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Perspectives Magazine Fall 2022 19th Edition

19th edition
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Fall 2022
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Dean Jason Hicks looks forward to leading an aspirational, collaborative College of Liberal Arts

Jason Hicks became dean of one of Auburn University’s largest colleges July 1, and as his first academic year on the Plains began, he reflected on what the College of Liberal Arts can expect from his leadership.

icks describes himself as a leader who emphasizes collaborative effort to elevate a shared vision for the future. He said the programming of the institution, the curricula and the experiences at Auburn are at the heart of his mission. Through mindful, strategic action, Hicks hopes to foster a spirit of collegiality and a foundation for success.

“My leadership style is very collaborative. I want to partner and work with people on ideas. And that way, we get a shared vision of how we move forward as a college in terms of facing challenges, but also embracing new opportunities,” Hicks said. “That’s the bottom line: I’m here to advocate on behalf of our faculty, staff and students, on behalf of the college and to be a good steward of our resources, but also in thinking about how we can move in different directions when it’s going to be beneficial to the college, beneficial to programs and to students.”
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Auburn student helps discover father’s brain tumor
Auburn University student Rachel Ruhlin never expected the lessons she learned in her audiology class might potentially save her father’s life, but that’s exactly what happened earlier this year.

uhlin—a senior from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, studying Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts—will eventually apply what she’s learned in the program to her career. But Ruhlin is different in that she’s already taken what she learned from the classroom all the way to the Mayo Clinic after she set a chain of events in motion that led to the discovery of her father’s brain tumor.

In class, Ruhlin learned about parts of the ear, the importance of hearing aids and tumors like acoustic neuromas that can cause hearing loss. Meanwhile, her father, Joe, had struggled with worsening hearing loss for years—only talking on the phone on one side, not hearing anything said near his left ear—so Ruhlin urged him to set up an appointment with an audiologist.

“Once I started taking these classes, it put it more into perspective,” Rachel Ruhlin said. “My professor would talk about how many people have hearing loss, and if you don’t get hearing aids, your hearing will just get worse and worse. Finally, I texted my dad and I said, ‘We have to go.’ I didn’t really give him an option.”

Auburn Animated

Jamy Wheless ’87 smiling with man of his animated accomplishments pictured behind him
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Auburn University shooting to be the destination for animation education

amy Wheless ’87 has a vision. He’s the man who brought Yoda, Davy Jones and The Incredible Hulk to life onscreen. He’s animated fantasy worlds from Neverland to Narnia and moved audiences with E.T. and Autobots alike.

His next project? Making Auburn University the animation school of the southeast.

“Just look at all the innovation and the talent that has already come out of Auburn,” Wheless said. “There’s no reason Auburn shouldn’t be on the forefront of this industry. They should be looking at building out programs that can really equip students for the future of games, film, television and more. We are currently building a foundation for students to understand what technology and art can bring together. Our program will empower and provide the next generation of artists with the tools and inspiration to create, impact and shape the future of this ever-changing industry.”
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From Classroom to Courtroom

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Auburn tops SEC for law school acceptance, prepares students for legal profession success
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he College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University’s Pre-Law Scholars Program celebrated another year of successful students entering law school and industry in 2022.

The Pre-Law Scholars Program at Auburn University is designed for students seeking acceptance to law school or entry into the legal profession. Members build their own plan and are supported by the program through advising, law school application review, interactions with law school admissions deans and directors who visit campus, and networking events. After COVID-19 caused a nationwide decline in law school acceptance rates, Auburn maintained an 83% acceptance rate according to Law School Admission Council data – the highest in the SEC and significantly higher than the national average of 68%.

Prepare for Takeoff

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From career readiness to scholarship support, Auburn Aviation helps students soar
Charlotte Tuggle, Brandon Etheredge & Neal Reid

he School of Aviation at Auburn University reached outstanding heights this year. Students were honored for their skill and courage, partnerships with commercial airlines gave students a direct path to flight decks and a new scholarship fund will support students in the name of an aviation legend. As Auburn Aviation looks to the horizon, the future is bright with opportunity for its students.

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Celebrating Success
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Jake, Tripp Haston shape Auburn across generations

For Jake and Tripp Haston, the Auburn Family means more than a father and son sharing an alma mater. Across two generations, the Hastons strive to build a better, stronger Auburn that transcends mental and physical borders.

Tripp Haston ’90 earned a degree in history and economics from Auburn before attending law school. He is currently a partner and serves as chair of the Life Sciences Litigation Team with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP. His son, Jake, will graduate from Auburn in 2023 with a degree in journalism and minor in German.

Though their Auburn journeys are different, the father and son share this above all: giving back to Auburn.

