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June 2024 Newsletter

June 2024 Alumni Newsletter

AUM transitions from miniature diplomas to digital diplomas

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Auburn University at Montgomery now offers digital diplomas! The digital diplomas are sponsored by the AUM Alumni Association and the degree validations are performed by the Registrar’s Office. These are certified electronic credentials known as a CeDiploma!

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AUM’s College of Business Honors Day recognizes two AUM alumni

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Keith Johnson ’01 was recognized with this year’s Outstanding Alumnus award at AUM’s College of Business Honors Day. Keith earned a BSBA in Finance in 2001, he is the General Manager/VP at Ingram Equipment Company, and he currently serves as a Director on the Alumni Association Board for the 2024-2025 term.

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A second AUM alum was recognized at AUM’s College of Business Honors Day. This year’s Outstanding Young Alumnus was awarded to Olumuyiwa Aladebumoye ’22. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Auburn, and his MBA from AUM in 2022. His accomplishments include co-founding TaxxWizz, becoming President of LVL UP Logistics, and co-founding SmartWiz.

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IFT CEO named Samuel B. Shapiro Award winner for outstanding service

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) announced that IFT CEO Christie Tarantino-Dean has been named the Samuel B. Shapiro Award winner for Chief Staff Executive Achievement. The highest honor bestowed on an association professional by Association Forum, the Award is presented to the chief staff executive for outstanding service and accomplishments in association/nonprofit management.

Tarantino-Dean has worked in association management for more than 30 years, beginning her association career as membership services director with the Alabama State Bar Association. She then served as the associate vice president of member relations at the Professional Convention Management Association before ascending to executive director roles with the Academy of General Dentistry as well as the Association Forum of Chicagoland.

“I have long admired those who have won this prestigious award over the years and I’m incredibly humbled to follow in the footsteps of those mentors and colleagues who have helped shape the leader I am today,” says Tarantino-Dean. “Working with so many purpose-driven leaders throughout my association career has been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, and I feel so honored to be a part of this wonderful community.”

Tarantino-Dean earned her Bachelor of Science degree in political science in 1991 and her Master of Public Administration degree in 1993 from Auburn University at Montgomery. Tarantino-Dean has also earned her CAE (Certified Association Executive) and FASAE (Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives).

“No one is more deserving of this recognition than Christie. She has brought immense value to IFT through her leadership in the association community, helping elevate IFT and how it serves its members through modern, successful association management practices. Christie invests in her staff and all of our IFT members, advocates for those who are underrepresented or underserved, and her philanthropic efforts have made a tremendous impact on numerous individuals and communities throughout her career,” notes IFT President Sean Leighton.

Tarantino-Dean will be recognized at Association Forum’s annual Honors Gala, which is being held June 20 at Chicago’s Theater on the Lake.

“Serving in her current role since 2014, Christie continues to be mission- and vision-driven in all programs, services, and activities. A lifelong professional, she has dedicated her career to advancing the mission of organizations and developing others to fulfill their potential. Association Forum is proud to bestow her with its highest honor,” concludes Association Forum President and CEO Artesha Moore, FASAE, CAE.

Original article from Snack and Bakery.

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Khadidr Jones named as new principal for Pelham Ridge Elementary School

On April 30, the Pelham City Schools Board of Education officially named current Assistant Principal Khadidr Jones as the next principal of Pelham Ridge Elementary School during a regularly scheduled board meeting.  Jones’ promotion to the position comes after the announcement that current principal, Lisa Baxter, would be retiring in July after the conclusion of the current school year.

“Mrs. Jones has demonstrated unwavering commitment and dedication throughout her tenure in Pelham City Schools,” Superintendent Chuck Ledbetter said. “I’m confident in her ability to lead Pelham Ridge Elementary School, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact she will continue to make in the lives of our students.”  Having been the current assistant principal for the past five years, Jones also previously taught at the school prior to her role in administration. In total, she has been a face in the halls at Pelham Ridge Elementary and within Pelham City Schools for nine years. Jones is a graduate of Florida A&M University having received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is also a graduate of both Auburn University at Montgomery and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she received master’s degrees in psychology and education respectively.  “Leaving Pelham Ridge Elementary School in the capable hands of Khadidr Jones fills me with excitement,” Baxter said. “Together, we will ensure a smooth transition this summer. I have 100 percent confidence in her leadership.”

