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 Recently at TWN


Katherine Houston

Strengths-Based Development 

  September 27, 2018

Katherine Houston, a long-time member of TWN, became a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach in 2016 and founded Strengths Consulting to empower Leaders and Managers to create change and to inspire individuals to become the best version of themselves.

Katherine shared the key elements of strengths-based development and some of the research, case studies, and real-life stories that demonstrate its power. What it boils down to is “You are at your best when you are doing what you naturally do best.” When your employees know and use their best, their strengths, they’re more engaged, perform better, have higher well-being, are less likely to leave, and will boost your bottom line. When managers and leaders incorporate a strengths-based culture, engagement and performance rise further. Katherine emphasized that a focus on strengths, using the CliftonStrengths assessment, is not only effective in the workplace but in every area of your life.  Marriages, families, sports teams, church teams all can benefit.

In addition to focusing on individual strengths, Gallup has developed a way to measure and manage employee engagement in your organization. Strengths Consulting uses Gallup’s Q12 Survey to assess the state of your organization’s engagement and to identify specific groups and/or issues in order to prioritize action plans. Katherine shared that managers are responsible for 70% of their team’s engagements, therefore, a major component of their work is training and guiding managers as they work to build a more productive and thriving environment for their teams.

For more info, visit her website www.strengthsconsulting.net, where you can also purchase an access code for the Clifton Strengths assessment.

Zhaundra Jones & Gus Heard-Hughes

Building (it) TogetherA Framework for Aligning Education and Jobs in Greater Birmingham

August 23, 2018

Zhaundra Jones

Prior to joining the Community Foundation, Zhaundra served as a Program Manager for Operation HOPE, Inc’s Youth Empowerment Division. There she led local programming efforts connecting corporate partners with local schools for mentorship and education in financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

With a career that spans multiple industries, functions and geographies, Zhaundra brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that includes management consulting, project management, corporate marketing and strategic communications for world renowned brands and Fortune 500 companies. This breadth of knowledge is complemented by progressive experience in the nonprofit arena implementing programs and educational interventions designed to combat the effects of systemic poverty.

Zhaundra holds an MBA from the Collat School of Business at UAB and a BBA in Marketing from Howard University. She is a member of the Birmingham Change Fund, a giving circle housed at the Foundation, comprised of young, African-American professionals focused on the power of collective giving to create a better Birmingham, as well as the Junior League of Birmingham. For her commitment to community and serving the needs of women and children, she was a Nominated Change Maker invited to the White House Summit on the United State of Women.

Gus Heard-Hughes

Gus Heard-Hughes is Vice President, Programs for the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. He leads the Programs Team’s work on competitive grants, special RFPs and initiatives. Gus serves as point for the Community Foundation’s Mental Health Initiative, coordinating strategic partnerships to expand mental health services in the region. In his previous role as Senior Program Officer, Gus managed the Foundation’s Tornado Recovery Initiative, which provided nearly $4 million in grants to help over 700 families return to safe, secure homes. Gus is the lead contact for grant making and partnerships around nutrition, physical activity, public green space and the natural environment.

Before coming to the Community Foundation, Gus served as a Senior Field Coordinator with Heifer International. Gus holds a BA in Sustainable Food Systems from Hampshire College and a MSW in Social Policy and Administration from Florida State University. He is a founder and former board member of the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network and was part of the 2013 class of the Alabama Leadership.

Anne Buckley

UAB Chief Communications Officer

July 26, 2018

UAB’s role in our community is really about partnering and collaborating on an even brighter future for Birmingham. The longtime partnership between UAB and Birmingham is stronger than ever—helping to fuel a renaissance for our community. Together they are making great strides in all pillars of UAB’s mission: Education; Research, Innovation & Economic Development; Patient Care; and Community Engagement.

UAB is also working campus- and community-wide on the university’s strategic plan, “Forging the Future.” Engaged stakeholders throughout our community  help  effectively chart the university’s course for the next five years to yield an even greater impact around our community, state, nation and indeed the world.

As Chief Communications Officer, Anne and her team  in University Relations want to make sure that the nation and world are hearing the UAB story. They strive to tell that story and promote and protect the UAB brand. Their success in traditional, digital and social media, ensurs that UAB is no longer a “best-kept secret” but rather a widely recognized and respected institution around the U.S. and the globe. 

Anne L. Buckley, APR, is a veteran in higher education and academic medicine communications, oversees University Relations and serves as chief communications officer for UAB and the UAB Health System. She has primary responsibility for protecting and propelling the UAB brand to enhance awareness, engagement and support among key constituencies. She pays particular attention to crisis communications and issues management. Areas of direction include public relations, digital strategy and marketing, trademarks and licensing, executive communications, social media strategy, web presence, editorial content and public radio station WBHM-FM, Central Alabama’s NPR affiliate.

Buckley came to UAB in 2015 after 11 years at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she served as senior director of University Public Affairs, with news and public information responsibilities for VCU and the VCU Medical Center. She has also served as a national news editor at The Associated Press, and as founder and president of Prestige Media Inc., a full-service public relations firm for corporate clients, law firms and small- to medium-sized businesses throughout Virginia and the Southeast.

In addition, Buckley, a member of the Public Relations Society of America, was an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond, where she taught courses in news writing and public relations. She is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Buckley earned an Accreditation in Public Relations in 2009.

Ashley Gann

Chief Meteorologist, CBS42

July 12, 2018 



Ashley Gann is the Chief Meteorologist at CBS 42. She is the only female chief in this market, and likely the first female to hold this title in Birmingham. She is a native Texan...turned Georgia peach...and graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor's of science in Aerospace Engineering. She then went on to Mississippi State University where she received her Masters in Geosciences with a concentration in both operational and broadcast Meteorology. As a meteorologist, Ashley's love for science motivates her to engage the community and local STEM programs. She specifically hopes to interest younger girls in math and sciences and help them stay connected to these subjects through their academic years. Ashley is recent graduate of the Leadership Vestavia HIlls Class of 2018 and also served as a board member for the Make-A-Foundation.


Outside of work you can find Ashley enjoying time with her husband a 2 young children and serving at their church.





John Northrop and Joyce Lanning

Citizen's Climate Lobby

June 28, 2018

Climate change remains a contentious subject, especially in the U.S. However, this June 10-12, over 1200 conservative and progressive members of Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Citizens’ Climate Education are gathering in Washington D.C. for their 9th annual two-day educational conference, followed by a day of visiting Representatives and Senators on the hill. Our TWN speaker was John Northrop, co-chair of the Birmingham Chapter of CCL, share some of CCL’s successes and his recent experience as a participant in respectfully looking for common values.

The importance of solutions for dealing with climate risk is more and more recognized by states, cities and businesses even as Congress fails to act and as the White House has isolated the U.S. as the only nation to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Accord on climate. 

When scientists and some policy makers agreed that smoking cigarettes was costing health and lives, they worked – and are still working - to increase the product’s price. A proper price on carbon is the goal of CCL/CCE and its members in over 480 chapters, most in the United States. CCL is a non-profit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change. It trains and supports local volunteers to help create political will by respectfully working with elected officials, the media and our communities.

Joyce Lanning, long-time TWN member and co-founder of Birmingham’s CCL chapter, framed the conversation for us, with some stories of her work with utility regulation that led her to adopt CCL’s Carbon Fee & Dividend approach as a necessary market-based underpinning for other solutions.

John Northrop is senior co-chair of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Birmingham chapter. He is a graduate of Andalusia High School, Birmingham-Southern College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His first career was journalism, beginning at the Birmingham News, later at the Birmingham Reporter, the Samoa News, and the Birmingham Post-Herald.

