Nekitta Beans, a recent graduate of The University of Alabama’s School of Social Work, lives in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8 neighborhood. She came here for her field placement as a part the Master of Social Work Program. As an intern for Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative (FSFSC), Nekitta’s work was in policy and advocacy, lobbying for others on Capitol Hill and participating in the 36th Annual Social Work at the United Nations in New York City. “It was challenging, but if I can do two classes, an internship and a new city at the same time, I can do anything.”
Nekkita’s drive was evident at FSFSC. So impressed with her dedicated and outstanding work, they offered a full time position upon graduation. Foregoing her moment on stage at commencement, Nekitta drove home to pack her car, hug her loved ones and turn back for Washington.
Her role with FSFSC is an immersive one, living in the neighborhood and sharing the experiences of her clients as their neighbor, wondering if she’ll ever grow accustomed to the street sounds and sirens as they seem to be. In some ways, this community of 75,000 is not much different from the town of 5,000 where Nekkita was raised.
In the small town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, six-year-old Nekkita lost her mother, and her world shifted farther off its axis with each coming day. Left in the care of her abusive stepfather, she and her siblings soon entered the foster care system, saddled with the emotional confusion of fear and relief. Nekkita does not shy away from her past. “I share my story, because it might help somebody or motivate one person to action.”
When asked why she chose to pursue social work for her own career, Nekitta is quick to clarify. “Social work chose me. It saved my life.”
That life eventually led her to UA. She admits she wrestled with imposter syndrome as a first-generation college student on a big campus. While she felt she did not belong the first day of class, her social work cohort quickly became the support she needed to kindle her fire. “I chose The University of Alabama, because it is one of the best programs in the country. I have a rich, strong connection to my faculty and staff.”
“My experience at UA taught me to demonstrate true grit. I was able to put my heart in it and learn to balance passion with priorities. To think critically and outside the box. It all positively contributes to the work I do now, making me a better social worker.”
Resolved to improve the lives of her neighbors in Washington, Nekitta is now fully immersed in her work, developing her experience and enterprising new ways to be the most effective. She is teaching parenting and job-readiness classes in prisons, grant writing and successfully relocating families. Every day in Washington is another day she meets her goal. “I want to dedicate my life to saving children, to saving people who can’t help themselves.”
Ross D’Entremont was born in Beaumont, Texas, and spent his formative years there before his family relocated to Hoover, Alabama. He graduated in May with both his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in political science as a part of the Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP), completing both degrees in four years. As an in-state student, Ross made his mark on campus.
Graduating with University Honors, Ross has a long and impressive resume for four years on campus: Student Government Association vice president for academic affairs, Lambda Chi Alpha treasurer, Honors College Advising Board member, University Fellows Experience, University Committee of Committees member, works for Graduate School dean and still makes time for a social life.
When he began his college search, Ross was not set on The University of Alabama. Considering whether to return to Texas or seek a new experience outside of what he thought he knew, he found a new perspective when he visited the Tuscaloosa campus. “It felt like family. I wanted a college experience I could enjoy. Where I could be service minded and have networking opportunities. UA has it all,” Ross stated.
He admitted early into the AMP program and quickly grew in a new direction. “AMP provides me with the joy of being an undergraduate while building personal maturity as a graduate student.” That developed maturity has taught Ross three valuable lessons he plans to carry with him into the joint JD/MBA program at Notre Dame in the fall:
1) Moderate your extremes. Being open-minded is going to get you the farthest with others.
2) Life moves fast. Enjoy the present, but be prepared for when it is over.
3) Money is not the most important thing.
Ross credits the Tuscaloosa community as part of his success as a student. “Tuscaloosa is growing and recouping. It is big enough to be alone but small enough to find a friend. Despite its reputation as a college town, it is a place where graduate students can also succeed.”
Graduate student Kathryn Cater chose The University of Alabama for both undergraduate and graduate study. She began working toward her master’s degree during her senior year as part of the University Scholars program. Cater, a recent Fulbright Scholar, shared what made her year of enhanced research special.
Where are you now in your studies and research?