Foundations of an Auburn family


ripp Haston was all set up to attend SMU in Dallas, Texas, when he first visited Auburn. Only a month before graduating high school, Tripp’s uncle convinced him to visit the Plains. His uncle, along with his grandfather, were Auburn graduates.

Once Tripp saw the campus, he said he fell in love with Auburn and his decision to attend was the best he ever made.

Portrait of Simmons Buntin in front of building wearing blue shirt

The Soul of Place:

Simmons Buntin ’91 works where beauty, environment and story intersect

From literature to urban planning, Auburn alumnus and co-founder Simmons Buntin has devoted his life to telling stories and creating art.

untin graduated from Auburn in 1991 with a degree in political science and minors in everything that interested him since childhood: English, speech communications, geography and wildlife science. By bringing that interdisciplinary approach to environmental issues, Buntin blends art, science and community planning to encourage people to find beauty in our natural and built environments.

“There is beauty out there. We just need to dedicate ourselves to finding it or creating it,” Buntin said. “To create beauty in a world where there’s so much pain and harshness, so much injustice, is essential. How does someone find beauty? Start by taking a closer look around you.”

A Spirit that is Not Afraid:

Plainsman editor-in-chief Destini Ambus elevates Auburn voices

For Destini Ambus, editor-in-chief of the Auburn Plainsman, it’s not about the paper, it’s about the people. The journalism senior took the helm of Auburn’s student newspaper this spring, and her goal is to produce community-focused, equitable stories across the university.

mbus began as a campus writer for the Plainsman in January 2020. She was drawn to the paper after working for her high school’s yearbook in Beulah, Alabama, and sought more storytelling opportunities during her college career.

“I love talking to people. I love getting to know them and feature stories allow me to get to know them very well – their hopes, dreams, fears – it’s so human. I want to be able to tell those stories in a mindful way,” Ambus said. “When COVID hit, it was the only thing that kept me connected with other people. Everyone, if they have the chance to write for the Plainsman, should. Journalism is such a powerful tool in understanding where people come from.”

The Auburn Plainsman is an award-winning, editorially independent newspaper run entirely by students. Any Auburn student can apply and write for the Plainsman. Alumni of the newsroom include national reporters, novelists and Pulitzer Prize and Hearst Award-winning journalists.


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Andria Moore ’16 on navigating competitive industries and finding success for yourself

ournalism alumna Andria Moore ’16 thrives on a challenge. From the cutthroat entertainment industry to the California startup scene, Moore shows how a College of Liberal Arts degree helps you follow your passion and define success along the way.

Moore grew up in Auburn, and despite knowing the city her whole life, experienced a new world on the campus of Auburn University.

During her freshman year, Moore took a career placement test that indicated journalism would be a career she could thrive in. Sports journalism wasn’t her style and politics never quite fit. But after taking a magazine feature writing course and writing profiles for the Auburn Plainsman, her lifelong love of pop culture and talking to people culminated in her ultimate decision to pursue entertainment journalism.

“I would steal my dad’s laptop and watch all these celebrity interviews—usually the Harry Potter cast—with MTV, or the Today Show, or Oprah,” Moore said. “So, it was like all of the interests I had before, when I was younger, just meshed into this ‘ah-ha’ moment. I thought, ‘This is what I could do for my career. This is really powerful; this is something that I could really see myself doing the rest of my life.’”

Group of Audiology students and instructor posing for picture under blue tent

Auburn Audiology in Guatemala

Giving the gift of hearing
Ashlyn Wheat ’21 Doctor of Audiology student

udiology is a clinical health care field focused on diagnosing and treating hearing and balance disorders to restore health and communication barriers in those impacted. At the heart of our profession is a deep care and concern for the needs and rights of the patients we get to serve. Communication is a universal right, and hearing serves as the gateway to connect us to each other. People with hearing loss, if untreated, can face significant communicative, emotional, physical and social barriers.

Children with untreated hearing loss are particularly at risk for delayed development because hearing plays a vital role in a child’s language development and academic success.

Making Connections

German, Engineering build lasting bridges between disciplines and countries with Germany experience

Sam Adams grew up in Auburn and dreamed of one day living in Germany. Years later and almost 5,000 miles away from the Plains, he’s fulfilling that dream through the Building Lasting Bridges project.
Sam Adams in Germany standing by railing with castle and city in background
“Building Lasting Bridges: German and Engineering at Auburn University” is a partnership between the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures in the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Engineering that provides students an opportunity to study, live and work in Germany.

For Adams, a junior double-majoring in computer science and German, it was a perfect opportunity.