Northrop began his education career as a communications specialist at Birmingham Public Schools, followed by six years as a teacher and administrator at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. He was an assistant superintendent for school systems in Tucson, AZ, Riverside, CA, and Atlanta, and an associate commissioner of education for the Kentucky Department of Education. In 1997 he became ASFA's executive director. He retired in 2011.

In 2005, NewSouth Books published Northrop's full-length play in book form entitled MAYOR TODD, having to do with Birmingham politics and race. He and his wife Ericka have published a book of her poems and his photographs, entitled Animal Impressions. They are at work on a second book, entitled Natural Selections. 

Joyce Lanning, Ph.D., is an environmental educator and consultant, and an active volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Education. For over ten years she served as pro-bono Energy Program Consultant for the Alabama Environmental Council where she coordinated the POWER-UP Energy Forum. Since 2012, she’s monitored meetings of the Alabama Public Service Commission, the body tasked with regulating our monopoly utilities.

Joyce served as Natural Resources Chair on the board of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, as well as on the Climate Change Task Force for the League of Women Voters of the United States. She is a former Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Public Health at UAB and instructor in economics and health policy at Birmingham-Southern College.

In the past ten years, Joyce has focused on energy efficiency and renewables as one way to decrease various pollutants from burning fossil fuels.  Training to give presentations about the Inconvenient Truth movie and a “Climate Change Challenge” educational tourist trip to Antarctica in 2007 confirmed her interest in global changes and solutions which may affect the legacy we’re leaving for the young of all species, including her two grandchildren.


Ike Pigott

Media Consultant

June 14, 2018

Life is stressful enough – don’t let that sudden call from a reporter ruin your day. After all, it isn’t a threat; it’s an opportunity! (amirite?)

Before leaving his TV career behind, Emmy-winning reporter Ike Pigott started helping people on the other side of the lens, with his consultancy Positive Position Media. After exiting the newsroom, he did public affairs for the American Red Cross, launching social media for disasters, blogs and online newsrooms. 


For the past ten years, he's worked various roles at Alabama Power, including internal communications, media relations, storm and social media strategy.  


Ike has been a featured speaker at dozens of communication conferences in the United States and Europe, and is considered a thought leader in crisis communications, and the integration of social media for non-profits, utilities and other regulated industries. 

Anne Moses and Liz Hutchins

Estate Planning - Current & New Tax Laws
May 24, 2018



Liz and Anne discussed estate and gift taxes; the need to review your wills; why trusts are still important; charitable giving, IRA rollovers; and incapacity, what you must know about elder law and the new digital assets law.


Below this are links to full presentations given by Sirote & Permutt regarding U.S. Tax Reforms.


Anne Moses received her B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University, New York; and her Juris Doctor from St. John’s University School of Law. She is admitted to practice in New York and Alabama and is engaged in estate and business planning; estate and trust administration; and elder law planning. She is certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

She is Co-founder of the Elder Law Services Committees of the Birmingham Bar Association and the Alabama State Bar. She is past president of the Birmingham Bar Association Women Lawyer’s Section; and Alabama Women in Business (AWIB). She is former president of Estate Planning Council of Birmingham, SOS Foundation, and Children’s Dance Foundation. She served on the Board of Directors for Pathways. She currently serves on the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce Health Services Group, the Advisory Council of Alabama Women in Business, and the Programs Committee of The Women’s Network.

Anne was selected as a Super Lawyer in the area of Elder Law for 2012 through 2017 as one of the Best Lawyers in America by Consumer GuideSM.  She is a frequent speaker on business matters, and elder care planning and estate planning issues. She is author of “Planning Ideas to Manage the Maze of Medicaid Eligibility” published in the February, 2013 edition of Estate Planning Magazine, Elder Care and Estate Planning for You, and co-author of A Wealth of Information.

Liz Hutchins is a senior member of Sirote & Permutt Private Clients, Trusts and Estates practice group. Her practice includes planning for the management and distribution of clients' estates to accomplish their goals and to minimize estate taxes using sophisticated estate planning tools and techniques. Hutchins counsels business owners regarding succession planning. In probate administration, she assists in the orderly distribution of estate assets and planning for estate and income tax issues. Liz also works with clients to accomplish effective charitable giving and establishes both public and private tax-exempt, charitable entities.

Awards & Accreditations:

  • B-Metro Magazine, Top Lawyer, 2018
  • Best Lawyers in America©
  • Mid-South Super Lawyers 
  • AV-Preeminent, Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Rating™


U.S. Tax Reform Seminar Part 1: Overview of New Tax Legislation/Planning Strategies, http://info.sirote.com/l/464212/2018-02-05/2pc4w

U.S. Tax Reform Seminar Part 2: Wealth Transfer and Estate Planning Considerations, http://info.sirote.com/l/464212/2018-02-05/2pc5c

U.S. Tax Reform Seminar Part 3: Playing Defense - Tax Controversy Considerations, http://info.sirote.com/l/464212/2018-02-05/2pc5m

Community Conversation:  

African-American history in the city of Birmingham

February 8, 2018

See this event presented on WIAT-TV:  http://www.wiat.com/news/local/ballard-house-project-holding-community-conversations-about-citys-past/961769179

Majella Chube Hamilton, Executive Director of the Ballard House Project, Inc., led a brief "Community Conversation" panel discussion, highlighting the African-American history in the city of Birmingham in the many decades leading up to the civil rights movement.  She was joined by invited guests: Carol Clarke, Dr. Joan Burroughs, Bettina Byrd-Giles, Dr. Tondra Loder- Jackson (see bios below).


A cultural and informational community space within the Birmingham Civil Rights Historic District, The Ballard House Project, Inc. gathers, documents, and shares a storehouse of information, direction, and resources on this important facet of Birmingham’s heritage. The building, located at the crossroads of the Civil Rights Movement, has a storied history, that highlights what life was like in the African-American community of Birmingham in the decades leading up to the Movement’s transformational changes.


One of the latest initiatives at the Ballard House, a 501c3 nonprofit focused on gathering, documenting and sharing history, is a series of public discussions called Community Conversations. These conversations are part of an effort to better the Birmingham of today by building on the dynamism that shaped the city early in its history and which carried on through the pivotal Civil Rights Movement period.

Majella Chube Hamilton

Editor, Communication Strategic Planner 

& Executive Director, The Ballard House Project, Inc.


Majella Chube Hamilton has distinguished herself in a successful career as a writer, editor, and communication strategic planner. She attended Howard University and received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication with honors from DePaul University in Chicago. For many years, Hamilton worked successfully in the public and private arenas as a writer, editor, communication specialist and community activist, engaged in initiatives of history, art, culture, business, and community, before choosing to pursue graduate study. Currently a third year Ph.D. student at Howard University in Washington, DC, Majella's research underscores her passion for U.S. History and Public History. She serves as Executive Director of The Ballard House Project, Inc., a 501c3, non-profit, charitable entity that serves as a community catalyst in gathering, documenting, and celebrating the history of the early African-American experience decades prior to, and during, the Civil Rights Movement. Her graduate research focuses on the impact of image, representation, and perception of race and culture in the United States from the end of slavery through the early 20th century. Majella serves as a Graduate Assistant in the HU Department of History and Cultural Resource Specialist with the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service Museum & Archives Resource Center in Washington, DC. 



