2 years ago

Alabama college-age kids rejoice: You CAN make a career out of huntin’ and fishin’

(David Rainer)

 

If you’re passionate about the outdoors and think those endeavors will be limited to a hobby or favorite pastime, think again. The University of Montevallo in central Alabama has a path to convert your outdoors activities into a career.

The President’s Outdoor Scholars Program allows students to tailor their studies en route to a degree that could translate into a career in the outdoors industry.

Montevallo President Dr. John Stewart III, an avid outdoorsman with a penchant for offshore fishing, remembered how he was separated to some extent from his favorite pursuits when he went away to college.

“Two things really informed my thinking, considering a program that would morph into something like this,” Stewart said. “My parents hadn’t been to school, so it was a daunting time for me. I loved hunting and fishing, but when I went away to college, it was tough to find somebody who shared those same passions and interests. Unless I was home for the holidays or at home working during the summer, I was out of action for the rest of the year as far as hunting and fishing. That’s one thing that just stuck with me.

“The other thing was thinking about enrollment, and what brings kids to colleges, and should we, as institutions, encourage them to see if those passions can be matched up with a career. The people I’ve known who are happiest are doing what they love as a career. So that came into the idea.”

Stewart approached William Crawford, who was already working on the Montevallo campus, about an idea to merge a love of the outdoors with a formal education.

“In our part of the world in Alabama, what do people think about more than football and each other? That’s hunting and fishing,” Stewart said. “I knew William was a hunter and a respected breeder and trainer of retrievers.”

When Stewart shared his idea with Crawford, the response was, “I think they’d love it.”

Stewart considered Crawford a perfect fit for the director’s job. Crawford, who holds a master’s degree, has been a recruiter and fundraiser professionally, and he also runs Silver Banded Retrievers, raising and training retrievers. Crawford also played baseball at the University of West Alabama.

“I couldn’t think of a better person with a better background to trust the safety and welfare and student experience with,” Stewart said.

The way the President’s Outdoor Scholars Program was integrated into the school was through the Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) Program, which was implemented not long after Stewart became president 15 years ago.

“We forged an IDS degree with the idea that a student with any passion could hammer out a major course of study that would lead to a career,” he said. “I remember the very first student to graduate with an IDS degree finished with an audio-visual major. The kid was just passionate about a high-level career in audio-visual work. Now we’ve got a curriculum, most but not all in the College of Business, in outdoors resource management.

“The aspect of the program that was attractive to me is this is a way I can connect with students a lot younger than I am who come to our institution. It’s a unique way for me to get to know students. So far, we’re really happy with the progress.”

Crawford said in the beginning the President’s Outdoor Scholars Program amounted to extracurricular activities to keep the students connected with the outdoors.

“Very early in the program, it was brought to our attention that these students wanted more,” Crawford said. “They wanted a degree track. We started working on a program tied to the academic side that allowed students to do that.

“Starting this spring, we will start, through IDS, a program where a student can create their own major. With that, we’ve already developed a layout for the program for them to accomplish that. About 90 percent of our students in the program are going through the College of Business. They wanted to do something with the business side of the outdoors.

“We developed a program that’s called outdoors resource marketing. What sets that aside and makes it a little different than a typical marketing degree, it will have different components tied to other areas on campus. For example, retail will be added from our Family and Consumer Sciences majors. Also, some entry-level video production is included because today’s time in the outdoors, everything is shifting to digital content. You see a lot of videos on social media now. Our students will get skillsets in several different areas that can be combined into a major that will make them more well-rounded for this industry.”

Crawford said if a student wants to go in a different direction, perhaps in conservation or land management, the curriculum would go to Environmental Studies with courses in biology.

“We have one student who wants to raise quail and run a quail farm,” he said. “Of course, he needs to know about these animals and how they act. We’ve got biology for that. But he also needs to know how to run a business, so we can provide some business background. Ultimately, it’s up to the student and what they want to do. We can develop and personalize a program specifically for them.”

During the students’ outdoors studies, Stewart said Crawford lines up events for them to meet leaders in the outdoors industry through their guest speaker program.

“They’ve had lunch and tours with the president of Mossy Oak, Toxey Haas, and vice president Bill Suggs,” Stewart said. “They’ve been to Duck Commander. Jackie Bushman with Buckmasters has been a real champion for our program. He talked at our first banquet.