“This has cemented my view of Germany. It really lived up to my expectations and more,” Adams said. “Some of my favorite memories have been going on day trips to other towns, cities, festivals and just being able to see everything that Germany has to offer. Being able to speak German has also helped me to immerse myself more in the culture and make friends.”

CLA professors, students making strides through array of ‘Bloody Sunday’ projects

Professors and students in the College of Liberal Arts have been hard at work on various projects related to the “Bloody Sunday” incident that occurred in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965.
Neal Reid

seminal moment in United States civil rights history that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday” occurred when a group of approximately 600 marchers led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams were confronted by Alabama State Troopers armed with tear gas and metal batons as they began a march for equality toward Montgomery. Footage from that attack appeared on national television and served as a catalyst for Americans to rally behind the civil rights movement, and Auburn University faculty and students are doing their part to learn all they can about that fateful day.

Portrait of Keith Hébert in front of Edmund Pettus Bridge
35x13 feet mural, celebrates local agricultural history and features imagery of historic equipment, advertising, local agricultural pioneers, the east Alabama landscape, farmers and farm culture.

Museum of East Alabama celebrates mural painted by Auburn University class

The Museum of East Alabama celebrated the creativity of Auburn University art students this spring with a dedication ceremony for their agricultural mural, now displayed at the Whatley Agricultural Pavilion.

useum staff, members of the public and Auburn art students were invited to the May 12 dedication ceremony of the local agriculture mural and the history of east Alabama mural, painted by regional artist Chris Johnson, which is on display on the Avenue A side of the museum.

The mural painted by nationally recognized artist and Auburn studio art professor Wendy DesChene and her students, which stands at 35×13 feet, celebrates local agricultural history and features imagery of historic equipment, advertising, local agricultural pioneers, the east Alabama landscape, farmers and farm culture. The class also made a point of showcasing diversity, including portraying the role of women in agricultural history and influential figures such as agricultural pioneer George Washington Carver and horticulturalist and agricultural professor Booker T. Whatley.

Illustration depiction Auburn University and Tuskegee partnership

Auburn, Tuskegee partner to open access among communications programs

In an effort that further increases access to Auburn University among students from underrepresented areas of Alabama, Auburn and Tuskegee University signed an agreement in fall 2021 that adjoins the two institutions’ communications programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Delaney Baro
The memorandum of understanding, signed by former Auburn President Jay Gogue and Tuskegee President Charlotte Morris, sets in place a program through which students can earn a bachelor’s degree in communication from Tuskegee and then a master’s degree in communication from Auburn.

“Auburn enjoys a strong collaborative relationship with Tuskegee University,” Gogue said. “This partnership is yet another way in which we can strengthen that bond while living out our land-grant mission of bettering our community and providing greater access to educational and professional opportunities.”

The road to Nashville starts at Auburn

Recording studio, professors of practice help Auburn Music evolve with industry
The Auburn University Department of Music—one of only 10 programs in the nation to be named a Yamaha Institution of Excellence in 2021—is building bridges to Nashville through a new recording studio, industry connections and degree programs ready to shape the future of music.

The Department of Music’s state-of-the-art recording studio will open in 2023. The Nashville-worthy facility will be outfitted with the latest audio technology and designed by Steven Durr Designs, who have worked with Garth Brooks, Lenny Kravitz and Blake Shelton, among others.

“Auburn’s Department of Music is smaller than most SEC schools. However, we go above and beyond to give our students what they need to succeed,” Department of Music Chair Rick Good said. “This recording studio will be second to none and connect us with not only Nashville, the biggest city in the music industry, but also Atlanta, only 100 miles to our east.”

Sharing Expertise
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SUSTAINABLE Becki Retzlaff’s Guide to Backyard Sustainability

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Becki Retzlaff, director of the Academic Sustainability program in the College of Liberal Arts, practices what she teaches through sustainable living. From keeping bees to growing your own herbs, Retzlaff covers the basics of backyard sustainability by guiding Auburn alumni through the different ways to incorporate sustainability at home.

Bees are less intimidating than they probably sound.


ecause, for the most part, they just do their own thing. Except we feed them a lot of sugar water, because it makes them work less to go find what they need to exist. They are going out there pollinating everything, but just in case it’s cold or there’s not a lot of flowers blooming, then we feed them until they begin to produce a lot of honey and then we stop.

The biggest misconception about keeping bees is probably that it’s scary and you get stung all the time. If you work with the bees at the right time of day, they are too busy to sting you. They’ll buzz around you because they’re curious about what you’re doing, but they’re not going to sting you. The only time you usually get stung is if you get one caught in the fold of your skin or your hair.

Acting out Atlanta

Theatre professor studies how the Fabulous Fox Theatre performs its host city

he Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, is a cultural and historical landmark that has hosted iconic performances in the heart of the South for nearly a century.

