Author: Elisa

UA EMBA alumnus Patrick Talley

Patrick Talley Moves Ahead To Reach Back for Others

UA EMBA alumnus Patrick Talley
Patrick Talley, an alumnus of the Executive MBA program through The University of Alabama Manderson Graduate School of Business. Photo courtesy of o2 Ideas.

Born and raised on the edges of Birmingham, Alabama, Patrick Talley determined early in his life that a college degree was not optional; it was a requirement. He noted the career differences between his college-educated mother and his father, who only has a high school diploma. Patrick sat near his mother as she spent hours at her studies to earn her college degrees, setting a tone for the importance of education.

“When you see someone doing it, you see what it takes to earn a degree – staying up all night to study and sacrificing a personal life to meet your goals,” Patrick said.

Patrick was in high school when a family friend suggested he consider the McNair Scholars Program, submitting a letter of recommendation on his behalf. Named for Dr. Ronald E. McNair after his death in the 1986 Challenger catastrophe, the McNair Scholars Program encourages low-income, first-generation or under-represented minority college students to engage in research toward the pursuit of a doctoral degree.

“I joined the McNair Scholars, because it’s where the smart kids are, and I knew I wanted to go to college. This was my vehicle to get there,” stated Patrick.

Choosing to stay close to home but not at home, Patrick pursued his bachelor’s degree in marketing at the University of Montevallo, discovering a community of McNair Scholars that provided support and accountability. Patrick’s hard work quickly turned to success through the program, presenting his work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Ithaca, New York.

Ready to press on to his career after graduation, Patrick went to work building an impressive portfolio with car makers, nonprofits and building material manufacturers. He stayed in touch with the rest of his McNair Scholars community, watching their graduations and career goals come to fruition as they reached their terminal degrees. It was this community that continued to keep Patrick accountable to the purpose of their program – achieve that terminal degree.

Patrick assessed where he was in his career and which degree program would pull him back to his ultimate goals and assist his new ones. Reaching back to his alma mater for direction, they connected Patrick with Lesley Campbell at The University of Alabama, who worked with him for over a year to find the program that was the ultimate fit. Once they figured it out together, Patrick was ready to enroll in the Manderson Graduate School of Business’ Executive MBA program.

The EMBA, an accelerated program at the University, provides a path for working professionals to achieve an advanced degree while continuing their careers. Courses are a hybrid of online and in-person, meeting one weekend each month over the two years of the program. It culminates in a two-week international trip for experiential learning of global markets, cultures and business practices.

Patrick stated, “I chose this program, because its core is working professionals. I knew I would be in class with people at the same point in life as me and with people who I can aspire to be. And I knew I would have quality professors who were practitioners in their fields.”

Serving as vice president of his cohort, Patrick graduated in the Class of May 2020. As for what he’ll do from here, Patrick has a purposeful vision.

“Businesses are the most powerful entities in the world in terms of resources, influence and reach. They have an obligation to give back to society. I want to be a conscious business leader in order to give back, and for me, that means giving back to McNair, to be a professor who looks like me for my students.”

What’s your purpose you’re waiting to fulfill? For more information about The University of Alabama Graduate School, visit

UA alumna Tori Stone poses in her lab at Yale University.

Overcoming Doubt To Discover Her Passion

Tori Stone (PhD, Spring ’18) is a women’s health researcher at Yale University. Quick to conversation, Tori’s honest about the hard work her accomplishments required, her unsure path to reach them and the advisers who aided her way.

An Unsure Future

UA alumna Tori Stone poses in her lab at Yale University.
UA alumna Tori Stone poses in her lab workspace at Yale University.

Tori’s route to Yale, made possible with a doctorate from The University of Alabama Graduate School, began at Indiana State University, long before she realized which direction she was steering. As a student-athlete on the track team, a bachelor’s in exercise science was an easy fit. Too easy, according to her adviser.

“I was not a good student in undergrad,” Tori admits. She was there for her sport, earning a degree along the way with no plans what to do with it. When her adviser suggested graduate school, she was shocked.

