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A Word From Our Deans

Dr. Carmen Burkhalter

I recently went to a wedding in downtown Atlanta. It was somewhat of a destination wedding where the groom's family was from south Georgia and the bride’s family was from northeast Alabama, so the wedding was in Atlanta. I bring this up because there were many people at the wedding who had never ventured into downtown Atlanta. As I talked to folks who were eager to leave as soon as they arrived, I found myself reflecting on why people choose not to venture into unknown territory. Based on the evening's conversation, I concluded it wasn’t just the traffic. I asked myself if limited personal experiences could be a contributing factor. I believe college, regardless of one’s upbringing, is an important step in a life journey that expands our horizons. It’s long been shown by research and upheld by employers that individuals with a liberal arts education (everyone who took their first two years of college in the United States) demonstrate effective communication, critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, core democratic values, and a spirit of creativity and innovation. Do these benefits of a college education lend themselves to venturing outside one’s comfort zone? Not necessarily. However, if educators, students, and parents do their individual part in representing the importance of higher education, I believe natural curiosity flourishes, hope in the unexpected and unknown is assured, and adventures are welcome. This what I desire of all college graduates. As the Shoals area very own Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” I hope to always remember that my responsibility on a daily basis is to represent core life values, embrace the unfamiliar, and pass the energy associated with exploration on to the next generation.

Dr. Chris Maynard

The College of Arts and Sciences has recently assumed a larger role in support of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area (MSNHA), which is an organization that seeks to preserve the history of this region by focusing on three main themes: music, Native American heritage, and the Tennessee River. I am pleased to announce that Dr. Carolyn Barske has agreed to serve as interim director for this calendar year (January 1-December 31, 2017). Dr. Barske arrived in the Shoals in 2012 to be the first director of the public history program at the University of North Alabama. She has done a fantastic job with UNA’s public history program, and has been an exemplary faculty member in the Department of History. Despite her success in higher education, Dr. Barske recently informed UNA that she wanted to focus all of her efforts on her true passion, which is working in the field of public history. Her decision could not have come at a more opportune time for the MSNHA, and I am confident that she will provide outstanding leadership as interim director. We will be conducting a search for a director for 2018 and beyond. In the meantime, there is much work to be done. The MSNHA management plan requires the creation of a Muscle Shoals Regional Center to serve as the coordinating entity structure for the organization. The National Park Service, which oversees all national heritage areas, is requiring that the regional center be created in order to ensure continuity of funding, and we hope to facilitate this milestone later this year. The College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Alabama is proud to be a partner with the MSNHA, and we are excited about what can be accomplished in 2017 under Dr. Barske’s leadership. If you would like to learn more about the MSNHA, please visit their website: msnha.una.edu.