Alabama's Public Liberal Arts University

News and Events

Wednesday Memo
Oct. 15, 2014

EFL department to host International Week at UM

Henderson to speak during International Week

Seven receive awards at University's Founders' Day convocation

Barone wins 17th annual Life Raft Debate


EFL department to host International Week at UM

The Department of English and Foreign Languages has recently announced its 12th annual International Week event schedule. The week’s activities will kick off on Monday, Oct. 20, with the traditional International Food Fair from 2-3 p.m. on the first floor of Comer Hall. Foods for sampling will be provided by Foreign Languages majors, minors, faculty, staff and other members of the UM community. Those wishing to contribute a dish should contact Foreign Languages at 9-665-6410.

The week’s activities will continue Tuesday, Oct. 21, with the Jensen Awards, which will be presented from 4-6 p.m. in the Merchants and Planters Bank Auditorium, Comer Hall. A reception will follow in Comer Hall 103.

A study-abroad fair will take place Wednesday, Oct. 22, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in Comer 103 and the connecting hallway. Also on Oct. 22, there will be a mandatory meeting for all Foreign Languages majors, which will take place from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Merchants and Planters Bank Auditorium. An open house will follow, from 4:30-5:30 p.m., in Comer 103.

The week will continue Thursday, Oct. 23, with a guest lecture featuring Timothy Henderson, whose topic will be “History of Mexican Immigration in the U.S.” His talk will begin at 5 p.m. in the Merchants and Planters Bank Auditorium.

Honorary initiations will take place Friday, Oct. 24, from 3-4 p.m. in the Merchants and Planters Bank Auditorium, with a reception immediately following in Comer 103.

The El Día de Muertos altars will be on display in Carmichael Library from Friday, Oct. 24-Thursday, Oct. 30.

For more information or to contribute a dish to the International Food Fair, contact Foreign Languages at 9-665-6410.


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Henderson to speak during International Week

Dr. Timothy Henderson, the Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of History and World Languages and Cultures at Auburn University-Montgomery, will be the guest speaker during UM’s upcoming International Week.


Henderson earned the B.A. and the M.A. from the University of Texas, Austin, and the Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He joined the department of history during fall 1996 after teaching at Yale University. He specializes in the history of Latin America, with particular emphasis on 19th- and 20th-century Mexico and U.S.-Latin American relations.

Henderson’s books include The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics (co-edited with Gilbert M. Joseph, Duke, 2002); A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and its War with the United States (Hill & Wang, 2007); and The Mexican Wars for Independence (Hill & Wang). His latest book is Beyond Borders: A History of Mexican Migration to the United States (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). His current research involves U.S.-Mexican relations during the Cold War.

Henderson’s talk, “History of Mexican Immigration in the U.S.,” is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 23, at 5 p.m. in the Merchants and Planters Bank Auditorium in Comer Hall.

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Seven receive awards at University's

Founders' Day convocation

Seven individuals were honored at the recent UM Founders’ Day convocation, held Oct. 9. Pictured from left to right are Jim Day, Steve Jordan, Tammi Dahle, John Burling and Benton Tyler. Absent from photo: Sandra Lott and Tom Sanders.

The University of Montevallo celebrated its beginnings Oct. 9 with the 118th Founders’ Day. UM opened its doors Oct. 12, 1896, as Alabama Girls’ Industrial School and has grown and developed into Alabama’s only public liberal arts university.

The theme of Founders’ Day 2014 was “Smart. Balanced. Prepared.” reflecting the ideal University of Montevallo students and alumni. The day began with a convocation in Palmer Hall featuring UM alumnus and dean of the law school at the University of Alabama, Mark Brandon, as speaker. Awards were presented to several of UM’s faculty, staff and alumni, and the program concluded with the traditional investiture of the senior class.

In his remarks, Brandon spoke to the value of a liberal arts education. He noted that, while life is unpredictable, students who have a liberal arts education are prepared to make decisions and take on projects based on a broad and deep base of knowledge. He said that, while large classrooms certainly have their place, small classrooms encourage interaction and familiarity among professors and students, and those students are actively engaged in holistic learning.

James Day, professor of history, was named the 2014 University Scholar. This award recognizes significant contributions to scholarship and creative endeavor. Day served 16 years on active duty in the U.S. Army, during which he taught history at the USMA, served in leadership positions from North Carolina to the Federal Republic of Germany and graduated from Airborne, Ranger, Jumpmaster, Air Assault, Pathfinder and Jungle Operations schools as well as Command and General Staff College.

Day joined the faculty at the University of Montevallo in 1997 and has not only taught a myriad of history courses, but also has served UM at various times as chair of the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, dean of graduate studies, and assistant vice president for academic affairs. A member of numerous professional organizations, honor societies and community service groups, Day serves as president of Leadership Shelby County and the UM chapter of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

Day’s book, Diamonds in the Rough: A History of Alabama’s Cahaba Coal Field, (University of Alabama Press, 2013) was the winner of the Alabama Historical Association’s Clinton Jackson Coley Award for best work on Alabama local history (2014).

