Beyond Auburn Magazine

Fall/Winter 2018: "Building Bridges for Learning"

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Auburn President Steven Leath recently delivered greetings to the Fall general membership meeting of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. In noting his appreciation for OLLI and support for lifelong learning, Dr. Leath also emphasized the importance of outreach as part of the University’s educational mission – “It’s what makes land-grant universities special.” Dr. Leath noted that Auburn strives to “make a difference in the community.” Inspirational teaching and innovative research are clear priorities in fulfilling this objective as well as transformational outreach for the common good.

Faculty engagement in particular is a critical component as we seek to improve quality of life in the communities we serve. Thus, it’s important that we recognize the outreach work of our faculty and celebrate the significant impact of their engagement throughout the state and well beyond. That is the goal of the Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach.

The Award for Excellence is Auburn’s highest recognition of engaged scholarship and one of the university’s premier annual faculty awards. Since 2004, the award has recognized 14 of our most outstanding engaged scholars, representing a wide range of academic disciplines and community-based project work. This year’s featured award recipient is Kyes Stevens, director of the Alabama Prison Arts+Education Project and instructor in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction.

Kyes Stevens has built a highly recognized and well respected program for incarcerated learners, and has positioned Auburn as a leader in providing educational resources to one of the most underserved populations in the state and nation. She has provided opportunities for more than 100 faculty and graduate students to engage with the prison community as well. She has also extended her work at the national level through a variety of arts and education programs, including White House-sponsored policy forums on prison education. To date, more than 4,400 incarcerated students have participated in this transformational program. APAEP has been awarded more than $2 million in grants from federal agencies and national foundations, including the prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Kyes, herself, has been recognized by numerous fellowships and awards, including Auburn’s Women of Distinction Award, and as one of Southern Living magazine’s Southerner of the Year awards in 2016.

As President Leath urges us to make a difference toward society’s critical needs, University Outreach is committed to expanding excellent and impactful engagement such as Kyes Steven’s APAEP. Her profile and the stories within this issue of Beyond Auburn are sure to inspire you to be a part of the great outreach mission of Auburn University.

Join us in making a difference!

War Eagle,

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Individuals in prison make up one of the most educationally underserved populations in the nation, especially in Alabama. Over the last 17 years, Kyes Stevens has been building bridges to learning for incarcerated persons through the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project (APAEP).

Stevens, director of APAEP and instructor in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction, is the recipient of the 2018 Auburn University Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach. The award, which is Auburn’s highest recognition of engaged faculty scholarship, was presented to Stevens at the University Faculty Awards ceremony in November.

“Kyes Stevens has amassed an exemplary record of engaged scholarship in developing the nationally recognized Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project,” notes Royrickers Cook, vice president for University Outreach at Auburn. “She is highly respected among her peers; the impact of her work is clearly seen in the academy, and more importantly in the lives of incarcerated learners served by APAEP.”

College of Architecture, Design and Construction associate dean Karen Rogers, who nominated Stevens for the award, stresses the significance of Stevens’ outreach accomplishments. “APAEP addresses a tremendous need by bringing the wealth of knowledge and instructional capabilities of Auburn University to a group of people for whom education has become the means by which they can build better lives…” says Rogers. The program also “has generated research and publications not only for Stevens, but for other educators who have worked with the program as well.” Indeed, Stevens has engaged more than 100 graduate students and fellow faculty in the APAEP, many of whom credit Stevens and APAEP as the inspiration for them to develop their own outreach work with prisons in other states.

Stevens attended Auburn University, earning her bachelor of arts degree in English. She completed graduate studies at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, earning her master of arts in Women’s History and a master of fine arts in poetry. After returning to Alabama, Stevens was awarded a prestigious fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2001 to teach poetry at Talladega Federal Prison.

The first phase of what is now APAEP was called the Alabama Prison Arts Initiative, and was initially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2003. In 2004, APAEP took its current name when it became a full-time program of Auburn’s Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities. In 2008, APAEP moved to the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts. There, graduate students became more involved in research on the impacts of APAEP programming. The program later moved into the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, in the College of Human Sciences, and for a time was housed under the Provost’s office.

Today, APAEP is headquartered in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction, with collaborations with Auburn’s College of Liberal Arts, College of Sciences and Mathematics, Harbert College of Business, College of Human Sciences, College of Agriculture, College of Education, and the Ginn College of Engineering. From one poet teaching in one prison, APAEP course offerings have grown from poetry to a wide variety of courses and programs in the arts and humanities, science and mathematics, business, and other academic studies.

