The University of Montevallo is a four-year public university located in Montevallo, Alabama, USA. Founded in 1896, it is Alabama's only public liberal arts college and a member of the prestigious Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. Programs are offered through the Michael E. Stephens College of Business, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Education, College of Fine Arts, and graduate studies in Business, Education, English and Speech-Language Pathology. Its current president, John W. Stewart III, was formerly Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. Dr. Stewart succeeded Philip C. Williams, who left after four years of service to the university.
The University of Montevallo continues to receive accolades through the rankings of “America’s Best Colleges,” published by U.S. News & World Report. According to rankings for the 2013 edition, released September 12, 2012, UM is once again ranked as the No. 1 public master’s-level university in Alabama, a distinction it has held each year since 2008. For 2013, Montevallo is listed as the 14th best public university in the South in its division and 37th overall in the South, up 22 spots from its 2007 ranking. Schools in 12 states make up the South geographic region. Montevallo is also recognized in the 2013 edition as one of the top four Southern universities that graduates students with the lowest average debt loads. Montevallo earned high marks for academic reputation, freshman retention rate, graduation rate, entering freshmen test scores and class rank, small class sizes and low student-faculty ratio.
The University of Montevallo opened in October 1896 as the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School (AGIS), a women-only technical school that also offered high school-level courses. AGIS became the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute in 1911, further adding "and College for Women" in 1919. The school gradually phased into being a traditional degree-granting institution, becoming Alabama College, State College for Women in 1923.
The school's supporters lobbied the Alabama Legislature which passed a bill on January 15, 1956 that dropped the designation "State College for Women", effectively making the school coeducational (though its student body still maintains a 7:5 ratio of women to men). The first men entered the school that same month. In 1965, the board of trustees authorized President D. P. Culp to sign the Certificates of Assurance of Compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the fall of 1968, three African American women, Carolyn Buprop, Ruby Kennbrew, and Dorothy (Lilly) Turner, enrolled in the university. On September 1, 1969, Alabama College was renamed the University of Montevallo.
Montevallo is located in the geographic center of the state of Alabama in an area rich with Civil War history. With slightly over 3,000 students, the university generates a significant economic impact on the surrounding communities in Shelby County.
Many of the buildings on campus predate the founding of the college, including King House and Reynolds Hall. The King House is reserved for special guests of the campus, and Reynolds Hall is still used by the Theater Department and alumni relations. King House was reportedly the first home in Alabama to receive pane glass windows.
Montevallo's campus is considered an architectural jewel. Its appearance is more in line with private, elite institutions. The central part of campus is a National Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The main portion of the campus was designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm, who also designed the Biltmore House grounds in North Carolina. Frederick Law Olmsted designed Central Park in New York.
The James Wylie Shepherd Observatory at the University of Montevallo was opened in the Fall of 2009. The observatory was built on the site of a former construction landfill, now remade into Gentry Springs field. The observatory is a U of M sustainability landmark.
The observatory is located roughly 3 miles from the main campus on the 150-acre Gentry Springs site owned by the university. The site offers excellent dark-sky observing in a convenient locale. It is the most state-of-the-art astronomical facility in Alabama. The JWSO is capable of world-class astronomical telescopic observation and astrophotography, has a dedicated telescope for solar viewing, and is one of very few observatories in the country that is designed specifically to be completely accessible to people of all disabilities. Besides its observing capabilities, the JWSO will be a green facility, employing self-composting toilets, filtered rainwater and solar-generated electricity.
The facility is currently used by UM classes, the Montevallo Astronomical Society, AMSTI partners, and a variety of area K-12 classes and other local groups. There are also regularly-scheduled public viewing nights that are free of charge.
Upon completion, the observing complex will house an outdoor planetarium/amphitheater, a docent's cabin, walking trails, a digital indoor planetarium, a visiting scholar's dormitory, educational exhibits, and a visitors’ center in which groups can see images generated by the main telescope. Additional smaller scopes for solar and planetary observing can be set up at various locations outside the main dome, which is surrounded by solar-powered outdoor low-level lighting.