Carol E. Clarke

Project Director/Community Development Specialist

Corporate Realty Development


As Project Director and Community Development Specialist, Carol is responsible for managing day-to-day activities related to delivery of assigned projects and assisting with community development strategies, as needed, on any of the company’s real estate development projects.  Carol’s responsibilities range from coordinating entity formation and deal structuring in the early stages to ongoing management of issues, budgets and schedules throughout the development process.  With a passion for up-building both people and places, Carol keeps busy beyond the work day with her volunteer service and financial contributions to many charitable causes themed around community development, arts and culture. Carol is currently serving as General Manager of Southside Development Company, developer partner with the Housing Authority for the redevelopment of Southtown Court. 


Bettina Byrd-Giles

Interculturalist | Social Entrepreneur | Trainer

The Bethesda Life Center 

Bettina is an experienced health disparities and cultural competence consultant. She spent the last five years applying those skills in medically under served census tracts. She has provided consultancy for the defense industry, academic medical research, the automotive and manufacturing industries. Several years of her career were dedicated to higher education at an academic medical research university. Bettina’s academic achievements include a master of arts (MA.Ed) from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a bachelor of arts from The University of Virginia in International Relations. She has acquired professional development certifications in intercultural communication including: Qualified Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Administrator, Intercultural Foundations Certificate, Intercultural Practitioner Certificate.  Bettina developed a passion for community revitalization projects using public art. Improving the built environment provides residents in medically underserved communities an opportunity to address root causes for poverty and improve health outcomes.



Joan Hamby Burroughs

Anthropologist of Dance, Educator & Choreographer


New York University (Ph.D.), Indiana University (MS), Tuskegee Institute, (BS.) A Birmingham AL native, an anthropologist of dance, educator and choreographer, Dr. Burroughs is deeply committed to creating new and uplifting dance, arts and cultural dialogues. The dance technique of Katherine Dunham and other modern dance forms, African derived dance forms that include Haiti, Cuba and other areas of the Caribbean are the foundations of her teaching style. In addition to designing and implementing dance as part of high school curricula, she directed the dance program at Florida A&M University; was, for eight years, an adjunct assistant professor at New York University where she taught Anthropology of Dance and African diaspora dance, and served in guest professor and adjunct positions at Smith and Hunter Colleges, respectively. Having organized conferences, seminars and performance events with a focus on African Diaspora dance, religion and culture she also champions the efficacy of and necessity for arts education, arts in education, pre-professional arts education and community arts initiatives. That sentiment, supported by proficiency in dance/human movement performance and studies, powered her career as an educator/artist that spans high school through university.



Dr. Tondra Loder-Jackson

Associate Professor, UAB

Educational Foundations Program & 

African American Studies Program


Dr. Tondra Loder-Jackson is an associate professor in the Educational Foundations Program and the African American Studies Program at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She is also a founding member and former director of the UAB Center for Urban Education. Dr. Loder-Jackson has published extensively on Birmingham’s civil rights and educational history and African American education in general. She is the author of the book, Schoolhouse ActivistsAfrican American Educators and the Long Birmingham Civil Rights Movement, published by State University of New York Press in 2015 which examines the overshadowed role educators played in the Movement. 

YWCA Central Alabama

Yolanda Sullivan, April 13, 2017

Yolanda Sullivan has served as CEO of YWCA Central Alabama since January 2014. Prior to her appointment, she volunteered with the agency for 20 years, serving as president of both the Junior Board and Board of Directors. In 2013, Sullivan retired after a 30-year career at Vulcan Materials, where she was Corporate Human Resources Director and also worked in finance.

Sullivan serves on the board of The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and is a member of The Women’s Network, Rotary Club of Birmingham and Zonta International. She has past service on the boards of United Way of Central Alabama, Birmingham Museum of Art, St. Vincent’s Health System and The Bell Center. A graduate of Leadership Birmingham, Leadership Alabama, Momentum, and Project Corporate Leadership, she was named one of three “Women to Watch” by the Birmingham Business Journal and was one of Positive Maturity’s Top 50 Over 50. She was also selected as one of the 2016 Women Who Shape the State by AL.com.

Red Mountain Park

David Dionne, April 28, 2016

Whether he's talking about using goats to clear privet or glamping (that's glamorous camping for the uninitiated), David Dionne's enthusiasm for Red Mountain Park is infectious. During his talk, he took The Women's Network on a time trip through the park, showing us what it was, what it is, and what it will become. He also told us what it is not -- publicly funded. 


Red Mountain Park is a non-profit park, the only one of its kind in Alabama. According to its website, "Visitors currently enjoy 14 miles of walking, hiking and mountain biking trails, Remy’s Dog Park and 4 unique outdoor adventures: the Red Ore Zip Tour (a 1 ½-hour zip line adventure), the Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest (20 unique rope and cable treetop challenges), the 80-foot climbing/rappelling Kaul Adventure Tower and the 1,000 foot Mega Zip." And there are plans for expanding parking, glamping sites, and even adding a farmers market at a new entrance.


That's where David's call to action comes in. Since Red Mountain Park is a nonprofit, all of these projects require funding from the community to be maintained, created, and/or expanded. If you would like to invest in the future of Red Mountain Park, visit their website.

Liz Huntley

The Power of Early Childhood Intervention

 March 10, 2016

Liz Huntley, and attorney with Lightfoot, Franklin & White and a member of the Auburn University Board of Trustees, talked about her personal story growing up, which she has written about in her book, “More than a Bird.”  Huntley’s parents were both drug dealers, and while her father was in prison, her mother committed suicide when she was five, leaving Liz and her siblings to aunts and grandparents to raise.  Liz went to live with her paternal grandmother in Clanton AL., where she was sexually abused by an uncle.  But she also found a community willing to help her succeed in the schools where she found refuge from her home life--especially her teachers, from pre-school, grade school and high school.  While her father was in and out of prison, Liz learned ways to excel academically from teachers who helped her each step of the way, and found inspiration from her pastor, her faith, and friends, neighbors and other family members.  She urged TWN members to call their legislators and urge them to keep funding stable for early childhood programs in this year’s state budget, knowing from personal experience how beneficial they are to children.




Lean in to TWN - The Power of Women's Relationships 

April 7, 2016

The Women’s Network members treated themselves to a luncheon of getting to know each other—by extending the normal meeting introductions to a full minute for each member.  Each member was asked to state her name, company, and the part of her job that she most enjoyed, and in that minute we learned more about many of the others in the room than we have learned in years of running in from the office and leaving immediately after the speaker concludes!  Kudos to program chairs Suzanne Scott Trammel and Melva Tate, for a program that helped members talk not only about their work, but about the parts of their day that touch them the most and add meaning to their lives.

Birmingham City Schools

Dr. Kelley Castlin-Gacutan, February 25, 2016


According to Dr. Kelly Castlin-Gacutan, or "Dr. G" as she is known, there is much to be celebrated in Birmingham City Schools. A team of educators working to move the district forward, best practices in use in the classroom, strategic community partnerships, and candid conversations with the administration are just a few of the reasons 3 schools have already been removed from the failing schools list and there is hope that the others will soon follow. And Dr. G wants the community to recognize that BCS is going through a period of enormous change in order to create a system where people feel good about being a part of the system.


A product of Hueytown schools, Dr. G says she was inspired to become an educator by one of her elementary school teachers and that she sees herself as a teacher first and foremost. And that was was why she felt it so important to come back home to Alabama where she aspires to improve the lives of the more than 24,000 students in Birmingham's Schools. Her motto? Be the difference we want to see in our public schools.

