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The University of Alabama

UA in the News: November 20, 2012

UA names new VP for advancement
Tuscaloosa News – Nov. 20
Karen Baldwin has been named the University of Alabama’s vice president for advancement. She has served in an interim role since March and was associate vice president for advancement from 2008 to March. As vice president for advancement, Baldwin will lead the division of advancement, which includes all university fundraising, planned giving, alumni affairs and university relations. “Karen Baldwin is a consummate professional and has extremely high standards for herself and for those who report to her,” said UA President Judy Bonner. “The Office of Advancement set an annual giving record under her leadership in the last year.” Last fiscal year, the Office of Advancement set an annual giving record with a 25 percent increase over the previous year, realizing more than $93.8 million in total giving. New documented planned gift expectancies increased by 102 percent to $26 million. In the past two years, UA has had a record number of donors (58,000 each year) and donor transactions (94,000 each year).

UA dedicates World War I memorial near Denny Chimes
Fox 6 (Birmingham) – Nov. 20
The University of Alabama dedicated a plaque that salutes 45 veterans from Tuscaloosa County who gave their lives during World War I. That plaque will be placed near Denny Chimes. It was one of several efforts to show the importance the university places on those serving in the military. “Today is the grand opening and so all the presentations that I just mentioned, from the World War I memorial, the American Fallen Soldier project, and honoring all our community partners are just part of a final ceremony of cutting the ribbon and announcing welcome home all veterans, dependents and service members here at UA.”

Grant will help train computer science teachers
Tuscaloosa News – Nov. 20
Jeff Gray wants to raise the bar when it comes to teaching technology and computer science in Alabama high schools. With the help of a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, that goal might be realized. There were fewer than 100 state high school students who took the computer science advanced placement exam in 2012, said Gray, an associate professor of computer science in the University of Alabama College of Engineering. In comparison, more than 5,000 state students who took the history AP exam. “There’s a mismatch between what we’re doing to prepare our students and where the actual jobs are,” he said. “We’re not raising our own people to take on these jobs.” In an effort to change that, Gray has been working with the College Board, which offers standardized tests used for college admissions, to develop a new Advanced Placement computer science course — Computer Science Principles — that provides a broader look at computer programming and software design, big data, networking and impacts on society. The three-year grant, which begins in January, will train 50 high school teachers across the state to teach the new course, which the College Board could begin offering as an AP course in 2015.

Thanksgiving driving patterns increase risk for fatal crashes
Claims Journal – Nov. 20 
Thanksgiving often means more food for Americans, but it also means more traffic on the road that brings a greater chance for fatal crashes, according to a recent study of traffic data by The University of Alabama Center for Advanced Public Safety. Analyzing Alabama and national fatal crash data during Thanksgiving week, defined as the Monday before Thanksgiving through the Sunday after it, researchers at the center, known as CAPS, found speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, time of day and weather all contributed to more fatal crashes in Alabama and the United States. They are common factors in fatal crashes throughout the year, except exaggerated by the activity of Thanksgiving week. There are more parties, more vehicles on the road at night, more drivers on less-familiar roads, more tired drivers behind the wheel and more distracted drivers. “With substantially increased traffic volume over a short period, this combination is a recipe for potential disaster,” said Dr. Allen Parrish, CAPS director and professor of computer science at The University of Alabama. The study was based primarily on 2011 traffic data from Alabama, but it also compared these results against the most recent data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, or FARS, maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The FARS data covered the six years from 2005-2010. The Alabama data considered all reported crashes within Alabama, while the FARS data contains all fatal crashes nationally. The research was done through UA-developed data-analysis software called Critical Analysis Reporting Environment, or CARE, used by researchers at CAPS.
WFLX-Fox (West Palm Beach, Fla.) — Nov. 18
Fox 6 (Birmingham) – Nov. 19

‘Hilaritas’ holiday concert set for Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 in Tuscaloosa – Nov. 19 
One of Tuscaloosa’s favorite winter holiday traditions “Hilaritas” is set for Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. at the Moody Music Building Concert Hall. The annual show, presented by the University of Alabama School of Music, will feature the Alabama Jazz Ensemble under the direction of UA director of jazz studies Chris Kozak, the Huxford Symphony Orchestra under the direction of UA director of orchestral studies Demondrae Thurman and the University Singers under the direction of UA director of choral activities John Ratledge. Tickets are $15 for adults, $7 for seniors and students on the main floor and first balcony and $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students on the second balcony. To purchase tickets, visit or call (205) 348-7111. “Hilaritas” is a Greek word that translates loosely into “Live joyfully, and be proud of what you are.” The family-friendly program has been a Tuscaloosa holiday tradition since 1969 when the University Singers and the Jazz Ensemble gave their first performance of holiday music by this name.

