From SACS Principles of Accreditation:

From SACS Principles of Accreditation: 3.2.11 The institution’s chief executive officer has ultimate responsibility for, and exercises appropriate administrative and fiscal control over, the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program. (Control of intercollegiate athletics)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Understanding UAB Part 4: What UAB Is

By Ralph Harbison

Hopefully, you have started to understand the particulars of the UAB situation. We have a story to tell that runs against the common belief system and has no ties to it, other than location.

After the second and third parts, you should understand why the UAB Family has a hard time getting others, especially the highly indoctrinated Alabama fan, to understand the UAB Brand.

Basically, UAB is not the University of Alabama in any way, shape, or form and does not ever wish to be. It is in our differences that we find our greatest strength as an institution and a family.

Now, it is time to see exactly what UAB is, to read the brand as it is written by members of the UAB Family. While I am the one putting these thoughts on paper, please understand that I have not created them from whole cloth, as much as I would like to claim it. No, I have compiled this message from countless conversations with UAB students, alumni, faculty, staff, patients, and fans.

This is our story. This is our brand.

UAB is a place of learning, from the undergraduate part of the university, through the medical side of campus, in every sense of the word, UAB is about learning. We learn from each other, lessons about life, love, academics, and everything else. We learn from the finest faculty, trained in both the best university settings and in the real life experiences of the world.

UAB is a place of teaching, in every way. We educate each other, both inside and outside of the classroom. We are invested in each other, and we show that by helping others learn, from students looking for knowledge to patients looking for answers. And we teach life beyond the classroom.

UAB is a place of dreams, from the incoming freshman with ambitions, to the researcher seeking for the next promising drug, to the parents of a newborn thinking about tomorrow as the child sleeps in their arms, to the patient closing his or her eyes for the last night on earth, UAB is the place that ties them all together.

UAB is a place of reality, from the class work to the research and in the hospital, we stay grounded in our thoughts, focusing on the here and now and how we can do more.

UAB is a place of the future of the world, from students who will change the lives of others to the newborns in the hospital, UAB is working towards and focused on tomorrow.

UAB is a place of life in all of its phases, from the vibrant student to the physically ill, from those just starting life to those reaching its end, all aspects of life are present and part of the UAB experience.

UAB is more than a commuter school or medical center. UAB has student life for those who want to be involved. UAB has well respected faculty in all majors, from accounting to zoology. To ignore that is to deny reality.

UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences, often forgotten amid the medical end, is a confluence of 19 departments, 300 faculty and 40 different degree programs, including some of the best in journalism, English, history, art, music and many others. Our faculty and students are among the best anywhere. And have the accolades to prove it.

UAB is a place of inclusion, where people from all parts of the world, all aspects of life, find what they need, from education to healthcare. UAB sees no class, race, creed, or color, only humanity.

UAB is a part of Birmingham, from the slopes of Red Mountain where the campus sits to the suburbs where so many of the faculty and staff live, UAB is this metro area.

UAB is the engine of the state in economics as a major employer to education as one of the top 150 schools in the world, to healthcare, where it treats the state’s citizens to research where it makes the world better. UAB powers Alabama.

UAB is part of the world as it contributes educated citizens and life changing research. UAB is more than a local or regional school.

UAB is a place of magic for those who look. It is a place that can and should be all things to all people, and it is when we control its fate.

UAB is part of me, forever, and I cannot express that part only through words. Those who share that part understand. Those who do not share it, we only ask that we be left to have what is ours in peace.

Ralph Harbison is a business consultant and personal, business, and wellness coach based in Birmingham. Ralph is also a co-founder and chairman of Dragon PAC, a state political action committee dedicated to education transformation in Alabama. For more about Ralph, visit and to help Dragon PAC, visit

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Understanding UAB Part Three: What the UAB Story is Not

By Ralph Harrison

Before we resume the series on “Understanding UAB,” I want to pause to congratulate Coach Bill Clark on his much deserved new contract. I also want to thank the UAB Administration for doing the right thing in this case and listening to the UAB Family. Also, a HUGE thank you to the undergraduate students who voted overwhelmingly to support the return of the programs and those who helped get out the vote!

