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Note: The University of Alabama will observe winter break from Saturday, Dec. 19 through Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. For immediate media needs during that time, please email Shane Dorrill at


UA RECEIVES GRANT TO STUDY SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL LEARNING IN CHILDREN UA’s College of Education recently received a $5 million federal grant to study the importance of social and emotional learning in relation to academic and overall success of elementary school students. The project researches how social and emotional learning, or SEL, is vital to a student’s success, in the classroom and in life, because it teaches them how to be aware and manage one’s own feelings while understanding others in any environment because they have learned to do so in a safe and positive SEL environment at school. “Development of social and emotional skills is foundational to student success in both academics and life,” said Dr. Greg Benner, Helen and Pat O’Sullivan Professor of Education at UA and principal investigator of the project. For more information, contact Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications, at


RARE COSMIC EVENT TO APPEAR IN SKY BEFORE CHRISTMAS — The year 2020 has been one of many surprises. And they aren’t over yet. On Dec. 21, the winter solstice, the planets Saturn and Jupiter will come so close together that they will appear to be conjoined. This “Great Conjunction,” which hasn’t occurred in centuries, will appear in the night sky as a double star closer than the moon appears to be. Dr. William “Bill” Keel, a professor of astronomy, is available to speak about the rare conjunction. For more information, contact Jamon Smith, UA Strategic Communications, at

GIG WORKERS LEFT WITH LITTLE EMPLOYMENT PROTECTION — If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that gig work is essential work. Grocery shoppers, rideshare drivers, and care-workers of all kinds have been allowing those who can or must stay home to remain safe during the pandemic. Congress recognized the importance of gig workers in its pandemic relief legislation, but on the whole these workers are left outside the scope of employment protections because they are not legally considered “employees.” Dr. Deepa Das Acevedo, a legal anthropologist and assistant professor at The University of Alabama School of Law, has researched the realities of gig work and connects those insights to policy debates being fought around the country. She is available to discuss the impact that employment laws have on gig workers as well as other marginalized workers. For more information, contact Shane Dorrill, UA Strategic Communications, at

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