Social Media Tips Best Takeaway from Day One of Latest UA System Scholars Institute

Social media panel featuring University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration proved to be a signature event of the first day of the 2014 UA System Scholars Institute in Tuscaloosa. Day Two begins later this morning.

The first day of the 2014 University of Alabama System Scholars Institute is in the history books and I’m thinking the tips on how to use social media to enhance our academic mission have been the most memorable and most useful of the Institute.

Monday a team of faculty and staff from the second largest college here on the Tuscaloosa campus presented what I considered the best panel of the day.  But, a faculty member in my own College of Communication and Information Sciences, also shared some ways platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr can be integrated in our teaching and learning model.

Gary Ward, Susan Fant, Kyle Fondren and Ashley Joiner-George presented an outstanding session at the UA System Scholars Institute Monday in Tuscaloosa.
Gary Ward, Susan Fant, Kyle Fondren and Ashley Joiner-George presented an outstanding session at the UA System Scholars Institute Monday in Tuscaloosa. Photo by Vincent Palmer

In talking about “Teaching and Utilizing Social Media at Culverhouse College of Commerce,” Gary Ward, Kyle Fondren, Susan Fant and Ashley Joiner-George, offered a template for any academic unit to use no matter what  discipline.

28-year-old Fondren utilized his youth to make a compelling argument for why Twitter is essentially a must for an academic institution in communicating with its constituencies.

In outlining the “pipeline approach” that his College uses with a main Twitter handle, @culverhouse, Fondren shared a little bit about his own news consumption habits, something of particular interest to those of us in the field of journalism.

Fondren also made it clear why he’s the web content coordinator for Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration.  Full disclosure: Fondren is a graduate of the UA journalism program, where I am a member of the faculty.

What he brought in youth, Ward brought in experience of years as the leader of the Career Services unit.

Here are five more reasons why the Culverhouse panel was tops for me:

1. It involved both faculty and staff
The audience for the Scholars Institute is a mix of professor-types whose primary focus is our teaching and research and technology support personnel who help us do what we do.   There are also a fair number of administrators from the three campuses who attend.  This panel touched all three constituencies.

2.  It included alumni in the conversation
Most of our conversations at the Scholars Institute tend to be focused on what we’re providing and delivering for our current students.  The panel from Culverhouse made a key point about the role of social media in maintaining relationships with one’s alumni, an important role for any academic unit.

3. It touched on changing demographics

One of the best points of the panel was made by Ward as director of Graduate Career Services.  He stressed the importance of recognizing the aging demographic on Facebook, compared to those using other social media outlets. Those ‘older folks’ still are very important when it comes to influencing a young person’s decision about where to go to College or making a donation to one’s alma mater.
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4. It showcased how Alabama is setting the tone for other institutions

One of the biggest lessons I learned from this presentation is how much C&BA Dean Michael Hardin and Manderson Associate Dean Brian Gray have become leaders in their use of Twitter. They’re setting the tone for other peer business schools around the region. We all want to do that in our respective fields.   But, it takes a commitment from the top administration and administrators willing to “model” such a commitment in their own everyday work.

5. It demonstrated a technological shift “IN PROGRESS”

None of us who are talking about the technologies we’re using have “arrived.”  The Culverhouse team are just finishing their first year of offering Digital and Social Media Marketing class as a part of its Masters of Science in Marketing degree.  Meanwhile, the C&BA administrators (and faculty) who are tweeting are still slowing building their Twitter following.  They’re sharing lessons they’re learning as they are learning them.

More Good Social Media Tips From Rachel Raimist

Rachel Raimist
Rachel Raimist

Also Monday, Rachel Raimist, an assistant professor in the UA Department of  Telecommunication and Film, did a solo presentation on her use of social media in two travel courses designed to socialize University of Alabama film students into the world of film festivals and the Hollywood scene.

One of the few UA faculty effectively using the relatively new “Winterim” three- week term as a teaching period, Raimist has offered her “TCF at Sundance” class twiee.   Her talk Monday was less about how to get students acclimated to the Sundance Film Festival, and more about how the structure a teaching and learning experience with such platforms as Tumblr, Instagram and yes, Facebook.
All three also have a place in her upcoming 8-week “TCF in Los Angeles” travel course that will run again in June and July.

