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The University of Alabama

UA in the News: October 3, 2012

UA conference brings community, academic leaders together
Tuscaloosa News – Oct. 3
Professors, students and community members all had their own ideas on how to make the world better. When they combined their efforts and put their ideas into action, they discovered it is possible to create positive change. Their voices were heard during the 13th annual National Outreach Scholarship Conference, which wrapped up Tuesday at the Bryant Conference Center.  Hosted by the University of Alabama, the conference had more than 500 attendees and 230 presentations that showcased community projects and the impact those projects had on their areas. The emerging concept of engagement scholarship focuses on the collaboration of community and academic leaders to solve problems. “It connects that traditional teaching, research and service mission in ways that allow (higher education) institutions to partner with communities to help solve critical problems,” said Samory T. Pruitt, UA vice president for community affairs. The projects presented involved everything from photography to bamboo to health care to disaster recovery efforts. “It is essential. Every group, every partner, every community has differing knowledge, different perspectives,” said Marcy Koontz, an UA associate professor in the College of Human and Environmental Sciences. “It brings those groups together, allows all of those voices to be heard.”

Alabama businesses losing confidence, say it’s “hard to be optimistic” – Oct. 3
Alabama business executives are less optimistic about economic conditions now than they were three months ago, the second consecutive quarter those sentiments have declined, according to the University of Alabama. UA’s Alabama Business Confidence Index (ABCI), updated quarterly, surveys business executives across the state on six key economic factors to come up with an estimate for business sentiment. In its most recent survey, respondents expressed feeling less positively about each of the survey’s six factors: national economy, Alabama economy, industry sales, industry profits, industry hiring, and capital expenditures. The Alabama Business Confidence Index, as measured by the University of Alabama, is down relative to the prior quarter, but up slightly from a year ago. (Source: The University of Alabama) The university’s ABCI estimate for the fourth quarter of 2012 is 48.3, down 1.9 points from the prior quarter. A score above 50 says executives feel that the economy is expanding, while a score below 50 represents the feeling that things are contracting. That means executives feel the economy has shifted from growing to shrinking over the past three months. “Businesses across the state are finding it hard to be optimistic,” the university said in an official release assessing executives’ responses. Despite the recent downshift, business confidence as measured by the index is higher than it was a year ago. The university’s ABCI estimate for the fourth quarter of 2011 was 45.5, 2.8 points lower than where the measure stands today.

Students perform college chemistry experiments
Tuscaloosa News – Oct. 3
The 16-year-old sat hunched over his Bunsen burner, safety goggles firmly in place, as he patiently waited for the small cup-shaped glassware to heat. As wisps of smoke lingered in the air, he tried to glance inside to see what was happening. “This is so cool,” said Michael Gamble. “A lot different from what we do in our high school labs.” Gamble, a junior from Northridge High School, was one of 23 high school juniors and seniors conducting experiments at a University of Alabama chemistry lab Tuesday. In its second year, the outreach program gives students in advanced placement chemistry classes at area high schools an opportunity to work in a college lab with assistance from UA graduate students. “AP chemistry is equivalent to a freshman year chemistry course, so this gives our students a chance to see what it would be like in a college setting,” said Mollie Morris, AP chemistry teacher at Central High School. “It shows them there is life after graduation, and this is what it looks like.”…Martin Bakker, a UA associate professor of chemistry and outreach coordinator, said he understands the importance of a laboratory experience as part of the teaching method, but he also realizes the need for more young people to delve into these fields. “The U.S. imports half of its chemists, and it’s been able to do that because it has had the resources to do so, but that is turning around,” Bakker said. “These other countries are realizing how important these fields are and they’re doing everything they can to keep their best and brightest. We have to focus more on growing our own.”

To infinity, beyond
Crimson White – Oct. 2
NASA scientist James Rice has had the rare privilege of naming Martian landmarks, and he didn’t forget his roots on Earth when he did – one is named after his hometown of Tuscaloosa. He grew up and studied in Tuscaloosa and still finds time to visit, even though his work is 250 million miles away. He said he hopes to one day name a rock or other landmark after his favorite football team, who he saw beat Ole Miss 33-14 this weekend. “I wanted to name something Alabama or Crimson Tide, [but] I can’t promise it’s going to happen,” Rice said…Rice and Ryan Ewing, an assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, represent a crimson connection to the red planet – a small part of a large team trying to uncover Mars’ secrets. Rice is an astrogeologist studying rocks and the martian landscape for NASA. He graduated from the University in 1984 with a degree in geology, received a master’s degree from Northeast Louisiana University and a Ph.D. from Arizona State.