The announcement of Jones’ promotion, which was among the topics specifically covered by the board and Ledbetter, was received with applause during the meeting and saw Jones’ family attend with support and words of encouragement. Jones’ selection was subsequently announced online and via Pelham City Schools’ official Facebook page the following day on Wednesday, May 1.

“I look forward to the opportunity to continue to build a school culture that invests in the lives of children daily, believes in collective efficacy and supports educational programs where student learning and growth are priority,” Jones said. “Being a school leader isn’t about acting alone—rather, it’s about involving the whole school community and taking our students forward together.”  Jones will take over in the position of principal at Pelham Ridge Elementary School over the summer break and begin her first school year in the position this upcoming August.

Original article from Shelby County Reporter.

Business Alabama Top Women in Tech: 24 for ’24 features several AUM Alumni

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RENEE BORG is the technical marketing specialist for the Retirement Systems of Alabama’s Dexter Avenue Data Center. In her career, she has been a subject matter expert and senior storage engineer for more than 15 years and has been in the IT industry for more than 32 years. Her primary focus in the IT industry is data storage, which includes SAN (storage area networking), disaster recovery, Brocade and other fiber-related networks. Borg graduated magna cum laude from Auburn University at Montgomery with a degree in information systems data storage and management. Borg volunteers for the Alabama Technology Foundation and is currently its executive director.

ABIGAIL CARTER is associate director of computer/information technology instructional programs for the Alabama Community College System in Montgomery. She has extensive postsecondary experience, working in higher education for the last three decades. A United States Army Reserve veteran, Carter earned a bachelor’s in information systems from Auburn University at Montgomery and a Master of Business Administration from Brenau University. She earned an education specialist degree in educational leadership and a doctorate in education in educational leadership, both from Liberty University. Before beginning a career in education, Carter worked as a computer programmer, a system analyst, a Microsoft Certified administrator and a Cisco Certified Network administrator.

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JESSICA GRATZ is manager of the Alabama State Parks planning and visitor services, where she led creation of a new reservation system. Leveraging technology, Gratz’s collaborative work has empowered Alabama State Parks to make data-driven decisions while managing the state’s natural resources. An Auburn alumna with a bachelor’s and master’s in justice and public safety and a doctorate in public administration and public policy, Gratz’s post-doctoral work spearheaded the creation of the inaugural data research and policy division at the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. Collaborating with the Information and Technology division, this work updated reporting, implementing a case-management system to collect and seamlessly integrate corrections data from external agencies.

Wildcats name Chad Mansmann as head baseball coach

It’s a baseball program known statewide for its high standards with seven state championships and 20 appearances in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs over the years.

Ken Whittle was selected to the high school Hall of Fame for what he accomplished during his 43 years at Trinity Presbyterian and assistant coach Chad Mansmann couldn’t help but feel the history as he stepped into the coaching box for the 2024 season.

“I have to keep my own coaching style, but the way he runs a team is very similar to other guys that I’ve either played under or coached with,” Mansmann said. “Coach (Bobby) Carr is very similar in that manner, how he gets guys to buy in to each other, not just him, and create a good team chemistry. I’m a big fan of tradition. I love being part of a good tradition and the fact remains that Coach Whittle built this program and it probably wouldn’t have had the success it did without him. I’m excited to be a part of it and to continue that tradition.”

Trinity officials announced recently that Mansmann will be the program’s fourth baseball coach, succeeding Whittle in 2025.

“We are excited that Chad Mansmann will be the next head coach of the Trinity baseball program,” head of school Suzanne Satcher said in a press release from the school. “He is a Christ-like leader who excels at building strong relationships with young athletes. Chad is dedicated to fostering an environment where players can thrive, and he is focused on setting high expectations and guiding the team with integrity. We are confident that Coach Mansmann will lead our baseball program into a bright and successful future.”

