A place of your own: Finding an apartment

Looking at potential apartments is often overwhelming.
A leasing coordinator welcomes you into his or her office by running down a list of expenses with the same speed as a used-car-salesman, then pushes you through a sparsely furnished model apartment, barely giving you time to take a few photos on your phone. As you try to ask the few questions you thought up in the car ride over, he or she is already walking you back to the office explaining credit-checks, pro-rated move-in rates, and pet policies, and you leave with more questions than you had answered.

For students and young professionals looking at an apartment for the first time, there are several things that can be done to simplify this process and make the “great apartment hunt” less stressful.

1.) Take a friend.
If you plan to have a roommate, go together to look at potential locations. Not only will this give you better insight into how the two of you plan to live together, but it will also make sure that there is a second brain thinking through the leasing process. If you plan to live alone, take a friend or family member that can help you maintain your confidence and ask the questions you might not think of.
2.) Bring a list.
Write down a list of questions you absolutely need the answers to to make a decision, and inform the leasing coordinator that you have them. As different topics come up, be confident in asking your questions—it is that person’s job to answer them. Ask questions such as, “Are there any additional fees when moving in,” or “Is there a grace period for paying rent.” Questions like these may or may not be addressed in the information materials available, but are important when considering how much a unit will cost.
3.) Take notes and regroup.
Immediately after seeing an apartment, write down everything that comes to mind, even if that means sitting in your car in a parking lot for 10 minutes. Write down any issues you saw with the unit, any questions you need to call back and ask, and how it compares to other places you have looked.

In Birmingham, it is also important to keep in mind utility costs, pest-control fees, and other factors that are unique to the area. Many complexes also require a significant income before tenants can be approved, so it is important to maintain communication with the leasing coordinator throughout the process.

For information about different locations, sights like apartmentfinder.com and apartmentratings.com can give insight and reviews that can be helpful as well.

Run with your heart


Megan Gagliardi shows off her metal after completing the Mercedes Half on Sunday, February 23, 2015


Thousands of runners flooded the streets of downtown Birmingham this past weekend to test their strength and endurance in the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend. What began as a promise from father to son in a hospital room at UAB, has flourished into a Birmingham tradition. Now in its 13th year, the weekend includes a half and full marathon, a 5k, a children’s marathon, and a relay race.

One of those thousands in the sea of runners was Megan Gagliardi, a senior at Samford University who competed in her first half marathon Sunday morning.  Despite being a college student with classes, Step Sing practices and a social life to maintain, Gagliardi dedicated herself to training consistently, even waking up in the early hours of the morning before class to work in long runs.

“I started training right at the end of November.” Gagliardi recalls. “It was hard to find time! My long distance runs usually started at 6:30 a.m. before I had to go to class.”

One might ask how someone with so much on their plate finds the motivation and dedication for training. “My motivation was partly to prove to myself that I could do something like that,” Gagliardi says. “Never have I ever been a runner and so for me to be able to tell someone that I did this is a huge accomplishment.”

But that wasn’t her only motivation. Three and half years ago, Gagliardi was hospitalized for Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a condition that leaves the heart weak. Nine months later, she was blessed with the special, life-saving gift: a heart.

“I have never met his family, but according to their letter, [the donor] was a loving, young boy who loved life and sports. I know losing him was probably one of the hardest things to happen [to the family], but I wanted them to know that I love and appreciate this wonderful gift that’s been given to me,” Gagliardi says.

Gagliardi came back stronger than ever, and now 13.1 miles later, she is able to check a huge accomplishment off her bucket list. When reflecting on her experience during the half, she remembers the difficulties she endured and the mental blocks she overcame.

“The hardest part of the race was to keep running. By mile 10, I wanted to stop and start walking,” she says. “One trick to getting through the mental block is to stop comparing yourself to other runners. There’s always going to be someone who is a faster, better runner than you.”

For more information about the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend, you can visit mercedesmarathon.com.

