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Empowered by Doctorate, Graduate to Lead Road Research in Ghana


William Agyemang
William Agyemang

Two years ago, William Agyemang left everything he knew — his wife, his four children, his home in Ghana and his job as a researcher at the Building and Road Research Institute — to pursue a doctoral degree in civil engineering at the Capstone.

Though the journey has been difficult, on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. he’ll walk across Coleman Coliseum’s stage with his diploma in hand, mission accomplished.

“It had been my dream to continue on with my education to get my Ph.D.,” Agyemang said. “I went to a conference in Ghana where I met Dr. Steven Jones. I expressed my interest in furthering my education to him and it all came to fulfillment in 2019 with me arriving here and concluding in my graduation this December.

William Agyemang

“It has not been easy to be away from my family. I would have liked to bring them here, but I could not. I’ve been able to visit them twice, around December each year. My family is very excited about me coming home.”

“He’s 53 years old and decided to leave his family in Ghana and come here by himself for two and a half years and be in classes with twenty-something-year-olds,” Jones said. “That told me how committed he was, that he was serious and that it’s important to his career. Jones, a James R. Cudworth professor of civil engineering and the deputy director of the Alabama Transportation Institution, said Agyemang is a fabulous student and a standup guy whom he’s now glad to call colleague as Agyemang returns home to become the deputy director of Ghana’s Building and Road Research Institute.

“I’m happy that I could help him and I’m proud of his work. I’m the deputy director of the Alabama Transportation Institute, which funded William’s research, and now my student is the deputy director of Ghana’s Building and Roads Research Institute. So, we have a UA graduate on the leadership team of the transportation institute of an entire country.”

Agyemang said he’s grateful that the knowledge and experience he acquired at UA helped him get the deputy director position. In his new role, he’ll use models to analyze vehicle crash data to gain a more detailed understanding of how crashes occur to ultimately help design safer roadways.

“My research and work will be made available to the national community, which I think will go a long way,” he said. “The hope is to use the data to analyze and cut down on crashes. I hope also to have a good relationship in the future with UA and partner with the University on some of this research.”

Some of Agyemang’s work is already scheduled to be presented to the national community. In mid-January, Jones will present some of Agyemang’s published research at the 101st Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in mid-January in Washington, D.C., which is a premier event in the transportation industry.

“My stay at The University of Alabama has been so interesting,” Agyemang said. “I learned a lot here. If you are focused, UA has the resources for you here and an environment for learning. In the future, I hope that more international students come to UA.”

UA’s Model UN Team Awarded at First Conference of the Season

With a strong start to the 2021-2022 season, the Alabama International Relations Club’s travelling Model United Nations team dominated at Florida State University’s first iteration of NoleMUN in September. After a long year of competing exclusively through online formats, the team was finally able to compete in a hybrid format, with eight delegates competing in person in Tallahassee, Florida, and twelve from in Tuscaloosa. Even with the time away from in-person competition, and a very young delegation, the 20 University of Alabama students proved that they deserve to be one of the top-ranked Model UN teams in the nation. The team spent the weekend debating a plethora of topics ranging from the State Constitution of Florida to the international exploration of outer space, from the rights of mining workers in West Virginia to the issues that plagued the Court of Archduke Ferdinand I.

In total, the team won seven individual awards and received the Best Large Delegation award at the conference. This is the first Best Delegation award in the team’s history but will surely not be the last.

In the United Nations General Assembly Special Political and Decolonization Committee, Sophomore Helen Flemming was awarded Best Delegate (1st Place) for representing the United States, and Freshman Emily Smith received a Verbal Commendation (4th Place) for representing South Africa.

In Blood and Coal: The Battle of Blair Mountain, 1921, Junior Tyler Tannehill received a Verbal Commendation (4th Place) for representing Frank Keeney a leader in the United Mine Workers Association.

In A More Perfect State: The 1968 Florida Constitutional Revision Committee, Senior Gibson Gray and Freshman Bennett Ogle both received Verbal Commendations (4th Place) for representing Florida Politicians working to better their state government.

In Avatar The Last Airbender: The Blitz of Ba Sing Se, Junior Thomas Blackwell received the Outstanding Delegate Award (2nd Place) for his portrayal of King Bumi of Omashu.

