UA Journalism Student Comments on Immigration Debate While Attending Hispanic Journalists Conference

UA Student is interviewed on her thoughts about immigration issue by KENS-TV 5 in San Antonio.

Ellisa Bray, a journalism and international studies major at University of Alabama is interviewed by KENS-TV reporter Jeremy  Baker.
Ellisa Bray, a journalism and international studies major at University of Alabama is interviewed by KENS-TV reporter Jeremy Baker.

SAN ANTONIO– A University of Alabama journalism student is offering some insight on the ongoing immigration debate.

Ellisa Bray, a Houston native, is representing the University at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) meeting here in South Texas this week.

Bray drew on her background as an international studies and journalism double major in providing her perspective on the major issue on the agenda at the NAHJ’s 30th convention.

Here’s a link to the story by KENS-TV Reporter Jeremy Baker:

UA Journalism Student Weighs on Immigration with San Antonio TV Station

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.

At University of Alabama, U.A. Stands for “Understanding Ava” DuVernay

Ava DuVernay came to Tuscaloosa this weekend for a screening of her award-winning film Middle of Nowhere and to share her experiences with University of Alabama film students and others attending the Second Black Warrior Film Festival.

Courtesy: Courtney Williams
Ava DuVernay did a master’s class with UA Students Sunday.  Dr. Rachel Raimist (left) facilitated the session. Photo Courtesy: Courtney Williams

I can’t claim to be a film enthusiastic or even a fan of award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

But after seeing Middle of Nowhere Saturday night and hearing the first African American woman to win the Best Director award at Sundance Film Festival in January 2013,   I am convinced there is so much to be learned about the intersection of race, gender and motion pictures.

The native of Compton, Calif. told the crowd at the Second Annual Black Warrior Film Festival on the University of Alabama campus that she embraces her identity as black woman filmmaker and her “organic closeness” to present an authentic view of the black woman’s experience, one she believes is too often less than well-represented on film.


“My gaze is very focused on untold narratives,” DuVernay said.  “If black women don’t tell our stories, who will?”

One example of one of those untold narratives is the process black women go through to manage their hair at night.

In Middle of Nowhere, the main character, Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) wraps her hair before retiring for the evening.

When she visits her husband, Derek (Omari Hardwick), at a maximum security prison, the viewer is not shown what happens inside prison.   Instead, the camera focused on the exchanges between in the crowded meeting areas.

“We’ve seen the guy in the prison story,” said DuVernay, who explained how she made a deliberate decision not to go inside and to focus on the woman outside.   In shining the light on the prison industrial complex,  DuVernay said the “untold” story is the one about the separation scores of women go through when their spouses and significant others are incarcerated.

DuVernay says she believes her film provided a “full-body narrative” of people who like me” without having a conversation about race.

Courtesy:  Ann K Powers.
DuVernay took questions for more than hour after the screening of her film “Middle of Nowhere” Saturday in Lloyd Hall on the University of Alabama campus. Photo Courtesy: Ann K Powers.


Even as she visited Tuscaloosa this weekend for the Black Warrior Film Festival,  DuVernay is only a few months from filming SELMA, a biopic on 1965 landmark voting rights campaign that is regarded as the peak of the civil rights movement.

The film, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt, will coincide with upcoming 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the March 7, 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where demonstrators were met with tear gas and nightsticks.  The images of the seventeen people who were bloodied and severely injured made national headlines.

One of the actors from Middle of Nowhere, David Oyelowo, will play Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Selma film.

But, that situation of working with people she knows is not always the case of DuVernay, who recalls stepping onto the set as director of an episode of the hit ABC drama Scandal and into unfamiliar territory.


In one scene, she found herself directing two white male actors, something she had not previously done.

In that experience, she also had access to resources as a director that were not necessarily available to one doing an independent film.

Even in winning the Best Director Prize last year at Sundance, DuVernay recalls how different it was being viewed as a director of a film and not just a publicist.

In understanding Ava DuVernay’s journey from publicist to one of the biggest new faces on the filmmaker circuit,  I have a better sense of what it is it to be black, female and totally immersed in telling untold stories.


Here’s Why I’m Wearing White Today in the Middle of Winter

Men on the University of Alabama campus were asked to wear white on Monday, January 27 as a “Dress for Unity” to honor those who have passed on due to dating/domestic violence. On Tuesday, I’ll take part in a White Ribbon Forum at Gorgas Library at 7:30 p.m.