Samford Students Raising Awareness Through National Competition

Through a national competition, a group of Samford University students are raising awareness for a local organization, Neighborhood Housing Services of Birmingham. NHSB is the local chapter of the national organization Home Matters. Home Matters’ mission is to build awareness and raise funds for more affordable homes and better communities across the nation.

As part of their capstone public relations class, Cameron Cross, Bailey Fuqua, Corry Mulligan, Taylor Pigman and Cassady Weldon had to choose a client and develop a public relations campaign for them.

The team decided to accept the Public Relations Student Society of America’s challenge to colleges and universities nationwide and develop a campaign for Home Matters as part of the 2015 Bateman Case Study Competition. Contestants were given the choice to partner with Home Matters nationally or with a local chapter. Samford’s team chose to partner with Birmingham’s local chapter, NHSB.

Through the Competition, the students developed the Unlock Birmingham campaign. The Unlock Birmingham campaign, which runs during the month of February, will raise awareness of market-rate housing opportunities in Birmingham provided by Neighborhood Housing Services of Birmingham.

“We were able to get community involvement with our Unlock Birmingham campaign and having the opportunity to watch the community come together in support of Unlock Birmingham and Neighborhood Housing Services has been great,” Pigman said.

As part of Unlock Birmingham, the team handed out silver keys to raise awareness for NHSB and used #KeysToTheSteelCity on social media. During February, they facilitated an art exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art. A portion of the paintings displayed were created by students at Phillip’s Academy. In addition, NHSB was featured at a Samford baseball game where Phillip’s Academy students were invited to attend.

The Bateman competition began in the fall semester, and research and planning were completed in November through January. Implementation of the campaign occurs in February and final campaigns – including research, planning, implementation and evaluation – are to be submitted to PRSSA Headquarters in New York City by the end of March.

The top three finalists will travel to New York in May to present their campaigns. The first place team will receive $2,500 and a trophy. The second place team will receive $1,500 and a plaque, and the third place team will receive $1,000 and a plaque. All teams will be recognized at the PRSSA National Conference.

For more information, follow @unlockbham on Twitter.

Last Chance to See Warhol Art

Since the beginning of January, art by the legendary Andy Warhol hasbeen on display at the UAB’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts. This exhibit contains several signature pieces including:

  • “Marilyn”
  • “Mick Jagger”
  • “Red Lenin”
  • “Hammer and Sickle”
  • “Joseph Beuys in Memoriam”
  • “Reigning Queens (Queen Margrethe)”

If you haven’t seen this Warhol exhibition yet, this week is your last chance.

Admission is free.

Monday-Friday: 10:00 a.m – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: noon – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday: closed

Tips for facing the chilling Birmingham weather

The first day of spring is just around the corner, believe it or not. March 20 — that’s less than a month away — and we all hope it will bring some warmer temperatures. In the meantime, whether walking to the office, to class, to your car or anywhere else you may find yourself needing to go, braving the cold can be quite a feat.

How can you more effectively brace yourself for the arctic tundra that has taken over Birmingham? As much as we might try, we can’t hide inside forever, so here are a few cold weather survival tips.

  1. I have one word for you: layers. Most of us are struggling because our Southern wardrobes are not adequately equipped for winter of any kind. So, my suggestion? Put on all of your clothes at the same time. I hear the Michelin Man look is trending.
  2. Speaking of layers, wear a hat. Most of your body heat escapes from your head. You want to trap as much of that heat in your body as possible.
  3. Don’t crank up the heat too high. Going from one extreme to the other when you have to go outside makes the cold feel that much colder. I’m not saying you need to live in an igloo, but don’t blast the heat in your car or your home to the point of creating a sauna. It will make the cold that much more unbearable when you inevitably have to go somewhere.
  4. Beware of hypothermia and frostbite. All joking aside, those are real concerns. Know the signs and symptoms, and know how to handle them. Jack Frost goes for your fingers and toes first, so keep them warm!
  5. Always be prepared when you get in the car to go somewhere. You never know when you may get a flat tire or have car trouble. If you have to walk to get help or sit in the cold until help comes, you don’t want to turn into a Popsicle. Consider keeping some warm clothes in your car: warm socks, sturdy shoes, gloves, coat, hat, scarf and any other winter clothing you can find (refer to tip #2).

