Faculty Fellows in Service-Learning Program provides training, support

By:    Date: 01-10-2014


Faculty Fellows

UA President Judy Bonner [left] and Stephen Black [right], director of the UA Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility, with members of the 2012-13 Faculty Fellows in Service Learning class and Teri Henley [by Black], coordinator of the Faculty Fellows program

In 2007, the Faculty Fellows in Service-Learning Program debuted at The University of Alabama as the first campus-wide effort to bring together an interdisciplinary group of educators for the purpose of developing new service-learning courses. What began as a series of workshops to train faculty members in the pedagogy of service learning quickly transformed into something more.

It’s like a service-learning support group where you know everyone is as passionate about it as you are,” said Teri Henley, coordinator of the program and an advertising and public relations instructor. “Faculty Fellows provides participants the tools they need to actively implement and improve service learning in their courses.”

The University of Alabama’s Faculty Fellows in Service-Learning Program now has 71 alumni members.

Housed at the Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility, the Faculty Fellows in Service-Learning Program features a one-year fellowship designed to accelerate the work of faculty members who are eager to foster the principles of ethical citizenship, social responsibility and engagement within their students. The workshops cover theories, implementation and assessment of service learning and how to integrate this methodology into courses across the disciplines. Fellows receive a modest service-learning enhancement grant to support course development, as well as one-on-one assistance during the development process.

Faculty Fellows2

Faculty Fellow alumna Meredith Cummings [left], a journalism instructor, oversees a service-learning activity at Tuscaloosa Magnet Middle School.

Chip Brantley, a 2012-2013 Faculty Fellow and journalism senior lecturer, said the program made him a better instructor and helped him find smarter and more effective ways to facilitate real-world experience for students.

The Faculty Fellows program is creating a culture of thoughtful, lasting service learning on the UA campus,” Brantley said. “What I especially appreciate about it is that CESR staff members help faculty find natural, meaningful ways to layer service learning into their classes, not just for the sake of trying to engage students in their communities, but also because the service improves the classroom experience.”

Faculty members emerge from the program with a completed syllabus and plan of action for their new or enhanced course. Having interacted with faculty across campus, fellows enjoy the support of a professional and social network of like-minded individuals committed to the mission of service learning.

The Faculty Fellows in Service-Learning Program has led to an increase in course opportunities for students, a greater number of meaningful partnerships between the University and communities throughout the state and a more entrenched institutional presence for service learning as a critical component of The University of Alabama experience.

Karina Vázquez, a 2012-2013 Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of Spanish, said one of the unique attributes of the Faculty Fellows program is the opportunity to discuss ideas, projects and common problems regarding service learning with colleagues eager to offer and receive input.

Faculty Fellows has helped me to keep looking for better assessment tools for community-based learning projects, which allows me to incorporate improved post-activity reflections into future projects,” Vázquez said. “Also, it really made me think more about the challenges we are experiencing in what I perceive as a shift in learning paradigms; its pros and cons, and how to use available resources. In my case, it has helped me offer students more real, challenging opportunities to think and speak in Spanish.”

During the past two academic years, Faculty Fellows have developed the following courses:


Chelley Alexander, Assistant Professor, Community Health Sciences

Medicine and Community (UH 400), a yearlong service-learning course for select University Honors students, exposes future physicians to medicine as a service career while improving health care in Marion, Ala. Students assist nonprofit Sowing Seeds of Hope staff and Samford Pharmacy School students and faculty in nutrition counseling, vital-sign assessments and other tasks including home visits at the high-blood-pressure clinic at the Perry County Health Department. Students also design and implement nutrition lessons for Albert Turner Elementary School fourth graders.

Daniel Bachrach, Associate Professor, Management

Principles of Management (MGT 300) introduces students to the functions, institutions, basic problems, current events and practices associated with management. UA students engage local high school students through extensive service-learning projects that highlight the symbiosis between businesses and community. Projects focus on the creative, interactive processes associated with entrepreneurship and running a small business.

Chip Brantley, Lecturer, Journalism

Anatomy of a Trial is a yearlong course, team taught with Andy Grace, director of the Documenting Justice program, that explores the Alabama justice system, which sentences more people to death per capita than any other state in the country. Each class of students immerse themselves in one death-penalty case, investigating the case and its context. They then use film, audio, photographs and other media to present their findings in a Web-based narrative.

