3 months ago

Dr. Alice Smith is a 2020 Woman of Impact

One of the most decorated researchers in the wide world of industrial systems and engineering is right here in Alabama: Dr. Alice Smith, a professor at Auburn University.

Smith has authored over 200 scholarly articles in leading journals — a key indicator of success among professional academics. Those pieces have been cited thousands of times over in industry publications, another sign that her work has pushed the field forward.

She was awarded a distinguished position as a Fulbright Senior Fellow in 2014 and is currently the Joe. W. Forehand/Accenture Distinguished Professor at Auburn.

When she first entered school, Smith had inclinations towards being an artist, but her father encouraged her to study something he felt would have more readily available employment opportunities.

“I chose engineering,” Smith said in a recent interview with Yellowhammer News, adding that she quickly found her chosen course of study to be “very artful.”

“In fact, my research is pretty artful, and by artful I mean there is a lot of creativity and inspiration,” she explained.

Smith’s journey to the top of her field began at Rice University, where she was a National Merit Scholar and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering.

She later earned an MBA from Saint Louis University while working for Southwestern Bell Corporation.

After deciding she preferred the world of teaching, Smith earned a PH.D. from Missouri University of Science and Technology in 1991 and later that year became an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Smith believes that regardless of the complexity of one’s chosen field of employment, people should choose a path that can lead them to happiness.

“The purpose of working is to make money and have fun,” Smith said when Yellowhammer asked her what piece of advice she thinks about often. “You need to enjoy and feel gratified by what you do.”

“If you feel like your profession and your work is not leading you long term to where you want to go, then it is time to make a change,” she explained, referencing her move from Southwestern Bell to academia.

Smith quickly moved up the ranks in Pittsburgh, becoming an associate professor in 1996. She stayed at the level for three years before Auburn hired her to be a professor and to chair the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Under her leadership, the department impressively increased its enrollment by 200% and its research funding by 500%. Though she transitioned out of the chair position in 2011, she hired and organized a department that now has 250 undergraduate students and 12 faculty positions.

Since 2012, Smith has held two different prestigious professorships at Auburn, where she both teaches and conducts research projects.

“She loves what she does and is empathetic towards students who try hard,” a student wrote online after taking one of Smith’s classes.

“My own work is inspired by natural systems so part of it is observing the world around us and how we can translate this into mathematical models and computer algorithms to solve problems,” Smith told Yellowhammer about the projects she works on when not instructing students.

Smith’s papers and research work have now accrued too many honors for a summary to even do her justice, however those wanting to peruse some of her accomplishments can do so here.

Yellowhammer asked Smith about working in a field that has for years been predominantly male.

The distinguished expert told Yellowhammer that women who choose to study engineering tend to have been at the very top of their class, something not true for many male engineering students.

“I think it is an intimidation thing that women aren’t feeling confident enough to choose engineering unless they’re an A or B+ student, while this is far from true,” she explained.

“You can be a very successful engineer and be an average student as long as you have the willingness to learn and to work hard,” Smith added.

The subject of greater female participation in her field is important to Smith. She edited a book entitled “Women in Industrial and Systems Engineering” that was published in fall 2019.

In the book, each chapter is by a woman in the field who Smith sees as doing important work. The collection is one in a series on women in the sciences, and Smith says it turned out much longer than the others because there was so much great work being done by women for her to highlight.

Smith says she was happy with how the book turned out, especially because “all of the authors and the other people who have examined the book and read the book have all thought it was a volume worth doing.”

“It will serve as a landmark for hopefully many years to come,” she remarked.

In addition to being a world-renowned engineer, Smith is also a mom and wife. She says the thing in life of which she is most proud would be her three children, all of whom are now grown and followed her into the field of engineering.

The engineering expert also spoke fondly of Auburn University, which all of her children attended.

“I can see the value of the education, and how important it is to the people of Alabama and this region,” she said of the school.

Smith told Yellowhammer that when she first arrived on The Plains she “never expected to be at Auburn this long,” but that she has “grown to love Auburn” and now considers herself “Auburn by choice not by birth.”

“I feel like the rest of my career will be here,” she remarked.

Yellowhammer asked Dr. Smith what advice she had for those entering the engineering field, especially young women.

“The main thing is just go for it,” she replied, further advising young people to “do your best and likely things will turn out well.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Dr. Alice Smith a 2020 Woman of Impact.

WATCH:

See the full interview here

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through September 30. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

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

18 mins ago

Judge reduces Hubbard’s prison sentence to reflect overturned convictions

A Lee County circuit judge on Wednesday issued a ruling that significantly reduced former Alabama House Speaker Michael G. “Mike” Hubbard’s prison sentence.

Hubbard in 2016 was convicted on 12 of 23 ethics charges brought against him by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office; he was then sentenced to four years in prison.