“I’ve never been academically inclined, so when he told me that exercise science is a transition degree and asked me what I wanted to do with it, I was lost. I pushed back, asking him ‘Why do you care?’ And his answer got me. ‘Because you’re like me.’ He laid out our common ground and invited me to his research team, coaching me to grad school along the way.”

Lacking the confidence in her academics that she carried onto the field, Tori didn’t feel she was graduate student material. “I told him, ‘I can’t do that,’ and he asked me why. I didn’t have an answer.”

The next stretch of Tori’s route was a master’s in applied physiology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she expanded her research toward women’s health and cardiovascular research. At times overwhelmed and intimidated, Tori found she had another encouraging adviser to provide direction. A GTA position, while valuable, quickly helped Tori determine research, not teaching, was her strength. Pressing into that, her adviser encouraged her to find a doctoral program where she could develop her own niche. And once again, Tori’s “I can’t” was met with “Yes, you can.”

“He didn’t recruit me; I recruited him.”

Still searching for an ultimate direction, Tori narrowed her selection to a handful of schools. After a UA campus tour and visit with Dr. Jonathan E. Wingo, professor and chair in the department of kinesiology, her search ended.

Tori Stone continues her research into women's health.
Tori Stone reads ultrasound data with a subject as she continues her research begun at The University of Alabama.

Tori had been following Dr. Wingo’s cardiovascular work for some time and knew he could help her define her passion. Settling into The University of Alabama Graduate School was easy; taking ownership of her research was exciting. As a graduate assistant, she was writing research in her first semester, an opportunity generally not afforded to new students at many institutions.

“His job was to develop me into a serious researcher, but he let me be myself and have a voice. Anything I asked about, it didn’t matter how busy he was, he gave everything his full attention.”

Developing Tori’s leadership and confidence, Dr. Wingo coached her toward postdoc work from the first day in the lab, pushing her toward new CV-building experiences including grant funding and paper writing. And with that guidance, Tori found her niche – the influence of reproductive hormones on female cardiovascular health and hormone balance regeneration.

As graduation neared, her adviser made the postdoc process an easy to-do list. By reframing how she thought about it, Tori found herself newly equipped with the confidence and knowledge to push her work further.

A good lead and strong advice

Now thriving in the John B. Pierce Laboratory at Yale University, Tori has made a comfortable switch to obstetrics and gynecology in her research and recently published her latest article. She repeats Dr. Wingo’s advice to herself often; “Don’t be distracted by the future and forget about the now.” It’s the voice of confidence that grounds her focus on her research and moves her forward.

To discover your own way forward or connect with a future mentor, contact the The University of Alabama Graduate School at

Online Graduate Nursing Programs Advance the Field

While many higher education programs are diligently working toward a successful move to online delivery, some of The University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing’s graduate programs, coordinated with Bama By Distance, are already well-established in the space, supporting online programs since 1999. UA’s graduate nursing programs provide stellar academic training to working professionals across the Southeast in a format that allows for participation around the demands of an active career and personal life.

Master of Science in Nursing, Nurse Administrator Concentration

Dionne Brady has the flexibility with her graduate program and work to take a meaningful vacation with her family.
Dionne Brady and her family visited Disney, fall 2019, to celebrate a birthday.

Dionne Brady, a nursing graduate student based in Tennessee, loves learning. It’s a trait she hopes her children pick up from her. With 15 years of nursing practice to spur her on, Dionne is pursuing her third degree, a master’s in nursing with an emphasis on administration. She’s developing leadership skills to make herself more marketable in the field and standout among her peers as she elevates her career through greater pay and regular hours.

Before enrolling at the University, Dionne performed extensive research to explore available programs across several schools. She was looking for an online program attached to a physical school with a strong reputation. She wanted to continue to work full time while keeping her husband and children top priorities, so a strong work/life balance was essential. Once the first two criteria were met, she narrowed her selection to The University of Alabama for its affordability and customizable program.

Dionne is now in her third semester and steadily moving toward her goals. While she may be a distance-learner in Tennessee, Dionne remains involved on UA’s campus, serving as a Graduate Nursing Student Ambassador and enjoying the cultural community through online participation.