Kenon Brown, Assistant Professor, Advertising & Public Relations

Public Relations Campaigns (APR 433) students implement a public-relations campaign for a small business or nonprofit. During Spring 2014, students worked with the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education to implement a healthy-eating campaign. Students were assigned to one school division (primary, middle or high school), and created a campaign centered on improving a specific eating habit. The campaign targeted students and parents.

Ann Graves & Marilyn Handley, Associate Professors, Nursing

UA Nursing in China/Bolivia (NUR 317/517), developed through a collaboration among the Capstone College of Nursing, e3Expeditions (community partner) and UA StudyAbroad, provides nursing students the opportunity to explore the physical and emotional health of individuals and communities outside the United States. In 2013, students worked in rural communities in China and Bolivia. Through the course, students explore the role of cultural beliefs and values in health-seeking behaviors. Students participate in an immersive learning program in which they live and provide health care in a culture different from their own. Associations among poverty, community resources and the health status of citizens are central to the learning experience.

Justin Hart, Assistant Professor, Geography

Forest Measurement and Analysis (GY 494) provides students with a theoretical foundation and practical experiences in quantifying tree-, stand- and forest-level attributes. Students partner with USDA Forest Service personnel to collect and analyze datasets in the Oakmulgee district of the Talladega National Forest and prepare technical reports to provide to the Forest Service. To successfully complete the course, students must demonstrate proficiency in field sampling and analytical methods used in forest science. Students also train under the direction of the Talladega National Forest fire management officer to work with wildland fire.

Forest History and Restoration (GY 409/509) investigates the theories, tools and techniques used in historical ecology with a focus on the establishment of reference conditions for habitat restoration and management decisions. This course includes information on the foundations of restoration ecology and the practical methods by which prior ecosystems can be reconstructed. Students in the Fall 2013 class worked with the Freshwater Land Trust.

Tyra Hilliard, Associate Professor, Human Nutrition & Hospitality Management

Business Events Capstone (RHM course) is a course for seniors in the Restaurant, Hotel and Meeting Management Program who have taken RHM 480 Advanced Meeting and Convention Management and RHM 380 Trade Show Management. Students utilize business event (meeting, conference, exhibition) planning and management skills to plan and manage a conference or exhibition for a nonprofit community partner.

Suzanne Horsley, Assistant Professor, Advertising and Public Relations

APR 433 Public Relations Campaigns students learn to integrate public relations theory, concepts and techniques in order to plan and execute complete public relations campaigns for specific organizations. Arising from communication deficiencies identified after the April 27, 2011, tornadoes, the service-learning aspect of Horsley’s course helps nonprofits better prepare for the next crisis and empowers them with communication tools vital during and after a major disaster. Students built a crisis-communication internal campaign for the United Way, its 26 member agencies and more than 10 other nonprofit organizations in Fall 2012. They also conducted research on crisis communication preparedness plans and activities and presented the results in a crisis communication forum at the end of the semester.

Lisa Klotz, Instructor, English

EN 310 Special Topics in Writing: Legal Writing and Advocacy teaches students about law through reading and writing, but also through engaging in legal advocacy on social justice issues in partnership with organizations like Alabama Appleseed (working with its Payday Lending Reform project, for example).

Rekha Nath, Assistant Professor, Philosophy

PHL 231 Social Justice in Practice, an optional supplement for students concurrently enrolled in PHL 230 Political Philosophy, gives students the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of social justice through regular participation in a community-based project involving disadvantaged and/or marginalized populations. In Political Philosophy, students consider the role that democracy, freedom, rights and equality play in their understanding of a just society. They engage in philosophical debates about immigration, poverty, political participation and socioeconomic inequality. Social Justice in Practice gives students a chance to see those debates playing out in the community.

Tonya Adams Nelson, Instructor, Honors College

UH 155 The Art of Giving Back engages students in the Art Exploration Project, an existing art-based mentoring initiative for children in elementary schools that have lost art programs. Students also work throughout the semester to create items for The Good Art Show, an event they plan, organize and execute. Proceeds from the show, held on campus, benefit Tuscaloosa’s One Place, a family resource center. Students form partnerships with community organizations and encourage them to submit artwork for the event as well. Students donate all proceeds from the sale of their work; community partners donate at least half. While producing the art show, students learn public-relations, marketing and collaboration skills.

Rachel Raimist, Assistant Professor, Telecommunication & Film

UH 101 Art to Life, sponsored by The University of Alabama Honors College and the UA Telecommunication and Film Department in collaboration with Cognitive Dynamics Foundation in Tuscaloosa, improves quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients, their families and caregivers through art therapy and storytelling. A trained art therapist conducts a series of therapy sessions with participants over six weeks. Honors College students, trained in digital storytelling techniques, document the sessions, interview family and friends of participants and collect memorabilia (including old photographs, sheet music and other objects) for the creation of life-story projects. TCF students produced a short documentary about the first class, held during Fall 2012, and the benefits of art in patient care and lives.