The University of Montevallo's Ebenezer Swamp consists of approximately 60 acres (240,000 m2) of wooded wetlands, and is located on near the headwaters of Spring Creek, approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) northeast of the University in central Alabama. Spring Creek and Ebenezer Swamp form a portion of the headwaters for the ecologically diverse and environmentally sensitive Cahaba River Watershed. The Cahaba is the longest remaining free-flowing river, has more species of fish per mile than any river in North America, and is one of eight river biodiversity hotspots in the U.S.
UM is creating the Ebenezer Swamp Wetlands Interpretive and Research Center (ESWIRC) to focus greater research on wetland ecology and to increase educational opportunities for high school and middle school students from across the state of Alabama. Research goals center on: establishing and maintaining an inventory of plant, animal, and fungal species; monitoring water quality, rainfall, and stream flow rates, and future studies of wetland ecological processes and the effects of encroachment along the swamp margin. Education goals center on raising the profile of the ecologic importance of wetlands to high school and middle school students, while simultaneously providing them with a sound introduction to the underlying principles of biology.
Formed through a collaborative partnership between the City of Montevallo and the University of Montevallo, the ValloCycle Bike-Share Program exists as a city wide initiative to enhance overall community walkability and individual citizen engagement with a lifestyle of sustainable, alternative transportation. The ValloCycle Bike-Share Program's primary means of achieving these goals is through its day-to-day operation of the ValloCycle Bike-Share Program, the first county-wide bicycle sharing program in the state of Alabama to offer low-cost bicycle rentals to all the members of its community. Unlike other nearby campus bike-share programs, ValloCycle bicycle rentals are not limited solely to university students, and are also not confined to one location. Rather, bicycle rentals are offered to all residents of Montevallo and the surrounding Shelby County area in three separate check-out locations. Annual membership fees amount to roughly $2 a month per adults, $1 a month per child, can be paid alternatively by a commitment of community service with a local charitable, campus, city, or religious agency, and also include accompanying helmet and locking mechanisms for user safety and security.
One of three community check-out stations, the UM Carmichael Library provides bicycle rentals and renewals for 8-day periods to UM students and community residents. Through Dr. Hollie Cost's Service Learning Department, all ValloCycle bicycles are maintained by the students of Dr. Carolyn Miller-Kirby's Kinesiology courses, a partnership which serves to increase their future employment opportunities by providing a hands-on education in bicycle mechanics.
The all-volunteer ValloCycle Board, composed of city, university, and community representatives, meets once monthly in the Global and Community Outreach Office, under the coordination of current chair Dr. Hollie Cost. Outside of the bike-share program, the ValloCycle Board also oversees the implementation of a number of other campus and community programs, events, resources, and public bicyclist/pedestrian infrastructure enhancements, including the Montevallo "Share the Lane" Initiative, the ValloCycle Town Map Project, and the Montevallo "Tour By Bike".
In conjunction with the University of Montevallo's Service Learning Department, the ValloCycle Board worked closely with the UM Kinesiology Department to center the curriculum of an existing required course for all Kinesiology majors to incorporate bicycle safety and maintenance skills. Upon completion of the course, students received certification to teach these same skills to children in the public school system. Throughout the course, each UM student was also required to test their knowledge in bicycle safety by administering supervised bike safety seminars to classes of children in our local elementary, intermediate, and high schools. Students’ technical knowledge was honed and tested by a required number of after-class service hours performing basic maintenance and repairs to ValloCycle bicycles.
Membership forms are available for public viewing and printing at ValloCycle's public website, www.vallocycle.com .
Alpha Kappa Lambda (Gamma Delta, 1995)
Alpha Tau Omega (Eta Omega, 1972)
Lambda Chi Alpha (Sigma-Epsilon, 1972)
Alpha Delta Pi (Zeta Delta, 1971)
Alpha Gamma Delta (Gamma Upsilon, 1972)
Chi Omega (Tau Kappa, 1971)
Delta Gamma (Zeta Nu, 1991)
Phi Mu (Kappa Chi, 1972)
Alpha Kappa Alpha (Mu Mu, 1978)
Alpha Phi Alpha (Nu Tau, 1978)
Delta Sigma Theta (Nu Omicron, 1977)
Kappa Alpha Psi (Xi Upsilon, 1995)
Zeta Phi Beta (Tau Pi, 1998)
The University of Montevallo fields 12 NCAA Division II athletic teams that currently compete in the Peach Belt Conference. Men's athletics include: baseball, basketball, soccer, golf and cross-country. Women's athletics include: basketball, soccer, golf, cross-country, tennis, volleyball and track and field.