“What William said that I’ve found to be true is the outdoors industry is so huge, but from a people perspective, it’s pretty small.”

Stewart and Crawford are fully aware of the economic impact hunting has on Alabama, to the tune of $1.8 billion annually.

“I had the opportunity to speak at the Professional Outdoors Media Association (POMA) last year, and I was just astounded at the economic impact hunting and fishing have across the nation,” Stewart said.

The 39 students currently enrolled in the program are treated to perks that would be the envy of anybody who loves the outdoors. Students are treated to trips that expose them to outdoors activities they’ve never experienced. Stewart pointed out that no taxpayer money is used for the trips, which are paid for with private donations.

“Most of our students grew up deer hunting and bass fishing,” Crawford said. “Of course, we want them to continue to enjoy the things they’ve always done. But we also want to introduce them to new adventures.

“We’ve been redfishing in Venice, La., fished for blue marlin in the Bahamas, quail hunted in Alabama, duck hunted in several places as well as deer hunted. We’ve been bowfishing on the Alabama coast. We’ve got a trip to Colorado lined up for the spring to go turkey hunting. I tell the students if they can think of it, we’ll go and do it.”

Stewart added, “If we can expose them to lots and lots of different aspects of the sporting life, then that’s a good curriculum.”

Crawford said one of the students had never been waterfowl hunting until he was taken on an early season goose hunt.

“It was one of the best waterfowl hunts I’ve ever been on,” Crawford said. “I’ve been hunting waterfowl for about 15 years. I kind of felt bad for him because this was his first one. I told him, ‘You’ll never have a trip like this in a long time.’ But what it did was it sparked another interest. He bought all this waterfowl gear and really got into it. He got into a lease and bought a dog to train to retrieve. What that’s doing is, No. 1, it gives him a new passion, but it also pumps money into the economy from the outdoors industry. It goes full circle in everything we do.

“And the great thing about our program is some of the extracurricular activities can now count toward credit for a student to graduate. We want our students to pick a career that they’re passionate about. If they’re passionate about it, they’ll be successful.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

23 mins ago

Human clinical study begins at UAB for groundbreaking brain tumor treatment

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) continues to evolve as a worldwide leader in biomedicine, research and innovation.

Incysus Therapeutics, Inc., a Birmingham-based biopharmaceutical company, has now announced the initiation of a Phase 1 clinical study of a novel Drug Resistant Immunotherapy (DRI) technology for the treatment of patients with newly-diagnosed glioblastoma.

This trial is being conducted at UAB and is now active and open for enrollment.

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM or glioblastoma) is a devastating and fast-growing brain tumor that typically results in death within the first 15 months after diagnosis. GBM is inherently resistant to conventional therapy and accounts for approximately 52% of all primary brain tumors.

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A release from the company outlined Incysus’ innovative DRI approach, which seeks to combine conventional chemotherapies with a γδ T cell-based immunotherapy to modify the tumor microenvironment and drive the immune system. By using alkylating agents such as temozolomide, chemotherapy can activate immunity through the upregulation of the DNA damage response (DDR) pathway. A significant challenge is that such chemotherapies also kill the white blood cells needed to drive an immune response. Incysus’ technology “chemo-protects” immune cells to allow them to remain functional while DDR activation creates an immune signal that allows directed killing activity against cancer cells.

Incysus is the first company to use this type of therapy in patients, and the research marks a landmark moment for Incysus, the overall biotech industry in Birmingham and anti-cancer research across the globe.

Dr. L. Burt Nabors, MD, the co-head of neuro-oncology at UAB and the study’s principal investigator, stated, “The initiation of this clinical trial represents a significant milestone towards developing effective immune-based therapies for the treatment of GBM. We are pleased to work with … the team at Incysus to bring this innovative therapy to patients for the first time.”

Further information on the clinical trial is available here.

Incysus is a UAB spinoff company. Its success in the Magic City — and this kind of potentially revolutionary research spearheaded by UAB — is a prime example of why many legislative and industry leaders in the state, especially in the Birmingham area, are calling on Governor Kay Ivey to fund a world-class genomics facility at the university. They argue that the project could make Birmingham the “Silicon Valley of Biomedicine.”