In the Director’s Ad-Hoc, Senior and Alabama Model UN Head Delegate Christopher McCarthy received the Best Delegate Award (1st Place) for his portrayal of Jiang Zemin, President of the People’s Republic of China during the year 2000.

We are incredibly proud of our Model UN team and are excited to see their continued success as they prepare for future conferences at Boston University and Georgetown University.

UA’s Model UN team is a part of the Capstone International Center’s Alabama International Relations Club. The Model UN team is the cornerstone of the AIRC, the premiere student-led global affairs organization at UA that continuously provides opportunities for its members to learn, develop, fund community and make an impact at the Capstone and worldwide.

From ELI to UA

ELI student from Venezuela receives her English Proficiency Certificate

Paola Sanabria Penuela was on one of the last planes out of Colombia before the borders closed due to the pandemic in March 2020.

Paola, originally from Venezuela, spent the summer in Huntsville with her mother and stepfather before starting ELI classes in August.

Ten months later, Paola completed the entire ELI program with good grades and earned an ELI Certificate of Proficiency, which can replace the standardized English test score required for international admission to The University of Alabama.

Paola will begin her undergraduate degree at UA this fall and hopes to become a physiotherapist. For her, “UA is a great place to study because people are friendly, and the campus is amazing!”

Like Paola, every year a number of ELI students successfully complete their Intensive English studies and are accepted into UA.

UPDATE – Duration-of-Status Proposed Rule Withdrawn


On July 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published their official withdrawal of the proposed rule to change F and J duration of status periods.

Below is a history of the now withdrawn proposal, and for more detailed information and resources, please see the NAFSA Page on this topic.

On September 25, 2020 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule to change the admission period of F and J nonimmigrants from the current “duration of status” (D/S) period (which is linked to the expiration date on your I-20 or DS-2019) to a date-certain I-94 Form (which provides an entry date and authorized period of stay).  The proposed rule was highly technical, and received a lot of feedback.  The following is a brief summary of how the withdrawn proposal would have impacted international students’ and scholars’ periods of admission.

  • Would have limited period of status (or authorized stay) to 4 years.  Individuals seeking to enter in F-1, F-2, J-1 or J-2 visa status would be admitted into the United States for the length of time indicated on the I-20 or DS-2019, for a period not to exceed four years plus their grace period. This proposed rule also changes the F-1/F-2 grace period from 60 days to 30 days.  J-1/J-2 will continue to have a 30 day grace period. Extensions of stay may be applied for; see additional information below.
  • Certain groups would be limited to 2-year periods of admission instead of 4-year periods of admission. Students limited to this initial 2-year period would have to apply for an extension to stay and complete programs. Those categories include:
    • Individuals from countries on the State Sponsor of Terrorism List (currently North Korea, Iran, Sudan, and Syria).
    • Individuals from countries with greater than 10 percent overstay rate (see table C-4). This list is subject to change and can be updated separately from this rule.
    • Based on U.S. National Interest, for example “students who are enrolled in specific courses of study, such as nuclear science”.
    • Unaccredited schools (F-1 only): The University of Alabama and its Intensive English Program are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools so this part of the rule will not impact UA students.
    • Schools or exchange programs not participating in E-Verify: The University of Alabama is an E-Verify employer so this part of the rule will not impact UA Students.
  • Would have limited English as a Second Language study: F-1 students in language training would be restricted to a lifetime total limit of 24 months of language study, including breaks and annual vacations.
  • Would have limited pursuing F-1 programs at the same educational level: DHS proposes to limit the number of times someone can get a degree at the same educational level (i.e. multiple masters programs) to three for the lifetime of the student
  • Would have limited ‘reverse matriculation” for F-1s: While there are still no limits to how many times a student can change level to a higher degree level (for example, language study > Associates > Bachelors > Masters > PhD) students can only go down a degree level (for example from a PhD to a Master’s) once in F-1 status for the lifetime of the student.
  • Would have required program extensions approved by USCIS instead of ISSS: With a date-certain I-94 record, program extensions would no longer be approved by ISSS and processed with an update to your F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019, but instead would require an application (with fee) to USCIS after a “recommendation” by ISSS.
    • Changes the standard of review for approval of extension:  The new rule would eliminate references to “normal progress” as a grounds for seeking an extension and incorporates a new standard for acceptable reasons for requesting extensions  “1) compelling academic reasons; 2) a documented illness or medical condition; and 3) exceptional circumstances beyond the control of the alien.”  Again, granting extensions would be the sole authority of USCIS under this proposed rule.
    • Implements biometrics requirement for program extensions, meaning that after an application for an extension, F-1 and J-1 students would have to visit a USCIS facility for fingerprints and photographs.
  • Would have created a series of “auto extensions” to account for processing times.  Processing times for Extensions of Stay are historically very long, with current posted processing times of 5 – 7 months.  To, account for long processing times, the proposal has automatic extensions of some authorizations:
    • On-campus employment: F-1 students able to continue to be authorized for on-campus employment while Extension of Stay (EOS) application is pending not to exceed 180 days.
    • Off-Campus Employment (such as Economic Hardship or Special Student Relief): automatic extension for up to 180 days.
    • No International Organization Internships, CPT or Pre-Completion OPT can be recommended or approved after the I-20 expiration date until the EOS has first been approved by USCIS
    • F-1 students applying for Post-Completion OPT must also submit an EOS request, and cannot begin OPT employment until both the OPT and EOS are approved.
    • F-1 students applying for STEM OPT also require an EOS application, but they are able to continue employment for 180 days while both the STEM OPT and EOS are being adjudicated.
    • J-1s would be able to continue working incident to their status while the EOS is pending for up to 240 days.
  • Would have impacted those currently in the U.S.  F and J nonimmigrants who are properly maintaining their status would be authorized to remain in the United States in F and J status until the end date on their Form I-20 or DS-2019, not to exceed a period of 4 years from the final rule’s effective date, plus a grace period of 60 days for F nonimmigrants and 30 days for J nonimmigrants. If they need additional time to complete their current course of study or exchange visitor program, including requests for post completion optional practical training (OPT) or STEM OPT, or would like to start a new course of study, they would have to apply for an extension of stay.