As part of the White Ribbon Campaign, I'm joining other men on the UA campus wearing white today.
As part of the White Ribbon Campaign, I’m joining other men on the UA campus wearing white today.

What’s my least favorite color to wear?   WHITE

Why?  It’s blah.  It’s too formal.  And, it looks like a uniform.

In my world of TV news, we know that white shirts are a “no-no” on-air.

Esquire has established some “New Laws of Wearing White.”

For professionals (and church ushers), a white shirt is a staple.  And until my wedding day comes, you won’t see me in a white suit.

TODAY– I’m wearing all white or off-white because it’s a show of unity, part of the White Ribbon Campaign that we’re waging at The University of Alabama.

Such campaigns have been going on around the world for nearly a quarter century.

The ” Dress for Unity” is designed to honor those who have passed due to dating/domestic violence.  We wear white in memory of those individuals.

As a journalist, I’m not much of a joiner and rarely take advocacy stands on issues.

But, violence again women is one thing that every male journalist can support without crossing the line of objectivity in our reporting.

As a diversity teacher here at the University,  I cannot address the media’s role in portraying images of women without talking about the incidents of domestic violence that come from how women are presented in the media as objects or less than human.

To combat the cases of dating violence, it takes men like me to stand up and call attention to the problem.

On Tuesday evening (Jan. 28), I will join some other males colleagues on the University of Alabama campus for a white ribbon forum to talk not only about street harassment, dating violence, but also how important it is for men and women to update our notions of masculinity.

The 7:30 p.m. panel takes place in Room 205 of  Gorgas Library

Speakers from UA’s Communication College take prominent roles in 50th anniversary program

While current communication studies student Tyler Merriweather told his story of his freshman year at the University of Alabama, alumni Andre Taylor and Zaneta Lowe recalled their experiences years ago at UA’s 50th anniversary of the school’s integration on June 11, 1963. All are connected to UA’s College of Communication & Information Sciences.

Andre Taylor speaks at 50th anniversary program June 11, 2013 at Foster Auditorium.

For Andre Taylor,  June 11, 1963 is remembered most as the day he, as a boy, had  a thought about enrolling at the University of Alabama.

Then, he shared his plans with his mother, plans he made decades before he would go on to become the first African American president of University of Alabama Alumni Association.

“I am having a very serendipitous moment,” Taylor said.  “It took me eight years to set foot on this campus, but I did get here.”

Taylor was one of three alumni and current students of the University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) who spoke Tuesday at the 50th anniversary observance of the integration of the University of Alabama.

The event drew nearly 500 people to Foster Auditorium, where the late Alabama Governor George Wallace made his infamous “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” June 11, 1963. Today, a plaza has been erected to honor the black students who made the University of Alabama the last flagship institution in the nation to desegregate.

Before Taylor, a public relations graduate and Vietnam War veteran , took the podium Tuesday, Zaneta Lowe, a 1997 communications graduate and Tyler Merriweather, current communication studies major and  Coca-Cola First Generation Scholar shared their more recent journeys.

Each speaker was given just five to seven minutes to address a component of the THREE pillars of the University’s 50th anniversary THROUGH THE DOORS observance: Courage, Change, Progress.

Tyler Merriweather tells his story as a first-generation college student as UA alumna and WREG-TV Memphis TV reporter Zaneta Lowe listens.


“I know what it took for me to get here,” said Merriweather, who will begin his sophomore year in the fall.  “I know that my being here I’m living the dream of many African Americans.”

Merriweather spoke of his role as a first-generation college student who is also mentoring two younger sisters even as he has maintained a 3.4 GPA in his first year as a University student, less than two years after an EF-4 tornado destroyed  his neighborhoods in both Alberta City and Holt, Ala.

“I refuse to ever be a victim of my circumstances, but always victorious in them.” he said.


In sharp contrast to Merriweather’s experience, Zaneta Lowe, who today works as an investigative reporter at WREG-TV, the CBS affiliate in Memphis, recalled how both her parents and her husband’s parents had been students at the University.   As a second-generation Alabama student, she and her husband could see the change that happened in the two decades between when their parents were attending classes at the Tuscaloosa campus and they arrived in the 1990s.

Along with twice as many students, Lowe said could attend classes without worrying about many of the problems that confronted her parents in the 1970s when there were only a few hundred black students.

“Someone else had done all the worrying for us,” Lowe said. “This road we traveled had been paved by the blood, sweat and tears by all those who came before us.”