“It might have been kind of auditioning for the role, but I never felt like that at any time,” he said. “The very first day I walked on campus, you hear all these good things about Coach Whittle and I was a little nervous to be around him. He ends up being the nicest, most humble person that I’ve ever met. He’s got tons of accolades and tons of wins and when you meet him and don’t know anything about him, you would never know that stuff.

“So after meeting him, I really wanted to take this time and learn under him. No matter what happened — whether I got the job, didn’t get the job — I knew I was going to be better because I was going to be around him. I just used this year to soak in as much knowledge as I could. And not just baseball knowledge, just how he manages things and people and how he communicates with others.”

Mansmann played for Carr’s Edgewood Academy baseball (and football) teams in the 2000s, participating on state championship teams in 2004 and 2006, his junior season. After graduating in 2007, he went to Lurleen B. Wallace Community College and then Auburn University at Montgomery.

His first job was as Edgewood’s junior varsity coach under Carr in 2012, 2014 and 2015 before moving on to Pike County as football assistant and head baseball coach for a year and Mary Montgomery for a year, where he worked for Seymore. He was a varsity assistant in baseball and a middle school coach in football for the last six years at Marbury (2018-2023) before joining the Trinity football staff in July, 2023.

“I witnessed his dedication to our players, our program, and our school,” Whittle said in the school’s press release. “It is evident that his priority is to be a witness for Christ and to instill that love for Christ in his players. I feel confident that Trinity’s baseball program is in great hands with Coach Mansmann at the helm. He and his family are a tremendous asset to Trinity.”

“Coach Mansmann has a commitment to excellence as well as a commitment to continual improvement,” new athletic director Brian Seymore said in the school’s release. “He strives to make those around him better every day. He is passionate about leading a championship culture at Trinity. Most importantly, Coach Mansmann is committed to impacting young people’s lives for Christ.”

When the school year started, Mansmann was an assistant football coach and would probably have the same role in baseball, although officials weren’t certain who that would be. By the end of the school year, Trinity baseball had posted a 28-10 record, earned another trip to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs and found its new head coach.

“It was a very fun year,” Mansmann said. “It was probably the most enjoyable year I’ve had coaching. I got to learn under two older guys (Whittle and assistant Phillip Morgan) who were a lot more experienced than me, who had a lot more knowledge of kids and programs. It was fun, a great learning experience for me.

“I think it was all in God’s plan, the way it happened, and I couldn’t be more thankful. Not anything that I imagined. It’s good to have those guys there to implement some of the things you want done because I’m a brand-new face to the whole school. Coach Seymore’s the only one that really knows me. That’s something that takes time to build. And with Coach Whittle there, he’s got a proven track program. With him believing in me, it helps other guys to believe in me.”

Original article from Montgomery Independent.

2024-25 Alumni Association Graduate Study Merit Scholarships Awarded

The Auburn University at Montgomery Alumni Association recently awarded its annual Graduate Study Merit Scholarships to five outstanding AUM students. The scholarships require that recipients maintain a GPA of 3.4 or higher, enroll in and complete nine hours each semester and be continuously enrolled for each semester covered by the award.

The $1,000 scholarships, funded by alumni memberships, were awarded by the AUM Alumni Board of Directors to Selena Burnett, Stevie Johnson, Sai Ram Potlapalli, Evelyn Ross, and Sharanya Velumula.

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Selena Burnett earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 2011 from Tuskegee University, and a Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction in 2015 from Concordia University in Portland, OR. She is currently pursuing a Master of Education in Instructional Leadership from AUM. She is currently serving as the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) Local Reading Specialist at Fitzpatrick Elementary School. After graduating, she plans to become an instructional leader and a better informed advocate for both students and teachers.