That's why Dr. G has formed partnerships with the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA of Greater Birmingham, among others. And she calls on TWN members to support education in Birmingham, to get involved and stay connected, and to help Birmingham City Schools do what needs to be done so that its students can leave high school and become productive members of society. "It is not easy work, but it is critical work grounded in what is best for the children," said Dr. G, "We can get there with your help."

Alabama Possible

Kristina Scott, February 11, 2016

Building a college going culture in Alabama is the quest of Kristina Scott, executive director of Alabama Possible.    Studies show that jobs requiring only a high school diploma have steadily decreased in our state, and by the end of the decade it is estimated that 62% of jobs will require a college degree, while only 33.6 % of Alabamians have a two or 4-year college degree.  In addition, 19% of the people in Alabama—900,000--- live below the federal poverty line of $23,000 per year for a family of four, she said.  When she started her job 7 ½ years ago the question was, “What are you doing about this?”  Her answer was to raise public awareness and engage people to do something about it for the better.    This led Alabama possible to work with students across the state, to ask what the barriers are for them in pursuing a college education, and she  quickly realized, “we need to start with, “How are you going to pay for it?”  The answer she says lies in the Free Application for Federal  Student Aid, through which  most students from low income families can quality for more than $5,000 of student grants.  This has led her to a campaign she calls “Cash for College,” to increase FASFA completion by Birmingham City School students.  Volunteers assist at FAFSA completion events at city schools and community centers after completing a two-hour training session.  Scott challenged TWN members not only to consider giving time or money to this cause, but to help build a college going culture in Alabama by sponsoring a FAFSA workshop at their businesses or churches, being a mentor, or talking with teenagers they encounter in daily life—the grocery store bag boy, for example, asking what he or she plans to do after high school, how they will finance more education, and what they will do with the degree.

The State of the City

Mayor William Bell, January 12, 2016

Mayor William Bell kicked off the 2016 year of TWN programs focusing on our theme "A Call to Action." Mayor Bell shared his plans for our fine city and how TWN Birmingham can help contribute to the renaissance we are experiencing under his leadership. Mayor Bell seeks to continue to improve the quality of life for all of our residents.  Mayor Bell spent time offering insight into the rich history and amazing future in store for moving Birmingham forward.

Year in Review

Cindy Crawford, John Archibald, Steve Crocker, Sherrel Wheeler Stewart, October 22

Four noted Birmingham journalists – John Archibald of the Birmingham News/Alabama Media Group; Cindy Crawford of the Birmingham BusinessJournal; 

SteveCrocker of WBRC Fox6; and Sherrel Stewart of WBHM 90.3 FM – shared their thoughts about a range of issues that

have dominated the headlines over the past year. Fromthe demise of UAB football at the beginning of the year to the much more recent demise of Gov. Robert Bentley’s marriage,thejournalists offered insight on how stories developed, how they were reported and what the impact will be. The conversation covered a breadth of topics, from industry and downtown development, to charter schools, to an attempt by some fellow Republicans to topple House Speaker Mike Hubbard from his leadership post. One of the liveliest discussions focused on recent state budget cuts that disproportionately affected driver license offices in majority-black counties, threatened voters’ ability to comply with voter ID requirements, and sparked a firestorm of criticism across the country. While there was some agreement and some disagreement, the Women’s Network was blessed to hear informed opinions based on a century of combined journalism experience.

Black Like Who?

Emily Hannah, Birmingham Museum of Art, September 10

emily hannah

Organized by Graham Boettcher, Chief Curator and Curator of American Art, and Kelli Morgan, Curatorial Fellow for African American Art, the museum's exhibition Black like Who? Exploring Race and Representation is a small exhibition, drawn from the museum's own collection and Birmingham collectors, that has garnered national attention from the likes of Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Emily Hannah, Senior Curator and Department Head of Africa and the Americas, discussed the exhibition and its success in showing works depicting African Americans that reflect social, cultural, political changes in the country and to the individual American experience. If you go, check out the Woman in Green Coat by Betty Grisham and Mimi by Elizabeth Catlett, among others. It is fascinating. The exhibition continues until November 1, and there are programs discussing the exhibition ongoing. Check out http://www.artsbma.org/exhibition/black-like-who/ to find out more. Also look for Haitian Flags from the Cargo Collection, which opens December 19. In fact, go to the museum website and browse ... you'll fill your cultural calendar fast!

Your Philanthropic Legacy


Nancy Goedecke, United Way, August 27

In lieu of a summary, we share a few important points from Nancy’s recent note that went out in an email blast:  Please accept my heartfelt thanks for the wisdom and insight you shared with me and the United Way team at the last TWN luncheon. Having open dialogue with an entire room full of remarkable women was just what was needed and what I had envisioned. I am grateful for the outpouring of support for a “fellow” TWN member who with the community is taking on a monumental task to help more people in need. Many of you could not attend but were kind to call and share your best wishes.  Let me tell you about an exciting development for this campaign that I announced Thursday.  In October, for the first time ever, United Way will add a social media component called “Give Up to Give”.  To help reach people who are not giving through the workplace campaign and those who might enjoy the opportunity to challenge their friends to give, we will launch the challenge to “give up” something – the purchase of a lipstick, purse, or shoes or manicure/pedicures, or a dinner -- and “give” those dollars to the campaign.  I look forward to the ‘buzz’ it will create.                                

Transit in Birmingham

Ann August, Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, and Aletheia Weary, ClasTran Birmingham, August 13


Ann August and Aletheia Weary participated in a panel about transportation in Birmingham with a discussion about the city's efforts to expand and improve the current bus and ClasTran service. August indicated that the projected completion date for the new Intermodal facility on Morris Avenue is October 2016. There is a plan for an airport shuttle to serve hotels including the Sheraton and Westin, and it will be presented to the Airport Authority in September. The BJCTA is adding cameras and auto-locators to buses and paratransit vehicles to safeguard and monitor drivers. DART is being re-evaluated, and August would like to change to a circulator system that would reach Avondale, Regions Field, Uptown, etc.

Stand in the Schoolhouse Door 50+ Years Later

Bobbie Siegel, July 23

bobbie siegal

Birmingham resident and TWN member Bobbie Siegal and her future husband, Don, were white students at the University of Alabama in June, 1963, when George Wallace made his “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door,” on the day the university’s first black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, enrolled. Bobbie supplemented her insider’s account of that historic day with a fascinating 15-minute clip from Robert Drew’s 1963 Documentary “Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment.” Bobbie related the important role played by the university’s Student Government Association. At the request of Dean of Men John L. Blackburn, SGA leaders, including Don Siegal, went from dorm to dorm and fraternity house to fraternity house urging students to stay away from Foster Auditorium that day. They also swept the campus, clearing it of rocks, sticks, and bottles that might become weapons. She also explained that UA President Frank Rose, determined to prevent Klan violence, barred anyone not affiliated with the university from entering the campus that day.

Women in Food

Jen Barnett, Founder of Bottle & Bone, July 12


In a funny, accessible, frank discussion of the food industry, Jen Barnett, founder of Freshfully and Bottle & Bone, addressed her experiences in Birmingham, her view of the happening food scene here, and cited statistics about the feminine experience in the culinary world. For example, 6.3% of head chefs are women. 1% in Birmingham. The general perception is that "chicks can't hack it," that work leading a kitchen is too hard and physical, that women are too sensitive to tolerate the ribald, crass environment, and that restaurant kitchens are too competitive for women. She talked about the fact that there is little upward mobility for women; few sick days and few health benefits; and a huge wage disparity among men and women chefs. But women are breaking through, and Barnett is just one example. There is also Sue LeMieux at Fox Valley, Harriet Reis and Paget Pizitz at Melt, Maureen Holt at Little Savannah, among others, all who are integral to the growth of Birmingham's fine food industry. Barnett talked about her membership in Les Dames d'Escoffier (http://www.ldei.org), a worldwide philanthropic organization dedicated to women in the food, hospitality, and fine beverage industries. To visit Bottle & Bone, go to http://www.bottleandbone.com.