Much of Lowe’s experience focused on her discovering her career as a news reporter while taking classes in Phifer Hall.

Zaneta Lowe graduated with a degree from what is now the UA College of Communication and Information Sciences in 1997.

“My career itself started right here on this campus,” she recalled as she was able to begin an internship at Alabama Public Radio in her first years at the University.

“Change is hard. Change is sometimes ugly.” Lowe said. “It’s what’s on the other side of change that makes it worth it.”


Asked to address progress, Taylor is quick to note that why he was the first African American to lead the alumni association at Alabama, there has been at least one other African American to serve in the post since he completed his term in 2005.

Perhaps the most scholarly in his remarks Tuesday, Taylor borrowed from African American Philosopher and Theologian Howard Thurman and Former Alabama Communication and Information Sciences Dean Cully Clark, who wrote  The Schoolhouse Door, which is regarded as one of the most comprehensive accounts of the desegregation of the Tuscaloosa campus. 

Taylor took a list of statements that reflect achievement in the status of African Americans at the University of Alabama and pondered the question of “What Does It really mean?”

“My list showed elements of progress the University of American made  in becoming a community open to all, ” said Taylor.

Along with Taylor, Lowe and Merriweather,  Judge John England, who in 1969 was the first black student admitted the University’s Law School, also spoke during the nearly 90-minute program.

“We have celebrated history through reaffirming the ideals and principles that led us to this place,” said Judy Bonner, the UA President, whose remarks opened and closed Tuesday’s event.

50th anniversary for University of Alabama integration brings chance for reunion with high school classmate

A memorable day for me as I ended up covering the same event at University of Alabama with Vasha Hunt, a classmate from high school more than 25 years ago in my hometown of Richmond, Va.

As much the 50th anniversary of the integration of the University of Alabama means to me as an African American faculty UA  member, an unexpected reunion after 25 years on June 11, 2013  meant much more.

Vasha Hunt (AKA photo v-man) is now a photojournalist based in Tuscaloosa, where I have been working at the University of Alabama as a journalism instructor for more than 10 years.

But from 1985-1989, he was a student at Thomas Jefferson High School in the West End of our hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

I can’t tell you all of the classes we had together.   But,  I know he was one of the smartest students in the school.  I always looked up to him, even though I recall he was a year behind me in school.  I graduated in 1988.

Yeh, we were in several classes together and there was always a high intensity of work and intellectual activity happening there.

On Tuesday, for a moment I felt like I was high school again as I was shooting photos at the same event that Vasha was shooting photos– the 50th anniversary of  integration of The University of Alabama at the now famous Foster Auditorium.

This sign on the jumbotron is the best marker of WHERE I was shooting photos at the event on the University of Alabama campus, where I am on faculty.

His photos were better.  Check them out on the photo gallery. After all, he does this every day for the largest news web site in the state.    I’m a broadcast journalist (TV guy) at heart.

Yes, I had seen Vasha once before more than five years ago when he was working at the Opelika-Auburn News  (also in the state of Alabama).   Now we’re in the same city again,  but under very different circumstances than our beloved Richmond.

June 11, 2013 will be remembered as the day two friends re-linked and realized they’re working in the same profession.  Vasha, I know you’re been here for months– Welcome to T’town!

Allison Stoutland Shares Story That Inspires Me To Write, Speak, Do What I Do

Allison Stoutland sowed seeds of wisdom in the lives of those who heard her address at the Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children Conference at The University of Alabama Tuesday.

In the course of a year, I hear a lot of speeches at conferences, workshops and meetings.

Allison Stoutland has published several children’s books and currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Ala. where her husband, Jeff, serves as the offensive line coach for the 2012 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

Few can compare to the address today by Allison Stoutland, a children’s book author and coach’s wife, who spoke at the Doing What Matters Conference For Alabama’s Children Conference at The University of Alabama.

“I’m just a stressed-out mom,” Stoutland, told the nearly 400 people assembled in Sellers Auditorium. ” I can’t believe I’m up here speaking with people.  I’m totally shy.”

Continue reading “Allison Stoutland Shares Story That Inspires Me To Write, Speak, Do What I Do”

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.

Music Forges Link Between Oakwood University and University of Alabama This Weekend

Musical performances by the group Take 6 and the Aeolians this Saturday night at University of Alabama will provide an opportunity to tap into the rich history of Oakwood University, one of the historically black universities in Huntsville, Ala.