Still digesting much of what she had to say.

Breakfast On Martin Luther King Day With An 83-Year-Old Freedom Fighter

Willie Wilder, and 83-year-old freedom fighter told his story of marching with Dr. Martin Luther King today over breakfast at Stillman College’s Hay College Center.

On this day when the nation pauses to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, I am excited about meeting one of those freedom fighters who marched with Dr. King.

This morning here in Tuscaloosa, I had the pleasure of sitting across the breakfast table from Willie Wilder, an 83-year-old native of Alabama who participated in the March on Washington and the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.    For about 20 minutes, I just listened as he told his story.

Willie Wilder
Willie Wilder

Wilder and I attended the Unity Day Breakfast, the first three special events sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization which King founded.  We were among more than 200 who gathered at the Hay College Center on the campus of  Stillman College.    A Unity Day March and Mass Rally were planned for later today.

Wilder’s mother moved him and his siblings first to Cleveland, Ohio in the 1930s. Later they moved to Philadelphia, where his mother died.   About four years ago,  Wilder moved back to Alabama, where his family still owns land.

Even though more than a dozen ministers, elected officials and government leaders addressed the breakfast crowd today,  none of them could have more impact on me than Wilder.

The Day He Skipped Work to March

Wilder recalled taking the day off of work to travel down to Washington to participate in the August 1963 March and how he was discouraged from doing so by many of his black friends.  But, his white employer was supporting his activism.  He says when he returned from Washington, his white employer asked him “how was it?”

He vividly recalls how non-violent the march was.   The peaceful way that hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall was something he’ll never forget.

For Wilder, the experience contrasts sharply with the way the police in Selma, Ala. responded to marchers who tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge into Selma.  He recall having  snakes nearby as he and thousands and others slept in fields overnight on their historic march from Selma to Montgomery. He was among those who  walked 12 miles a day and four days later reached the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery.  The demonstration lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Willie Wilder was a little upset that many of the elected officials and ministers who were speaking this morning were not going to participate in today’s Unity March from Tuscaloosa’s Martin Luther King Elementary School to Tuscaloosa City Hall.   Dressed in his overhauls and a turtle neck sweater,  he came to breakfast with the goal in mind of marching today.

He’s a year older than my father, who over the years has shared countless stories of traveling through the segregated South as soldier in the army and later as a student at Hampton Institute.

Something in Common

Wilder and I didn’t just talk about the good days in terms of being a freedom fighter.  He’s also a veteran photographer.  I had my digital camera taking photos today and know he probably had a few things to tell me about what I was not doing right.

L. Douglas Wilder

But, our mutual interest in photography pales in comparison to the fact that Wilder is the cousin of former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, for whom I worked as Senate Page in one of Wilder’s last years in the Virginia State Senate.  That was some 30 years ago when I was a mere 9th grader back home in Richmond, Virginia.

What a small world!

But, what a big impact one breakfast can have.

We didn’t exchange business cards or contact information.  So I don’t know if I’ll ever see Willie Wilder again.   I just know that God orchestrated today’s encounter JUST FOR ME.

I took Willie’s picture and will always remember our breakfast for the wisdom that I gained from this freedom fighter.     As a 43-year-old, I learned some things from one 83-year-old that I will never forget.

That’s why we participate in events like those that are part of the National Holiday Observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   It’s a day ON, not a day OFF.    And, this one has been a good one.    Later this evening, they will culminate with an old-fashioned mass meeting at the site of the only Tuscaloosa church Dr. King visited when he was alive, First African Baptist Church.

Completing Mayor’s Cup Gives New Meaning to April 27th

Two years ago this afternoon an EF-4 tornado tore through Tuscaloosa and wiped out so many homes and neighborhoods.

This is a file photo taken in November 2012 after I completed the Couch to 5K at The University of Alabama.

As we remember those lives lost in the storm and the city continues to recover, I am proud to report something positive happened for me personally on this two-year anniversary.

I walked my SECOND 5K this morning.    For several years, I have been TALKING about doing “The Mayor’s Cup.”   I’ve even registered for it and starting training for it.  But, until this morning, it had never really happened.

