1 week ago

Auburn University’s Tiger Excellence Scholars Program participants thriving, becoming leaders

Not only are members of Auburn University’s Tiger Excellence Scholars Program (TESP) enjoying their college experience on the Plains, they are thriving and evolving into leaders.

Nearly 300 students involved with the program – designed to support the persistence and retention of students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, low-income families and first-generation college enrollees – posted a 3.42 cumulative GPA for the fall 2020 semester. Administered through Auburn’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity (OID), in partnership with the Office of the Provost, the scholars program is developing the leaders of tomorrow through its efforts.

A total of 69 TESP students finished the fall 2020 semester with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages, bolstering the group’s already strong cumulative GPA that routinely eclipses the institutional average. The majority of TESP students are recipients of the Provost Leadership Undergraduate Scholarship.

More than a dozen of the program’s students came to Auburn through the state chapter of Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), an initiative administered through the Office of University Outreach that is designed to identify potential college students from Alabama middle and high schools and provide a path to higher education. Those students finished the semester with a 3.68 cumulative GPA, further illustrating the program’s success.

“I’m biased, but I think I have the best students on campus,” said Jasmine Prince, OID’s assistant director for Inclusive Excellence Initiatives, who oversees the TESP program. “What our numbers say is that our students understand not only our commitment to ensuring they’re successful academically, but also that they’ve made a personal commitment to ensure their own academic success. We play a role in that, but it’s a lot of individual work on their part.

“It speaks to the way we’re communicating our expectations to them about what excellence looks like and what scholarly behavior is, and it speaks to their own personal commitment to what academic excellence means. It’s a big deal to be in this program.”

Commitment to excellence

The TESP model is focused on the holistic development of all scholars through intentional engagement, supportive resources and community building. In addition to financial support, TESP students are given access to academic help, mentors and other university resources.

Students are encouraged to engage with one another at a variety of social events, from movies or game nights to “success seminars” and athletic activities – often led by upperclassmen in the program. The consistent interaction gives students a sense of community, further deepening their college experience and helping new students become acclimated to college life.

“We want them to spend time together outside of an atmosphere where they have to learn something, like in their regular classes,” said Prince, who has worked with the program since 2016. “We want to give students opportunities to lead and determine how the sessions are run. Creating an environment where they feel like they can thrive is important.”

OID was forced to shift TESP operations online with the COVID-19 outbreak last year, but administrators and students rallied to adjust and overcome the obstacles. They focused on helping students adjust to virtual instruction in the wake of the pandemic.

“The very first thing we did when we all transitioned to a virtual learning environment is that we hosted one or two scholar check-ins,” said Prince, who hopes the program can involve more in-person events as the winter semester progresses. “We wanted to ensure they were transitioning well, they had what they needed at home and were communicating with their faculty members. That was important for them to have an outlet to be able to share their concerns.

“More of our experiences last spring were centered on community building. We were able to check in with them, see what they needed from us and then provide that. Fall semester, our entire program was virtual. Scholars really missed the in-person events, and we did virtual community nights, which I think also was helpful for our team and scholars.”

TESP operates with four “Pillars of Success” in mind: Academic Excellence, Leadership Capacity, Diversity and Inclusion and Future Focus. Students are taught the importance of each pillar throughout their time at Auburn and, in the process, are given a strong foundation from which to build their professional careers after graduation.

“We’re prepping them for the next steps beyond Auburn,” said Prince, who is hosting a TESP Young Alumni Panel later this semester.

To apply for the program – which has grown from 30 to nearly 300 students as it approaches its 15th anniversary – students submit an application and essay that outlines their desire to become a scholar and contribute to the university’s diversity efforts. Essays are scored by a selection committee, and then college deans make the final decisions about who is admitted.

Scholars must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA to remain in the program, and students may keep their scholarships for all four years of their collegiate careers by meeting the requirements. OID has partnered with Academic Support to provide academic coaching to any TESP students who need extra help acclimating to college or boosting their GPAs.

An opportunity to thrive

For senior public relations major April Alvarez, TESP helped offer a way for the Montgomery native to become the first person in her family to attend college.

“I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to make it to college,” Alvarez said. “Not only has (the scholarship) given me the opportunity to be here, but it’s given me so much more than that. There’s a community behind it, so I have these mentors I can lean on.

“I just remember when I got here and thinking, ‘Wow, my world is forever changed.’ I really saw everything from a whole new lens once I got to Auburn and realized I can do well and get this degree, but also have all this knowledge of how to be successful in the professional world.”

Alvarez is president of Students for Clean Water – an Auburn group that works with the Birmingham-based Neverthirst clean water ministry to provide water filters to Nepal and raise awareness for the global water crisis that plagues many nations. In addition, she is interning at Lee County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and helping the association promote its efforts to aid abused and neglected children.