Stevens believes education is a powerful tool for shaping people’s lives. On that principle, the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project is dedicated to bringing educational opportunities to the adult prison population, fostering a relationship with learning that would continue to grow for the rest of their lives. Data clearly demonstrates the impact of educational attainment on post-incarceration success. The average educational level of the Alabama prison population is around the 7th to 8th grade. Undereducated prisoners have high recidivism rates, or rate of return to prison. Prison fiveyear recidivism rates nationally hover around 70 percent of former prisoners returning to prison. However, the higher the level of educational achievement, the less likely a person is to return to prison. For those engaged in higher education programs such as APAEP, the recidivism rates are about five percent. People who do not return to prison contribute to the economic growth of their community, and the stability of their families. Thus, APAEP represents an investment in creating a better Alabama, both for the individuals as well as their families and the towns in which they reside.

The statistics related to this program under Stevens’ leadership are impressive: more than 4,400 incarcerated students have enrolled in 283 semester-long classes offered. More than 175 faculty and graduate students from Auburn and the state have produced almost 8,000 contact hours of classroom instruction.

The program has been awarded more than $2 million in grant funds, including near consistent support from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2016, Auburn University/APAEP was selected as one of 67 programs nationally to participate in Second Chance Pell, a program of the U.S. Department of Education. In 2018, APAEP and Auburn received a $900,000 grant from the prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, thus becoming one of fewer than 10 such higher education programs supported by Mellon.

Stevens is a driving force for outreach and engagement nationally and internationally. She has served on both the National Justice Arts and the National Alliance of Higher Education in Prisons. She has been invited on three occasions to serve on White House advisory panels on the role of higher education in criminal justice reform. In 2017, she served on a panel at Harvard University addressing programing for formerly incarcerated students at the university. Stevens is currently working to develop a program partnership with the University of Darwin in Northern Australia.

Stevens has spoken extensively at conferences and university groups around the country and worldwide. She has authored and co-authored numerous academic and general consumer pieces on art and education as it relates to incarceration and contributing to helping people build their better selves. She has edited eight volumes of APAEP’s student anthology of creative work, and also curated the national traveling exhibit “Art on the Inside.”

In spite of this rigorous schedule of teaching, publication and presentation, Stevens still finds time for another one of her passions – animals. Engaged in animal rescue work for most of her life, Stevens specializes in care for special needs kitties.

Stevens has been recognized for her efforts by Auburn University as a recipient of the Young Alumni Award and a Women of Distinction Award, and by being invited to participate in the “This is Auburn” lecture series. In 2014, Stevens was selected by the Alabama State Council on the Arts for its Literary Arts Fellowship. In 2016 she received both the “Women Who Shape the State” and Southern Living magazine’s “Southerners of the Year” recognitions.

“Ms. Stevens has not been distracted or tempted by the steady stream of accolades, awards and honors that she has received for her work,” says Vini Nathan, dean of the College of Architecture, Design and Construction. “In fact, each recognition drives her to delve deeper into her core mission as a transformative change agent in her numerous classrooms in different correctional facilities.”

Stevens’ impact as change agent was observed directly by Dean Nathan upon visiting one of Steven’s classes at Draper Correctional Facility. During the visit, the Dean noted how students were engaged and animated in their class discussion, that day focusing on Depression era socio-cultural, political, and economic history. “Without exception,” recalls Dean Nathan, “they pointed to Ms. Stevens being the single biggest influential factor in the success of the program and their individual success.”

One of APAEP’s longest serving faculty teachers in the program, Barb Bondy, professor in Auburn’s Department of Art, sums up the merit of Steven’s engagement for the Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach. “Considering APAEP’s humble beginnings and growth to outstanding accomplishments over the years, it is evident that Kyes Stevens fulfills the essential characteristics of outreach excellence at Auburn University,” says Bondy.

“Kyes is outstanding as a distinguished leader in outreach.”

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While the curriculum committee was planning OLLI classes for Fall 2018, the subject of who had taken classes the longest arose. Mary Burkhart, OLLI’s original director, suggested, among others, Gordon Johnson, Helen Brown, Casey and Margaret Scarborough. Following that conversation, the committee decided to visit one of the members of longest duration, Helen Brown, who will be 100 years old in February 2019.