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The flexibility of online learning allows Kerry Varner time to coach soccer for his son.
Kerry Varner and his family celebrate a soccer win. Kerry has time to coach around his work and class schedule.

Attending The University of Alabama is a dream come true for Andalusia-resident Kerry Varner. A lifelong fan of the Crimson Tide, Kerry’s enthusiasm for carries to the Capstone College of Nursing. “I chose UA for its phenomenal reputation. It really is a prestigious university and college,” stated Kerry.

A full-time nurse anesthetist, husband and father/soccer coach to his two small children, Kerry was also looking for affordability and flexibility in an advanced program that would help him with his goal to “move the profession forward” while being involved in his kids’ activities. As a member of the college’s strategic planning committee, Kerry is able to be an influential member of UA’s nursing community, representing students in meetings with the dean and instructors.

Kerry admits he was intimidated by the thought of online classes in the beginning, but he caught on quickly. Now in his final semester of his program, Kerry expects to carry the momentum of his education forward into his career, pushing advancement and research one patient at a time.

Excellence in Teaching and Service

Dionne and Kerry cite the availability and responsiveness of their professors over and over again. Displaying more than professional courtesy, the Capstone College of Nursing’s faculty are involved with their students, closing the distance of online learning to become valued mentors of their profession.

For more information about graduate programs in UA’s Graduate School, visit

Sharniece Holland, an alumna of UA's Graduate School, poses on Washington University campus, St. Louis, Missouri.

Involvement Builds Sharniece Holland’s Success

Sharniece Holland, an alumna of UA's Graduate School, poses on Washington University campus, St. Louis, Missouri.
Sharniece Holland, now a professor at Washington University, earned her master’s and doctoral degrees at The University of Alabama.

Sharniece Holland is a proven leader who demonstrates driven tenacity toward her goals – academically and professionally.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Sharniece first moved to Alabama to attend the HBCU Alabama State University, where she led multiple student organizations on her way to a Bachelor of Science in mathematics (2010). Immediately after graduation, she moved 100 miles north to take on a yearlong mathematics master’s program at The University of Alabama. 

Somehow graduate school wasn’t what she was expecting though. Knowing she wouldn’t be in Tuscaloosa long, Sharniece stuck to her studies. Though she really enjoyed UA, she readily admits her struggle came down to one condition. “I wasn’t prepared the first time for graduate school.”

In a hurry to begin her career, Sharniece took the most direct path to graduation, missing her opportunity to grow and explore. She completed her master’s in 2011, taking her first job as an English and math teacher in South Korea. With her added experience, Sharniece stepped into an adjunct position at a St. Louis tech school when she returned.

After two years at the tech school, Sharniece was restless. She had peaked where she was at and was looking for ways to make herself more marketable and increase her job options.

Confiding her frustrations to a friend, a physics student at UA, Sharniece dug to the root of what she loved most about math, realizing she enjoys utilizing math to solve much bigger projects. To her friend, the solution was obvious; Sharniece needed to switch her focus to materials science.

With more wisdom and experience, Sharniece returned to The University of Alabama as a materials science doctoral student with the resolve to make the most of her time on campus. “When I came back to UA, I was more ready,” Sharniece says. “I enjoyed my department, my advisor. I was more involved, and it really enriched my experience.”

“As a student, I wanted to be able to have an impact on my university,” Sharniece stated. And she did, first joining Tide Together, a peer mentoring program dedicated to helping underrepresented students build personal and professional connections. During her second tenure at UA, she also served as a graduate ambassador, a Graduate Council student representative and the president of the African American Graduate Student Association.

Sharniece’s efforts were not unnoticed. Her research secured funding from several national sources, including The Southern Regional Education Board Dissertation Scholar Fellowship, Alabama NASA EPSCoR Graduate Research Scholars Program, The National Science Foundation: Bridge to Doctorate Fellowship and The National Science Foundation: Alabama Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program Scholarship.