Alvarez is one of the TESP Resource Consultants, the student team responsible for leading community night experiences and facilitating success seminars. The professional skills and leadership experience Alvarez has gained during her four years in the TESP program, she said, have been invaluable.

“I definitely feel like I’ve gotten a lot out of it and have grown as a person,” said Alvarez, who will graduate in May. “Looking back, I just never would have thought of myself to be in this position of earning a degree and developing so much professionally. I didn’t even know what a cover letter was when I got to Auburn.

“I think having the access to all kinds of information like that has really made a difference for me and made me into more of a well-rounded person.”

Royce Williams – a freshman mechanical engineering major – followed his sister, Naja, into TESP. In addition to educating him about different facets of campus life and resources available to him as a scholar, the program has helped Royce meet people, despite the pandemic.

“It’s been really helpful in paying for my college experience, and the events they host also have been really helpful,” said Williams, a Birmingham native. “I’m more of an introvert, and with COVID going on and most classes being online, it’s been harder for me to meet new people. The activities they have are really helpful for meeting new people who have the same interests as me.

“Having less opportunities to be out on campus walking around and seeing what’s going on and what’s out there because of COVID, this program has really helped in reaching out and recommending different events and organizations to get involved with.”

Williams is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Engineering Academic Excellence Program (EAEP) and the Emerge at Auburn leadership program. He has enjoyed TESP’s success seminars, where he has begun to learn skills that will help him down the road in the workforce.

“One thing I’m really looking forward to getting involved with in college is the co-op programs, because I think it will help me learn a lot about what type of job I want to do and what I want to do outside of college,” Williams said. “So, these programs that help with interview skills and how to make a proper resume and helped me prepare for that experience have been really helpful.”

Prince said the most fulfilling aspects of the program for her and other administrators is seeing firsthand how the students grow and evolve during their time on the Plains.

“Some of the most fulfilling moments come when students have those ‘Aha!’ lightbulb moments and it just clicks,” Prince said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, this is why all that stuff you’ve been telling me matters.’ I love seeing all those things get put together in those moments.

“I always love seeing students graduate – although it also makes me sad when scholars leave – because our scholars are doing some incredible things. We have scholars all over the nation who are in professional or graduate school or working for amazing companies or teaching. It’s exciting to know that I was a part of preparing them to step into whatever their next chapter might be.”

No matter where her career path leads, Alvarez will take with her experiences and memories that would not have been possible without TESP.

“I’ve gotten much more than just a degree, and I feel a lot more confident as a person and in my abilities,” said Alvarez, who would love to work for Delta Air Lines or in the nonprofit or health care sectors after graduating. “I’ve gotten a lot of experience and learned a lot about myself in the process.”

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 hour ago

7 Things: Pressure to end COVID restrictions builds on Ivey, University of Alabama System back to full-time schedules this fall, more vaccines coming to Alabama and more …

7. Trumps get vaccinated

  • According to one of former President Donald Trump’s advisers, Trump and former first lady Melania Trump got their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine before they left the White House this year. This is the first news that Trump received the vaccine.
  • Of course, their second doses were administered while living in Florida. Previously, Trump didn’t say one way or the other if he would get the vaccine, and his doctors had said he shouldn’t get the vaccine due to possible complications from treatments he received when he had the virus.

6. U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl makes monuments fight a national issue

635

  • There has been a lot of debate in Alabama over the future of Confederate monuments in the state. The battle is now moving to Washington, D.C. after the D.C. Facilities and Commemorative Expressions Working Group (DCFACES) recommended 150 sites be changed. Included in the suggestions are the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Woodrow Wilson High School and even monuments that honored Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Scott Key, George Mason, Andrew Jackson and Christopher Columbus.
  • Now, U.S. Representative Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) has introduced the “The American Heritage Protection Act” that would protect national monuments from bureaucrats. He advised, “My bill is in response to D.C. bureaucrats’ attempts to change the names, remove, relocate, or “contextualize” the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument.”

5. Biden is back to believing all women should be heard

  • Apparently, hitting on a girl at a wedding is the straw that broke the back of the American news media and their Democrats, as they are covering New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) many scandals. This comes after the third accusation of sexual harassment has come out against Cuomo. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said that President Joe Biden would support an “independent” investigation.
  • Biden was much less open to an investigation into Tara Reade’s accusations of sexual assault against him, but Psaki claims that “Biden has been consistent that he believes every woman should be heard.”