Today at 8 a.m. that all changed as I joined about 1400 other neighbors and friends who moved through the streets of downtown Tuscaloosa on the 7th Annual Mayor’s Cup, an event started by Mayor Walt Maddox to help raise funds for our Pre-K Program.

It Started with the Crimson Couch to 5K

This journey to being more active — enough to finish the 3.1 mile route began last fall as I participated in the Crimson Couch to 5K Initiative at The University of Alabama.   For more than two months,  we met on cold mornings and trained for the 5K, which was held in November.

After November, I sustained a stress fracture and landed in a boot.

But, when I came out of boot in January, I vowed that I would walk another 5K.

And it happened today.

Next Goal

As those who are athletes and/or physically fit know, it’s not really about the race, but the fitness-intensive lifestyle that one develops, which makes the difference.
I started out last fall thinking I was going to become a runner.   But, after one training session running through the intramural fields at UA, I knew I could not keep that up, at least not at that point.

Now,  I have the momentum to try running again.   It’s a slow process.  But, I believe I can do it.

Alabama Football Coach’s Wife To Tell Her Story At Children’s Conference Tuesday

Allison Jo Stoutland, children’s book author and wife of Alabama Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland, will speak Tuesday at the Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children Conference at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Terry Saban, wife of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban,  isn’t the only football coach’s wife making the headlines these days.

Allison Jo StoutlandOn Tuesday, I’ll get a chance to hear Allison Jo Stoutland tell her story at the “Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children” Conference.

Stoutland is Crimson Tide Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland’s better half.

I was just looking over the line-up for Tuesday’s event and discovered an unfamiliar name.

I’m like ‘Who’s Allison Stoutland?’  Why is she on the conference program with State School Superintendent Tommy Bice?

Turns out Stoutland had beenfeatured in TUSCALOOSA Magazine for her work as a children’s author and co-owner of Inch-by-Inch Publications.

She’s author of  The Sad Flower.

Like my mother, Sallie Daniels, Stoutland has taught kindergarten.  Her Twitter profile says she’s also a dog owner, baker and gardner.

While I don’t have children yet,  I certainly want to find out more about this local celebrity writer, who’s connected to our University of Alabama campus.    Perhaps she has some wisdom for future parents like me.

Stoutland is set to give her talk at the Bryant Conference Center Tuesday at 10:15 a.m.

What Makes Tuscaloosa One of the BEST Places For Young People?

Tuscaloosa County has won the distinction of being one of the 100 Best Places for Young People, for the third year in a row.

I’ve been in Tuscaloosa for a decade now.   But,  I have not always believed we had the absolute best schools. That’s primarily due to the lack of funding for education.

Still, despite my own perceptions,  Tuscaloosa County continues to rank among the America’s 100 Best Places For Young People.

Tomorrow, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox,  Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon and Judge Hardy McCollum, who was recently elected to his seventh term as  Probate Judge of Tuscaloosa County, will gather for an official presentation of the national award.

This is the THIRD YEAR in a row Tuscaloosa County has won the award.

The only other Alabama communities to win such as distinction in 2012 are Sylacauga and Mobile.


According to the 100 Best Communities for Young People Web site,  Tuscaloosa  County was recognized because it hosts programs to support healthy youth development such as FocusFirst and the Maude Whatley Health Clinic mobile van.

Professor Stephen Black from FocusFirst, will be among the speakers at Tuesday’s gathering at the Bryant Conference Center.

Community partnerships such as one between the Tuscaloosa district attorney’s office and the local sheriff’s office and the Tuscaloosa City Schools.

It’s called Helping Education Linking Parents, a program designed  to decrease students’ discipline problems and improve their retention and graduation rates

The venue for the presentation of this latest award Tuesday will be the  Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children Conference, the seventh such event.

During the conference, I look forward to hearing more about the state of our community’s efforts to help children in 2013.

Sue Bell Cobb Issues Advocacy Challenge to Children’s Conference Attendees

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb addressed the Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children’s Conference in Tuscaloosa urging attendees to advocate for a $1 increase in the cigarette tax.

A tobacco tax is what stands between Alabama and its ability to serve the needs of its youngest residents.   And, those who are advocates for children need to make that known to their legislators.

Former Alabama Chief Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb urged those attending the Doing What Matters Conference to advocate for a $1 increase in the state's cigarette tax.