The Transformation in Healthcare, What You and Your Business can Expect

Neeysa Biddle, June 25


As senior vice president of Ascension Health and Birmingham Market Executive, Neeysa Biddle talked to The Women's Network about her role as an executive in the male dominated world of healthcare in Alabama and about the realities of our evolving healthcare system. She started in high school filing x-ray reports then moved into medical records and health information management. Eventually she became a department director of a small rural hospital, and when it merged with another hospital, she headed up the new larger hospital. And that was only the beginning, as she has gone on to lead Brookwood Hospital and St. Vincent's and dedicate herself to transforming healthcare, which is now more accessible to all but takes an increasing toll on the economy. Biddle cited the fact that in 1960 healthcare was 5% of GDP. In 2023, it will be almost 20%. She said that while 50% of Americans suffer from preventable diseases, only 3% of income is spent on prevention. While the Affordable Care Act has improved access to healthcare, it has not bent the cost curve, which continues to rise. Ascension focuses on person-centered care to enhance the provider experience and lower the overall cost of care. The future means that healthcare will take a more collaborative approach and go well beyond the walls of the hospital to improve health outcomes and access.

Birmingham's Journey in Civil Rights

Marie Sutton and T.K. Thorne, authors, and Kwani Carson, assistant to the mayor, June 11

civil rights

Taking turns each panelist talked about the history and pivotal role our city and its trials have played in the hard-fought campaign for Civil Rights. Sutton discussed her book first--The A. G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham--and spoke about its life as a high-end accommodation for visiting people of means, dignitaries, and entertainers, without discrimination. It hosted Johnny Mathis, Nina Simon, and Ike and Tina Turner, to name a few. The hotel was bombed Mother's Day weekend in 1963 because it had become the central location for the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Junior's Room, Room 30, was known as The War Room as Civil Rights leaders met there to discuss strategies. Because of limited time, Sutton could only skim the surface of the story, but it's worth buying her book and visiting the motel, when it becomes a part of Birmingham's Freedom Center. Teresa Thorne discussed her book Last Chance for Justice and the relationship between the A.G. Gaston Motel and the young girls killed in the 1963 church bombing, relating the tension and anxiety versus the hope and spirit that pervaded those years of struggle, resolved at last with the conviction of two of the bombers. Lastly Kwani Carson spoke of the city's plans for a Freedom Center that will extend from the Civil Rights Institute and include the refurbished A.G. Gaston Hotel, preserving Room 30 for posterity and education. The dimensions of the center extend from Reverend Abraham Woods Jr.  Boulevard to 17th Street North to 4th Avenue North to 15th Street North.

Ellise Mayor as Louise Wooster

Determination, Drama, and Daring, May 28


Birmingham playwright and actress Ellise Mayor stepped back in time and into the character of the Magic City's own 19th-century madam Lou Wooster. Dressed in period costume and loaded with tales of tragedy, Mayor became Wooster and recounted her experiences in fending for herself and her family when her parents died, ministering to Birmingham's sick when the cholera epidemic hit in 1873, and falling for John Wilkes Booth before he infamously assassinated President Lincoln at the Ford Theater. Drawing from archival research (with thanks to archivist Jim Baggett at the Birmingham Public Library) and Wooster's work The Autobiography of a Magdalen, Mayor helped us all see the heroism, grit, and grace of one of our city's local heroes. Her program was sponsored by the Vulcan Park and Museum. For more information on Louise Wooster, check out Jim Baggett's book http://www.amazon.com/Woman-Louise-Wooster-Birminghams-Magdalen/dp/0970315775.

Keeping the History of the Holocaust Alive

Riva Hirsch and Deborah Layman, May 14


Holocaust survivor Riva Hirsch recounted her Jewish family’s terrifying escape from her Romanian village into the forest, in 1941 when she was 7 years old.  Captured by the Nazis, the family was marched to Sukarein and loaded onto cattle cars packed with dead and living children and adults. At a concentration camp near the Russian border, Riva was rescued by partisans who loaded her into the back of an egg truck and left her at a Catholic convent. There, she lived for two years in a dark bunker with rats and lice as her only company. “The lice were my breakfast, my lunch and my dinner,” she recalled. In 1945, she was liberated, suffering from malaria and typhus, with all of her teeth gone. “They said you are free, they wrapped my feet, and they pushed me out. I couldn’t walk, so I crawled to the sidewalk.” Another refugee carried her on his back to a camp operated by the Red Cross, where she was reunited with her father. “He was on crutches, and I couldn’t recognize him,” she said. Eventually, they located her two brothers and her mother. “It’s very important that all of us talk to our children, so that another Holocaust shouldn’t happen,” she said before receiving a standing ovation. That message was echoed by Deborah Layman, Vice President of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, which works to preserve and share the stories of more than 20 Birmingham Holocaust survivors, living and dead, through videos, live presentations, teacher training and scholarships, as well as the traveling Darkness into Life exhibit which tells the Birmingham survivors’ stories through paintings and photos. Deborah also told about the Holocaust Memorial Garden now being planned for downtown Birmingham.

UAB Cross Campus Collaborative

Neuroscience as a Roadmap to Further Knowledge, April 23

Mayor William Bell

An evening reception, April 9


The Women's Network gathered for an after-work cocktail hour and information session to hear from Birmingham Mayor WilliamBell. Armed with brochures and a video that detail the city's ongoing efforts and successes in expansion, development, empowerment, and optimism, Bell painted a promising picture of Birmingham's future. The mayor talked about his vision for the city, about high profile and important visitors such as President Obama and the Dalai Lama, and about the outstanding recognition that we're receiving from national and international media outlets. We all love our city, and it was a unique opportunity to see a compilation of Birmingham's achievements and get insight into the efforts driving the engine of change.

Rosie Butler


An Inspirational Woman's Story, March 26

Despite devastating adversity brought on by life-threatening illnesses, fundraiser and advocate extraordinaire Rosie Butler has channeled her assets and energy into triumphs. Butler shared her life story with The Women's Network, inspiring everyone with her refusal to let diagnoses of terminal lung and liver cancer and then breast cancer take her out of the fight. She has raised a son who faces his own liver disease and nursed a mother through breast cancer, but she has also been a vital force to bring awareness and needed funds Birmingham's most deserving charities.  The former model makes it her mission to say "yes" when asked to help others. And she doesn't take "no" for an answer when enlisting A-list talent to help make her goals a reality. Her story is fascinating and inspiring -- from picking cotton in Mississippi to raising $1 million for Children's Hospital, Butler has devoted her life to defying predictions and helping those in need.

Natalie Kelly, Julie Price

Sustainability, March 12


Natalie Kelly, President and CEO of Sustain, and Dr. Julie Price, Coordinator of Sustainability of UAB, discussed a concept that has become a movement and now a vital solution for successful companies and cultures committed to the future. Kelly cited our shared interest in living in happy, healthy, whole communities. She launched her company to meet the needs of companies who see the need to move sustainability forward -- essentially meeting the needs of today's society without jeopardizing the future. Among her goals are helping corporate cultures make decisions based on their economic, environmental, and social impact. To that end, Alabama has created the Alabama Environmental Council, and Birmingham has set up a Sustainability Commission that will come up with a Sustainability Plan. UAB has put ideas into action, developing a Committee for Sustainability, sponsoring campus-wide recycling, an energy conservation plan, and much more, putting the university and our city on the fast track to long-term growth and conservation. If you would like to learn more about Sustainability and local efforts, go to mygreenbirmingham.com.