Dangerous missions: Kayla Mueller and young charity workers abroad

Caroline Noland in Pakistan

Caroline Noland, rear center, with Pakistani women and girls she met during her work with the Primary Education Project.

by Sydney Cromwell

The death of Kayla Mueller on Feb. 6 highlights the worst fears of young humanitarian workers and their families: A 26-year-old American woman, working for Support to Life in Syria, who was kidnapped by a rising terrorist movement and ultimately killed by an airstrike on the terrorists’ base.

“It always is our tendency to be horrified when someone is killed by an act of violence, but it’s compounded when someone is so young and has lived so altruistically,” Samford University global involvement minister Renee Pitts said.

Mueller had worked with a variety of charity organizations in the U.S. and around the Middle East and Asia before being captured by ISIS while leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital. Pitts said the tragedy of her death was brought into sharp relief by her role both as a mother and a counselor for students looking to do global mission work.

“Kayla was really living on the edge in the most war-torn area of the world,” Pitts said. “We have a lot of students like that with hearts of compassion.”

One such student is Caroline Nolandd, a 2012 graduate who spent around two years in Pakistan. d worked for the Primary Education Project, building schools in rural villages and emphasizing girls’ education. Pakistan is the same country where Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai was shot by members of the Taliban for promoting female education.

Noland said she has always had a passion for female education and empowerment. She decided to go to Pakistan because of its low rates of schooling for young girls. Before she arrived, Noland was actually more worried about socializing in a community that did not speak English than about her safety.

“I think as people of God, the places we should be are some of the hardest,” Noland said. “I wanted to go to the places where other people wouldn’t go. Or maybe I was just stupid.”

On her first night, however, Noland heard repeated gunfire and slept under her bed, convinced the Taliban was coming to kill her. She later found out the gunfire was part of a wedding celebration.

Noland also learned that during the 2013 general election, a nearby city shut down about every other week and residents would set fire to cars and protest in the streets. When that happened, teacher training would stop and she couldn’t leave the house to go to the grocery store or the bank. Eventually, the sound of gunfire no longer bothered her.

“Instead of feeling dangerous, mostly it was just an inconvenience,” Noland said. “You have to assume it’s not dangerous to keep going.”

Despite the risks, Noland stayed safe and found the community she’d been hoping for. She said many people hesitate to go to places like the Middle East because they have a false sense of security at home.

“I don’t want to not fully experience and live life because I’m scared something would happen,” Noland said.

Both Noland and Pitts said fear should not override a passion for service, but careful thought about motivation and clear-eyed risk assessment are critical for anyone considering perilous humanitarian work. An outcome like Mueller’s is never entirely preventable, but young aid workers can reduce their danger and be certain that their cause is worth the risk.

“Don’t go somewhere because you think it’s sexy. Go somewhere because you think it’s meaningful work for yourself and others,” Noland said. “The thrill will grow dull, and all you’re left with are the people you’re surrounded with, God and the work you do.”

Warhol Exhibit in Final Weeks

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts is hosting an exhibit of more than 100 Andy Warhol pieces, entitled “Warhol: Fabricated,” now through February 28. Warhol was a groundbreaking 20th century American printmaker, photographer and filmmaker, as well as a leading figure in the pop art movement.

Loaned pieces from the Andy Warhol Museum, the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Booth Western Art Museum are included. Several signature Warhol pieces, including “Marilyn,” “Vote McGovern” and “Birmingham Race Riot,” which have never been shown in Birmingham, anchor the collection.

Robert Palazzo, Ph.D., dean of the UAB College of Arts and Sciences, said, “The show will be a regional draw, attracting art enthusiasts, critics and attendees from throughout the Southeast.”

Admission to the AEIVA is free. It is open to the public 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday. It is closed Sundays and during holidays.

Find more information at http://www.uab.edu/cas/aeiva/.

Hashtag it out – Step Sing 2015

Step Sing 2015 is over! Here’s what you and the community had to say.