The funding, programs and faculty guidance propelled Sharniece toward her vision. “Drs. Lin Li and Viola Acoff were very helpful and invested in my future. This school will work just as hard for you as you work. It really supported me.”

Now Dr. Holland, Sharniece is back in St. Louis, teaching in the Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science Department at Washington University, a position recommended to her by Dr. Li.

“The doctorate helped me land the job,” Sharniece says. “Campus activities gave me knowledge, and the Graduate School empowered me through funding and experience.”

Ready to find out how you can be involved at The University of Alabama? Apply today:

UA graduate students and Black Warrior Review editors Mark Galaritta and Jackson Saul sit with recent copies of the Black Warrior Review journal at a table in the BWR office located in the basement of Gallaway Theater.

Black Warrior Review Receives Prestigious Grant

UA graduate students and Black Warrior Review editors Mark Galaritta and Jackson Saul sit with recent copies of the Black Warrior Review journal at a table in the BWR office located in the basement of Gallaway Theater.
UA graduate students and the 2019 Black Warrior Review editors Mark Galarrita and Jackson Saul sit with recent copies of the Black Warrior Review journal.

“The Black Warrior Review is a Southern journal,” says 2019’s Managing Editor Jackson Saul. “It’s always been a Southern journal. Even if the writers are not Southern, they find a home in the South.”

This hospitality is what sets The Black Warrior Review (BWR) apart from its peers since its founding in 1974. Despite being the oldest continuously run graduate literary journal in the United States, BWR and its staff are unfazed by romantic notions of custom or heritage. Instead, BWR nudges Southern literature forward, viewing the Southern experience through unconventional lenses. It gives voice to minorities, immigrants, LGBTQIA+ and others who struggle to find a platform to be heard from. These voices are unconventional, unapologetic and incredibly moving.

BWR receives continued refreshment each year, due largely to the annual turnover with an entirely new student editorial staff each year. A new staff continues to keep the journal’s focus fresh with new ideas.

The BWR editorial class of 2018, led by Cat Ingrid Leeches, completed the application and groundwork that resulted in receiving the 2019 Whiting Literary Magazine Prize – a print development grant that covers $5,000 per year for up to three years. While several BWR-featured writers have won awards in the past, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, this is the first time the journal has received a national commendation.

“Receiving this award is a confirmation of what others have already known about us,” stated Saul.

In 2019, the staff heightened its commitment to excellence. Saul and his colleague, Editor Mark Galarrita, have already outlined their plan for the publication.

“In the coming years, we will use the grant to increase sales and improve the journal,” says Saul. “We have hired an online editor and waived the submissions fee – which we think will lead to better content and a larger pool of work.”

Already known for setting the career course for rising writers, BWR can now afford an additional online volume to continue to elevate the voices of marginalized writers and find new risk-taking work.

“I want to be on the right side of history,” says Galarrita. “This is our chance to get the story right and reach an all-new audience. It’s time the world heard about the real South – the South you don’t see in the media.”

Issue 46.1 of the Black Warrior Review is currently on sale. To submit work for the next issue, visit

The Black Warrior Review is sponsored by the MFA Program in Creative Writing and is produced through the work of graduate research assistants in the department. The University of Alabama’s Creative Writing MFA is one of two 4-year programs in the United States; many students take advantage of the fourth year to write extensive theses, pursue a second master’s degree or gain additional teaching experience.

For more information, including application submission dates and program requirements, contact the program director, Professor Wendy Rawlings. If you’re ready to apply, contact the Graduate School.

UA graduate school student, modern languages, Spanish teacher

Stacey Jacobson: A Consonant Understanding

Stacey Jacobson sits in front of a bookcase of colorful Spanish titles in the Department of Modern Languages' library at The University of Alabama.
Stacy Jacobson, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Modern Languages at The University of Alabama.

Stacey Jacobson was not a conventional graduate school applicant. Five years after completing her master’s degree in California, she was splitting duties as a part-time instructor between The University of Alabama’s Department of English and the English Language Institute. While hustling between classes, she noticed a flyer calling for submissions to what is now called The University of Alabama Languages Conference.