UA Ascends in Best Delegate Model UN World Division Rankings

UA students on steps.
UA’s Model UN team moved up to No. 15 after an impressive year.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama’s Model UN team moved up 10 spots in the 2020-2021 North American College Model U.N. World Division rankings.

UA ascended to No. 15 after earning the Outstanding Large Delegation at the HallMUN virtual Model UN conference in November and other awards throughout the year.

“In a year when virtual global communication was more important than ever, the Model UN team quickly adapted to the challenges before them,” said Megan Wagner, assistant director of international partnerships and scholarships with UA’s Capstone International Center. “The team leadership was able to expand the team by 11 more students than last year, giving more UA students than ever the ability to learn, practice and compete at the highest level.”

Given the increase in team members and virtual format of conferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UA’s Model UN team was able to compete in more conferences and earned the most raw points and awards in the team’s recent history, and its first delegation award at a ranked conference.

Best Delegate awards recognize both individual students and college teams as a whole for their accomplishments in leadership, research, public speaking, resolution-building, negotiation and diplomacy.

In addition to the team awards, members Chris McCarthy, of Brewster, New York, and Sarah Conrad, of West Chester, Pennsylvania, were named to the 2020-2021 North American Collegiate Model U.N. All-Star Team. The all-star team recognizes exemplary individuals in the college MUN community who have made a difference inside and outside of committee.

UA’s Model UN team is part of the Capstone International Center’s Alabama International Relations Club. The Model UN is the cornerstone of the AIRC, the premier student-led global affairs organization at UA that continuously provides opportunities for its members to learn, develop, find community and make an impact at the Capstone and the world beyond. The AIRC is open to all UA students regardless of college or major.

Source: Megan Wagner,

Contact: Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications,

UA Students Earn Gilman International Scholarships

Four University of Alabama students have received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to participate in study abroad programs during the 2021-2022 academic year.

“We are so proud of Alana, Brook, Daniel, and Sophia for winning the Gilman Scholarship! They all were very committed to creating competitive essays and spent a lot of time working with our advisors crafting their applications,” said Dr. Carolina Robinson, director of Education Abroad with UA’s Capstone International Center.

“Each of these students is planning to spend an extended period of time in-country, from a semester to full academic year abroad. Their dedication to learning and cultural immersion, even during a global pandemic, is awe-inspiring.”