4. Tuberville: 2022 is the last chance to keep America 

  • U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) recently spoke about the future of the country and upcoming elections while at the 2021 Winter Meeting for the Alabama Republican Party. Tuberville said that “we’re in trouble” and noted that Republicans are those who want “God in our schools, that want “to go with the Constitution” and that want to “have small government.”
  • Tuberville added that Democrats “are just the opposite.” He added that 2022 is the last chance before “it’ll be too far gone,” stressing the importance of the midterm elections for Republicans.

3. Alabama to receive over 40,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

  • The Johnson & Johnson single-dose coronavirus vaccine is the third vaccine on the market, and the Alabama Department of Public Health has said that the state will receive 40,100 doses just this week.
  • This will dramatically increase the vaccination rate in Alabama, where 617,768 people have already received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. It’s now expected that Alabama will receive 140,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines this week.

2. These kids are going to throw a tantrum

  • The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa will all reopen for the fall 2021 semester as normal, removing all classroom restrictions and returning to full in-person classes.
  • There’s a “strong likelihood” that going back to regular on-campus activity will be safe in the fall, according to dean of UAB School of Medicine Dr. Selwyn Vickers. Vickers also stated that “if safety concerns arise, we can adjust our plan” as the health and safety of those who attend and work for the schools is the “top priority.”

1. We are officially two weeks from the one year anniversary of “15 days to slow the spread”

  • As daily coronavirus cases have declined throughout the state and more people are being vaccinated every day, there is some question that the statewide mask mandate issued by Governor Kay Ivey may be allowed to expire on March 5. Alabama hospitals want it extended.
  • Ivey has renewed the order since it was first put in place in July, but she has yet to signal if she will be extending the order again. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky has said, “Now is not the time to relax restrictions.”

2 hours ago

Alabama House to consider bill giving legislature more oversight over how executive branch spends money

The Alabama House will consider a bill on Tuesday, backed by the chamber’s leaders, that would create a joint legislative committee with the authority to approve contracts, leases and agreements made by the executive branch.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), chair of the powerful Rules Committee, HB392 comes in the wake of Governor Kay Ivey’s plan to build three massive new prisons for men. Legislators from both parties have complained about their branch of government’s lack of input in the massive deal.

“Whenever an administration enters into agreements involving millions of taxpayer dollars, the Legislature deserves to have its questions answered and any concerns addressed,” said House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) in a statement.

298

McCutcheon is a cosponsor of the legislation alongside Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), Majority Whip Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and Speaker Pro Tem Victor Gaston (R-Mobile).

The bill creates the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Obligation Transparency and invests it with the power to approve or disapprove of any state agency’s proposed financial arrangement worth $10 million or 5% of its annual appropriation, whichever is less.

Making up the committee would be the chair, vice chair and ranking minority members of the committees in each legislative chamber that oversee taxation.

Meetings would occur at the call of the chair of the new joint committee, a position which would be elected from among its members at its first meeting. The responsibility of chairing the committee would switch between a member of the House and a member of the Senate each year.

A majority of committee members would also have the authority to call a meeting.

The proposed oversight committee would be able to meet when the legislation is in or out of session. It would have to issue approval or disapproval within 45 days of a state agency submitting a proposed contract.

If the committee were not to issue a decision on a contract within 45 days, it would be considered approved.

Disapproval by the committee would delay a contract from going into effect until after the end of the current or next regular session, giving lawmakers a chance to legislate on the issue.

Only future financial agreements would be subject to examination by the committee, meaning passage of Jones’ bill would not affect Ivey’s prison construction plan.

“Rep. Jones’s legislation offers a commonsense method of protecting taxpayers and reassuring lawmakers when large sums of dollars are being obligated,” remarked McCutcheon.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 hours ago

Rep. Jerry Carl introduces bill to prevent bureaucrats from removing, altering certain historical monuments

Congressman Jerry Carl (AL-01) on Monday filed his first-ever piece of legislation, titled “The American Heritage Protection Act of 2021.”

The Republican freshman representative from Mobile noted that his bill comes after the D.C. Facilities and Commemorative Expressions Working Group (DCFACES) last fall recommended 150 sites in our nation’s capital be either removed, contextualized or have their name changed. Sites specifically under fire include the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Woodrow Wilson High School and the fountain at Chevy Chase Circle.

Other historical figures with listed buildings or monuments included Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Scott Key, George Mason, Andrew Jackson and Christopher Columbus.

“Today, I was proud to introduce the American Heritage Protection Act of 2021, which protects our nation’s history from being erased or altered based on the whims of government bureaucrats,” said Carl in a statement.

224

Carl’s bill would explicitly prohibit the U.S. Department of Interior from changing the names, removing or altering the following monuments in D.C.: the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial and Theodore Roosevelt Island.

Additionally, the legislation would prevent Interior from removing or altering statues related to the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 or Civil War battlefields under its purview.