“I hadn’t done anything with my thesis since I wrote it. It was just sitting there, so I thought, ‘Why not?’” said Stacey. Asking that question drives much of Stacey’s decision-making and opens new opportunities for her to step into.

She presented her research, “Orthographic Influences of Spanish loans on English,” and her ongoing curiosity to understand how what is written (orthographic) is what a speaker sees but not necessarily what they say. A speaker’s native language affects their perception of what they hear and how they say something they haven’t encountered before. Stacey’s work resonated with a couple of professors who immediately approached her afterwards. They wanted to find her a place in the Department of Modern Languages as a doctoral candidate. Asking herself “why not?” once again, Stacey enrolled the next semester.

Continuing her graduate research as a phoneticist who works with acoustics, Stacey is a modern day Professor Henry Higgins (“My Fair Lady”), using computerized representations of sound. Picture the visual wave a phone shows when listening to identify a song. This is a spectrogram – demonstrating vowels as bursts at the top of a wave and consonants as lows of the wave. Most researchers and educators focus on the vowel bursts, but Stacey focuses on the lows, measuring the puffs of air for consonants in English versus Spanish.

Why do consonant sounds matter?

As an educator, Stacey works with learners of a new language every day and encounters how their native language gets in the way. Most specifically, she is looking at the grapheme/phoneme mismatch (what is seen vs. what is said) with the letter “h” in Spanish, where it is not pronounced, as compared to English, where it is almost always pronounced.

She’s using a mobile phone app with voice recognition technology to provide immediate feedback to her students, and it, too, ignores the consonants. Consonants are where the accents fall in Spanish, so for a Spanish teacher, it is particularly important that the emerging technology used by students understands computerized speech.

Stacey is learning Python code to conduct her research and find a way to address the issue. By asking “why not” again, she’s opening the door for future professional work as a computational linguist, a field she had not considered before. And she’s considering it with the support of her faculty. She credits the graduate professors for their intentionality to connect with students and have a sincere interest in their job placement and interview preparation.

Stacey expects to complete her studies in 2020, earning a doctoral degree in romance languages, specifically Spanish and linguistics, and serves as an adviser and chair for The University of Alabama Languages Conference – the same conference which opened this door to reinvented beginnings at UA.

Your research matters at The University of Alabama. Attend UA’s Three Minute Thesis competition on November 11, 2019 to learn more about the impressive research our graduate students are leading. 

Are you ready to find your place at UA? Apply today at

Julio Gomez, a Colombian graduate student at The University of Alabama

Student Spotlight: Julio Gomez found his place at UA – twice

Julio Gomez, a Colombian graduate student at The University of Alabama
Julio Gomez, a graduate student from Columbia, stands in front of Graves Hall, home of the College of Education.

Julio Gomez never intended to leave his home in Bogotá, Colombia, and certainly not for two advanced degrees. At 37 years old, Julio, having completed most of his coursework through a UA College of Education extension program in Bogotá, left his home for The University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.

Julio’s face conveys the struggle he felt coming to the U.S. “It was challenging to leave my country for the first time, but I’m so happy to have done it. I saw the University as important in the States. It was a really strong research university.”

After graduating with his master’s in secondary education, Julio returned to Colombia to resume his previous teaching role at his university. It was good to be home, but he knew there was still more he could do at UA. “My master’s experience really made my decision to continue into my doctorate here. I never hesitated; this was the best place for me.”

That drive brought him back to campus within two years. This time, never having had the traditional “undergrad experience,” Julio chose to live in a residence hall. “It didn’t feel weird to be an older student on campus. It was a fresh picture of college life. You adjust and start engaging new things and opportunities. You build relationships.”

Julio’s tenacious spirit comes through when discussing what made him a successful student. For his part, he remains humble and grounded. “You have to be at a specific place in life in order to be successful at this. It was hard, and it was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it.”

Crediting the University with his success as a student, Julio cites the substantial opportunities for research and publication as well as exceptional leadership from his professors. “All of my professors were really knowledgeable. So many things that I learned from my professors, I do in my own classroom. It’s also about the networking that I wouldn’t have had if I had stayed at my home university for my doctorate. It helps me develop as a scholar, and it gives me a lot of confidence.”