Stevie Johnson earned a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from UAB in 2016. She is currently pursuing a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) from AUM and works as an operating room circulating nurse with over seven years of expertise in high-risk environments. After graduating, she plans to move into an educator position within cardiothoracic surgery and eventually into a manager or assistant director role. In addition to obtaining an MHA, she looks to further her education by becoming a Certified Nurse, Operating Room (CNOR) as well as completing an MBA. Her ultimate goal is to work her way up the administrative ladder to guide policy making and education in a direction that benefits the cohesion of patients, staff and administration.

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Sai Ram Potlapalli earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Anurag Engineering College in 2019, and is currently pursuing a Master of Computer Science from Auburn University at Montgomery. He previously worked in IT with tech giant INFOSYS and IBM for four years, and currently works as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for Advanced Database Management Systems, as well as a Resident Assistant for AUM Housing and Residence Life. In essence, his educational and career aspirations are fueled by a fervent passion for computer science, a relentless pursuit of academic excellence, and a steadfast commitment to driving positive change in the realm of technology.

Evelyn Ross earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from AUM in 2023, and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA). For the last three years, she has been employed as an Administrative Assistant II with the State of Alabama Department of Education. After graduating, she aspires to contribute to the financial sector and create opportunities for others by accomplishing her dream of owning an independent bank.

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Sharanya Velumula earned a Bachelor’s degree in Technology from Jyosthismathi Institute of Technology and Sciences in 2012, an MBA from Karnataka State Open University in 2016, and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Management Information Systems. Velumula is extremely involved in extracurricular activities, representing as the Graduate Senator of SGA, a member of CAB, President of the Women in IT Club. She currently works for the SWOT Team and serves as a Graduate Research Assistant in the College of Education. She is committed to academic excellence, making a positive impact in the community, and becoming an authority in her field.

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Digital forensics expert, Bokolo makes wave with cybersecurity innovation

An expert in digital forensics and investigator based in the United States, Biodunmoye George Bokolo, has led significant advancements in the field of cybersecurity and digital forensics.

Nigerian-born Bokolo has become a leading authority in her industry, inspiring others in her home country to follow in her groundbreaking footsteps.

Speaking about the journey, she noted how she was Inspired by a combination of personal interests, including professional experiences, and an acute awareness of the critical role cybersecurity plays in today’s interconnected world.

She embarked on her career in digital forensics with a clear vision.

Her fascination with the complexities of digital investigations grew during her undergraduate and graduate studies, fueling her determination to enhance cybersecurity solutions through advanced research and innovative techniques.

Bokolo’s commitment to digital forensics is deeply intertwined with her faith, which has provided her with resilience and a sense of purpose throughout her academic and professional journey.

Her drive to make meaningful contributions to the field is evident in her impressive academic background and numerous achievements.

Bokolo began her academic journey with a degree in Information Communication Technology from the City and Guilds London Institute of Nigeria. She furthered her education with a bachelor’s degree in Computer and Information Sciences and a Master of Science in Computer Information Security & Cybersecurity from Auburn University at Montgomery, which she completed in 2018.

Currently, she is a final-year doctoral candidate at Sam Houston State University, specializing in Digital and Cyber Forensics Science.

Her research spans various aspects of digital forensics, including machine learning, cybercrime investigation, mobile device forensics, and social media forensics.

One notable project involves detecting criminal intent from user-generated content on social media platforms using machine learning techniques, demonstrating the potential to identify and prevent crimes through advanced data analysis.

Beyond research, Bokolo has made significant strides in eDiscovery—identifying, collecting, and producing electronic evidence during investigations.

Her expertise has been pivotal in solving major digital forensic cases, emphasizing the importance of electronic evidence in modern criminal investigations.

Bokolo’s contributions to the practical applications of digital forensics are equally impressive.

She has engaged in numerous projects related to cybersecurity, including incident response, disaster recovery, and malware reverse engineering.

Her focus on the ethical aspects of digital forensics underscores her commitment to maintaining the integrity and fairness of investigations.

Her extensive scholarly pursuits and professional memberships, including the American Association of University Women at UAB (where she serves as President), Women in CyberSecurity, the Computer Science Society, and the Digital Forensics Association, reflect her dedication to advancing the field.

She has received multiple awards and recognitions, including the Graduate Student Upstanders in 2021, the AAUW fellowship, and the NELA Award from the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS).