“While many people wish to erase or rewrite our history, I believe the best path forward involves learning from our complex history and avoiding judgment of historical figures based on today’s standards,” the Coastal Alabama congressman concluded. “If we erase or rewrite our history, we are unable to learn and grow from our past. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in this endeavor so we as Americans can engage in honest, accurate, and unifying discussions that enable us to move forward as one nation.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

What Alabamians need to know about the latest activity on Goat Hill — March 2, 2021

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature on Tuesday will convene for the 10th day of its 2021 regular session.

There is also one committee meeting scheduled for the day, as well as one subcommittee meeting.

Read about what occurred last Thursday on the ninth legislative day here.

623

Looking ahead

The Alabama Senate will gavel in at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

This will come after the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee meets at 1:00 p.m. The committee’s agenda includes four election-related bills; especially of note, SB 235 sponsored by Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) would ban curbside voting in Alabama. Curbside voting is not provided for in Alabama law, however it is also not explicitly barred at this time.

The committee is further scheduled to take up SB 259 by Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road) that would allow the legislature to call itself into a special session. The provisions of the bill would require a joint proclamation by the Senate pro tem and the House speaker to call a special session; a resolution carrying the support of 2/3 of each chamber would then have to be adopted before business could be taken up in such a special session. The bill was officially introduced last week on the first legislative day following Governor Kay Ivey’s “herd of turtles” remarks. Between Barfoot and 16 cosponsors, the bill already has the support of an effective majority of the Senate, which only has a maximum of 32 members in attendance so far this session. SB 259 is a companion bill to Rep. Becky Nordgren’s (R-Gadsden) HB 21, which was prefiled back in October. Her bill is set to be considered in a House committee on Wednesday.

The House will convene at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Before that, the County and Municipal Government Committee’s Government Service Subcommittee will meet at 11:00 a.m. On that docket is SB 107 by Sen. Chris Elliot (R-Daphne).

The lower chamber’s floor action is set to focus on a 16-bill special order calendar, which can be viewed here.

Included on that calendar is Rep. Jamie Kiel’s (R-Russellville) HB 103, which would effectively erase the distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” businesses during a pandemic or other declared emergency.

Also slated for consideration is Rep. Scott Stadthagen’s (R-Hartselle) HB 391; this bill would mandate that public school students can only compete in athletic competitions aligning with the gender on their birth certificates.

Another notable bill on the House special order calendar is Rep. Paul Lee’s (R-Dothan) HB 249. This legislation would cap a health insurance beneficiary’s cost-sharing or co-pay for an insulin drug prescription at $100 per 30-day supply.

Observers may also be interested to know that Rep. Jeremy Gray’s (D-Opelika) HB 246 is on the calendar; this is the bill that would allow yoga to be offered in public K-12 schools.

Finally, Rep. Mike Jones’ (R-Andalusia) HB 392 is set to be considered. This bill would create a formal layer of legislative oversight — and additional transparency — on executive branch contracts, leases and agreements exceeding $10 million.

“It is important that we maintain a system of checks and balances, and the Legislature must be able to access important information about agreements that obligate the General Fund to substantial expenditures,” Jones said in a Monday statement. “This bill provides an additional layer of oversight on large executive branch agreements in a manner that is fair, transparent, and, most of all, constitutional.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) stated that he supports the bill.

“Whenever an administration enters into agreements involving millions of taxpayer dollars, the Legislature deserves to have its questions answered and any concerns addressed,” McCutcheon said. “Rep. Jones’s legislation offers a commonsense method of protecting taxpayers and reassuring lawmakers when large sums of dollars are being obligated.”

While it could pertain to items similar to Governor Ivey’s prison plan in the future, the legislation would not be retroactive and would not apply to current contracts, leases and other obligations.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

LISTEN: Actor Robert Ri’chard previews upcoming faith-based movie ‘My Brother’s Keeper’

Robert Ri’chard grew up in South Central Los Angeles in a very challenging environment. He had to make disciplined choices at an early age that would help determine his future and get him to where he is today.

Robert, an actor, entertainer, entrepreneur and mentor, lives with purpose every day.

In this episode, we discuss the choices we all need to make each day to become who God calls us to be. We also talk about the upcoming movie he co-stars in which will be coming out this month, “My Brother’s Keeper.” The movie deals with the struggles of PTSD and how God can help people overcome it. TC Stallings stars as a veteran returning from war and trying to reestablish a life back home. Robert plays his best friend, Donnie, and the two struggle to maintain their relationship after division arises between the two of them. The film also features Keisha Knight Pulliam and Joey Lawrence.

This is a great faith-based movie that is good for the whole family. Check local listings and online for viewing options starting March 19.

1