I have graduated with my masters of science after completing my degree requirements and finalizing my thesis with the research from my Fulbright study abroad. My thesis’ focus is investigating staphylococcal bacteria phages. I’ve had several different projects at UA and in Poland. My projects at UA were hoping to expand the knowledge about staphylococcal epidermis phages while my focus in Poland was on using bacteria phages to treat antibiotic-resistant infections. So in Alabama, I was doing the groundwork for the clinical research I was going to be doing in Poland.
How did The University of Alabama support your Fulbright candidacy?
UA was extremely supportive during the whole Fulbright application process. I can tell why we have so many Fulbright scholars. I was a late applicant in the cycle, because I decided I wanted to apply in the summer, which was later than most people. As soon as I expressed interest, the study abroad office and Dr. Beverly Hauck began helping me prepare to be a strong candidate. The application process was actually just a personal statement and a resume and it wasn’t too extensive, but as a researcher, I had to find a mentor in Poland to support my application. I began reaching out and eventually got in touch with Professor Gorski, who himself was a Fulbright to the U.S. from Poland. He was willing to host me at the Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy, The Polish Academy of Sciences and became my mentor.
What was your Fulbright year abroad like?
My Fulbright experience was one of the most enriching times of my life. I was able to make friends with other Fulbright Scholars and Polish people. I was able to experience and really live in a new environment. Also, the research aspect was really thrilling for me. It was more clinical than what I was doing at The University of Alabama, which was one of the reasons I wanted to be a Fulbright. At the Institute, they’ve been doing bacteria phage therapy for about 80 years, since before antibiotics were really even popular. I was able to learn their methods, and as antibiotic resistance is growing, I’m hoping I can bring what I’ve learned back to the U.S. We’re running out of options to treat antibiotic-resistant infections.
What else has been beneficial about your time at UA?
One thing I really enjoyed at UA was being a medical scribe for the University Medical Center. I would go into the room with a physician and enter notes into the electronic medical record so they could see more patients more quickly. I was able to work with a few physicians in family practice, pediatrics and gynecology, and that opened my eyes to the role of medicine. It made me more interested in the clinical aspects of medicine, and it’s why I’m interested in going to medical school, becoming a medical researcher and having the patient-doctor interaction. It also sparked an interest for me in gynecology. I’m interested in the STI/STD epidemic in the U.S. There’s been a lot of resistance to gonorrhea, and I am interested in the potential for bacteria phage therapy there.
Why was UA the right choice for you?
When I was first thinking of undergraduate schools, I had never thought of UA as a place for research until I visited. Once I visited and toured the facilities, I realized they really were research-focused. After having so many opportunities, and with UA being so supportive in everything I’ve tried to do, it’s been a really great place. They are always supportive in whatever research or academic path you want to take.
What role has UA’s faculty played in your success?
I would like to thank my graduate mentor, Dr. Hatoun. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without her guidance and support. She’s the one who initially sparked my interest in bacteria phages. She’s a newer professor and has a very hands on approach with mentoring. She’s always available to help, especially when you have questions in the lab. I was an undergraduate researcher, but it’s different as a grad student, because you have to plan your experiments. She was always available if I needed help or had questions about things.
What’s next for you?
My next goal is medical school. I’d like to see myself working with bacteria phages in the future, maybe in San Diego or elsewhere in the U.S. I’m really interested in infectious diseases, so something along the lines of what I’m doing now is what I’m passionate about.
Current master’s student Brittany Groves, who’s studying German and working on a certificate in the Women’s Studies program, recently shared her experience as a Fulbright scholar and tapped into what can be concerns for many prospective graduate students. Groves believes choosing a program with faculty and financial support is key.
Tell us a little about your undergraduate experience.
I went The University of Alabama for undergrad as well. I think I did my undergrad in three years instead of four, because I came in with a few extra credits. My experience was largely positive. I was a National Merit Scholar and had funding and the ability to study abroad more than once. My majors were history and German, and I minored in international studies.
After graduation, I had applied to come back to UA partially because of funding in the German department. I was looking at other schools as well. I received a Fulbright year – during that year it became clear I wanted a bit more depth in my studies before I decided on a PhD program. UA allowed me the space to do that. I knew I’d also have the funding hebre as well.
How has attending graduate school at The University of Alabama been beneficial for you?
