Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Professor works to engage students in community


Mounds of paperwork clutter the desk. An aroma of pickles fills the air. A portrait of Abraham Lincoln hangs proudly behind the professor’s head.

This is the office of Stephen Black, a self-proclaimed “nerdy, boring” professor at The University of Alabama who has dedicated himself to a life of public service.

“He is my hero,” Black said, pointing to the Abraham Lincoln portrait. “He educated himself and still managed to achieve greatness.”

Black’s office sits at the back of Temple Tutwiler Hall, nestled between Reese Phifer and the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority house. Here he plans and develops community outreach programs.

“All you need to make a difference and contribute to the community is compassion,” Black said.

Black, the founder of the non-profit organization Impact Alabama, became fascinated with policy as a young child growing up in New Mexico. He admired the work of his grandfather, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, and strived to make a difference in the lives of others.

After three years at a Birmingham law firm, the Yale Law School graduate took a teaching offer at The University of Alabama on a whim, he said. It was then, in 2004, that Black was inspired to create the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility at The University of Alabama and later Impact Alabama, a non-profit organization housed in the CESR. Both programs aim to accomplish Black’s number one goal: service.

Any time a student seeks help from Black about service opportunities, he said he encourages them to pursue something they are passionate about, except in January and February.

During the months of January and February, or tax season, the students involved in SaveFirst, one of the four initiatives of Impact Alabama, travel across the state to help low income, working families file their taxes, according to Impact Alabama’s website.

“It’s not about you,” Black said. “In January and February, it’s just not about you. It’s about helping these families.”

Matt Tucker, a freshman majoring in finance, participates in SaveFirst. Tucker travels every Saturday to assist families with their taxes.

“On the first day, Prof. Black told us, ‘SaveFirst isn’t a charity,’” Tucker said. “‘We are providing a service to these people, not giving to a charity.’”

What makes Black different from other professors, Tucker said, is his teaching style. Black makes his students see both sides of the story. Tucker explained a common example Black throws at his students.

“Imagine there is a train traveling down a track. It cannot stop, but it can go two ways. If the train goes left, it hits one person. If it goes right, it hits two people. Black asks students which way they would choose to go. He then refutes each of their arguments to demonstrate there is another way of thinking other than their own,” Tucker said.

Black said he believes the future of America is in the hands of this generation. It is up to them, he said, to take social responsibility, commit to service and change the lives of others.

“Our country needs this generation,” Black said. “It is up to them to create a better world for children.”

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