Warhawk Weekly 12-8: Celebrate graduates; new Dean of Students named; virtual theatre

Celebrate fall graduates at commencement

AUM will celebrate the outstanding achievements of Fall 2020 graduates Saturday, Dec. 12.

The university’s fall commencement ceremony is set for Saturday at 10 a.m. at Montgomery’s Garrett Coliseum. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, graduates and their guests will be required to wear face masks and adhere to social distancing and other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Elizabeth Huntley, a member of the Auburn University Board of Trustees, will serve as the keynote speaker during the commencement ceremony.

Huntley is an accomplished litigation attorney, dedicated child advocate, author and lecturer. She currently practices law at the Birmingham-based firm Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC.

“It is always an honor to speak to graduates as they begin the next chapter of their lives,” she said. “My prayer is that I will say something that will inspire them on their journey to fulfilling their purpose.”

Learn more about Huntley’s career.

For more information on AUM’s Fall 2020 Commencement ceremony, including live-streaming, visit:

Leon Higdon named AUM’s new Dean of Students

Dr. Leon Higdon has been named Auburn University at Montgomery’s new Dean of Students. He began his new appointment Monday, December 7.

Higdon was previously serving as AUM’s interim dean of students, an appointment he began in June. Prior to serving in the interim role, he served as Senior Director of Auxiliary Services at AUM.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to continue serving our students, faculty, and staff in a permanent role,” Higdon said. “It’s an exciting time to be part of the AUM family and have the opportunity to contribute to the growth of our campus and success of our students. The Office of Student Affairs will continue to make a difference in the lives of our students by providing resources, programs, and events that offer a fully engaged student experience.”

A member of the AUM staff since 2018, Higdon has provided administrative oversight of such areas as AUM Dining, the AUM Bookstore, Housing & Residence Life, the Wellness Center and Conference Services.

“We are excited to have Dr. Higdon serve in a permanent role as Dean of Students,” said AUM Chancellor Carl A. Stockton. “During his time at AUM, he has shown versatility and a willingness to listen to our students while successfully guiding improvements to so many of the services that our students depend on. His leadership, experience and expertise will help us continue to provide essential support and services to our growing student body.”

Higdon earned his doctorate in Higher Education Administration with an emphasis in student affairs from the University of South Alabama. His dissertation research focused on the effects racial microaggressions have on the retention and persistence of minority group students in higher education.

His educational background also includes a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama and a master’s degree in human environmental science from the University of Alabama.

Learn more about Higdon’s career.

AUM gives back for WSFA 12’s Day of Giving

Every year, Auburn University at Montgomery partners with WSFA-TV on “12’s Day of Giving” to help families in need during the holiday season.

For 2020 12’s Day of Giving, the River Region community donated a record-breaking $48,000. The generous donations also included 1,350 toys and 6,000 pounds of food.

Auburn University at Montgomery Chancellor Carl A. Stockton, Curtiss The Warhawk, and some of our Orange Jacket Society students all delivered some holiday cheer during the this year’s initiative. The group shopped for toys that will be distributed to local organizations for children in time for the holidays.

Learn more about the WSFA-TV 12’s Day of Giving” initiative.

Theatre AUM goes virtual for Fall 2020 season

Theatre AUM students and faculty have been hard at work for months to adapt to the challenges presented by the pandemic. While live performances aren’t yet an option, they are proud to share their latest work — “Shadow of the Son” by Kate Leslie – via YouTube.

Theatre AUM is presenting its fall production of “Shadow of the Son” to the campus community in an online format rather than an in-person stage performance due the COVID-19 pandemic, said Val Winkelman, professor of communications and theatre.

Work on the non-traditional production began in the spring with theatre students and faculty rehearsing, building sets and filming the play while adhering to COVID-19 safety guidelines, Winkelman said.

“We are providing this production in a filmed format so that our audience members are able to watch the play from the comfort of their homes, and in order to practice safe social distancing,” she said.

“Shadow of the Son,” by playwright Kate Leslie, explores the connection between Artemis, the moon goddess, and her brother Apollo, god of the sun, as Artemis struggles to find her way in a patriarchal world. Expected to live up to the ideals of the immortals, Artemis longs for freedom and the opportunity to chart her own path. But when she builds her own world away from that of her father, has she simply traded one set of impossible expectations for another? By viewing the world through Artemis rather than men in history, viewers will get an understanding of how moments in life and history shape and change us into who we ultimately become.

“Shadow of the Son” is available online to the campus community through Tuesday, Dec. 15. Watch the play free on YouTube.

Learn more about theatre students’ experiences from the production.

AUM Theatre Shadow of the Son picture

Laws named new distance education director

Auburn University at Montgomery recently hired Georgianna Laws to serve as director of the Office of Distance Education.