One of those 12 convictions was reversed by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in August 2018. An additional five convictions were tossed by the Supreme Court of Alabama earlier this year.

This meant that although half of the original convictions were subsequently overturned, Hubbard was still facing the full original prison sentence.

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Hubbard’s legal team in recent months, after he began serving that sentence, requested resentencing. They argued, in part, that the “changed circumstances” of the overturned convictions warranted such an action.

“[I]n the interest of justice, Hubbard respectfully requests that this Court resentence him… The convictions in this case alone have resulted in a wide range of punishments which include his removal from office, the loss of his right to vote, the divestment of his business interests, and his current incarceration,” they wrote.

In his Wednesday order, the Lee County judge noted the overturned convictions in reducing the sentence from four years to 28 months. This represents a sentence reduction of 41.67%.

In a statement, Attorney General Steve Marshall expressed disappointment with the decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence.

“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” said Marshall.

“Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law,” the attorney general concluded. “Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”

According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, Hubbard is currently serving his time at Limestone Correctional Center. He has already served two months and sixteen days of his sentence.

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

43 mins ago

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne: Timeframe on I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge ‘not unlimited’ — State, local leaders ‘need to do it in the next several months to a year’

Last week, state and local officials in the Mobile and Baldwin County areas had reportedly resumed discussions about a new I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge.

A now-infamous proposal came to a halt last year after the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to remove the bridge from the organization’s Transportation Improvement Program, which resulted in Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL) calling it off.

Questions remain about the future. However, according to U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), the clock is ticking if the state wants to use available federal money.

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During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Byrne, who has a little over a month remaining in office until U.S. Rep.-elect Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) is sworn in, said it was up to state and local leaders to agree on how to proceed because the federal component had already been settled.

“The real center of gravity here is with local leaders and state leaders,” he said. “It’s really not federal leaders. Jerry Carl doesn’t have to worry about that money that’s been put out there going away in the next couple of years. It’s still going to be there. This is really off federal government, and really on state and local government.”

“It won’t be there forever,” Byrne added. “Now, it might be enhanced if we get some big infrastructure bill comes out in the next year or so. I still think the onus with coming up with most of the money has got to be on the state and local governments here. The state has a lot of money that it gets from the federal government every year from the national highway fund. And it could bond money. You know, I’ve been saying we should bond some of this [Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funds] to do it, etc. There is a way to set all this together and make it work. The federal end is done, ready to go. There is state money that can be used for it, that comes from the federal government, including GOMESA money, and there’s a way to put it all together. But it is going to require these local leaders, the new local leaders, working with the governor.”

Byrne urged local and state officials to put a proposal forth within the next year.

“Our timeframe is not unlimited here,” he said. “If they’re going to do something, they need to do it in the next several months to a year — come up with a plan that’s approved, etc. I think the U.S. Department of Transportation will help them to find some way to make this happen because one thing we have accomplished — we’ve got the Department of Transportation, going back to the Obama administration — so it’s not a Democrat or Republican thing — the Department of Transportation has said this is critical for the United States of America. So, we’re teed up with the federal government. We’ve just got to get the state and locals together.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

1 hour ago

This month marks 20 years since all humans were on Earth at the same time

NASA and its international partners — including the many in Alabama — this month marked a new milestone in human spaceflight. It has now been 20 consecutive years since the last time all humans were on the planet Earth at the same time.

Indeed, November 1, 2000, was the most recent day humans dwelled only on our planet. The Expedition 1 crew – NASA astronaut William Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko – launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 31 of that year, arriving to become the first crew to live aboard the orbiting laboratory on November 2.

NASA and its partners have successfully supported humans living in space aboard the ISS ever since, including Boeing — which has been the lead industry partner for the ISS since 1993.

Boeing has partnered with NASA to help design, build, integrate and — now — manage operations for the ISS. Just this summer, the company received a $916 million contract extension through September 2024 to continue supporting the space station.

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In Alabama, Boeing employees work closely with NASA at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center and perform sustaining engineering and manufacturing support for the ISS. This work is reportedly critical to proving deep-space technology for future NASA missions and providing a cornerstone for developing and operating commercial enterprises in low Earth orbit.

“Men and women have been working in space for 20 years, an accomplishment that speaks to Boeing and NASA’s commitment to crew safety and widening access to space,” stated John Mulholland, ISS vice president and program manager for Boeing. “The space station is the realization of a dream that has inspired countless generations to reach for the stars, and we will continue to increase its uses as our imaginations catch up with its extraordinary capabilities.”

In its history, the ISS has hosted more than 240 individuals from 19 different countries. Astronauts have conducted 231 spacewalks totaling more than 1,400 hours to build and maintain the station.

The scientific research performed aboard the ISS has come from and affected 108 nations around the world. More than 3,000 experiments have taken place aboard the space station so far.