That was the message today from Sue Bell Cobb, retired chief justice from the Alabama Supreme Court as she criticized those state lawmakers in Alabama who took pledges not to raise taxes without considering the needs of state’s children.

Cobb called for the state’s electorate to become more informed about the difference between federal taxes and Alabama’s taxes.

Alabama has the fifth lowest cigarette tax in the country at 42.5 cents per package.

The average cigarette tax is now $1.46 a pack, up 11 cents since 2010.

The organization Children First is advocating for Alabama’s tax rate to be raised to $1 to $1.42 a pack.  The millions of dollars generated would be distributed to the Children First Trust Fund and the General Fund.

Cobb had a message for lawmakers, who were elected in 2010 because of a promise not to raise taxes.

“If you signed a ‘no tax’ pledge you’re basically saying your election and re-election is more important than anything else,” Cobb said.

Cobb’s advocacy for an increase in the tobacco tax capped her morning address to the “Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children ” Conference, which is underway today at the Bryant Conference Center here on the University of Alabama Campus.

“Whatever we’re doing folks, we’re not doing enough,” Cobb said.  “Part of getting it done for kids is just raw, hard core advocacy.”

Most of the hundreds of attendees stood and pledged to contact their representatives in the legislature to advocate for the cigarette tax.

Leadership Tuscaloosa 2011-2012 Launches At Phelps Center Near Lake Tuscaloosa

The first workshop for Leadership Tuscaloosa involved taking a group picture, getting to know members of my class and learning about Tuscaloosa County’s history.

One of the highlights of the first full day of the program is posing for our official Leadership Tuscaloosa photo. As you can see from this shot taken moments before we were all in place, getting all 42 of us in the photo was not easy.

I’m excited to have been selected for the new class of local residents going through the Leadership Tuscaloosa Program, sponsored by the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce.

Actually, my colleague Lynn Brooks from our own WVUA-TV, former co-worker Tamika Alexander (now at the United Way of West Alabama) and I are among the “media types” in this year’s class.

The 29th year of the program began in earnest yesterday with the first of our monthly gatherings.   As expected, I met lots of new people right here in Tuscaloosa who were right in my backyard.

Steve Sikes talks about what his team learned in reading about the history of Tuscaloosa County while Patricia Evans Mokolo, a former broadcast journalist, assists him.

When I say backyard, I MEAN backyard.  One of my classmates is Steve Sikes, who works in the University of Alabama’s Development department  in  Temple Tutweiler, right behind my building.

A big part of our first day was spent identifying turning points or key dates in the history of Tuscaloosa County.   We put our key dates on flip charts that were posted on the wall.  Each team who worked on this assignment got up to present what they had learned in reading about a particular era in the Tuscaloosa County history.

The afternoon hours were spent getting directions about upcoming Leadership Tuscaloosa meetings and talking about leadership strategies.

Tom Harris, who retired just last year from the our faculty here at the University facilitated this part of our daylong meeting.

David Reynolds of Capstone Bank is chairing this year's Leadership Tuscaloosa class. He's our coordinator. Dr. Tom Harris, professor emeritus in Communication Studies facilitated our leadership sessions Wednesday afternoon at the Phelps Activity Center near Lake Tuscaloosa.

Listening in on Tuscaloosa Schools Listening Tour

The new superintendent of Tuscaloosa City Schools Paul McKendrick made the second stop on his listening tour at Central High School Tuesday night.

In the same room where he was interviewed by community members as a finalist for Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent two months ago, Paul McKendrick gave the mic to the community Tuesday  night.


The auditorium at Central High School was not quite as full as it was in early July when McKendrick was one of two candidates in the running to head the new school system.

But it’s safe to say the crowd of nearly 100 topped the number of those reported by the Tuscaloosa News who attended the first of three stops on McKendrick’s listening tour.

” Our purpose for tonight is to sit and listen to you.  We need to hear from you, ” McKendrick said as he invited those in the auditorium to come to one of two microphones.  “What do you want us to stop doing? What should we start doing?”

One of the highlights of the 90-minute question-and-answer session was when an impassioned industrial arts teacher from Westlawn Middle School urged McKendrick to let him use more traditional methods for teaching his classes instead of places so much emphasis on computers and technology.

“Our kids need more hands-on activities,” Harold Body said.  “The technology is fine.  It’s not meant for all kids.”