The school mascot is a falcon, and the colors are purple and gold.
Traditionally, Crook Week was a week in late October when the senior class women would hide the "crook"—a staff shaped roughly like a shepherd's crook—and give obscure clues for the underclass women who were to find it. At the end of Crook Week was Senior March. When the chimes struck thirteen, if the underclass women did not find the crook, the seniors march on them, getting them out of their rooms and onto Main Quad where they would have a shaving cream and water balloon battle. If the underclass women found the crook, they were safe that year. This tradition ended in the 1990s because the administration considered it hazing.
Today, Crook Week occurs the week before Founder's Day. The administration hides the crook and leaves clues as to where it can be found. The finder of the crook gets recognized at Founder's Day with a small cash prize.
The Life Raft Debate is an annual event sponsored by the Philosophy Club. The debate has occurred each fall semester since 1998, making it the longest continually-held debate of its type. The debate occurs on the second Thursday in October during the university's Founders’ Day commemoration.
In the Life Raft Debate, the audience is asked to imagine that there has been a nuclear war and that they, as the survivors, are setting sail to rebuild society from the ground up. There is a group of professors vying to win the coveted Oar and get on the raft, and only one seat is left. Each professor has to argue that his or her discipline is the one indispensable area of study that the new civilization will need to flourish. At the end of the debating, the audience votes and the lucky winner claims the Oar and climbs aboard, waving goodbye to the others. Each professor gets to give an introductory account of his or her discipline, then give a brief rebuttal to the others, and, finally, the audience votes all but one panelist off. Often, a seventh participant, the Devil's Advocate, appears and tries to convince the audience that the entire panel is unworthy and that all should be left behind to drown. In the following year, the defending champion faces five new challengers in a new debate. To date, no one has successfully defended the Oar.
The first event was held in 1998 before an audience of roughly 200 people. Michael Sterner of the Mathematics Department carried the day with an impassioned defense of his discipline, touting both its usefulness and beauty and promising that, if he were to be saved, there would be "no more word problems ever." In the subsequent years the debate's popularity grew to attract more than 800 audience members per year. Following years saw victories by professors from a variety of academic disciplines.
On March 12, 2010, the public radio show This American Life ran a story on the Life Raft Debate entitled "I’d Like to Spank the Academy". The story followed the events of the 2007 Life Raft Debate in which the Devil's Advocate, Professor Jon Smith of the Department of English, successfully argued that all the panelists should be drowned because they were merely trying to be funny, not to educate or to defend the importance of their respective disciplines. Following the broadcast, several colleges and universities in the United States and abroad began hosting Life Raft Debates of their own, most after consulting the UM Philosophy Club for advice.
The 15th Annual Life Raft Debate took place on October 11, 2012.
The oldest tradition at Montevallo is called College Night, an intramural competition between the Purple Side and the Gold Side. The tradition officially began on March 3, 1919, in honor of the school adding the name "college" to its title.
The homecoming competition consists of sports events, management of the side finances, and spirit. While these are key to the game of College Night, the primary focus is two student written, produced, and performed musicals—one for each competing side. For a small University in which the student-to-faculty ratio is only about 16-to-1, participation is key. A noticeable number of people participate in bringing the tradition together; at least 400 actually participate in the activities, but it is a tremendous success that draws those who do participate back after many years of being out of college. Each year, the school's Palmer Auditorium, which boasts a large stage, orchestra pit and seating for 1200, is standing room only as alumni and spectators gather to witness the unique tradition that is College Night.
College Night originated as a liberal arts school's response to its lack of a "proper Homecoming" - meaning an American football game. The campus is split into two teams, the Purple Side and the Gold Side. The two colors of the school, purple and gold, compete for the title of either "PV" (purple victory) or "GV" (gold victory). The student involvement is all-inclusive: there are athletic intramurals that count for points toward victory, cheerleading competitions, signs designed and painted by students to be judged and even community efforts and fund raising drives to gain points toward a victory.
College Night is known as the oldest Homecoming tradition of its kind in America. An exhibit about College Night is housed in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.