In the present, the ISS is also newly receiving missions powered by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Boeing is one of two companies selected as prime contractors on this program. The Boeing Starliner spacecraft used for this program is powered by an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Alabama. The Starliner was also designed at Boeing’s Huntsville operations.

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

3 hours ago

Bruce Pearl: ‘I felt terrible’ telling players about self-imposed postseason ban

Auburn University head men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl spoke remotely to the media on Wednesday ahead of the team’s first game of the season.

The Tigers are scheduled to face Saint Joseph’s at 3:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving in the Fort Myers Tip-Off event.

However, the opening contest has been overshadowed this week by Sunday’s announcement that Auburn will forgo postseason competition this season.

Pearl on Wednesday revealed that his players were not made aware of this decision to self-impose a postseason ban before the public was informed.

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“We made them aware as we were announcing it,” he advised. “We just felt like it was something the university wanted to get out in front of. I was telling the players as it was being announced.”

“I had a zoom call set up with their parents for as soon as I finished up with my players. They probably had heard something about it, but they knew they had a call from me, so when they saw it, I’m sure they realized this is what the call was about. It all took place on Sunday afternoon,” Pearl continued.

He also commented on the team’s reaction to the news.

“It’s been a really difficult time. It was a difficult few weeks leading up to the announcement because it was something we had talked about,” Pearl said.

“If there was any comfort, it was their reaction. I got more guys coming up and hugging me because I felt terrible for them. We kept some things in perspective and reminded ourselves – I asked the question beforehand of why did you come to Auburn, and I got a lot of answers about graduating, being an Auburn Man, getting better, maybe have a chance to play professionally, wanting to be part of the Auburn Family – all those things. I was then able to say right before I gave them the information that they’re still going to be able to accomplish almost all of those things,” he added. “This year, we’re not going to be able to compete in the postseason. A couple years ago, after we won the regular season [SEC title], postseason was only a couple of games. Without minimizing it, because it is important and we all work and strive for it, I tried to keep their focus on what they’re trying to get accomplished and why they’re at Auburn as student-athletes. All I can tell you is, it was an amazing response from my players and their parents how we’re going to get through this together.”

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

6 hours ago

Spend Black Friday shooting clays at Selwood Farm

Play a round of 18 with the family over Thanksgiving weekend — but we’re not talking about golf. Selwood Farm is a family-owned hunting preserve in Alpine, Alabama, that has the state’s first sporting clay course. Thanksgiving weekend is a busy one for Selwood Farm (they’re closed on Thanksgiving Day), including its annual Black Friday event that has become a tradition for many.

For $60 per person, you’ll receive 100 sporting clays, a golf cart to take you through the 18-stand course (and eight additional stands for experienced shooters), and lunch from 2 Men And A Pig barbecue. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in drawings for prizes including Orca Coolers, Russell Boots, Selwood swag, restaurant gift cards, Dirk Walker Shooting shirts exclusive to Selwood Farm, and more.

“Our Black Friday event is something we started several years ago after discovering that several of the same families made it a tradition to visit Selwood annually the day after Thanksgiving,” says Judith Jager, creative director of Selwood Farm. “We always joke that spending Black Friday at Selwood is much better than spending it at the mall — especially this year with COVID-19. We have loved being an outdoor escape for folks during this time.”

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shooting clay selwood farm
Craig Godwin/Contributed

If you can’t make it for the Friday event, Selwood Farm is open daily except Sundays and offers multiple activities. In addition to the sporting clay course, you can also shoot at the 5-stand, play the only Helice ring in Alabama (a European simulated live bird game), and hunt for quail and pheasant in the preserve’s 800 acres. Currently owned by Dell and Carolyn Hill, Selwood Farm has been a licensed hunting preserve since 1984.

The history of Selwood Farm began in 1834 when James Mallory moved from Virginia to Alpine and settled Selwood. He prospered as a farmer and community leader and the land remained in his family until 1948.

Dell’s father, O.V. Hill, purchased the property and raised cattle, sheep, poultry, and turkeys at Selwood. After Mr. Hill’s death, Dell and Carolyn continued the cattle operation and a smoked turkey mail-order business for more than thirty-five years. The Hills decided to turn the farm into a recreational space when the cattle business was no longer profitable. Selwood was officially designated as a hunting preserve in 1984 and the sporting clays course opened in 1990.

Selwood, which means “the king’s hunting forest,” has become a destination for those both in-state and out. Thousands of people visit Selwood Farm each year to shoot, hunt, host events, or take a vacation. If you’re looking for something to do with the family this Thanksgiving weekend, visiting Selwood Farm is a fun, socially distant outdoor activity that you can feel safe participating in. Plus, it’s something the whole family can enjoy.

“There truly is something for everyone,” says Jager, “even if it is just sitting on our front porch drinking a glass of sweet tea watching the sunset over the Selwood hills.”

clay shooting selwood farm
Selwood Farm/Contributed

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.