RELATED: Planned UAB genomics project could make Birmingham the ‘Silicon Valley of Biomedicine’

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

43 mins ago

Amendment One puts kids first, politicians last

When Alabamians take the to the polls on Super Tuesday, they will either be concerned with the Democratic nominee for President of the United States or the Republican nominee for the United States Senate. More important to the future of Alabama is a constitutional amendment that would end our current model of a popularly elected state school board in favor of one appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate.

Supporters of Amendment 1 argue that this would be a major step in improving Alabama’s permanent residence at the bottom of the education barrel. As it is currently designed and managed, the state board of education is doing very little to improve the quality of education in the state. Board members are trying, but clearly nothing is working very well. Supporters of the amendment argue a shake up is the best hope for improving education in Alabama. In some respects the argument does not go far enough. That is because the current process creates negative incentives for board members; because they hold their office at the behest of voters, there is every incentive for them to avoid upsetting their constituents.

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That is the chief problem with the board as it is currently construed. Board members are not uncaring or ignorant or irresponsible. Instead, they respond to the whims and wishes of voters or other powerful political interests. No matter what politicians say, they are inevitably swayed by the whispers of voters and donors. Not because they are corrupt, but because they are human. All people are prone to this, which is why the framers of the Constitution created a system that checked and balanced one human tendency against another. It’s true that voters can provide a check on board members, but that argument does not account for an additional problem.

The second problem with the current system is that voters have limits to their knowledge about education in our state. Committed parents and citizens can often learn a lot about their own schools and school districts, but rarely does even the most passionate citizen have the time and mental energy to devote beyond that. Should Amendment 1 pass, the state Senate would have a direct responsibility to ensure that the governor appoints quality people to the board, but also to make certain that the Board is making progress in evaluating and improving the quality of education in our state.

Critics argue that an appointed board would lend itself to cronyism. That’s possible, but the executive and legislative branch often have competing interests, even when they share the same partisan and ideological commitments. Those competing concerns would help smooth over concerns about patronage and cronyism. Still, the amendment will not be an easy transition given the natural tendency of politicians towards vanity and self-promotion. The current system is of a worse nature, however, as it leaves the governor and senate almost powerless to impact education policy, which is instead run by another group of politicians with little incentive to do anything that might upset the voters who put them there.

But shouldn’t voters have a say in these matters? No, at least not directly. This is because education policy is a difficult matter, and it is hard for voters to adjudicate the success or failures of these policies beyond the very narrow window of their own experience. It’s fine that we elect local school boards; they are indeed local, and voters often see those board members at church or line at Piggly Wiggly. Only the most politically involved voters are likely to have any encounter with their board members, who are busy juggling very difficult conflicts within their own districts. Each district contains such a variety of constituents that it is almost impossible for board members to adequately address those concerns, instead pandering to the one or two constituencies most likely to keep the member in office.

There is a final reason to support Amendment 1. A central feature of modern politics is the tendency of politicians to see themselves as mouthpieces instead of statesmen. Some of that is natural but other parts of it are due to the incentive structure within our own government. This is as true in Montgomery as it is in Washington D.C., and Alabamians should care far more about the goings-on in our state capital than in our nation’s capital. Since our legislature is stripped of any real influence in state education policy and therefore little accountability to voters, it leaves them free to demagogue and pander on the issue without really having to stand before the voters and take account for their time in office. The same is true for the governor. By making the governor and the state senate responsible for staffing the state school board as part of an ongoing process of appointment and confirmation, these branches of our government would finally have real skin in the game. The success of our schools would be their success, and the failure of our schools would be theirs, also.

Matthew Stokes, a widely published opinion writer and instructor in the core texts program at Samford University, is a Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

1 hour ago

Gary Palmer honors the late NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson on House floor

U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) honored Katherine Johnson with a speech in the House chamber on Thursday.

Johnson, who passed away recently at the age of 101, was one of America’s most important mathematicians in the space race. She pioneered a place for African-American women at NASA and was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures.

“Despite intense discrimination throughout her years at NASA she remained committed to advancing America’s space program,” said Palmer during his speech in her honor.

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“She hand-calculated the flight path for America’s first crewed space mission in 1961, and also helped calculate the trajectory for the famed 1969 moon landing,” continued Palmer.

Palmer also recounted the famous anecdote when astronaut John Glenn was about to become the first American to orbit Earth and he demanded that Johnson do the calculations for his mission. Glenn trusted Johnson more than he trusted NASA’s new computer system.