In the last 28 years, Helen has rarely missed a semester of OLLI classes. Mary Burkhart and two other OLLI members visited Helen one afternoon and enjoyed several hours of stories about OLLI at Auburn’s early days.

AUALL (Auburn University Adult Lifelong Learning) was OLLI’s predecessor. Margaret and Cayce Scarborough hosted the first reception for AUALL at their lake house. They also sent cards to friends in town encouraging them to join AUALL. Helen and Mary both agreed that even the early classes were interesting, which has been a major factor in OLLI’s continuing success.

Helen, who was not an “original” member in Spring 1990, has been taking classes regularly since the Fall 1990. In addition to taking classes, Helen has continued to tutor 37 different incarcerated females since 1987.

“I believe in second chances.” Helen explains her longevity in both the prison tutoring and OLLI this way: “It requires some effort, but it fulfills a need. I really don’t know what I would have done without OLLI. I learn from everybody.”

In 1989, Mary Burkhart was working in Auburn University’s Continuing Education programs for adults of retirement age. Classes were actually offered during the first spring term of 1990. Thirty-seven people signed up.

Gordon Johnson, one of the original members, was on the Steering Committee and is still attending classes. Other early members mentioned in our afternoon discussion were Henry Henderson and Margaret and Cayce Scarborough.

Participation actually doubled for the fall 1990 semester, when 74 men and women signed up for classes. This certainly showed that there was a definite need for continuing education classes for seniors in Auburn, Alabama. The total number of interested adults of retirement age taking classes topped 100 in 1991.

Mary Burkhart was the State Director of Elder Hostel, and was also responsible for planning the classes for AUALL. When Mary had attended an Elder Hostel program in Washington, DC, in 1988, she heard about the Osher Foundation and their interest in providing classes for adults in college towns. Mary, still working part time in Continuing Education, determined that Auburn’s AUALL would put together a proposal in 2006 to present to the Osher Foundation in hopes of being awarded some grant money.

AUALL did not receive any money that year, but they did receive good advice from the Osher Foundation about how to apply for a grant in 2007. OLLI has been successful in receiving grants from the Osher Foundation ever since, and has now topped the 1,000-member mark in three locations: Auburn, AUM and Chambers County Library in Valley, Alabama.

During the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters, OLLI at Auburn has provided more than 150 classes for members’ enjoyment and learning. This fall’s 2018 catalog offers 57 classes at four locations in addition to the smaller classes held at the OLLI Sunny Slope home.

Sunny Slope is on South College Street just south of the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art. OLLI’s hope is that one day we will be able to provide more classroom space at that location. Sunny Slope, built in 1853, is on the National Historical Register. The property was bought from the former owners, the Emmerich family, in 2013 by Auburn resident Ann Pearson. Dr. Pearson renovated the house and has leased it to Auburn University specifically for OLLI to use.

Helen Brown and other long-time active senior members provide wonderful examples of the joy and pleasure OLLI members receive from taking classes, meeting new people, seeing old friends, learning new ideas, staying active and having a positive attitude.

Helen Brown summed it up beautifully: “There are so many wonderful, interesting classes that it is difficult to determine what NOT to take! REMEMBER, You are NEVER too old to LEARN!”

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As many families struggle to find access to affordable health care, a historic partnership between the City of Auburn and Auburn University is addressing the problem in the form of a new affordable health care clinic.

In 2019, Auburn University’s Health Care Clinic and Educational Center will welcome families to Boykin Community Center in northwest Auburn. The Auburn City Council approved plans to open the clinic to provide opportunities for families to obtain affordable healthcare while extending educational opportunities for students studying pharmacy, nursing and other health-related fields at Auburn.

Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy will manage the clinic, working alongside other health-related disciplines to provide a broad range of care.

“Pharmacy students will work with other students in health-related studies to treat the patient as a whole,” said Pharmacy Professor Dr. Kimberly Braxton Lloyd. “That includes medications, diet, and exercise to try and help the patient be as successful as possible.”

The clinic’s mission focuses on two tiers – community outreach and student education. With faculty oversight, students will work with patients to gain hands-on learning in a real clinical setting. Auburn students and faculty will serve as health care advocates and providers for families, including the uninsured and underinsured. Families in need will have access to free or affordable services and medications.

“We are going to work together to deliver a flexible payment schedule that will meet the needs of the community,” said Dr. Braxton Lloyd. “We are making sure the cost of care is affordable for these families.

Pharmacy student Ren Aranda believes the Auburn University Health Care Clinic and Educational Center provides an opportunity for students and patients to learn together.

