Warhawk Weekly 12-15: Celebrate graduates; Share success; Operational updates

Celebrating AUM’s Fall 2020 graduates

Auburn University at Montgomery celebrated the achievements of more than 500 graduates at a Fall 2020 commencement ceremony on December 12 that was unlike any of its predecessors.

The ceremony honored Fall graduates, as well as Summer 2020 graduates and Spring 2020 graduates whose commencement celebrations were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last weekend’s event featured socially distanced seating and mandatory masks for graduates and attendees, as well as contact-free collection of diplomas. The event plan was reviewed and approved by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Commencement speaker Liz Huntley, an attorney, child advocate, author and Auburn University Board of Trustees member, reminded graduates that “our talents and gifts are really talents and gifts for other people.” Huntley, who practices law with the Birmingham-based firm Lightfoot, Franklin & White, also encouraged students to adopt the “no excuses” philosophy described in her memoir, “More Than a Bird.”

Huntley recounted growing up in a dysfunctional home, in which her parents sold drugs and her father was in and out of jail.

“I saw bags of money all over the table,” she said. “I remember guns being around, and I thought nothing of it.”

Huntley, who eventually lived with her grandmother, described her mother’s addiction to heroin and eventual suicide as well as the trauma of being sexually assaulted by a family member.

“There I was, as dark as it gets,” she said. “I say that to you graduating students today: ‘Don’t ever think your situation is as worse as it gets.’ It doesn’t get any worse than that.”

Huntley said education represented the key to “unlocking” her door and changing her circumstances. While AUM’s Fall 2020 graduates and their peers are entering a post-college world dominated by a global pandemic, political polarization, and unrest over a variety of social issues, Huntley said they will ultimately shape the world in which they live.

“As you go off into the adult world, you’re going to play a role in how we move forward as a nation,” she said. “We’re at a crossroads. We’ve been here before. We were here at the birth of this nation, we were here at the Civil War, we were here during the Civil Rights Movement, and we overcame all of those things. This time is no different.

“We’re going to do it because of young people using their keys to unlock their doors.”

Share your success story

If you’re a member of our Fall 2020 graduating class, we’d like to brag on you.

We’re planning a series of graduate spotlights on AUM’s social media channels. Send your graduation photo, name, major, hometown and post-graduation plans to [email protected].

University updates operational plan for Spring 2021

When students and employees return to campus for the Spring 2021 semester in January, many of the existing health safety protocols that existed during the Fall 2020 semester – mandatory masks in public settings, social distancing, enhanced cleaning, and the random Sentinel Testing program – will remain in place.

The university has modified its academic calendar, delaying the start of classes until January 20 and eliminating the traditional spring break. Learn more about these changes and operational modifications that will be implemented by Campus Services, Warhawk Health Services, Student Affairs, Housing and the Wellness Center, among others in the university’s updated pandemic plan.

Mourning the loss of Dr. James Williams

Auburn University at Montgomery is mourning the loss of a transformational figure – former Chancellor James Williams.

Williams, who passed away on Thursday, Dec. 10, at age 83, was instrumental in AUM’s growth while serving as its second chancellor.

“This is a sad occasion for the Auburn University at Montgomery family,” AUM Chancellor Carl A. Stockton said. “Dr. Williams helped lay a foundation that positioned AUM for growth and success as the leading university in Alabama’s River Region. 

“In addition to providing visionary leadership as chancellor, Dr. Williams was generous in his support of AUM’s people and programs and remained a friend to the university in retirement.”

Dr. Williams joined AUM as Chairman of its Department of Education in 1969, just as the university was beginning to serve students after being formed by a legislative act in 1967. He served in that role before being promoted to Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, a position he held from 1973-1975. In 1975, he was named AUM’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and also served as Director of Graduate Studies.

In November 1980, Dr. Williams was appointed to succeed Dr. Hanly Funderburk as AUM’s second chancellor – a role he held until he retired in 1993.

Learn more about his tenure and impact on the university.

Updated hours for holiday operations

Auburn University at Montgomery offices and services, including AUM Dining, the Bookstore, Warhawk Transit and the Wellness Center, will have modified operating hours until the university reopens for the Spring 2021 semester on January 4.

Get the full schedule.

COVID-19 case reporting

Auburn University at Montgomery continues to update its COVID-19 dashboard with results of testing conducted through the random Sentinel Testing program and Warhawk Health Services, as well as self-reported positive test results by students and employees to Student Affairs and Human Resources. Reporting will be updated each week.

In addition to wearing face masks on campus and observing social distancing, students and employees are encouraged to utilize the AUM Healthcheck symptom monitoring tool.

Auburn University at Montgomery made the transition to remote course and exam delivery after Thanksgiving break to minimize potential community transmission of the virus and has also adjusted its Spring 2020 academic calendar, delaying the beginning of classes until January 20 and foregoing the traditional spring break as precautionary measures. The university also plans to continue the Sentinel Testing program for students and employees.

Other steps you can take to “Protect Your Nest” during the pandemic include:

  • Covering your beak. Properly wearing a face mask (securely covering your nose and mouth) when in public settings.
  • Watching your wingspan. Allowing 6-foot buffer zones for social distancing.
  • Washing your hands.Wash your hands frequently, using soap and hot water.
  • Getting a flu shot.Public health officials recommend this precaution given the overlap with flu season.
  • Avoiding large gatherings. The more people who congregate together in the same space, the higher the odds are of being around someone who can transmit the virus.