The challenge of dealing with changing economic conditions has never been more a fact of life than today. As markets rise and fall, shift and settle, the effects of change ripple through our lives — in ripples that sometimes look more like tidal waves. Here in Alabama, one of the most significant changes facing our citizens is the shift in the foundations of our economy. Some of our traditional industries, including textile manufacturing, are dwindling, while whole new sectors are burgeoning. The growth in automotive manufacturing that began in 1993 with Mercedes-Benz’s decision to locate its first U.S. manufacturing operation 20 miles from The University of Alabama is accelerating exponentially.
The University’s support of that industry is accelerating as well. This issue’s cover story describes the many ways in which University of Alabama faculty and students are involved with automotive manufacturing to the benefit of both the industry and the academy. And, in more personal terms, to the benefit of both workers and students, as companies are strengthened through improved practices and students gain experience that will make their job searches upon graduation more fruitful.
Involvement with the realities of the life of our state, our nation, and our world is the hallmark of The University of Alabama. From our interdisciplinary studies on the effects of aging to a geologist’s going to extremes (ocean bottom and cave floor) to bring clarity to the debate on global warming, research at The University of Alabama is designed not only to push back the boundaries of knowledge, but to go to the heart of the needs of those we serve.
J. Barry Mason
Interim President, The University of Alabama