University Fellows to travel to Cuba for spring break
Crimson White – Nov. 20 
The University Fellows Experience, a highly selective group of Honors College students, is planning a trip to Cuba over spring break. Jacqueline Morgan, associate dean for the Honors College, made the announcement of the groundbreaking trip in an email to the University Fellows. “When the University Fellows Experience was founded, an international component during the junior year was listed as a critical element,” Morgan said in the email. “We are now ready to move forward in building that experience into the overall structure of the program.” Morgan also said the trip was just an initial step and 10 Fellows would be able to go. “We will leave Friday, March 22, return March 31st,” Morgan wrote. “All who are interested are encouraged to apply, but preference will be given to those who have already participated in the Black Belt Experience.” The trip is only open to those already in the University Fellows program. A 1,000 word essay stating the reasons for why the Fellow would want to travel to Cuba is required and due by Nov. 27. Interviews will then be conducted for the finalists selected from the essay submissions and final selections will be made by December 14th. All travel expenses are covered.

Students find ways to eat locally year-round
Crimson White – Nov. 20
Cities around the United States are seeing a growing trend in local farmers markets where residents can buy food they know is grown in the same state they call home. The trend has led to a new name for participating consumers: a locavore. Such a person is defined as someone interested in eating food that is locally produced and not transported long distances to market. Among the reasons to eat locally grown food, the one that tends to top everyone’s list is that the food is healthier and tastes better than chemically altered and processed foods you may find in a grocery store. It is also better for local economies, as farmers are able to retain their farmland because they are profiting off their products directly. The local food concept is the foundation of Homegrown Alabama, the campus farmers market that is set up on the Canterbury Episcopal Chapel lawn Thursdays from April 12 until Oct. 27 from 3 to 6 p.m. Homegrown Alabama is a student-led group at The University of Alabama that seeks to educate students about the value of local produce, as well as foster partnerships between local farmers and the University. Mo Fiorella, market manager for Homegrown Alabama, said Homegrown tries to make sure nothing sold at the farmers market comes from more than three hours away from Tuscaloosa. “That’s the whole point of our farmers market,” Fiorella said. “The closer farmers get preference, because we want it to count as genuinely local.”

Social media pops up in classes
Crimson White – Nov. 20
Social media has quickly cemented itself in the day-to-day, hour-to-hour, and often minute-to-minute lives of college students. However, on The University of Alabama campus, it’s used for more than mindless tweeting and Facebook creeping. “Social media has really expanded our ability to go into forms of education that are just not possible when you see your students twice a week,” Jason DeCaro, associate professor of anthropology, said. DeCaro and many professors around the University’s campus have integrated social media into their classrooms and haveseen the web-based media creep into their fields of study. As the director of instructional technology, DeCaro said his department has embraced social media as a tool to expand the way they communicate with not only their majors and minors, but also to their broader community, including alumni across the world. In the classroom, a variety of blogs and social media groups have facilitated broad study and greater connectivity he said. In DeCaro’s neuro-anthropology class, his students are required post to or comment on a open Facebook group devoted to the interest. “It wasn’t that I needed them to get social media experience,” DeCaro said. “It was really that there’s no better place for them to interact with not only other students, but leaders in the community.”

Campus, city organizations aid student veterans
Crimson White – Nov. 20
The transition into college life is difficult for most students, but The University of Alabama hopes to make the process easier for those students also moving back into civilian life by helping veterans overcome the lasting effects of the traumas of their service. The University’s Office of Military and Veteran Affairs is only a year old, but has already established itself within the top 15 percent of military-friendly universities, offering veterans, active-duty servicemen and dependents relief and assistance in these transitions. “When I came here last September, I knew what I wanted to establish: a one-stop shop,” Director David Blair said. “Basically, linking veterans with benefits, counseling and the financial aid office.” In August, the office opened its Veterans Center in Room 1 of B.B. Comer Hall, an oasis of sorts that includes several study rooms and a computer lab. “Before I came, there were assets across campus to help servicemen but not in one place,” Blair said. “Now, we have a service center dedicated to veterans, ROTC cadets and our nearly 1,500 dependents.”