Her professional journey has taken her to three continents over the last 20 years, and includes experience in leadership, instructional design, and teaching at such institutions as Augusta University, the Savannah College of Art and Design, Florida State University, Berlitz, the Japanese American Language Institute, and Peace Corps.

Georgianna Laws Alma Mater

Before joining AUM, Laws helped launch and oversee operations of the Life University College of Online Education.

Learn more about Laws’ background.

Kalu receives CHOICE book award

Distinguished Research Professor Kalu N. Kalu’s path-breaking book “A Functional Theory of Government, Law, and Institutions” was recently selected as a 2020 Choice Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Academic Reviews and Magazine.

The prestigious honor, which brings with it the extraordinary recognition of the academic library community, is awarded to the best in scholarly titles reviewed by Choice during the previous year.

Kalu’s book examines the notion that while states may differ in terms of ideology, economic system, and institutional architecture, their role as an organizing framework for system-wide political action and international relations is contingent on a series of competing and oftentimes mutually exclusive factors. The work clarifies factors that contribute to our understanding of the critical roles of systemic and sub-systemic elements of society and how they reinforce the reciprocal problems of human and social organizations, and the institutionalization processes that help to constrain them. 

In December of each year, Choice publishes its list of Outstanding Academic Titles, which includes books and digital resources. The list contains approximately 10 percent of some 5,000 works reviewed annually in Choice based on criteria such as overall excellence in presentation and scholarship, importance relative to other literature in the field and value to undergraduate students.

Choice is a publishing unit of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.

Psychology professor weighs in on social distancing

Jessica Bodily, assistant professor of psychology, was recently featured in an ABC 33/40 news feature highlighting why social distancing is more of a challenge for some people to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the feature, psychologists discussed the impact on COVID-19’s guidelines and the importance of following them.

“We’ve evolved to be more social and when we isolate we can’t be social so it’s a big challenge,” Bodily explained in the news feature.

Other reasons people may find it difficult is based on the way we judge risks, peer pressure, and feeling like we’re not in control of our lives.

“I miss my family and this could be the last time I see so and so because they’re elderly,” Bodily said about how people rationalize their actions. “So all of those things may take precedence over the possibility that perhaps there would be a negative outcome a week or however long in the future.”

Read more in the ABC 33/40 news feature.

Survey: Break the Stigma

Mental health is an important issue across university campuses. AUM students have launched the project “Break the Stigma: AUM” to raise awareness about the stigma many people have against mental health.

As part of the project, AUM students Shifat Niha, Juan Melara, Alexis McDowell, Catherine Boswell, Sarah Staton, and Savannah Corbin have created a survey to help them better understand how much their AUM peers are affected by mental health issues.

“We want to create a community that is comfortable with talking about their mental health, Melara said. “We also want to promote organizations like our counseling center, NAMI, and other mental health organizations on campus.”

Through the survey, the student group also hopes to find out how aware students are about mental health facilities on campus.

“The results of our survey will help us collaborate with AUM’s administration to take more steps for destigmatizing mental health at AUM,” Niha said.

Take the “Break the Stigma: AUM” survey.

AUM campus services update operating hours for winter break

AUM campus services will have altered operations during the winter break. Please see below for changes to operating hours, or visit

The AUM Bookstore will be open Tuesday, Dec. 8 through Friday, Dec. 11 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. The hours will change to 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14 through Friday, Dec. 18, and the Bookstore will be closed Monday, Dec. 21 through Sunday, Jan. 3. Operations will resume Monday, Jan. 4.

AUM Dining will be open Tuesday, Dec. 8 through Friday, Dec. 11 from 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. It will remain open Monday, Dec. 14 through Friday, Dec. 18 with reduced hours from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.​ The Cafe will close Monday, Dec. 21 through Sunday, Jan. 3. However, the C-Store will be open from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Dec. 23 and Dec. 30.

The Mailroom will maintain operating hours through Friday, Dec. 18. Following campus closing for winter break, it will be open Wednesdays, Dec. 23 and Dec. 30 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

AUM Transit will continue to run ​Mondays through Saturdays 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. On Sundays, the transit will run 12:15 p.m. – 8 p.m. The transit will not be running on Dec. 24, 25, 31 or Jan. 1.

The Wellness Center​ will be open Tuesday, Dec. 8 through Thursday, Dec. 10 from 8 a.m. – 6 pm. and Friday, Dec. 11 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. It will also be open next week, Monday, Dec. 14 through Friday, Dec. 18 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. The Wellness Center will be closed Monday, Dec. 21 through Sunday Jan. 3. Operations will resume Monday, Jan. 4.

An update on COVID-19 case tracking

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 Monday.

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.