The Faculty Service Award went to Benton Tyler, associate professor of mathematics at the University of Montevallo. This award recognizes a professor’s dedication to the provision of service and his or her impact upon the University community.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Tyler is active on a number of committees on the UM campus. He is president-elect of the Faculty Senate and serves on the Undergraduate Curriculum and Standards Committee and the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, among others.

In 2005, Tyler assisted in establishing the Montevallo Organization of Gaming and continues to serve as its faculty adviser. He leads the student members on volunteer expeditions to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham and in Halloween events for local children and charities.

Tyler was instrumental in establishing the minor in game studies and design at UM in the fall semester of 2011 and has worked to recruit students for the GSD minor at many gaming, science fiction and anime conventions.

John Burling, professor of psychology, earned the Academic Advising Award. This award is presented to a full-time faculty or staff member at the University of Montevallo who has demonstrated excellence in academic advising.

One nominator wrote, “Despite an exceptionally heavy advising load of 70 students, Dr. Burling provides individualized attention to ensure that his advisees are well informed and well prepared. He listens to his advisees’ academic and career goals and guides them toward meeting those goals.”

Burling has served on numerous committees, both at the University of Montevallo and for outside organizations. In addition to advising students on their academic goals, he also has advised Psi Chi, the national honorary society for psychology, since 1995 and has advised the Psychology Club at UM since 1993.

The recipient of the Adjunct Faculty Teaching award was Steve Jordan. This award is given to an adjunct instructor who has taught at UM for at least six semesters, who has demonstrated effective teaching and who has had interaction with a significant number of students.

Jordan, a University of Montevallo alumnus, has practiced as a licensed professional counselor for 34 years, working as a therapist with individuals, couples and families in school, court and hospital settings as well as in private practice. He has served two separate terms as president of the Alabama Mental Health Counselors Association and has served in administrative positions on numerous committees and boards. He has provided mental health services following a number of disasters including the World Trade Center attacks, hurricanes Ivan and Katrina and Alabama tornados. Jordan brings this wealth of applied experience to the classroom, using real-world examples to illustrate points from textbooks. His students applaud his humor, organization, clarity and enthusiasm.

Sandra Lott was the recipient of the Alumna Loyalty Award, bestowed on a UM graduate who has demonstrated loyalty and dedication in his or her strength of service to the University of Montevallo. After earning a master’s degree at Emory University, she returned to her alma mater, where she joined the English faculty and taught for 37 years. During her tenure at UM, Lott taught a wide range of courses, from children’s literature to Shakespeare, from Japanese literature to African American literature.

Always a strong supporter of the University of Montevallo National Alumni Association, Lott chaired the English Department Alumni Committee for many years. She and her husband, John, frequently entertained alumni in their home, hosting Homecoming receptions for alumni of the College of Arts and Sciences and for students in the English department. In addition, she has helped establish numerous scholarships benefiting students in various fields of study.

Through the years, Lott has provided leadership to the Montevallo chapter of the American Association of University Women, serving as president several times. In 2003, she received the AAUW Pathfinder Award, which recognizes a longtime member who has given outstanding service to the branch and to the community.

Tom Sanders received the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award. This honor recognizes a UM professor’s dedication to the provision of a quality education and his or her impact upon students through the teaching-learning process.

Sanders, an honors graduate of the University of Montevallo, enjoyed a productive career in health care administration with Baptist Medical Centers/Baptist Health System of Alabama before joining the faculty in UM’s Michael E. Stephens College of Business as an assistant professor in 2003. His years of experience in the corporate world have provided a strong foundation for the lessons he imparts to his students. Sanders has been instrumental in the initiation of UM’s MBA program and continues to be an enthusiastic advocate, speaking to prospective MBA candidates at every opportunity.

One nominator described the impact Sanders’ enthusiasm has had on his education. After earning four college degrees from three different institutions, he encountered Sanders at an orientation activity for Leadership Shelby County, where Sanders serves on the board of directors. He writes, “My first contact with Dr. Sanders came outside the classroom, but the impression that he made on me was enough to get me back in one. This past spring, I returned to my alma mater to pursue a master’s of business administration. I’ve had the benefit of getting to know Dr. Sanders through Leadership Shelby County and his involvement with the Montevallo Chamber of Commerce. I feel like I learn something new every time I talk to him. His commitment to not only teaching, but his students, the university and the community are something to truly be admired. He practices in the community what he preaches in his classroom.”

UM’s Dean of Students Tammi Dahle was the recipient of the Outstanding Staff Service Award. The purpose of this award is to recognize a staff member’s excellence in service and loyalty to the University.