Jennifer Shoaff, Assistant Professor, Gender & Race Studies

Civil Rights and Social Activism in Alabama provides students with historical and ethnographic perspectives of social activism by exploring the Civil Rights Movement and its legacies in Alabama. Utilizing the fertile ground of the surrounding Alabama region, as well as testimonials of community members and activists, the course unpacks an array of social activism strategies in order to give students an understanding of today’s civil rights struggles. Students work with community partners engaged in contemporary activism. The goal of this service is to foster capacity for students to place scholarly theory and method in conversation with public action, applied practice, personal reflection and community engagement.

Oleg Sinelnikov, Assistant Professor, Kinesiology

KIN 307 Analysis and Teaching of Movement II: Track and Field and Net/Wall Games partners students with Echols Middle School’s physical education program to employ a contemporary curriculum model called Sport Education. This curriculum model promotes a student-centered approach to teaching physical education, allowing students to be more engaged in the lesson and to assume responsibility for their learning and the learning of their peers. The class has partnered with the Alabama Governor’s Commission on Physical Fitness and Sports to host a Volleyball Sport Education season and with Hershey’s to host a meet for Hershey’s Track and Field Games.

Karina Vazquez, Assistant Professor, Modern Languages & Classics

SP 353 Spanish Conversation students acquire communicative skills in Spanish while confronting conflicts and finding responsible paths to solve them. Students discuss different topics (the impact of Alabama’s immigration law, education among the Hispanic community, cultural perspectives on work, marriage and religion, etc.) in order to identify possible cultural and social conflicts. They then reflect on these topics by proposing performances of situations and feasible solutions using a technique called Forum Theater, in which actors pause at crucial moments in the plot and let audience members have a say in what happens. They also perform short, interactive plays in Spanish for Hispanic children and their families at an elementary school in Tuscaloosa County. Students also develop and play interactive games with the children and lead small-group discussions in which kids talk about their education and career goals. Students in the Spring 2014 class also designed and gave tours of the Alabama Museum of Natural History for the Spanish-speaking community.

Ben Woodruff, Instructor, New College

EC 480 Economics of the Environment and Natural Resources surveys techniques used to estimate benefits of environmental improvements and analyzes public policy relating to the environment and use of natural resources. The service-learning component of the class involves collecting supply-and-demand data for food grown in Tuscaloosa County. Students determine how much food can be consistently produced and at what cost. They also find out what consumption level and prices local eateries can support. The end result is a proposal on how local restaurants can use local food to minimize food miles from farm to table and maximize income for local farms.




Teri Henley has more than 25 years’ experience in the academic and nonprofit communications field. Throughout her academic career, Henley has provided her students the opportunity to be involved in course-relevant, “real-life” service experiences, in an effort to instill in them an ethic of service and a lifetime commitment of civic participation.

She is adviser for The Capstone Agency, a student-run organization that has implemented numerous award-winning campaigns. Since joining the University of Alabama faculty in 2007, she has worked with more than 30 community partners on service-learning activities.

Before joining the UA faculty, Henley spent 15 years at Loyola University New Orleans, where she was associate professor and chair of the Communications Department and director of the Shawn M. Donnelley Center for Nonprofit Communications.

Her work through the Center gave her the opportunity to supervise more than 300 projects for nonprofit clients. She is author of 21 articles and three book chapters in the field of nonprofit communications, which is her research and teaching passion.

Contact Henley at henley@apr.ua.edu.




Stephen Foster Black has directed the UA Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility, which houses the Faculty Fellows in Service-Learning Program, since the Center’s founding in 2005.

Grandson of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, Stephen also is founder and president of Impact Alabama: A Student Service Initiative, the state’s first nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and implementing substantive service-learning projects in coordination with more than 20 universities and colleges throughout the state.

Black earned a bachelor’s degree from The University of Pennsylvania in 1993 before attending Yale Law School, where he graduated in 1997. After three years in private practice at Maynard,

Cooper & Gale in Birmingham, he spent a year as an assistant to the governor of Alabama, researching policy issues and working on economic development projects. In 2008, Black was named one of 10 recipients – out of more than 800 nominations nationwide – of the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award for creating the FocusFirst vision screening initiative.

Contact Black at stephen.black@ua.edu.