Matthew Hamilton

Co-Chair TEDx Birmingham, January 22

m hamilton

When Matthew Hamilton addressed The Women's Network, he spoke to an audience already familiar with the TED experience. We've listened to the talks, watched the videos, learned from TED speakers all over the country. We even have our own mini "TED" experience every other week when we hear from movers and shakers in the state of Alabama! Hamilton addressed the successes and lessons of the first ever TEDx Birmingham in 2014, which was held at the Alys Stephens Center. This year's event takes place on February 28 and hosts a diverse group of 12 of Alabama's innovators. For those of us not fortunate enough to score tickets, there are options. Consider:

The Mt. Brook Junior High TED-Ed Club is hosting a Livestream of the entire event at their school. Attending the Livestream is free (seating is limited though), and they will have an optional VIP lunch for $50 which also includes a special edition TEDxBirmingham t-shirt. Excess funds will support their TED-Ed Club and TEDxYouth@MBJH event. Details are available at http://goo.gl/uUbmY8.

Pam Dorr

Executive Director, HERO, January 8

pam dorr

When Pam Dorr spoke to The Women's Network about her work at HERO (Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization), she could have filled a bus with ready-to-roll-up-our-sleeves volunteers. Her stories and the projects the organization has undertaken were direct evidence of the power of sweat equity and tenacity, in the face of decades of poverty and adversity. Dorr showed images of the Bunk House, where volunteers stay during a project, Pie Lab, Project M,Horseshoe Farm and more, as she discussed HERO's efforts to change and re-build that community. She showed a photograph of the 1932 downtown and explained how little had changed, how they are working with an older, poorer, more disabled demographic to optimize local resources and skills and build a vital community. If you would like more information, please contact HERO at herohousing.org (to volunteer). Pam Dorr's email is pam@herohousing.org. More websites for more info are: http://projecthsf.org/ ; http://pielab.org/ .

Party with a Purpose

Southern Museum of Flight, November 13

southern museum of flight


The Women's Network members gathered on  the evening of November 13 to celebrate the year and catch up with each other in anticipation of the holidays. A silent auction and visit of Birmingham's tourist destination -- The Southern Museum of Flight -- made for fun bidding and the discovery, for some of us, of a great repository of aviation history. This year's party benefitted the Southern Museum of Flight and the YWCA. Many thanks to this year's party organizers and this year's chair Jessica Drennan.



Dr. Robert Witt, Chancellor, University of Alabama

Transformational Leadership, October 23

Dr. Robert Witt discussed his hiring as the University of Alabama President in the Fall of 2002, when he met with UA trustees regarding Transformational Leadership. Big changes were being asked of Dr. Witt along three lines. The new vision of the University was to be a: 1.  Well-respected National University with 2. Academic excellence and 3. Dramatically increased  number of students.The Bottom Line: The trustees wanted the UA to be the University of Choice for the Best and Brightest. Dr. Witt went on to explain that he translated the goals to the faculty/administration in order to obtain results and provide a vision with measurable results.

Other Outcomes: The University of Alabama is recognized as a national university as opposed to being an IN STATE college. In 2003, 76% of students were in-state residents. Today over 60% are from outside of Alabama. The university achieved Academic Excellence. UA established an Honors College which is extremely well respected. They realigned their resources to establish the Honors College.  This fall, over 1800 students of the 6800-member freshman class had a 4.0 GPA.   Almost 2000 freshmen scored at least a 30 on the ACT, representing the top 5% of all high school freshmen. In 2012, UA had 200 National Merit Scholars enter the college, one of the highest in the nation.  They want to recruit the best and brightest, and it is paying off. (6800 students accepted out of over 35,000 applicants). There is also Increased enrollment.  In 2003, the enrollment in Tuscaloosa was about 19,000 students. Today they are over 35,000 students. Dr Witt hired 30 recruiters nationally to attract an larger student body with higher grades/ higher ACT scores (bigger means stronger financially- the campus has grown with the students, adding a new building every 90 days for 10 years)!

Dr. Witt personalized these goals with human nature stories in every area- the stakeholders bought into the vision and rewards were great. The academic excellence has increased resources, and salaries have risen dramatically. (AL has always been a huge football/athletic presence, but jobs for the graduates was paramount.) The school wanted to take advantage of the economies of scale, alumni endowment, and create a campus that could compete with the Ivy Leagues and attract the best and brightest from in state, out of state, and globally. All goals were met and of course Dr. Witt is now chancellor of the UA system, promoted from President of the Tuscaloosa campus.


Carol Nunnelly, Journalist

Changing Media and Introducing Alabama Initiativecarol


Carol Nunnelley spoke to TWN Oct. 9 to introduce the Alabama Initiative for Independent Journalism – a new, ambitious news project to expand public service journalism in our city and state. She talked about media changes using herself as a sample consumerundefinedfrom newspapers left in the driveway, to news on her iPad from the Associated Press web site, reading columnist Maureen Dowd at the New York Times online, and even checking the local newsundefinedfirst on Facebook-a John Archibald column, and later on Al.com, and finally reading the newspapers that spent a long time on the driveway, including the Birmingham News and the Tuscaloosa newspaper. Meanwhile as she worked she received other news via email, from targeted marketers about goods, services and activities.

“We have met the enemy, and he is us. We are getting clickbait, popcorn and candy before dinner,” she says. Readers’ selection is increasingly personal with infinite choices. Even a devoted a news hound as Carol, with her decades of reporting and editing, read less “hard news,” read commentary she agreed with, and read some fun stories.

“We’re losing newspapers as community meeting grounds,” she says. “Local news beyond the brief and basic is harder to find.” Nationally, statistics support this:  full-time newspaper jobs are down 32 percent with more cuts expected.  There are a third fewer fulltime reporters in statehouses than 10 years agoundefinedat the Alabama legislature, there are now about half the newspaper and television reporters as in the past.

Other news media – new digital sites, TV stations – are not adding nearly enough to make up for the loss of newspaper coverage. (Source:  The Pew Research Center state of the media reports.)

Locally, she says, papers in our three largest cities and al.com, the website they share, make up Alabama Media Group, owned by Advance Publications.  They are pursuing a particularly aggressive, digitally focused strategy to turn around a financially faltering news business.  There is a reason for us to feel shaken.  They overturned many of our news expectations.  Like daily print newspaper delivery.  And editors guiding our sense of what’s important to know.  

Question:  So how’s it working out for us so far?

“Al.com’s process is driven by analytics. A second-by-second measurement of who is reading what, for how long. Reporters pursue page views by posting stories often, being active on Twitter and Facebook.  To put the best face on it, it is more democratic.  People are essentially voting for what they want with their page views, and content that draws the largest crowds wins out.  The results are amazing. They are on a path to a billion page views this year. 

“I find al.com a good tabloid.   Its stock in trade: Crime and Sports. Shenanigans of public officials.  Celebrity and weirdness. Pets. And a new ingredient--lots of reader polls. What do you think?”

The downside of this is what happened to a story by Kyle Whitmire, one of best-known al.com reporters.   