I’ll have to admit before now, I knew very little about Oakwood University.

mlklogo  It took a news release about the line-up for this year’s Realizing the Dream Celebration, a collaborative effort between University of Alabama, Stillman College and Shelton State Community College to mark the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, to spark my interest.

In the release, there were two mentions of Oakwood University.  As a college student at Howard University 20 years ago, I was a big fan of the a capella group Take 6.   In fact, I have at least one of the Take 6 cassette tapes in my collection of beloved music.

But, until now, I had no idea that the group started at a small historically black college in Huntsville, Alabama.  Likewise, the musical group, the Aeolians also got their start at this Seventh-day Adventist school.

take6stuff-rl-288x300Saturday night both the Aeolians and Take 6 will take the stage of Moody Music Concert Hall on the University of Alabama campus here in Tuscaloosa, a place that only a half-century ago admitted its first black students.

About Oakwood University

In my quick read about Oakwood University, I discovered that it’s a historically Black Seventh-day Adventist institution that “emphasizes academic excellence; promotes harmonious development of mind, body, and spirit; and prepares leaders in service for God and humanity.”

This past fall, its enrollment topped 2,000 for the first time.

“The work that we’re doing is sacred work, ” said Dr. Leslie Pollard, in a 2011 video history of the school.   “Oakwood University’s best days are still ahead.”

Pollard is in his second school year as the 11th  president of his alma mater.

From Oakwood to UA?

I began to wonder how many times in the school’s 117-year history have the people there been linked here to the “Capstone of Higher Education in Alabama” and its record enrollment of more then 33,000 students?   The two schools are  in the same state of Alabama right?

Oakwood University Aeolians
The Oakwood University Aeolians won three gold medals in 2012 at the World Choir Games, which were hosted for the first time in North America in Cincinnati. They’re ranked #1 in the pop/jazz gospel category by INTERKULTUR.

But, Oakwood just became a university in 2008 after decades as a “college. ”  The two schools, University of Alabama and Oakwood University,  have very different missions even as they both seek to educate a generation of students.

I’m not sure if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ever spoke on the University of Alabama campus.   But, he most certainly did address students and faculty at Oakwood University in 1962.

In that respect, Oakwood has a link to Dr. King, whose birthday the nation celebrates this weekend,  that the University of Alabama may not have.

Come Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., we’ll capitalize on that link as current Oakwood students who make up the Aeolians and Oakdale alumni who are part of “Take 6”  travel to Tuscaloosa to share their talent and their spirit through song.

13th Outreach Conference Wraps Up Today After Week of Memorable Events

The 13th National Outreach Scholarship Conference (NOSC) wraps up Wednesday at the University of Alabama, but not after some memorable events.

As one of those who has worked on the team planning the 13th National Outreach Scholarship Conference, I can hardly believe that it is almost over.

But, I’m excited about what I have seen over the last two days as the University of Alabama was front-and-center for a national discussion of the REAL ROLE of any college or University:  How Well it Serves its community.

UA Women’s Basketball Coach Wendell Hudson spoke to attendees Tuesday night at the National Outreach Scholarship Conference. Hudson was the first African American scholar athlete to be admitted to the University.

Some 500 attendees have been here to Tuscaloosa to engage on how we should PARTNER, INSPIRE and CHANGE our communities and the energy with which we will leave this afternoon is like no other.

Even as I prepare for Day 3, I have to brag on my students– young and old who have been prominently displayed at this year’s conference


I was pleased to see Third graders Sean Smith and Joshua Patton talk about the 15-month partnership between the University and Tuscaloosa’s Oakdale Elementary School.

Each Tuesday, I work with 45 3rd, 4th and 5th graders in producing The Oakdale Eagle.

On Tuesday, Smith and Patton, who started with me as rising second graders, made their PowerPoint Presentations to a nice crowd at a national conference.

Their teacher, Latrina Spencer, who initiated the partnership, also answered questions about the role of journalism at the elementary school level.

The whole world was seeing what I get to see now each Tuesday when I worked with these students– how GREAT THEY ARE now as journalists!


I still remember when Andrea Mabry was in my introductory journalism class.

Today she is a graduate student here at the University, but not after serving as a photojournalist for countless events here on campus and around Tuscaloosa.

She still does photography projects on the side, but recently she has started a Farmers Market.

Tuesday she and two other students told the story of the Farmers Market.

And, I got a chance to photograph the photojournalist.

There is so much more to write about NOSC 2012.    But, I’ll have to do it later.

An action-packed Day 3 is about to kick off in one hour.