As a grad student, it’s been beneficial from a financial perspective. Here I was awarded a teaching assistantship. The department is open about how that works, and they’re respectful of my time as a student. There was a conference held here by the Modern Languages department in which I was able to present research in a smaller environment before going to larger conferences. That’s really helpful.
What role has the Graduate School’s faculty played in your success?
The faculty have been wonderful. They’re really available if you have questions about your program, going on to PhD programs and how that path works, and giving you opportunities to do things that will help you. One professor asked me if I wanted to step in for him while he was away, so I was a guest lecturer. Being able to plan the lesson, receive input on whether it would work in a class and then actually put it to work doesn’t always happen.
The German department has also been instrumental in nominating me for scholarships and helping me put my application materials together correctly.
How would you describe your Fulbright year?
My Fulbright year as an English teaching assistant was wonderful. I received my full acceptance in March and my placement in May. That school had students from about 10 to 17 or 18 years of age. It was different every day – sometimes it was small groups and other times a class with everyone. Working with the older students was fun, because you could see their personalities. We learned a lot together. There were opportunities in and out of the classroom to learn things and meet people. It was really a great year.
What else has been beneficial about attending graduate school at UA?
The German department has a teaching methodologies class that has us observe other students, so you’re in a classroom seeing what teaching assistants a year ahead of you are doing. In our course, we develop activities for classes to do and discuss them. After we’ve tweaked them, we get to see them done in classrooms, which is really helpful to me. It’s showing me how to be a teacher, so I know what it will be like when I’m in charge of my own classroom.
What’s next for you?
I’d like to do a PhD in history with a German geographic focus. And I’m interested in gender and race, in particular, answering questions about identity formation and who gets a voice in different parts of history. We’ll see exactly where that takes me.
Why do you think a prospective student should choose to attend graduate school at The University of Alabama?
I think they should choose UA, because even though we’re a large university, each department has its own feel. It’s a lot smaller once you’re in graduate school. Your department and faculty are really interested in what you want to do. They may know someone who has that experience and can put you in contact. I don’t know if you get that everywhere. My department really feels like a comfortable, sort-of family environment.
The Graduate School offices in Rose Administration Building have closed for renovation, from March through August. In the meantime, the Graduate School staff have moved to 2830 Capital Hall, 270 Kilgore Lane (just east of the white Bryce building).
Our phone numbers and campus box number remain unchanged. The easiest way to get to our new location is to take a Crimson Ride bus to the North Lawn building; behind that is the white Bryce building, and Capital is just beyond that. We apologize for any inconvenience and look forward to the Fall semester when we can welcome you to our redesigned space, back in Rose Administration Building.
Strategic consultant – and Fulbright scholar – Erica Boden says attending graduate school at The University of Alabama prepared her for life after graduation. She recently shared her journey through graduate school and the Fulbright experience.
Why did you choose to attend The University of Alabama’s Graduate School?
I actually began graduate school through the University Scholars program. I began graduate classes when I was a junior at Alabama. I decided on Alabama, because it allowed me to earn a more advanced degree and to experience a more challenging curriculum at a younger age. I felt a master’s degree in finance would make me a better candidate in the workforce.
How did UA prepare you for a successful career?
Graduate school gave me a lot of opportunities for exposure to the world outside the university setting. Alabama prepared me, through dual degrees and advanced classes, for working through harder problems. I’m able to tackle those challenges because I had the exposure of jumping into things early.
How did the Graduate School’s faculty and staff help?
I had a couple of professors that really worked to know us. The business and finance fields are broad, so they really tried to understand where we wanted to go. They were accommodating and understanding of student life. If you went in to meet with them, they were very accessible and really helped us feel confident.
What was your Fulbright experience like?
Being a Fulbright Scholar was a huge honor. I lived in Bulgaria and taught 8th-12th grade English. A ton of my experiences came from what I learned in graduate school: my business degree was super-applicable, because I had to present and be professional. I taught about 300 students and was able to travel to over 20 countries and even ran a couple of marathons. It was an awesome year.
What other opportunities did you enjoy during your time as a graduate student?
The ability to receive a really good education while being involved on campus and having a life was important to me. The University does a great job of encouraging you to work hard but also have a life. I was able to mentor young girls at Tuscaloosa County High, and I coached a cross-country team for a bit. My advisors were always very helpful and grounding. Whether it was Honors College, Greek Life or enjoying a football game – all were enriching.