“I think giving back through our knowledge and our time is critical for families and to what we as students are learning,” Aranda said. “It speaks to our values as we enter into our professions in the future.”

The City of Auburn and Auburn University will spend the next year preparing the clinic inside the Boykin Community Center. The idea is to grow services and eventually staff a fully functional urgent care facility for families.

Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy ranks among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences.

For more information visit: Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy

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Alabama experiences an average of 42 tornadoes a year. And when severe thunderstorms form, one of the most trusted sources for weather news in the state is James Spann a television meteorologist in Birmingham. His expertise on tornadoes made him the ideal choice to author the Encyclopedia of Alabama’s entry on the topic. The article explains the conditions that contribute to the frequency of tornadoes in Alabama and highlights some of the significant outbreaks in the state’s history. The popular broadcast meteorologist’s piece is the 2,000th entry added to the state’s premier online resource on Alabama’s history, culture, and natural environment.

“Alabama is located in the heart of ‘Dixie Alley,’ a region in the southern United States that is susceptible to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes,” Spann writes. “In Alabama, tornadoes differ from those in the traditional ‘tornado alley’ across the U.S. Great Plains because they usually arise during strong storms known as ‘highprecipitation supercells.’” (Read the entire article at www.

Spann’s entry is just one of dozens of the sciencerelated articles found in EOA. Its articles on the minerals, geology, wildflowers, and fishes of Alabama are among the most visited entries each year.

EOA’s science articles are especially popular during the school year. There are entries on numerous fossils discovered in the state. Some are about dinosaurs that once roamed the area. Others cover Alabama’s mammals, reptiles, birds, flora, caves, river systems, agriculture, and more. These articles drive thousands of visits to the site.

In addition to making science content for Alabama’s classrooms accessible, the award-winning site has afforded select graduate students at Auburn an opportunity to gain valuable career-related experience.

A recent example of this involved students in Dr. Robert Boyd’s Conservation Biology class. Learning outcomes for the class included developing non-technical science communications skills by writing for a broad, nonscientific audience. EOA offered a real-world opportunity.

“The students’ submissions on various critically threatened or threatened species found in Alabama were treated the same as the other entries we receive,” said Claire Wilson, EOA’s senior content editor. “The articles were submitted, Chris Maloney and I edited them with an eye toward readability to a general audience, and then we returned those editorial recommendations to the students.”

The biology students not only had the opportunity to have their work published, they were able to experience what it is like to work with editors in a professional capacity. In addition to the experience of working with editors, the students also gained an understanding of what is involved in repackaging work they originally created for fellow scientists to a format that is meaningful to readers without a strong background in science.

The students were not the only ones to benefit from the exercise.

“The threatened species articles were the result of collaboration with faculty in Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) and the Miller Writing Center,” said Wilson. “EOA’s value as a credible resource is greatly enhanced through such partnerships. And it is rewarding to help new scholars share their work with new audiences.”

The Encyclopedia of Alabama, a free, online resource on all things Alabama, is a project of University Outreach.

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This January marked the one-year anniversary of the formation of the Center for Educational Outreach and Engagement (CEOE) Network. The CEOE Network was organized to galvanize and enhance the communication and profile of units engaged in K-12 educational outreach with a commitment to expanding the Auburn University footprint in this arena.

Some 15 units across campus have joined the CEOE Network to encourage Auburn University faculty and staff to connect with colleagues engaged in K-12 outreach to enhance educational development partnerships. The Network will serve as an opportunity to collaborate when appropriate and collectively act in an efficient manner. Through the Network there will be collaboration on grants, educational development opportunities and K-12 activities locally, nationally and internationally. By using an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving in the K-12 arena, Auburn University will further opportunities for research and publications through the Network.

“We are very excited about our first upcoming Network collaboration which involves the CEOE/ University Outreach submission of a $20-million-dollar GEAR UP grant in the spring. Campus units including theater, computer engineering, and Inclusion and Diversity have already agreed to serve as matching partners in this effort and we hope other units will join us in this incredible opportunity,” according to Stacey Nickson, CEOE director.

CEOE Network meets quarterly to: enhance collaboration and coordination on K-12 outreach grants and educational development opportunities; share information about initiatives and best practices in K-12 educational outreach; offer expertise and guidance to promote K-12 outreach both locally and globally and disseminate essential knowledge and skills fostering effective K-12 educational practices.

