Due to the deadly tornados that hit Tuscaloosa on April 27, graduates from the University of Alabama were unable to enjoy their commencement program as scheduled. As a result, Graduates of the UT School of Information Sciences (SIS) decided to honor their counterparts at the University of Alabama’s School of Library Studies (UA SLIS) during SIS’s Spring 2011 Hooding Ceremony by carrying their traditional yellow roses tied with crimson instead of yellow ribbon. A list of all UA SLIS graduates was also included in the hooding ceremony’s slideshow. SIS graduates, faculty, staff and family members signed a banner honoring UA SLIS graduates at the ceremony and brought signed work gloves to send to Tuscaloosa. The gloves were identified by the UA SLIS team as the most needed short-supply item. The collected gloves and signed banner will be hand-carried to Tuscaloosa by UA SLIS alumna and former instructor UT SIS Assistant Professor Rachel Fleming-May. The UA graduates are expected to hold a commencement ceremony in August.
When informed of the activities planned in their honor, UA SLIS Director Elizabeth Aversa told her graduates, “Folks, the LIS community is a strong, tight community and this gesture from our colleagues in Tennessee is evidence of that fact. I am grateful for their gesture of friendship, and I know you will share my sentiments. I hope that, on the day of UTK’s commencement May 12th, our SLIS graduates will take a moment to think about the wonderful world of information professionals that they are entering, and perhaps send a message of thanks to Dr. Fleming-May or Dr. Cortez in Knoxville.” One UT graduate, Jessica Gentry (M.S./IS ’07) said, “I want to send a simple thank you for the kindness you have extended to the UA SLIS community. I currently live in Tuscaloosa, and have been taking a few courses through UA SLIS. It is difficult for me to fully convey the pride I feel for my program and my University at this moment. I have been preaching the greatness of the Volunteer spirit for the year that I have lived here, and now I get to show it off all around town! The recent events here have made us all emotional and thankful for our neighbors in new ways, but this tops it all.”
Fleming-May and SIS Director Ed Cortez were the catalysts behind the effort. Having worked in Tuscaloosa, Fleming-May provided the contacts and communications to determine the most needed support, and Cortez supplied the resources required to honor and help UA SLIS graduates and faculty. Cortez said, “On one level we compete as rival schools. However, on the grander scale, we are all colleagues working toward the same goals. We wanted to reach out to our ‘family’ in Alabama in a meaningful and constructive manner. Judging by the responses we have received, I would say we achieved our goals.”