Why should a prospective student choose UA’s Graduate School?
I would recommend attending graduate school at UA, because it sets you up to handle yourself in a variety of different scenarios. As a Fulbright Scholar, and now as a consultant, different skills have been very transferable.
You’re put in situations where you can learn to become comfortable in uncomfortable scenarios. Graduate school builds a foundation where you have a reputable degree and a resilient backbone to take that with you.
Congratulations to the following Graduate Student Award winners:
The University of Alabama Outstanding Dissertation Award
Dr. Briana Whiteside
Title: “Octavia E. Butler: History, Culture, and the Future: A Comprehensive Approach”
Department of English
College of Arts and Sciences
Department Chair: Joel Brouwer
Advisor/Committee Chair: Trudier Harris
The University of Alabama Outstanding Thesis Award
“Temporal dynamics affecting ground flora recovery after fire in thinned Pinus-Quericus stands”
Department of Geography
College of Arts and Sciences
Department Chair: Douglas Sherman
Advisor/Committee Chair: Justin Hart
Outstanding Research by a Master’s Student
Program: Book Arts, MFA
Sico’s research is highly significant in the field of book arts and is having regional, national and international impact.
College of Communication & Information Sciences
Department Chair: James Elmborg
Faculty Advisor: Anna Embree
Outstanding Teaching by a Master’s Student
Program: Communication & Information Sciences, MA
College of Communication & Information Sciences
Department Chair: Beth Bennett
Faculty Advisor: Beth Bennett
Outstanding Service by a Graduate Student
Hicks received funding to develop and stock the Crimson Career Closet so that UA students may have professional clothes for interviews.
Program: Counselor Education, PhD
College of Education
Department Chair: Aaron Kuntz
Faculty Advisor: Joy Burnham
Outstanding Teaching by a Doctoral Student
Program: English, PhD
College of Arts & Sciences
Department Chair: Joel Brouwer
Faculty Advisor: James McNaughton
Outstanding Research by a Doctoral Student
Program: Psychology, PhD
College of Arts & Sciences
Department Chair: Fran Conners
Faculty Advisor: Jennifer M. Cox
These awards will be presented during UA Honors Week from Monday, April 1, to Friday, April 5.
Former UA MBA Student (and current University of Michigan medical student) Ruth Bishop also chose The University of Alabama for undergraduate study, majoring in Spanish and biology. Bishop was one of the first participants in the STEM path of the University’s MBA program and is a recent Fulbright Scholar, which has helped shape her professional path.
How do you plan to use both your MBA and your medical school experience?
I am interested in understanding how to provide better care to underserved populations, and I think business is more sustainable than a nonprofit in providing quality care in terms of being able to see patients and not turn them away. I wanted to learn how business would allow me to make processes more efficient. That way I could subsidize the cost of care so a practice could see a variety of patients.
What do you hope to do once you complete medical school?
I’m at the University of Michigan in my first year of medical school. I’m bilingual in Spanish, and that’s a passion of mine – making sure patients who are undocumented have access to care. I’m thinking of primary care or pediatrics at this point, but I’m also open to other things. I was very lucky to travel to India and participate in the Reverse Innovation course (a summer study abroad course taught by Dr. Robert Morgan that involved spending one month in India) that has been influential in my thinking on the impact of business on healthcare and how to care for people in underserved or rural areas through efficient practices. Replicating what I learned in that course appeals to me.
What was your Fulbright experience like?
During my Fulbright year I was working as an English teacher in a university in Medellin, Colombia. As an assistant, I helped with college students and conversation clubs. I also led a storytelling project, similar to Humans of New York, with students talking to people who were street workers or people they knew personally. We even had a little exhibition in the library with the students’ work.
While I was there, I was able to take Spanish classes and further mastering the language. I also volunteered with a local nonprofit, E2E, an urban garden project that facilitates space for urban gardeners to produce vegetables sold to local restaurants.
How did that year affect you?
I cannot recommend Fulbright enough. It was one of the best years of my life. I met some amazing people and got to travel to the most amazing country in the world.
