encouraged to actively engage the people they sought to serve in all aspects of the project – from initial planning stages to concluding evaluations and plans for future efforts,” said Lane McLelland, New College instructor and Moral Forum co-instructor. “The collaborations between the students and their community partners have produced exciting proposals, all of which have the potential, not only to address important disaster recovery needs, but also to further cement the commitment of the UA student body and the Tuscaloosa community to a future of working together.”

Moral Forum is a signature initiative of the UA Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility. Learn more about Moral Forum and other CESR initiatives at

Created in 2005, CESR established university-wide programming supporting the development of projects that nurture social responsibility and reflective, thoughtful citizenship.The University’s commitment to civic engagement and its history of community-university partnerships also serve as a foundation for the Center. CESR staff develop – and assist faculty members in developing – service-learning courses that engage community organizations in partnerships designed to both enhance academic goals and apply scholarly learning to salient community issues. The service experiences are integrated into the students’ academic curriculum, providing structured time for students to think, talk and write about what they did and observed.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.