But beyond plays, concerts and films, Atlanta’s most iconic stage has also performed the city’s identity, according to research by Auburn University Theatre Professor Chase Bringardner.

Bringardner’s current project details how the Fox Theatre tells the stories of the history and evolution of Atlanta, and how its cultural capital continues to shape the city’s identity at the intersection of stage and place.

“In essence, the larger question is: How does the Fox Theatre as a venue stage the history of Atlanta?” Bringardner said. “The relationship I examine in the book is between the city and that space, and the way Atlanta gets performed on that stage at certain points in history. What was being performed in the space changes over time, and that reveals the ways in which the theater itself was thinking about, who is Atlanta? Who could Atlanta be? Or, moreover, who is the Atlanta that we’re specifically trying to appeal to?”

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Listen and learn with alumnus-led CLA podcast

ow are interstates and the civil rights movement connected? What are the “flavors” of the English language? What happens when a fast-paced work environment becomes a high-stress management problem?

Host Brandon Etheredge ’18, director of multimedia services for the College of Liberal Arts, helps answer these questions and more in the “Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know” podcast. This entertaining, educational listen features expert faculty from the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University who discuss their research.

“Across disciplines, our faculty produce pioneering research with broad application and groundbreaking results that improve people’s lives,” Etheredge said. “Thanks to the variety of our schools and departments, each episode of the podcast details new and innovative ways the College of Liberal Arts contributes to positive change.”

Auburn Achieve

Student Services invites alumni to support student success in the College of Liberal Arts

The Office of Student Services in the College of Liberal Arts supports Auburn students from their first campus visit through career placement. After restructuring the office to provide more comprehensive guidance throughout each Auburn student’s journey, the College of Liberal Arts invites alumni to engage with student success.
Portrait of Melissa Adams

elissa Adams, former director of student services and longtime academic advisor, has been chosen to strategically lead the office of student services to align with Auburn’s strategic plan and Auburn’s Quality Enhancement Plan, AUBURNACHIEVE, to elevate the Auburn experience and further student outcomes. As assistant dean for student services, Adams will facilitate the development of student support programs from recruitment to career services.

“This new position allows for greater collaboration between all student services areas and academic departments within the College of Liberal Arts to enhance the student experience,” Adams said. “Through student services, students have resources accessible to them at every stage of their academic journey. Our goal is for our students to have an exceptional experience while at Auburn in the College of Liberal Arts and find success upon graduation.”

CLA Book Club

Read the latest from Auburn’s expert faculty.
In the Crossfire of History book

In the Crossfire of History: Women’s War Resistance Discourse in the Global South

Lava Asaad headshot
Lava Asaad lecturer in the Department of English
In the Crossfire of History: Women’s War Resistance Discourse in the Global South is an edited collection that incorporates literary works, testimonies, autobiographies, women’s resistance movements and films that add to the conversation on the resilience of women in the global south. The collection focuses on Palestine, Kashmir, Syria, Kurdistan, Congo, Argentina, Central America, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Giving the Auburn Experience

There’s always been something special about Auburn. Generations of students have come to love the Auburn Experience. And for alumni like Steve Fleming, a 1984 finance graduate and marching band alumnus and supporter, creating a legacy through a planned gift to Auburn allows them to create similar experiences for future students. As you plan for the future, please consider leaving Auburn in your estate plans. Contact our gift planning specialists to learn how you can create a meaningful and tax-saving gift that will impact Auburn for generations.
Simple ways to create your legacy at Auburn
  • Make a gift through your will or living trust
  • Designate Auburn as a beneficiary on a bank or retirement account
  • Give Auburn a life insurance policy you no longer need
  • Make a gift that pays you a fixed or variable income
  • Donate appreciated assets and receive a generous tax break
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Don’t wait to Create your legacy at Auburn.
Auburn University Office of Gift Planning

(334) 844-7375 | |

Perspectives Logo
Fall 2022, 19th edition
Dean, College of Liberal Arts

Jason Hicks

Director, Communications, College of Liberal Arts

Wendy Bonner

Editor and Senior Writer

Charlotte Tuggle

Creative Direction and Art Design

Adriene Simon

Video Production and Multimedia

Brandon Etheredge

Web Developer

Sean Henderson

Contributing Writers

Delaney Baro
Brandon Etheredge
Neal Reid
Ashlyn Wheat

Contributing Artists and Video

Jackson Gilbert
Caroline Lackey

Contributing Photographers

Molly Bartels
Jonah Enfinger

Cover Design and Edits by Adriene Simon
Photography by Molly Bartels
Auburn University is an equal opportunity educational institution/employer.