Kyle did great reporting on what led to the sign falling and killing child at Birmingham’s airport, says Carol.  Al.com went to court for records.  The final story was published in print and online for maximum effect.  Whitmire checked the analytics.  His story’s page views were eclipsed by story on Nick Saban in a graduation picture.

His conclusion:  The current business model depends on maximum page views. “Until media figure out the advertising problem, the effect is going to be a journalism problem.”

Carol’s answer is the Alabama Initiative for Independent Journalism and its plans for BirminghamWatch, an online news report.  

“It is a nonprofit news organization that can have a focused mission: Creating more public service journalism and delivering that to as many citizens as want it, even if they don’t always know they want it until they have a chance to see it.  

“It’s a new concept for our city and state. But it joins about 100 similar nonprofit news efforts across the country, trying to keep important journalism happening while news business reinvents itself.”

Key elements of the mission:

To support investigative, enterprise and explanatory reporting. Reporting that asks why and how and finds out what they aren’t telling us. 

To being a watchdog on government, highlighting important issues, uncovering solutions as well as problems, involving the public.

To focus on government performance and transparency, education, economic development and opportunity, the environment. 

Among her partners in the effort, two were present at the meeting: 

Jerry Lanning:  Lawyer, civic leader and husband of Joyce.  “He believes in journalism, and Alabama Initiative was his idea.”    

Emily Jones Rushing:   A Birmingham News colleague and longtime employee of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.  “She knows news and nonprofits and is an indispensable partner in the research that undergirds Alabama Initiative.”

Two people who have agreed to serve on the Board of Directors of Alabama Initiative are:

Brant Houston, chairman of the board of Investigative News Network, the national coalition of non-profits.

Brett Blacklege, now investigations editor in Florida, but known locally  as the Birmingham News reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work detailing problems in Alabama’s two-year college system.

“Each has an impressive background in investigative and enterprise reporting and will be exceptional guides to accomplishing exceptional journalism,” Carol said.

Here are Carol’s answers to frequently asked questions:

Why should journalism be treated as a charity?

Traditional news organizations have been doing less public service reporting, which is a fundamental civic role for journalism.  Non-profit news organizations can bring new sources of support to that mission. 

National news non-profits are a long-standing part of journalism.  Names you may know like Center for Investigative Reporting, Center for Public Integrity, National Public Radio and Television, and ProPublica,  which this year won a Pulitzer.

In 2008, the Knight Foundation issued an Information Challenge to persuade place-based foundations to see reliable information as a basic community need.  Scores of community foundations took part. The idea of contributing to news spread.  Now, community foundations are among the most frequent supporters of news nonprofits. 

What stories are you planning to do?     

It’s news, so it’s too early to say. Some examples from other news nonprofits include work on “losing ground” and charter schools at The Lens in New Orleans.

How will you pay for your work?   

We will raise money like other non-profits, with a careful eye to avoiding conflicts of interest. We’ll shoot for a diverse set of donors to avoid a single influence.  It’s important to start locally with individuals and foundations that believe in this mission, especially at this time. National foundations also contribute to some local and state nonprofits. Sometimes, news partners can and do help pay.  We may have online contribute buttons or hold events. 

How will you reach the public with your stories?

The BirminghamWatch website will be stable home. You can depend on seeing important journalism there.  And we’ll use the current tools like e-mail newsletters and posting on social media and something that will come next.

The most important distinction of the non-profits is working through partnerships.  Around the country, that has meant working with the full gamut of media: Often public radio but also major commercial television stations, alternative newspapers and community newspapers, campus outlets. 

In one standout, an Iowa non-profit brought together 30 radio stations for public affairs program and community meetings.

For Alabama Initiative, the first partner is Weld, a startup weekly dedicated to telling stories that otherwise might go uncovered.  It knows from experience the good result of investment in serious journalism.

We don’t yet know who others will be.  But I’m struck by strengths of Alabama journalism in places many may forget to look.

The Alabama Press Association represents 129 newspapers (not including the Alabama Media Group newspapers) and those distribute more than 1 million printed newspapers a week. 

If you haven’t, you should know of Dan Starnes and Starnes Publishing, a local media success story. They’ve gotten attention in national media press with free monthly newspapers mailed to homes:  280 Living, Village Living, The Homewood Star, Hoover Sun, Vestavia Voice.  Hyper-local. These are papers that do hyper-local coverage, such as event announcements and items readers are proud to post on the refrigerator.

What Dan is proud of, though, is public service journalism that has won awards from Alabama Press Association.  One was story calling attention to the serious problems with concussions in youth sports.

He was happy to tell me this week that he’s hired some of my former colleagues from The Birmingham News. 

At Alabama Initiative, we plan to work with a “coalition of the willing” for public service journalism, a phrase I’m borrowing from WBHM general manager Scott Hanley.  WBHM has stepped up to help fill the gap in public service journalism by being a leader in NPR’s Southern Education Desk.  There are citizens and journalists and news organizations that believe in the public service mission.

Alabama Initiative wants and needs to work with those people and groups, and to add resources to that vital mission. 

We’d like your help.  We hope you’ll be part of that coalition of the willing.  

The best site for overview of news nonprofits is Www.investigativenewsnetwork.org
Individual sites to look at might be a nonprofit in New Orleans.

Cameron Vowell, Suzanne Durham, Ellyn Grady, Non-Profit Panel

The Times They are a Changin'--What about Non-Profits?

nonprofit panel

At the September 11 meeting of The Women’s Network, we heard from a panel of nonprofit veterans – Suzanne Durham of the YWCA, Ellyn Grady of United Way and now UAB, and Cameron Vowell, community activist and volunteer – discuss the challenges and successes of life in the non-profits. The room was filled to capacity, and then some, with colleagues, friends, students, and fans. Durham talked about the transformative impact of technology and the subsequent increase in efficiency as well as costs to non-profit organizations. She also cited the drive for transparency and accountability among non-profits (due to Sarbanes-Oxley) that makes the business of non-profits as time consuming as the outreach. Ellyn Grady discussed the burden of compliance issues in grant applications and the need for management expertise among staff. The future success of nonprofits, she says, depends in large part on marketing and social media, and she cited the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as the quintessential example. Cameron Vowell spoke about donating Time, Treasure, and Talent to nonprofit boards. She also said that the most effective boards are the boards that have active committees. Continuing the theme that thriving nonprofits operate as businesses, she suggests that everyone in the organization needs to be compensated adequately. 

Jessica Kirk Drennan, Family/ Matrimonial Attorney, Author

Divorce in Alabama, August 14

Jessica kirk drennan

With almost twenty years of experience in family and matrimonial law, Jessica Kirk Drennan has learned a thing or two about the subject. For example, Alabama has the fourth highest divorce rate in the nation; the rate of divorce among women aged 50 and older is on the rise; divorce is a hugh cause of poverty as income and wealth shift when a family separates; and the laws that apply in divorce cases differ state-to-state. So Drennan's book Divorce in Alabama -- addresses specific issues relating to undertaking a divorce in our state. It dispels misconceptions and misinformation we may get and give in our well-intentioned village. Drennan tackles a subject that is usually broached in hushed tones and sideway glances. Fundamentally, the self professed advocate of eternal love points out that while marriage demonstrates commitment, it is also a civil contract.