Body told of how he started industrial arts programs at the former Eastwood Middle School and how the generation of students since then have changed.

Ironically, only a few blocks from Body’s school, the old Westlawn Middle School on Martin Luther King Boulevard was razed last month to make way for the new Tuscaloosa Center for Technology.

Many of the parents and other teachers who spoke gave McKendrick an earful on a variety of topics:

  • Teachers should be ABA-certified (Applied Behavior Analysis) for those working with students with Autism.
  • Central High’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program needs the community’s support.   Teacher says: “We need you all to believe and have faith in us.”
  • The achievement gap (between students of various racial groups and various schools) needs attention — There is a “culture of  low expectations”
  • Kids today need more attention and after-school programs is one way to get them the necessary attention

I Am Not Smarter Than A Second Grader

Second graders at Tuscaloosa City Schools’ Oakdale Elementary taught me a lot as a volunteer with the Summer Bridge Program in July 2011.

Before too much time goes by, I have to write something about an incredible summer experience I had doing journalism with a second grade class here in Tuscaloosa.

This past Tuesday was the last day of the Summer Bridge Program at Oakdale Elementary School, which is located on Culver Road on the West End of the city.

In just three weeks, the students produced a four-page newsletter with stories they themselves wrote, edited and typed.  They also took most all of the photos that appear in the very first edition of  The Oakdale Eagle.

I know I could not have done what these students did when I was a 2nd grade student back in 1977 at Luther Memorial School in my hometown of  Richmond, Va.

Best of all, these students taught me something about how to learn to type– hunting and pecking can work when you have to get the story done.

You can learn to type (as one student did) in the second grade.

You can learn to use the Promethean Board, which these students showed me how it’s done.

This photo was just for the guys--Tywaun Smith, Dorian Pugh (who decided not to look at the camera) and I were the only guys there on Monday.

And, iCarly has nothing to do with the iPod or iPad.

Now I know what iCarly is, thanks to some very smart second graders.

That lesson came as we worked with the digital video camera this week.

I think this experience will not only prepare the Oakdale students who participated, but me, as a college journalism instructor, as well.

I am now more prepared for what will come to our college classrooms in a few years.

I realize the digital literacy of second graders is much higher than many might think.

And when I have my own children soon, I can know what to expect.

What a great outcome to wonderful summer enrichment experience!

Southern Baptist Convention Leader Visits As Two Tuscaloosa Churches Gather For Special Service

Rev. Fred Luter of New Orleans and first-vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention visited Valley View Baptist in Tuscaloosa, where the Cornerstone FGBC Music Ministry was on-hand.

Fred Luter, vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church of New Orleans spoke Monday at Valley View Baptist in Tuscaloosa.

Six weeks after becoming the first African American elected to the number-two post in the Southern Baptist Convention, Fred Luter brought a message about relationships to Tuscaloosa as two churches reached across racial lines in a special worship service Monday night.

It wasn’t the first time that the predominantly white Valley View Baptist Church and Cornerstone Full Gospel Baptist Church , one of the largest African American churches in Tuscaloosa, have gathered together for worship.

The last time the two churches got together, Dr. Billy Joy was not pastor of Valley View Baptist Church.

Joy, senior pastor of Valley View, wasn’t quite sure how to introduce the praise team and Voices of Cornerstone as he began the service, one in a series of Monday evening worship experiences the church located on Highway 69 has sponsored this summer.


The relationship between members of the two Baptist churches was quite evident at several points during Monday’s service.

Right before Luter’s message, Mark Patterson and Greg Stone of Valley View and Roland Lewis from Cornerstone formed a trio to minister the song “I Will Follow Christ.”

The mix of praise music, contemporary and traditional Gospel songs from the music ministry at Cornerstone was just the prelude to a 35-minute message where Luter challenged those in attendance to consider their relationships with God and one another.


“Those who say they are saved, those who say they are born again, those who say they are Christians, those who say they are believers, we should have a genuine, authentic love for all of the saints,” Luter said. “How I wished the saints of God truly loved each other.”

Based on the first chapter of the book of Ephesians, Luter’s message was entitled “Your Most Important Relationship.”

“If you truly have a relationship with the Savior, you can’t help but have a relationship with the saints,” Luter said.