Tag: graduate school

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.

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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          

Nekitta Beans

Student Spotlight: Nekitta Beans

Nekitta Beans
A recent graduate from the School of Social Work, Beans now works as Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative (FSFSC) in Washington, D.C.

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.”

Erica Boden

Student Spotlight: Erica Boden

Erica Boden

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.

2019 Outstanding Graduate Student Awards

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
  • Kevin Willson “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
  • Jillian Sico 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
  • Sarah Price Program: Communication & Information Sciences, MA College of Communication & Information Sciences Department Chair: Beth Bennett Faculty Advisor: Beth Bennett
Outstanding Service by a Graduate Student
  • Adora Hicks 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
  • Mary Foster Program: English, PhD College of Arts & Sciences Department Chair: Joel Brouwer Faculty Advisor: James McNaughton
Outstanding Research by a Doctoral Student
  • Adam Coffey 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.   Additional Information
Alex Ates

Student Spotlight: Alex Ates, Theatre Directing MFA Candidate

Alex Ates
Alex Ates, Theatre Directing MFA Candidate (’20)
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/