Ken DeWitt, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurial Coach and Advisor

Getting MORE of What You Want from Your Business Using Traction & EOS, July 24

As a successful entrepreneur Ken DeWitt has channelled his experience and expertise into helping businesses--just getting 

Ken DeWitt

started or well on their way--maximize opportunities and surmount roadblocks that could become impassable. His talk at The Women's Network was inspired by Gino Wickman's book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business. DeWitt cited six components of a successful venture: 1) Strengthen the vision component. Where do you want to take the business and how do we get it there? 2) Get the right people. DeWitt referenced Jim Collins' book Good to Great in saying it's important to get the right people in the right seats to carry out the vision. 3)Strengthen the data component. Get the information that's indicative of whether you're achieving your vision. 4) Tackle issues. Identify, discuss, solve issues that could derail the vision. 5) Process. There are 6- 10 things every business does. Scale your process to your vision. 6) Traction. Dig in and get disciplined to carry out your business vision. Members can visit his website and read his blog at www.dewittllc.com.

Mary Tillotson, retired CNN anchor, correspondent, journalist

Journalism Today, June 26

Mary Tillotson's lecture may have been brief, but the questions and conversation that arose after, provoked all

mary tillotson

 of us in attendance to scrutinize our sources of information and network television biases. Tillotson lamented the dissolution of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, which had "required broadcasters to air contrasting issues of national interest," she said. With the advent of multiple cable television networks and internet news sites, viewers/consumers can now tailor their news delivery methods to suit their interests and ideologies. In fact, she suggests that the "polarization of the media contributes to the polarization of the political spectrum." When asked where she turns for information about international news, Tillotson listed The New York Times, The Washington Post, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, The New Yorker, and The Economist.


Chris Hastings, Chef and Owner Hot and Hot Fish Club

What’s Cooking and Growing in Alabama, June 12

When Chris Hastings, renowned chef and owner of Birmingham’s Hot & Hot Fish Club, spoke to The Women’s Network on June 12, he addressed his other passion: the importance of making good, locally grown and produced ingredients available to all to be shared and enjoyed. One of the most vivid illustrations of his point came thanks to a member question: Because it is perceived to be cheaper to eat at fast food restaurants, many low income families choose to do that rather than shop for groceries and then cook. Hastings pointed out that at $6 a meal at a fast food restaurant, a family of four can eat for $24 (+ or -). That same family of four can cook a a whole chicken for ($15), have a salad and starch for less than $24. And the meal could be stretched over two nights. While the specific numbers may be debatable, Hastings’ point that quality ingredients can be affordable is valid. The accessibility is a challenge, but there are organizations and markets in Birmingham working on making good food available for everyone.


David Fleming, President and CEO REV Birmingham    

What’s Next in Birmingham, May 22

When DavDavid Flemingid Fleming spoke to The Women’s Network on May 22,, 2014, he spoke with enthusiasm and optimism about the prospects for the city’s growth and development. He talked about the activities of REV – which is the result of a merger between Operation New Birmingham and Main Street Birmingham that took place in 2012 – and its goal of revitalizing our downtown so that it meets its potential for economic development and residential satisfaction. Fleming called the city center a “thriving and growing office market” and touted a 36% growth in the downtown residential market. He cited the cultural shift that’s happening because of places like Railroad Park, the Baron’s Regions Baseball Field, the McWane Center, the Lyric Theatre, not to mention more established attractions such as the Civil Rights Institute, the Museum of Art, the Public Library. Fleming said that connectivity was a big part of the work of REV, turning an area once thought of as scary into a destination that everyone considers fun. Buildings that have been vacant for years, underpasses that seemed like black holes, neighborhoods without grocery stores have been transformed, as the city center comes back to life. The pace of change is fast. And the country is noticing – our our mandate is to exceed all expectations!  www.revbirmingham.org  


Dr. Thomas Bice, AL State Superintendent of Education
 Imagining Public Education in 2020, May 8


Our May 8 event introduced The Women’s Network to Dr. Tommy Bice, State Superintendent of Education in Alabama.  For many of us, who are not on the front lines of educational advocacy in the state, it was an exciting eye opener. Dr. Bice talked about an approach to education that puts innovation and advancement in the figurative hands of the educators. Alabama strives to create critical thinkers not just test-taking masters as it evolves its approach to educating its over 745,000 students. Dr. Bice made the point that today’s educators realize that all learning does not take place in schools, and it does not have to happen between the hours of 8 and 3 (hours determined when the demands of an agriculture-based economy dictated the activities of a day). Changing the approach to education and funding education means that instead of thinking what kids have to do to achieve a standard, we think about what the kids can do in the learning process. His Alabama school system will have kids “understanding math and not just doing math.” It will provide an environment that rewards creativity, which means that children have a safe place to take educational risks. And our state will benefit – fund education and you help solve budget issues. Words that resonate: “Invest in education; save on incarceration.”


Wine Down

BridgeStreet Gallery and Loft, April 24

Women’s Network gathered after work for this networking occasion, getting a firsthand look at a cool gallery space at 213 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd S  and a chance to update on another, over drinks and hors d’ouevres, on career and life opportunities and important events. This is just one of many events hosted by The Women’s Network, which is always dedicated to providing Birmingham’s best a forum for learning and sharing. Pictured are (from left): Shanta Owens, Tenth Judicial Circuit of Alabama; Dr. Cecelia Schmalbach, UAB; and Shera Grant, Jefferson County Public Defender's Office.


Jeffrey Bayer and David Sher

Regional Government for a Better Birmingham Area, April 10 


Birmingham civic leaders and businessmen David Sher and Jeffrey Bayer talked to The Women’s Network on April 10 about their efforts to Build a Better Birmingham. The talk illuminated Birmingham’s achievements but also fundamental challenges the city faces that impede greater growth and development.  Sher and Bayer discussed the loss of talented young people and revenue- producing companies, who are lured away from our city.  The fragmented structure of the greater Birmingham area includes 35-36 municipalities that are self interested, rather than dedicated to the city of Birmingham as a whole. Three issues that result from our segmented system of government:

  • 1.     The same services are provided by multiple different sources. The question of who to call when and the fact that there are so many different agencies and municipalities is inefficient.
  • 2.     Different villages/municipalities compete against each other for business, rather than against other major cities – its Irondale versus Birmingham, rather than Atlanta versus Birmingham.
  • 3.     Birmingham is considered one of the most dangerous cities in the country, but when you compare square miles--Birmingham versus Nashville, for example – Birmingham has a much lower crime rate.  At the end of the day, continuing the achievements of the city, halting and preventing any negative course, can happen if the city and its surrounding areas come together. To find out more, www.thecomebacktown.com.


Shay Farley, Legal Director at Alabama Appleseed, and Stephen Stetson, Alabama Arise Policy Analyst for Consumer and Human Rights Predatory Lending, January 23


Opredatory lendingur January 23 meeting was a call to action as Shay Farley, Legal Director at Alabama Appleseed, and Stephen Stetson, Alabama Arise’s Policy Analyst for Consumer and Human Rights, spoke to The Women’s Network about Predatory Lending practices in our state and their efforts to end usury in Alabama. A recognizable fixture of shopping plazas around Birmingham, payday loan offices lend money at high interest rates, rendering it often impossible to pay back a loan without taking out another, thus creating a debilitating and debt-perpetuating cycle. According to the YWCA’s Spring 2014 newsletter, the Alabama State Banking Department was to build a database to track loans from payday lenders and prevent borrowers from taking on multiple loans. “Unfortunately, the database mandate, set to take effect January 1, 2014, was postponed due to a lawsuit brought about by numerous payday lenders, and a bill to regulate lending was suffocated in the House Financial Services Committee.” Farley and Stetson suggest calling your representative or senator to voice your opinion. Tell them you support a “36 percent rate cap on payday and car title loans in our state.” To find your legislator, go to www.legisature.state,.al.us, and enter your zip code. 

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