The strange story of two electrical engineers from U of Alabama who ran Libya for the past 11 months
Zdnet – Nov. 20
Perhaps I’m biased, because I went to engineering school, but I’ve always felt the world would run a lot better if it were run by engineers, rather than lawyers or accountants. Engineers are problem solvers, inventors, and builders so rather than fill the world with countless new laws and regulations, they’d simply focus on paving roads, building bridges, buildings, and rail lines. Sadly, this theory may be a little more wishful thinking than grounded in history. The only two American presidents who were engineers — Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter — didn’t exactly distinguish themselves during their presidency for their domestic nation-building skills. Even so, I still contend that when there’s trouble and something needs to be built or rebuilt, it’s the engineers that are going to get the job done. That’s why I’m so intrigued by an interview that my Internet Press Guild colleague Steven Cherry conducted last January. He had the opportunity to interview Mustafa Abushagur, who along with Abdurrahim Abdulhafiz El-Keib — both former University of Alabama electrical engineering professors — ran Libya for the past 11 months. Mustafa Abushagur’s story is particularly interesting, which is why I’m spotlighting it now, especially in light of the Benghazi attacks in September. It was also in September that Abushagur became the first elected Prime Minister in the history of modern Libya after serving nine months as Deputy Prime Minister. Unfortunately, he was not able to keep the job. Like all good engineers, he tried to assemble the parts most suited to solving the problem — cabinet members who could help do the job of rebuilding a torn Libya.

Legal marijuana in state ‘unlikely
Crimson White – Nov. 20
Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday, Nov. 6, but the passing of similar legalization in the state of Alabama does not appear likely, at least not in the near future. “It is doubtful that broad legislation of marijuana use will occur in the foreseeable future in Alabama,” Joseph Colquitt, Beasley professor of law and a retired Alabama circuit judge, said. “There have been efforts to legalize marijuana for medical use, but even those efforts have been unsuccessful.” While other states are legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, Alabama is still fighting the battle for legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. Medicinal marijuana has been approved in some form in 18 states plus the District of Columbia. Two medicinal marijuana bills have been introduced to the Alabama state legislature in 2012, but both failed to get out of committee. Rebecca Howell, a UA assistant professor of criminal justice, said she believes one of the main reasons Alabama will not legalize marijuana use of any sort is because there are still a large number of evangelical Christians and non-Christians who are conservative on social and fiscal issues in the state.

Recent graduate wins big on ‘The Price is Right’
Crimson White – Nov. 20 
In addition to getting his degree, Phil Rothermich, a recent University of Alabama graduate, can now check “Win ‘The Price is Right’ Showcase Showdown” off his to-do list. Phil Rothermich won approximately $29,000 in prizes during a recent airing of “The Price is Right,” including a grill, clothes, outdoor furniture and a new Hyundai Elantra. Saeed Saleh, a friend of Phil Rothermich who attended the taping of the show with him, said Rothermich was in shock after he won. “He had his hand on his head and was walking up to people at the Grove Mall telling them, ‘I just won a car on ‘The Price is Right!’ No one believed him,” Saleh said. Elizabeth Rothermich, his mother, said he was ecstatic when he told her about the experience. “He said his adrenaline was pumping so hard that he didn’t think he would be able to sleep for days,” Elizabeth Rothermich said. She said ever since he was young, he had dreamed about going on the show and winning the Showcase Showdown. “Phil has watched ‘The Price is Right’ since he was in grade school. He would yell at the contestants on the show, and he loved Bob Barker,” Rothermich said.

Jewish students sound off on faith, eating kosher
Crimson White – Nov. 20
Many Crimson Tide fans have that one thing they do or wear on Gameday for luck. For one Alabama student, this good luck charm stems from his faith. Ben Flax, a sophomore majoring in religious studies, wears a kippah daily as part of practicing Judaism, but on Gameday, he wears a special one with the Alabama ‘A’ encrusted on the top. “I found it in Jerusalem after we won the championship in 2009,” Flax said. A kippah, also known by the Yiddish term yarmulke, is the Hebrew word for a small, rounded skullcap worn by Orthodox and Conservative Jewish men in the synagogue and at home. “It comes from the Hebrew words meaning ‘acknowledging the angel,’ which is the idea that at all times, I’m making the realization that there is something above me,” Flax, who wears a kippah daily, said. There are three different divisions followers of Judaism fall into: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. Flax said he identifies with Traditional Conservative Judaism. “I agree with the Conservative movement as it stood in the 1970s,” Flax said. “I’m supposed to pray three times a day, which I try to do, but usually, instead of doing a full recitation, I’ll choose certain ones that I prefer for the day or speak to an event that is going on especially right now where there is lots of stuff going in the Middle East, so I’ll say a prayer for the Israeli defense force and the state of Israel every day.” Amy Ackerman, a sophomore majoring in nonprofit management through the New College, said she identifies as a Reform Jew. “To me, [Reform Judaism] is the chillest form of Judaism,” Ackerman said.

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.