Volunteers from UAE help rebuild Tuscaloosa
Tuscaloosa News – Oct. 2
Thirteen volunteers from the United Arab Emirates traveled more than 30 hours to get to Tuscaloosa this week — all in an effort to help rebuild after the April 27, 2011, tornado. The group of young men and women is part of a volunteer social program called Takatof, part of the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development. Takatof has helped mobilize volunteers and has sent them all over the world, including China, Korea, Africa and Pakistan…Two diplomats from the UAE embassy in Washington, D.C., graduated from the University of Alabama and urged the embassy to organize volunteers to help the Tuscaloosa community…The team of volunteers will be in town through Saturday, helping construct a Habitat for Humanity home in Alberta.
NBC 13 (Birmingham) – Oct. 2
WVUA (Tuscaloosa) – Oct. 2

UA Summersell Center to give southern history book award
Crimson White – Oct. 3
The University of Alabama’s Frances S. Summersell Center for the Study of the South will be giving out a newly created award to an author who, it claims, exemplifies the best account of southern history. The first Deep South Book Prize is being awarded to the book “Boll Weevil Blues: Cotton, Myth, and Power in the American South” by James Giesen, an associate professor of history at Mississippi State University…Giesen’s book was chosen from more than three dozen books nominated by nearly a dozen different presses. It stood out to the award committee which determined the finalists for the prize, Joshua Rothman, director of the Summersell Center, said…The idea for the Deep South Book Prize originated as a means to recognize the top scholarship in the Southern American history field and to spread knowledge of the Summersell Center. “As a work that allows us to see and understand the South, its past and its culture in new ways, [“Boll Weevil Blues”] fits with the Center’s goals perfectly,” Rothman said.

Department of Journalism adds new curriculum track for sports reporters
Crimson White – Oct. 3
The UA Department of Journalism has announced the addition of a new sports news and information track for undergraduate majors. Students choosing this new track learn basic journalistic skills but take more sports-focused courses. “The industry demand for people specializing in sports news and information is at an all-time high,” Jennifer Greer, chair of the UA Department of Journalism, said. “We felt the need to meet this demand.” The UA Department of Journalism has trained students in sports journalism since its conception in the 1920s, but they’ve never formally called it that until now, Greer said. Students on this new sports news and information track will take most of the basic journalism classes, but there will be a few key exceptions. Following JN 311, News Writing and Reporting, sports students will enter a JN 318 course that focuses on the beginning of sports reporting taught by Tuscaloosa News sports reporter Aaron Suttles. This course will be offered for the first time in the fall of 2013. Students in this new track will also take an advanced sports writing course that has previously been taught as an elective but will now be required for those with this concentration. Sports students are also required to have sports-focused internships at news outlets like the Tuscaloosa News. Current freshmen and sophomores can add this concentration easily without affecting their graduation date, Greer said. She hopes many will consider this option. For years, students interested in sports have chosen to follow the public relations track because of the stigma of journalism, Greer said. “Some students are afraid of the news,” Greer said. “They think it’s all about covering war, crime and disasters.”

Online resumes, portfolios may give students a leg up
Crimson White – Oct. 3
While applying for a job or an internship, students are likely to spend time perfecting their resume – the one thing that stays with interviewers after you walk out the door. In today’s digital age, however, professors and employers alike agree that creating an online portfolio or resume is an effective way for students to showcase their talents, experience and work samples. From portfolios to resumes to job applications, it is very rare to send in a hard copy of anything anymore. Some University of Alabama students are getting firsthand experience in creating their online resumes in the classroom. As part of the curriculum for JN 101, each student is required to create a WordPress blog to serve as their “professional home on the web” through college and beyond. Jessie Jones is the communications specialist for University Alumni Affairs and also teaches a JN 101 class. She feels it is important for students to have the blog as a professional home, and she encourages them to get involved in other online networking sites, as well. “Creating a professional home online is a great way to start showcasing almost anything you do. From a link to a story you’ve written, to showcasing photos or video you’ve worked with, it can all go in one place,” Jones said. “Wordpress, or even Blogger, can be great tools to host a site like this for free,” she said. “It’s also important to join professional networking sites like LinkedIn and to remember that even your Facebook and Twitter pages can be searched by potential employers. Keep everything clean and professional.”


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.