Is Alabama just a football school?

Visitors+attend+the+Dinah+Washington+Cultural+Arts+Center+in+September+2020.

CW / David Gray

Visitors attend the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in September 2020.

Savannah Ichikawa and Lucy Phillips

Some may hear “The University of Alabama” and picture Bryant-Denny Stadium, Nick Saban and championship rings. However, the Capstone has nearly 200 degree programs and encourages students to pursue excellence, making it clear that this university produces legends in more than just sports.

Dance and theater

Within the College of Arts and Sciences, fine arts and performing arts students have access to advanced classical, contemporary and experimental styles. They are guided by renowned faculty and achieve accomplishments locally, nationally and globally. 

Sarah M. Barry, the current chair of the theater and dance department, said the UA theater and dance program encompasses more than just ballet or modern and contemporary styles of dance, which is what attracted her to teach at the school in the first place. 

“We’re just not a cookie cutter program. Students go on to perform on cruise ships, in theme parks, for Broadway tours or off-Broadway shows,” Barry said.

Stacy Alley, an associate professor and director of musical theater, said performing arts students get the best of both worlds by having intensive conservatory-type training within a liberal arts institution while holding on to the true traditional college experience. 

“People can have really individualized one-on-one training. We keep the classes small, and they are advised and mentored throughout their entire time here,” Alley said. “Tons of our students are working and doing great things and representing us all over the country.”

Students within the theater and dance department graduate equipped with skills to take into the performance arts world.  Graduates are currently cast members in musicals like “Kinky Boots,” “Tina Turner,” “King Kong” and “Carousel” on Broadway. 

The University of Alabama has a large presence in Birmingham through alumni-founded dance companies such as Formations, Sanspointe Dance Company and Jellybean Dance Collective.

Science

The University’s size, reputation and loyal alumni have afforded it a plethora of resources and programs for students to benefit from, including an extensive network of undergraduate research opportunities

Undergraduate research gives students the opportunity to embrace and apply their course studies outside of the classroom. 

The Emerging Scholars Program and the Randall Research Scholars Program are two opportunities that give students the real-world experience, resources and connections needed to deepen their understanding of their field. 

Alex Turner, a junior majoring in chemistry and psychology, takes full advantage of these resources and research opportunities, serving as an undergraduate research assistant in the Caldwell Lab as well as a McCollough premedical scholar. 

“Research and the McCollough program have helped me establish connections and introduced me to people and mindsets that we would not have initially thought about,” Turner said. “That’s always extremely beneficial for anyone but especially people wanting to go into a field where knowing more things, knowing more people, is never a bad thing.” 

The McCollough Institute for Pre-Medical Scholars is an initiative to train the next generation of doctors in skills beyond the hard sciences. Scholars learn about health care ethics, effective patient interaction and a multitude of additional topics that culminate to produce well-rounded medical school applicants. 

Undergraduate research is available for students in a multitude of areas of study, including the hard sciences, economics and the humanities. 

Students even have the opportunity to be published in connection with these research opportunities. 

Lingyan Kong, an associate professor and director of a research lab in the Department of Human Nutrition and Hospitality Management, employs between four and 10 undergraduate research assistants every semester and is always impressed by the caliber of students at the Capstone. 

Throughout their time in his lab, Kong seeks to teach his students time management, expanded ways of thinking, and independence. He expects his students to conduct their research within their control and under their own supervision and schedule; his standards are often exceeded. 

“The undergraduate students in my lab are excellent, and they have access to really good programs,” Kong said. “Those students excel and learn so much from conducting research during their undergraduate studies.” 

Visual arts

Katie Adams, an adjunct 2D and 3D design professor and alumna of The University of Alabama, praised the resources and connections that were available to her during her graduate studies that helped launch her career in sculpture. 

“I was very much intrigued by the amount of facilities that we have here, and just the broad scope of machines and processes that we could do,” Adams said. “So, coming to Tuscaloosa, [students] have the ability to cast large-scale commissions, which other places don’t necessarily have the opportunity to do.” 

The University of Alabama’s art department utilizes an expansive array of facilities available to undergraduate and graduate art students, including the UA Foundry, which houses the metal shop, the wood shop and numerous other pieces of equipment and spaces for producing art. 

Commissions come to the UA Foundry from across the state and country seeking the artists and resources that The University of Alabama is known for. 

“The UA Department of Art and Art History is, like the University itself, a creative mix of tradition and forward-looking innovation,” department Chair Jason Guynes and spokesperson Rachel Dobson said in a statement.  

Along with their own studies and the development of their personal portfolio, arts students also give back to Tuscaloosa in a variety of ways, including programs at local schools and community sculpture projects. 

Nursing 

Another program that is thriving on campus is the Capstone College of Nursing. It is ranked among the top 5% of programs in the country. 

This field of study provides an environment for nursing students to explore careers in modern health care systems and offers courses at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. 

Michelle Cheshire, the associate dean of undergraduate programs, said that while the Bachelor of Science in nursing program is competitive, she believes anybody who is interested in being a nurse has the ability to pursue that path at The University of Alabama.

The nursing program is a five-semester program that combines clinicals, similar to internship work, with classes. 

“The program culminates in the fifth semester with students completing a preceptorship where they are working in the hospital one-on-one with another nurse,” Cheshire said. 

She said the Capstone’s nursing program is active in the COVID-19 vaccination effort within the Tuscaloosa community. 

“Many of our students as part of their clinical rotations have been able to provide COVID vaccines to people in the community,” Cheshire said. “We helped with clinics at the VA Medical Center and the Good Samaritan Clinic here in Tuscaloosa.” 

These students spent recent months working within the community to further their hands-on experience through COVID-19 vaccine clinics.  

“2020 was the year of the nurse,” Cheshire said. “It’s been a very interesting couple of years for nurses and for students in nursing school. We have come to realize how very important nurses are to the health care of our nation, and we are thankful that we are educating the next generation of nurses here at the Capstone College of Nursing.”

Football is sacred at The University of Alabama. Steeped in history, wins and family, to love this school means to love the Tide. 

The attention and accolades allotted to the football team could make it easy to believe that it is the only sport accomplishing great things, but that is far from the truth. 

Softball 

The softball team went 59-9 during the 2021 season. In May, they made it to the semifinal round of the Women’s College World Series. This was the program’s 13th appearance at the Women’s College World Series.

SEC softball is extremely competitive, and UA softball continues to raise the bar every year. Notable names like infielder Kaylee Tow, pitcher Montana Fouts and infielder Savannah Woodard have brought a new spotlight to the team.

Men’s basketball

The men’s basketball team made significant strides last season and hopes to continue that success this season.

The change in culture and play is credited to head coach Nate Oats. Oats joined the coaching staff in 2019, marking a turning point for the team. Since his arrival, the team has made it to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 after winning the SEC basketball tournament. This win was the seventh SEC trophy won by the team and the first in 30 years.

Students have embraced the team and its newfound success.

Women’s golf

Just this fall, the women’s golf team has ranked top five in their tournaments. This is not anything new for the club. They have continued to dominate SEC golf teams every year. Polly Mack, Benedetta Moresco, and Emilie Øverås consistently place in the top 15 in the tournaments that the team goes to. Moresco recently broke a school record for the lowest second day score.

The Legacy 

It is true that The University of Alabama is where legends are made. From the field to the classrooms, it is in the University’s DNA to raise the bar. Every aspect of campus life is elite at the Capstone. 

This story was published in the Rumor Edition. View the complete issue here.

Questions? Email the Culture desk at culture@cw.ua.edu.