Downtown Homewood: Small Town Charm in Birmingham

It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of city life in Birmingham. All of the fast-paced entertainment can be fun and exciting, but if you are looking for a place to step back from it all and simply relax, look no further than downtown Homewood. Homewood as a whole is a pretty quiet part of Birmingham, but right around 18th Street South, the mood is especially calm. It may feel like you have stepped back into the small town you grew up in – or at least saw on TV. We took a walk through this charming area and got a glimpse at a peaceful afternoon in downtown Homewood.

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Step Sing by the directors

Step Sing 2015 premieres Thursday, February 12. Here’s what some of the directors have to say about their shows:


Alpha Delta PiMorgan Thomson and Ellen Williams

Alpha Delta Pi, Ellen Williams:
“Our show is a little bit of rock and roll, a little bit of sass, and a whole lot of fun. There’s something new and exciting to expect at every turn.”

Alpha Omicron PiKatherine Cloninger and Elise Leveille 

Alpha Omicron Pi

Alpha Tau OmegaEvan Gunter and Patrick O’Connor

Alpha Tau Omega, Evan Gunter:
“The men of Alpha Tau Omega are ready to bring a new type of show to Step Sing 2015. Expect laughs and a gnarly time but do not forget the sunscreen!”

Chi OmegaLaura Valby and Emmy Carswell

Chi Omega, Laura Valby:
“Everyone can relate to being a kid, who couldn’t wait to get out of class and finally be free from all of the rules, thought control, and boredom of school. We want to leave the audience remembering the feelings that came with the ringing of the school bell that signified those 30 minutes of freedom that every kid anxiously awaited!”

Dudes-a-PlentyStephen Rice and Jay Morris

Dudes-a-Plenty, Stephen Rice:
“Everyone watching our show this year should expect a very classic Dudes show. In a sense, we believe that this show is a true revitalization of the spirit that DAP was originally founded on. FUN. We want to put on an entertaining show for everyone watching, we want people to laugh, maybe even tear up a little, but most of all we want the guys who participate in DAP to have as much fun possible.”

Fresh MixRachel Williams, Ben Crabtree and Emily Van Dyke

Fresh Mix, Ben Crabtree:
“We promise a thrilling and ‘cutting edge’ experience, unlike any other Freshman show before.”

Freshman LadiesAnn-Houston Campbell, Arden Dortch and Anna Beth Riggs

Freshman Ladies, Anna Riggs:
“The freshmen ladies show is fun and exciting. It’s charming and cute and funny and entertaining. We plan to take you on the trip of a lifetime and promise to leave you wanting more.”

IgniteChristine Carrier and Katie Belcher

IGnite, Katie Belcher:
“This year, we wanted to let our true colors show, so IGnite is rolling out of the box. It may be a little different, but I guess you could say we’ve never been very good at coloring inside the lines.”

Phi MuHaley Thornton, Elizabeth Henard and Kelli Crawford

Phi Mu, Elizabeth Henard:
“​​The audience can expect a fun and whimsical show from the ladies of Phi Mu this year. Look for the sharp execution of some intense dance moves, and mad makeup to fear.”

Pi Kappa Phi, Cameron Gonzalez:
“Our show is the unrealized story of a group of people who are often looked down on and under appreciated. We tell their tale of how much they love their jobs, despite the feeling that the world is against them. In trying to convince their arch-rivals to come to their side, they realize that all is not bad in the world. Will they change? Find out during Pi Kappa Phi’s ‘Trashin’ the Camp.’”

Sigma Chi, Richard Barnes:
“Expect the Sigma Chi Alley Cats to bring some fun into your night by reminding you what is what like to live Life in the Fast Lane!”

SpectrumWilson Brantley and EJ Smith


To live stream Step Sing 2015, click here.

For more information about Step Sing, click here.

Show times:

Thursday, February 12th at 7:00PM
Friday, February 13th at 7:00PM
Saturday, February 14th at 2:00PM (Matinee show)
Saturday, February 14th at 7:00PM