It has given me more global perspective on healthcare and how different social factors contribute to health. The communities we worked with had a lot of challenges regarding access to healthcare; environmental factors like access to clean water or green spaces; and interpersonal or gang violence. These widened the scope of things to think about in life and in healthcare.
How did the faculty at UA support your graduate or Fulbright experience?
The faculty and staff were very supportive in writing recommendation letters and guiding the Fulbright application process. UA was excellent in helping me with my essay and walking me through the process so I would be competitive. I had established relationships with faculty that helped a lot. I never had a professor say no – they’re very responsive and helpful.
Why should a prospective student choose graduate school at UA?
I think Alabama has a lot of different opportunities for funding, and that’s important. There are a lot of professors doing really awesome things in the community and abroad and in terms of technical research. There are a lot of things to be involved in at Alabama, and that’s a strength. Generally, people are very helpful and kind and want to help you succeed. They can help you meet your goals if you’re transparent in expressing them.
What advice do you have for other prospective or current graduate students?
Look for mentors early and be intentional in your relationships and conversations with faculty. Sometimes we think they’re really busy or not interested, but most of them want to be involved with your career. Recognize that if they offer to meet with you, and take the time to meet with them. Do your part to invest in the relationship and that can go a long way.
New Orleans native and current graduate student Alex Ates was recently named the 2019 Graduate Student winner of Southeastern Theatre Conference’s Young Scholar Award. He will present his award-winning research paper “Powerful Contradictions on Charged Stages: Theater Revolutions in the Jim Crow South” at SETC’s 70th Annual Convention in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Ates is pursuing an MFA in Directing from The University of Alabama. Ates received an undergraduate education at Emerson College and will be in residence during the Spring 2019 semester there directing a new musical by Pulitzer nominee and Broadway playwright, Lisa D’Amour. He sat down with us to chat about the importance of the arts and the potential impact of an education from The University of Alabama.
Why did you choose to continue your education at The University of Alabama’s Graduate School?
I wanted to study with Annie G. Levy, head of the MFA Directing Concentration. She’s been an advocate for me from day one and really understands my mission and my intentions and has given me so much support to do unique and remarkable things.
And I wanted to stay in the South. For me it was important to be on the ground in a place I care about.
My third reason for choosing UA is I was committed to attending a program that was fully funded. Alabama is one of the few schools that fully funds its MFA Directing students and provides a stipend and healthcare. That indicates that the university is really invested in their students, and that’s such an affirming thing. They’ll believe in us so much, they’ll pay for us to be here.
What have you found exciting about studying at UA?
I‘ve been able to engage with other departments. For example, earlier this year, I directed “The Christians,” about a nondenominational evangelical church and a pastor who has a revelation there might not be a hell. In preparation for directing that play, I was able to coordinate with the Religious Studies department and have an independent study with Dr. Michael Altman. We were able to dig into the play from a historical and theoretical perspective to help me direct it respectfully and thoroughly. I think that interdisciplinary approach has been amazing.
This program also allows me to teach and be the professor of record for a legitimate and exciting course. I can’t think of many programs that allow students to do that. The amount of respect and trust the University puts in you, and the way you get folded into the community is unparalleled.
Why is an arts education still necessary?
Recently, the Nobel Prize committee awarded an economist the prize, because he created a theory that the way an economy can keep growing is through innovation and creativity. So whether you pursue a profession as an artist or have a significant arts education, when Americans are more creative and innovative and have the ability to imagine and think outside the box, everyone benefits. We know the economy benefits from having creative, innovative people. But in everything we do, the world changes when people have an imagination and can think of things that aren’t yet there, or connect dots in a way someone else hasn’t.
What advice would you offer fellow thespians seeking to further their education?
I’d tell students to be creative and think about their mission. Where will they get support? How much money do they have, and how much money can they get? You can’t have artistic freedom shackled by debt. Where can you find a place to support, inspire and challenge you? That’s what I have found here. You have to be creative in your path. Do your research. Investigate. Talk to people. Don’t conform to what people say you have to do.
I’ve been excited by every single term here as a graduate student. My goal is to keep finding ways to enhance, explore and share American theater. How I will do that is still a mystery to me, in a good way, but I’ve had a lot of support from the Graduate School in figuring that out.
Find out more about Alex Ates by clicking this link: https://www.iamalexates.com/