How I Spent My Summer Break: UA Community Shares Stories

  • August 10th, 2021

Opportunity isn’t a synonym for summer, but it should be. Many students, faculty and staff at The University of Alabama used this summer as an opportunity to grow, learn and help others.

Interned on Capitol Hill

Gabbi Smith – sophomore in biology from Paducah, Kentucky
Alec Jones – junior in political science and pre-law from Benton, Kentucky

Smith and Jones spent the summer in Washington, D.C., as interns for Rep. James Comer, who represents their region in the United States Congress. They spent time answering constituent inquiries, researching legislative issues and providing general office assistance.

“I had a terrific experience interning for Congressman Comer in Washington and enjoyed taking a deep dive into many of the issues relevant to my career interests,”  Smith said. “I enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life and learning more about how our government functions and am grateful for just how helpful this internship was to furthering my career goals.”

Jones plans to go into the legal profession and possibly work in politics in some form, she said.

“It truly was an eye-opening experience and helped me to better understand how our representatives work to serve their constituents,” Jones said. “The skills I learned and the work I saw behind the scenes are both assets that will definitely help to further me in my future.”

Directed an International Performance

Stacy Alley – associate professor and head of Musical Theatre

This summer, Alley was hired by the Danish National School of Performing Arts Musical Academy to direct and choreograph LaChiusa’s “The Wild Party.” Performed in Danish, the production was the first show produced at Fredericia Theatre since the start of the global pandemic where its four performances were seen by over 1,600 people.

“Living in Denmark for five weeks during a pandemic, while creating such a difficult show in a language I do not speak, proved to be an exciting challenge which, thankfully, resulted in a very well-received production. It was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life,” she said.

Alley’s relationship with DASPA began in 2018 when she choreographed “A Little Night Music.” As a result of that show’s success, she was invited back in 2020 to direct and choreograph “Young Frankenstein.” Unfortunately, however, COVID-19 forced the show to be canceled.

Explored the Galapagos

Kevin Kocot – assistant professor of biological sciences and curator of invertebrate zoology for the Alabama Museum of Natural History
Carla Atinkson – associate professor of biological sciences
John C. Abbott – chief curator and director of UA Museums Research and Collections
Kendra Abbott – research and outreach coordinator for the Alabama Museum of Natural History and instructor in Blount Scholars Program

Where do four UA friends and associates with expertise in biology, ecology and zoology go for a summer vacation? Into the natural environment, of course, and few places are better than the Galapagos Islands.

Organized by the Abbotts, Kocot and Atkinson went along with others on a boat that spent time touring the islands, made famous by naturalist Charles Darwin, whose visit to the islands helped form his theory of natural selection.

“The experience was amazing,” Kocot said. “We were able to literally follow in Darwin’s footsteps at times, and we saw so much biodiversity including charismatic organisms such as giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, sea turtles, sea lions, marine iguanas, Galapagos sharks and penguins.”

Although mostly a vacation, they did make contacts that could potentially boost the research and educational opportunities for students.

Two people pose for a photo in front of a giant tortoise.
A woman and man post in front of bookshelves while sitting in a chair.

Helped Build a Nonprofit Bookstore

Alexus Cumbie – graduate student in communication studies from Birmingham, Alabama.
Quin Kelly – graduate student in public health from Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Cumbie and Kelly spent the summer working with The House Tuscaloosa, a nonprofit that promotes and develops literacy in the West End community of Tuscaloosa through programs, relationships and operating a used bookstore that offers reduced-price books for the community.

The programs and bookstore are run from the older president’s house at Stillman College, where Kelly earned his bachelor’s degree and was student body president. This summer, they cataloged books, coordinated a fundraising campaign and established several community-based partnerships.

“I have been meeting with local K-12 teachers to engage the needs of their students and coordinate literacy workshops that focus on poetry, creative storytelling and writing college applications,” said Cumbie, a UA graduate. “I have also been designing visual grant proposals to fundraise money to complete renovations and interior design plans.”

Quin said he has researched health disparities for the community he hopes can be addressed through a community garden and free cooking classes.

Interned for Samsung

Bethany Welty – junior in math and in the STEM Path to MBA Program from Kingsport, Tennessee

Building off previous internships with U.S. Department of Energy and G.E. Appliances, Welty spent the summer as a development purchasing intern for Samsung Electronics Home Appliances in South Carolina. She worked on a team that finds local components for ones currently imported from overseas. As part of her work, she built a cost analysis tool to estimate savings as part of the case of possibly switching vendors.

“I gained a lot of valuable experience by getting to learn the ins and outs of the business-to-business side of the supply chain, as well as developing new technical skills that will help me in the future,” she said.

a young woman stands on a bridge at her internship site

Developed New Medical Technologies

Gemia Williams – sophomore in mechanical engineering and in the STEM Path to MBA Program from Memphis, Tennessee

Part of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Internship program at Medtronic Memphis, a medical technology company, Williams was an intern, part of new product development in the research and development department.

“It has been such an amazing experience,” she said. “I have learned so much about CAD, biologics, surgical tools, surgical procedures, and (Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing). I am fortunate to have had this experience in biomedical engineering!”

Conducted Water Research

Will Moseley – senior in environmental engineering from Hendersonville, Tennessee

Will Moseley spent a lot of the summer knee deep in water as an undergraduate research assistant. Part of the lab of Dr. Mark Elliott, associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, Moseley helped lead field operations sampling water along the rural Big Prairie Creek in Hale County, Alabama.

The team took samples twice each week looking for pathogens and contaminants, and he helped design and build a device that captured a specific microscopic parasite. After volunteering in the lab in the spring, he was hired for field work this summer.

“I’ve greatly enjoyed the opportunity to get my hands dirty and have a high degree of autonomy over my work, as well as work with the other undergraduate and graduate students in the lab,” he said.

A man in waders works with scientific equipment in a stream.

 

Contact

Adam Jones, UA communications, 205-348-4328, adam.jones@ua.edu

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.