Watch:

“I stand with my colleagues in the House and with countless other Americans in gratitude for Mrs. Johnson’s hard work and pioneering spirit that have undoubtedly made our country a better place,” Palmer concluded.

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

Shelby, Jones introduce legislation to make Alabama’s Black Belt a National Heritage Area

U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Doug Jones (D-AL) have introduced legislation to establish the Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area, authorizing 19 counties in the Yellowhammer State’s Black Belt Region as an official National Heritage Area (NHA).

The bill – entitled the “Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area Act” and designated S.3363 – would allow for federal funding to be directed to the region over the span of 15 years. U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Mike Rogers (AL-03), Terri Sewell (AL-07) and Martha Roby (AL-02) have introduced a companion bill in the lower chamber, underscoring the bipartisan and bicameral nature of the effort.

“Designating Alabama’s Black Belt region as a National Heritage Area will not only promote tourism, but it will also increase public awareness of the natural, historical, and cultural assets our state has to offer,” Shelby said in a statement on Friday.

“Investing in this region to preserve these unique and diverse resources is important for future generations. If passed, this legislation could have significant impact for years to come,” he added.

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NHAs are partnerships between the National Park Service (NPS), states and local entities to protect and support conservation and public access. Through public-private partnerships, NHAs create a diverse, community-driven approach to increase heritage conservation, economic development, recreation and tourism. Currently, the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area is the only NHA in the state.

“Alabama’s Black Belt counties were originally named due to the area’s rich, black topsoil,” Jones stated. “While that is still an accurate depiction of the area, another is of the Black Belt’s rich history and culture. The 19 counties that make up Alabama’s Black Belt has been home to some of our greatest artists, writers, and leaders. This legislation will help preserve and celebrate this historic region through much needed investment.”

The established area would include Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Washington and Wilcox Counties.

The legislation names the Center for the Study of the Black Belt at the University of West Alabama (UWA) as the local management entity. The designation of a local entity, like UWA, ensures its ability to address the interests and needs of those in the surrounding communities, according to Shelby’s office.

Shelby introduced similar legislation during the 111th Congress and the 113th Congress.

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

3 hours ago

National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council endorses Jeff Sessions in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race

Friday, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council announced its endorsement of former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race.

The National ICE Council represents approximately 7,600 officers, agents and employees who work for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) throughout the United States and its territories and possessions.

The National ICE Council endorsement comes just days before Alabama Republicans are set to vote in the party’s primary on Tuesday.

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“On behalf of the men and women of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, we’re proud to endorse Jeff Sessions for Senate in the State of Alabama,” Chris Crane, president of the ICE Council, said in a statement. “We know Jeff Sessions and we know what he stands for. As the United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions led the fight against sanctuary cities and illegal immigration, and was an unwavering champion of law enforcement officers across the nation. As a U.S. Senator, Jeff Sessions was the strongest supporter in the U.S. Congress of ICE, its mission, and its employees. We have no doubt that Senator Sessions will pick up right where he left off – standing up for law enforcement and the enforcement of our laws. We know he will continue to lead the fight against sanctuary cities that threaten our communities and endanger our law enforcement personnel across the country. And we know that he will keep fighting against radical open border policies that threaten our national security.”

“Jeff Sessions has always stood up to The Swamp and always worked to hold Washington accountable,” he added. “We need him now more than ever to stand up for what’s right and stand with President Trump to keep America safe.”

Sessions applauded the endorsement in a statement of his own, and warned of the threat sanctuary cities, open borders and illegal immigration pose to the nation.

“The men and women who serve with the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement are honorable law enforcement officers who serve at the center of this nation’s effort to end illegal immigration,” Sessions said. ‘I am honored beyond words to have the ICE Council’s strong endorsement. We have fought side by side against the powerful, special interest forces that constantly work to further the lawlessness that is occurring at the border. We stood side by side in the effort to elect President Trump. Sanctuary cities and open borders are a threat to our nation. They encourage illegal immigration, protect dangerous criminal gangs, and undermine the rule of law.”

“I am extremely proud of this endorsement,” he added. “No organization has been more committed to law and our national sovereignty than the ICE officers. Their endorsement is therefore extremely valuable. I believe the people of Alabama should recognize how important this endorsement is in understanding who can be most effective in the Senate. I have fought to stop sanctuary cities and I will not rest until our immigration laws are enforced and dangerous aliens are taken off the streets.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.