Any units interested in being represented in the Network should contact Stacey Nickson directly at

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The Appalachian Region is home to more than 25 million people and stretches from northern Mississippi to southern New York. The Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal agency established in 1965 to serve Appalachian communities, created the annual Appalachian Teaching Project (ATP) in 2001 to engage students and local citizens through community-based projects in the Appalachian Region. As part of the ATP, Auburn University serves as an Appalachian Center in the consortium of 13 colleges, universities, and community colleges throughout the Appalachian Region.

For the 2017 Appalachian Teaching Project, a team of eight Auburn University students partnered with sixthgraders from Tuskegee Public School (TPS) to document the lives of veterans in Macon County, Alabama, by recording interviews as part of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress, which collects, preserves, and offers access to personal accounts of American veterans.

Throughout the 2017 fall semester, the Auburn team and TPS students collaborated to achieve their goal of collecting 10 veteran interviews to deliver to the Library of Congress. To accomplish this, an advertised veteran interview day was hosted at TPS for veterans interested in preserving the story of their service. The interview day was a success, and over 10 histories were collected and preserved as a result of the project. In addition to the veteran interviews, the Auburn team organized a Veterans Day program at TPS, inviting veterans from the community to share their stories and advice with the TPS students.

After completing their project, the Auburn team traveled to Washington D.C. to deliver the veteran histories to the Library of Congress and present their project outcomes at the Appalachian Teaching Project conference. Although unable to travel to D.C., the Tuskegee students joined the Auburn team virtually to help deliver the veteran histories to the Library of Congress, where personal accounts of American veterans can be accessed through their website at After delivering the interviews, the Auburn team had met their goals and was able to present the success of their project at the ATP conference.

Auburn University’s 2017 ATP project has evolved into the Macon County Veterans History Project with the goal of documenting the lives of veterans in the community. At the beginning of the fall semester, a new Auburn team participating in the 2018 ATP project continued building on last year’s success, collecting additional veteran interviews with the help of TPS students. More information about the project, the veterans, and their interviews can be accessed at www.

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At the annual meeting of the Alabama Water Watch, David Newton stood flipping through the pages of a photo album containing photographs of local bodies of water paired with notes dating back to 1999. Newton, like the others who were in attendance, has a passion for Alabama water bodies, as well as a desire to monitor and maintain water quality.

“I was exposed to it as a youngster and it kind of stuck,” said Newton, an Auburn resident, who added how he’d been an Alabama Water Watch volunteer for 11 years.

The Alabama Water Watch is a nonprofit citizen science organization partnered with Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System with a mission to “improve both water quality and water policy through citizen monitoring and action,” according to its website.

The organization was established approximately 26 years ago and has trained more than 8,000 people with a wide range of professional and educational backgrounds on water testing practices over the years, said volunteer coordinator Sydney Smith.

“We’re really based on community, so it’s getting everybody involved with these test methods,” Smith said.

Volunteers are trained and certified on three methods of water monitoring: water chemistry monitoring, bacteriological monitoring and stream biomonitoring.

Once certified, the volunteers select a spot to monitor and collect data from the same location each month.

“So, really, the important thing that we stress is getting trends, long-term data for these sites so they can really learn these water bodies and figure out what potential pollutants could be interfering with the water quality, or if it’s just the natural state of the water body,” Smith said.

The youth group at Auburn Unitarian Universalists Fellowship has been involved with the organization for about a year, said church member Julie Meadows.

“Our youth come in every month and they enter their data, and as a group they’re looking forward to seeing how this charts,” Meadows said. “Just being able to, at a glance, see how that quality of water is changing for this time period.”

Youth at the church expressed a desire to help make a difference, Meadows said, so she became certified to help facilitate their involvement.

“I’m looking forward to getting certified myself,” said Meadows’ son, 15-year-old Phelan.

“Data sets have become a key piece for education, especially at the high school level, for use in argumentative type essays,” said Lauren Allred, director at the Cahaba Environmental Center at Living River. “That’s something that teachers have come up to me saying that they wanted.”

The center, located in Montevallo, had a lapse in data collecting in 2015 but has recently reinitiated the effort with three collection sites along the Cahaba River, Allred said.

Those interested in getting involved can do so by becoming certified to collect data, or by donating to the Alabama Water Watch Association, Smith said. Funds to the association are used to purchase educational materials, monitor supplies and support the program.

For more information, visit www. alabamawaterwatch. org.

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Last Updated: December 13, 2018