He puts his words to practice with networking. He is currently working with a former UA classmate from China to develop research collaboration between their respective universities half-way around the world from each other. These UA alumni are evaluating and improving English teachers in both China and Colombia, a relationship they hope strengthens each of their universities and represents The University of Alabama well.

Are you ready to join Julio and our other rising legends? The future is yours. The place is UA.

Request Information           Apply to UA Graduate School 

UA graduate student profile

Student Spotlight: Christine Bassett

UA graduate student profile
Christine Bassett, doctoral candidate and NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship finalist.

Christine Bassett, a doctoral student in The University of Alabama Department of Geological Sciences, recently received the prestigious recognition as a member of the 2020 class of NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship finalists. In the coming weeks, she will join fewer than 70 other students in Washington, D.C. to contribute their research and intellect to executive and legislative efforts toward climate change. The potential trajectory of this honor places Christine on a new path toward career success.

Christine completed two bachelor’s degrees, a Bachelor of Science in geology and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology, at the University of Georgia and thought a doctoral degree in anthropology was the direction she was headed. Christine was searching for a graduate program to help her make the greatest impact in understanding climate change and its effects on people. Her UGA adviser recognized the same drive he had seen in a previous student – Dr. Fred Andrus, a geology professor at The University of Alabama.

She gave Dr. Andrus a call. “We both knew instantly it was a good fit. Dr. Andrus explained his research that had just received a National Science Foundation grant, and they needed a grad student to do the dirty work of digging clams and processing shells in the lab.”

butter clam shell isotope sampling
Christine points to a sample area of nearly 30 separate drillings that mark a season’s growth in this cross section of a butter clam shell.

Relocating to Tuscaloosa, Christine pursued her master’s and doctorate in geology with steady determination and proof of success. She combines anthropology and geology to connect the past with what people are experiencing now due to climate change. “Anthropology looks at broad swaths of time as periods around 100 years or more. Geology lets me view seasonal microscale changes.”

She views those seasonal changes in the growth lines on butter clam and abalone shells. In order to retrieve the shells, Christine first had to secure her diving certification with an additional cold water specialty, not a common requirement for most graduate research. Her research includes the Unalaska Sea Ice Project, performing isotopic analysis on ancient clams found in archaeological middens (historical trash heaps). From the shells, she is able to extract sea surface temperatures and chemical make-up of the water the ancient clams lived in, developing a better understanding of how the animals and people of the Aleutian Islands adapted to a changing climate and forecasting how people might respond in the future.

paleoclimatology research through abalone shells
Christine holds an abalone shell collected from the Channel Islands.

While butter clams may be the shell of her start, Christine is furthering her research scope further south in the Pacific Ocean to the Channel Islands off of California’s southern coast. There, she is performing similar geochemical analysis on abalone shells, the iridescent shell often used for jewelry and buttons. Her analysis is a breakthrough development for scientists to better understand seasonal, local climate change through rising water levels and temperatures and their effect on abalone populations, continuing to paint a more robust picture.

“The story is that the research of these shells is needed to understand how the Pacific Ocean has aged and varied over 10,000 years across two localities. People who live along the coast, the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico, they already feel climate change and they know it. People in the interior don’t realize how oceanic changes affect their daily lives. I want them to be able to see for themselves.”

Christine won UA’s 2017 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, presenting her research thesis with catching storytelling palatable for any audience. In Spring 2019, she was named a 2019 American Geophysical Union’s Voices for Science advocate, no doubt leading to the Knauss Fellowship. The fellowship is a competitive process that included several rounds of interviews through the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium before review by a national panel of experts. 

“This made the blood, sweat and tears feel like it actually paid off,” sighed Christine. “Never give up. If you really want it, you find a way. I was rejected at first, but I asked for feedback and applied it, adjusting my application and research proposal to fit. I reapplied, and I’m here.”

Are you ready to join Christine and our other rising legends? The future is yours. The place is UA.

Request Information           Apply to UA Graduate School