Bokolo’s achievements have not gone unnoticed. In 2024, she was recognized as one of the most influential people in Nigeria by Bridge Africa Tech (BAT), celebrating her significant contributions to digital forensics and cybersecurity.

In addition to her professional endeavors, Bokolo is a passionate mentor, sharing her knowledge and experiences with the next generation of digital forensics experts and cybersecurity professionals.

Her journey serves as an inspiration to many young Nigerians, demonstrating the vast potential of Nigerian talent in these critical fields.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the importance of digital forensics cannot be overstated.

Experts like Bokolo play a crucial role in investigating cybercrime, preventing data breaches, and ensuring the security of our digital world.

Her work is paving the way for a safer and more secure future, highlighting the indispensable role of digital forensics experts in our increasingly technology-dependent society.

She also revealed how her exceptional skills, groundbreaking research, and dedication to mentoring emerging professionals position her as a formidable force in digital forensics and cybersecurity.

Her success story underscores the potential of Nigerian talent and serves as a powerful reminder that with dedication and passion, significant contributions to global cybersecurity are possible.

Original article from Vanguard.

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Wilburn honored with Teacher of the Year Award at Troy University’s Montgomery Campus

Dr. Shunda L. Wilburn, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing, was awarded the Troy University Montgomery Gamma Beta Phi’s 2023-2024 Teacher of the Year Award during the campus’ spring commencement ceremony.

The award is presented each spring to an outstanding faculty member on the University’s Montgomery Campus by the chapter of Gamma Beta Phi, the national honors and service society. Chapter representative Denise Randall presented the award to Wilburn.

“I wish to congratulate Dr. Shunda Wilburn for this well-deserved recognition,” said Dr. Wade Forehand, Director of TROY’s School of Nursing. “Dr. Wilburn not only educates future nurses but seeks to nurture their growth and instill in them a love for the profession. She displays a passion for teaching and unwavering dedication to the ASN program and students.”

Dr. Wilburn received her Doctor of Nursing Practice from TROY in 2017, after earning her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (2009) and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Auburn University at Montgomery (1999).

She is a Registered Nurse in Alabama and a member of the Healthcare Educators of Alabama, Sigma Theta Tau International, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Alumni Association and the Troy University Alumni Association.

“Receiving this honor makes me feel incredibly grateful and humbled,” Dr. Wilburn said. “It’s a profound validation to know that the recognition comes directly from students, whose feedback and experiences are at the heart of what I do. This award signifies that my efforts to make a positive impact on their lives and education are resonating with them. Knowing that this is a student-driven award makes it even more meaningful because it reflects genuine appreciation and acknowledgment from those I aim to support and inspire every day. It reinforces my commitment to continue striving for excellence and to be a positive influence in the academic community.”

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Central Alabama Inc! 40 Under 40: Chris Searcy ‘18

Senior Pastor at Fresh Anointing House of Worship and CEO of Searcy Brothers Productions

As senior pastor, Chris Searcy manages and provides oversight for the administration of all ministry areas within the organization, emphasizing Christ-centered teaching, fervent prayer, multilevel family Christian education programs, evangelism and mission outreaches. As CEO of Searcy Brothers Productions, he develops and maintains the company’s vision and mission statements, ensuring they are understood by all employees and monitors the company’s progress. He volunteers at a local food bank, serves at a local church and provides mentoring services for a number of young men.

Searcy earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from AUM in 2018.

Key to Success: I believe my key to success is first the Grace and providence of God and second the relentless drive to excel that He has placed within me.

Guilty Pleasure: Any kind of sweet baked good!

High School Superlative: Most talkative. Verified by winning the title of top debate (forensic) athlete in the State of Alabama.

Childhood Aspirations: I wanted to be a United States Marine.

First Job: Chick-fil-a in Eastdale mall at 14 years old

Best Advice: “No one is coming to save you.”

Biggest Influence Personally & Professionally: The biggest influence on my personal and career growth was the three years I spent in Army ROTC in college at AUM.

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