After earning two degrees at UM, Dahle spent several years in the private sector as an employee assistance counselor. She returned to her alma mater in 2000 as director of the University’s Career Center. She served in several positions in that area prior to being named dean of students.

Dahle’s service to the University of Montevallo has always been directed toward students. She is a member of the UM Care Team, identifying and providing assistance to at-risk students, and she has counseled countless students, not only on career development, but also on personal and social issues. She represents the interests of students to the broader University community, serving on UM’s Emergency Response Team and numerous committees on campus. She has made presentations to student groups and campus organizations and works with many campus constituents to support the University.

A reception for seniors and their families was held immediately following the convocation.

The Founders’ Day celebration concluded in the evening with the 17th Annual Life Raft Debate, a lively argument by a panel of UM faculty, staff and administration members vying for the last seat on a mythical life raft after a purported global cataclysm has wiped out all other human population. Each panel member tries to convince the audience, who selects the winner by a vote, why his or her discipline should be the one to be preserved in the new civilization, while the others are left to drown. The oar of victory was awarded to Robert Barone, professor of history, who defended his discipline by arguing that, without history to guide the world, the same mistakes would be made, including those that caused the disaster at hand.

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Barone wins 17th annual Life Raft Debate

As told by Michael Patton . . .

Yes, that’s right, there is a consensus emerging among long-time Life Raft Debate aficionados that last night’s (Oct. 9) 17th annual debate was one of the best in LRD history. It was certainly hard to decide whom to vote for.

With a packed Palmer Auditorium, attendance was estimated at more than 800 and there were at least 50 more people watching the debate live at If you missed the debate, you can watch it there when the final version is processed and posted. Trust me, it’s a doozy.

Defending champion Scott Varagona starting things off with an impassioned plea for continuity of leadership, claiming that the constant change in leadership over the last 16 years had not done us any favors. He claimed that he had kept us all alive for a year so far and deserved a second year for everyone’s sake.

Close on Scott’s heels we were treated to John Stewart’s broad-ranging defense of the need for an administrator on the raft. Claiming the ability to feed us, shelter us and to help us repopulate the world, John said without a strategic plan, the rafters would dissolve into chaos very quickly. He extolled his seafaring skills, his teaching abilities and willingness to take one for the team if we had the misfortune to land in New Jersey and were faced with having to continue the species with Snooki.

Next up, defending literature, Samantha Webb decried the current trend of marginalizing literature. Hardly a luxury to be indulged in after studying more “useful” topics, Sam explained that literature has the power to make us more humane, tolerant and wise. Besides being rooted in history, literature also looks forward and imagines a better world to which we can aspire. The classics reveal central human themes that, if pondered, can lead us to a form of life that will avoid the destruction that the current world has suffered, mostly at the hands of the so-called more important disciplines.

Stacy Bishop then took the stage to extol the virtues of kinesiology, which he assured us would abolish the scourge of many societal ills such as obesity. Physical fitness would be equivalent to overall fitness to thrive in the new world, and, in addition, the science of kinesiology offers much needed knowledge of other areas such as nutrition. He also implied that he was himself I fine specimen of fitness and would use his physical prowess to the good of all if voted onto the raft.

After Stacy, Jeremy Carlson approached the bench to argue for law’s rightful place on the life raft. He said that if the panelists were honest with themselves, they’d all have to admit that lawlessness in the new world was simply not an option. Without the rule of law, there’d be no hope of long-term survival. Jeremy claimed that given the centrality of law to any society, the only reasonable thing to do would be to take a legal expert on the raft to help found the new world.

And last but not least, Robert Barone took the mic to argue once again for history. A veteran of the very first debate, Robert announced that the oar had been stolen from him back in 1998 and that he was back to become its rightful owner. His impassioned defense of history claimed that without history as a guide, we would repeat all of the mistakes that have plagued the world to date, including the mistakes that eventually destroyed the world. With his thoroughgoing knowledge of history, Robert said he would be able to steer the nascent society safely through the perils the lie ahead. Plus, he gave a brief yet compelling demonstration of his own physical fitness and ability to stretch.

After the panelists exchanged some barbed rebuttals and some further defenses of their disciplines, the Devil’s Advocate, Steve Parker, made a surprise appearance on the stage to thunderous applause. With wry wit and biting insight, Steve gave a fast-paced takedown of each of the panelists except for Sam Webb, who he said he could no more criticize than he could club a baby seal. The others, however, were not so lucky as to be spared. I honestly can’t do justice to Steve’s remarks here, so if you weren’t there, watch the video online. Heck, even if you were there, you should watch the whole debate again. It is certain to live on in debate history as one of the best!

In the end, well over 600 votes were cast. The heroic Kristen Gilbert tallied the votes and Robert Barone climbed aboard the raft, leaving the others to drift away to certain doom.

I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated, attended and helped to make this event such a great success.

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