Gilman recipients are selected by the Institute of International Education through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. Department of State. The 2021-2022 awardees are:

Sophia Grillo, a general business major from San Gabriel, California, was selected to study in South Korea.

Alana Thompson, an apparel and textiles major from Florence, will take part in Semester at Sea.

Brooke Wolfe, a kinesiology major from Dallas, Texas, will take part in Semester at Sea.

Daniel Flores Zelaya, a finance major from Rockaway, New Jersey, was selected to study in Ireland.

Gilman awardees receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad program costs, giving them the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages and economies.

Students interested in educational opportunities around the globe can visit

Contact: Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications,

International Relations Club Hosts Inaugural Collegiate Model UN Conference

(April 2021) This year marked the inaugural collegiate level Model United Nations Conference hosted by The University of Alabama’s International Relations Cub (AIRC). After two years of planning, the conference, called AIRMUNC, was held April 16-18, 2021. It was organized by a team of 33 UA students led by Secretary General Katie Nuñez, Director General Lucy Philips, and Under-Secretary General Griffin Specker.

Due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, the conference was held virtually utilizing Zoom and Slack. Regardless of the unusual logistics, the conference was a success, with five schools across the Southeast in attendance: Florida State University, Elon University, University of Georgia, William & Mary, and the University of Texas.

Five committees were created to assess the delegates ability in parliamentary procedure, rhetoric/debate, and collaboration.  The committees planned for AIRMUNC were PTA Moms of Tempe, Arizona, Fusiles y Frijoles: The Reign of Rios Montt, Jedi Council: Star Wars the Clone Wars, Valhalla Can Wait: The Chiefdom of Jarl Bjorn Ironside, and International Monetary Fund.

The delegates and staffers had an excellent experience interacting with each other to create policy and outcomes in each committee, learning parli pro, and getting engulfed into the scenarios they created.

The Model UN circuit of conferences is competitive and cut-throat. AIRMUNC was designed to be more laid back, warm, and friendly with dedicated and passionate staffers. The success of this first conference has garnered interest into what the AIRC has planned for the future.

The AIRC is part of the Capstone International Center. The Model UN traveling team, the high school conference (ALMUN) and the collegiate conference (AIRMUN) are the cornerstones of the AIRC, the premier student-led global affairs organization at UA that continuously provides opportunities for its members to learn, develop, find community and make an impact at the Capstone and the world beyond.

UA’s Model UN team ranked in the top 25 in the world for 2020. If you want to be a member of the AIRC, a club that welcomes undergraduate students from every major, you can reach the president at, or visit

UA Students Win Fulbright Awards for 2021-2022

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A University of Alabama student has received a Fulbright Student Research Award and three students have won Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Awards for the 2021–2022 academic year.

Fulbright is the most prestigious U.S. international exchange program, offering opportunities for students, scholars and professionals. The Fulbright Award of the U.S. Department of State offers one-year grants for independent study and research and for English teaching assistantships overseas.

The highly competitive program selects approximately 1,500 award recipients from more than 11,000 applicants each year. UA has received national recognition as a Top Producing Institution for Fulbright U.S. Students for five of the last six years.

In addition to this year’s winners, five UA Fulbright Student Award recipients from last year who had their awards delayed as a result of COVID-19 conditions in their host countries are expected to have an opportunity to serve in 2021–2022 as health conditions improve and travel restrictions ease.

“During a year of extraordinary challenges, every Fulbright student applicant and their faculty and staff advisors rose to those challenges by demonstrating a commitment to the vital work of advancing intercultural understanding throughout the world,” said Dr. Teresa Wise, associate provost of international education and global outreach. “No matter the circumstances, UA remains steadfast in providing such global learning opportunities to all of our students. We congratulate our 2021–2022 awardees and alternates, as well as those from last year who will now begin their Fulbright experience after a delay due to the ongoing pandemic.”

2021-2022 Fulbright Student Research Award recipient:

  • Malik Seals, of Columbus, Mississippi, received a Fulbright Award to research “Pregnancy and Multiple Sclerosis: Investigating Nature’s Immunosuppressant” at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Berlin, Germany. A 2020 UA Honors College graduate in biological sciences, he has been honored with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and membership in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Anderson Society, Jasons Senior Men’s Honorary, Omicron Delta Kappa, Alpha Epsilon Delta and Black Student Union Hall of Fame, and served as president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. He is currently a graduate student in immunology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he is an Albert Schweitzer Fellow.

Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Awards offer U.S. students the opportunity to serve in an English classroom overseas assisting the teacher and exchanging culture with the people of the host country. The 2021–2022 recipients are:

  • Lindsey Drost, of Holland, Michigan, an experienced English Language tutor and Spanish educator in the Tuscaloosa City Schools and a UA English Language Institute conversation partner. Drost graduated summa cum laude with a BA in German and Spanish and received awards for excellence in German and the best essay in Spanish. Currently enrolled in UA’s master’s program in education, she was selected to teach in Germany.
  • Logan Fenhouse, of Lombard, Illinois, a Blount Interdisciplinary Scholar in the liberal arts, former leader of Beyond Bama Alternative Breaks, Spanish interpreter at Maude Whatley Health Center and mentor with experience tutoring all ages. A 2020 summa cum laude Honors College graduate with degrees in Spanish and interdisciplinary studies and fluency in Spanish, she was chosen to teach in the Canary Islands of Spain.
  • Natasha Stevanovich, of Washington, Michigan, a Delta Phi Alpha German Honor Society and Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society member, UA German Club President, Outstanding Service in German award recipient, Model United Nations Club member, Tuscaloosa County Schools ESL Tutor and UA English Language Institute conversation partner. A 2021 Honors College graduate in German and psychology with a minor in creative media with study experience at Humboldt University in Germany and advanced fluency in German, she was selected to teach in Germany.

In addition, four UA students were awarded alternate status for 2021-2022. They will be invited to serve should more openings become available.

UA alternates include Michael Fisher (Germany), Matthew Southern (Spain), Chynna Swann (Thailand) and Katie Tindol (Malaysia).

The 2020-2021 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award recipients who are expected to travel along with this year’s cohort include Camille Constance Nealey Carr (Colombia), Isabella Rose DeSheplo (Bulgaria), Robert “Chad” Hankins (Germany), Katherine Lightfoot (Germany) and Ian Samlowski (Germany).

“Our campus is proud of these exceptional student leaders in international engagement,” said Dr. Beverly Hawk, director of global and community engagement at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships. “We appreciate the dedicated faculty, staff and administrators who worked with our students on applications for these awards.”

UA Fulbright advisers Megan Wagner, Dr. Matthew Feminella and Dr. Beverly Hawk help students polish applications for success in the national Fulbright competition each year. Students with an interest in applying for next year’s Fulbright program can learn more at and, or email

Contact: Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications,

Doctoral Student Brings Bangladeshi Cuisine to UA Community

In celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month, The University of Alabama’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is hosting a cooking demonstration that discusses the history, cultural and familial connection of food to the Bangladeshi people.

Khadiza Tul Jannat, communications doctoral student

Khadiza Tul Jannat, a native of Bangladesh who attends the University as a doctoral student and a graduate research and teaching assistant in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, will cook one of her favorite Bengali dishes on May 17 at 6 p.m.

To receive a link to the free cooking demonstration, registration is required.

This is Jannat’s first time celebrating Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month. She came to the U.S. in 2016 to continue her education and hadn’t heard of the heritage month, but she said she’s excited to celebrate it so she can share her culture with others through food and her passion, dance.

“I definitely want to represent my culture and help us to learn more about each other,” she said. “I think that’s how we become comfortable with each other by celebrating each other’s culture.

“Where I’m from, we all cook. We don’t eat frozen food. My mom cooked and I observed her. I like cooking for sure, but I do other stuff. I love dancing, that’s the main thing. When I dance, I feel like a bird. But cooking is a part of my life.”

Jannat said Bangladesh is known as the land of rivers, and people eat a lot of fresh fish and rice. So, she’s going to make one of the most popular dishes in her country, fish curry.

“It’s hard to find the same fish types here that are in my country, but I’ll be using one of the most popular fish I can find here, which is tilapia. I’ll be using my own recipe cooked in my traditional way. It’s going to be extra spicy, but I’ll be showing everyone how to make it with less or more chilis based on their tolerance for spice.

“When your tummy is happy, everything is happy. So sharing food means sharing happiness. In Asian cultures, we are very much hospitable, and food is one of the best ways to show care. When we care, we show it by doing things more than telling.”

Contact: Jamon Smith, strategic communications,