Welcome to the third part of Understanding UAB. For a quick review of the first two parts, we start with an understanding of what branding is. Branding is telling your story so that others have a desire to be part of it. UAB has not been allowed to write her own story freely but has done as much as possible.

The UAB brand that the UAB Family promotes is different from the UAB brand that the UA System wishes to promote, and the Family’s brand has been a stronger, more influential story. That brand functions within a state where the indoctrination, what people are taught to believe about a subject, works against it, but it has relied on a powerful form of enculturation on campus to create new members of the UAB Family. UAB was created to serve a purpose, but it has, instead, created an alternative to the status quo. It is a small challenge, but it is a challenge none the less. Now, we will discuss what the UAB story is not.

Understanding what something is not can be more important than understanding what something is. The negative description (as in “what it is not” not “a description that includes bad points only”) often helps people grasp why something is different without a side-by-side comparison. While this understanding does not give the reasons that someone would love UAB, it does show why so many people in the state of Alabama have no real understanding of why the UAB Family does love UAB.

Throughout this list, you will see reasons that UAB stands out from the typical thought process of many Alabamians. This is not meant to imply that UAB is inherently better. The statements are only to show the differences.

First, UAB is not part of the antebellum, Civil War, Reconstruction Era, or Early 20th century history of Alabama. In this state, this is a major blow to its appeal. Alabamians love the good old days. UAB cannot participate in that at all. So, unlike the University of Alabama, which tells stories of its students going to fight for Robert E. Lee, or Auburn, which tells the story of the first War Eagle, a survivor of the Battle of the Wilderness, UAB doesn’t really start its own story until man walked on the moon.

Those of a nostalgic nature find UAB to be lacking. Part of the reason is that Birmingham as we know it did not exist until the 1880s, so even the city itself cannot harken back to the glorious ancient days.

Second, UAB has no real significant ties to the desegregation fight or the Civil Rights Movement, despite being located in Birmingham. This is actually an amazing fact, but it is one that has both positive and negative connotations. For those who seek a return to the “Good Old Days,” UAB holds no appeal. For those who want to escape the mention of them at all, UAB has that. BUT, because UAB is located in Birmingham, the Civil Rights Movement permeates everything to some degree, if for no other reason than how far UAB has come.

Third, UAB is not in a college town. It does not have a traditional campus. UAB students are not the typical college student, either. Although the typical student is closer to the traditional than ever before, it is not quite there. UAB students tend to be slightly older than the traditional. UAB students tend to work while in school. UAB students tend to gravitate toward the biomedical field and science.

Unlike Auburn, which is the town of Auburn, or the University of Alabama, which dominates Tuscaloosa, UAB does not control the majority of the city of Birmingham proper or the metro area. While the school and medical center is the dominant industry, it is not the only one. UAB is also in an urban area, in the center of the largest metro area in the state and one of the 50 largest in the country. It is not in a sleepy college town and does not have that appeal.

Finally, UAB is not dominated by the college experience. UAB is first and foremost a research medical center and major research university. While every other aspect of university life is present at UAB, those aspects are ancillary to the main functions of the university: education and research. That does not mean that you must be interested in research to attend UAB, or even interested in medicine.

On the contrary, UAB has amazing departments in engineering and business as well as the science departments. What it means that typical UAB students do not come to be Greek first, or because their dream is to watch a game from the student section, but because they value the educational opportunity that UAB affords.

So, if you want a school with a long history, strong ties to the old South, involvement in segregation, in a sleepy little town, and that places more emphasis on the college experience than the college education, UAB is not for you. That is not our story. That is not understanding UAB. And that is why UAB is not understood. Part of the indoctrination of the citizens of Alabama has been that a university includes those things, and if they do not exist, that school is diminished. Ironically, not a single one of those criteria has anything to do with why a university exists in the first place.

Next time, the final part of Understanding UAB: What UAB Is.

Ralph Harbison is a business consultant and personal, business, and wellness coach based in Birmingham. Ralph is also a co-founder and chairman of Dragon PAC, a state political action committee dedicated to education transformation in Alabama. For more about Ralph, visit and to help Dragon PAC, visit