June 1, 2022

Falcons on Fire: Trailblazing Alumni Who Are Making a Big Impact

For a small university tucked away in a tiny town, Montevallo produces many purple and gold-clad giants.

In this issue of Montevallo Today, we pay tribute to Falcons from the past quarter century who have been trailblazers in their respective fields.

Nichole M. Harris ’13 

Hueytown, Alabama, native Nichole M. Harris graduated from UM in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Nichole M. HarrisThe Atlanta resident is the chief program officer at St. Vincent de Paul Georgia. In February 2021, Harris created a community pharmacy that provides free maintenance medication to the under insured, uninsured and undocumented who are experiencing the symptoms of poverty. In its first year, the clinic saved its clients $563,819 on prescriptions.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris led a team of caseworkers that partnered with the United Way of Greater Atlanta and the City of Atlanta to distribute nearly $500,000 to Atlanta’s citizens in rent and mortgage assistance.

“My time at Montevallo prepared me to walk into every room with confidence and poise,” Harris said. “From Communication 101 teaching me how to speak and command an audience to art history giving me the confidence to comment on an art piece at a benefactor’s home.”

“The education I received has helped me become a well-rounded professional.”

“My time at Montevallo prepared me to walk into every room with confidence and poise,” Harris said. “From Communication 101 teaching me how to speak and command an audience to art history giving me the confidence to comment on an art piece at a benefactor’s home, the education I received has helped me become a well-rounded professional.”

Melanie Bouyer ’97 

Melanie Bouyer is a Lipscomb, Alabama, native who graduated from UM in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in speech language pathology. She also holds a law degree from Miles Law School.

Melanie BouyerShe is executive director of the Bessemer Redevelopment Corporation and the former mayor of the City of Lipscomb.

She is a member of the Leadership Birmingham Class of 2010, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., serves as a commissioner on the Bessemer Historic Preservation Board and on the selection committee for the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and is a past junior board member of the Alabama Kidney Foundation.

In 2010, the Birmingham Business Journal named Bouyer a member of its Top 40 Under 40. She received the Man of the Year Award – now Person of the Year – from the YMCA for youth programs in Montgomery in 2007.

“Attending the University of Montevallo was a transformational moment in my life,” Bouyer said. “It was a pivotal juncture where I sharpened my leadership skills and found my voice.”

Joi Brown ’10

Joi BrownChicago to Birmingham transplant Joi Brown graduated from UM in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in art and a minor in sociology.

She currently serves as the executive director of the Jefferson County Memorial Project.

“Working in the social justice field has allowed me the opportunity to connect with trailblazers who paved the way for many of the civil and human rights we have today, including the late Congressman John Lewis, mathematician Katherine Johnson (Hidden Figures), Dr. Autherine Lucy Foster and several of the foot soldiers who marched protesting segregation in Birmingham during the 1963 Children’s Crusade,” Brown said. “I consider this groundbreaking because I was fortunate enough to be tasked with connecting these leaders with the younger generations of future leaders.”

“In my current role, I’m working together with the Equal Justice Initiative on their Community Remembrance Project to memorialize victims of racial terror lynchings in Jefferson County through historical markers throughout the county and a monument in Birmingham’s Linn Park.”

In 2021, Brown was recognized by the Women’s Foundation of Alabama as a Women’s Policy Institute Inaugural Fellow. That same year, she was awarded a nearly half-million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Emmett Till Cold Case Investigations Program in partnership with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office to support civil rights cold case investigations and community dialogue.

“Montevallo provided me with not only a college education, but life-long lessons and confidence that have continued to support me in my career as it and the world around me evolves.”

Saralyn Campbell ’18, MBA ’19

Saralyn CampbellSaralyn Campbell is a native of Olympia, Washington, who currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky.

She graduated from UM in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing and business management. She also earned a master’s degree in business administration from UM in 2019.

She is the marketing manager for the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

One of her greatest accomplishments was organizing and executing the largest ever exhibit show at the annual convention in December 2021. They set a record for the most companies (138) and most individual vendors (more than 650).

“The relationships I made at Montevallo, the opportunities and challenges I was presented with and the liberty to become the best version of myself were all necessary for my growth as an individual,” Campbell said. “I was able to be in the band, the honors program, intern in several roles, collaborate on special projects, all while playing for the inaugural NCAA Division II softball team, and the culmination of these things shaped me into the person I am today.”

Rick Casey ’00

Rick CaseyMoving from the West Coast metropolis of Los Angeles across the country to a small town in the Deep South for college at Montevallo, some might say Rick Casey took a gamble.

But if he did, it’s one that paid off.

A 2000 graduate of UM who earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Casey is now director of software development at FIS Global and co-founder of Control Actual LLC, a software development company in Birmingham.

Prior to his current jobs, Casey worked for Gearbox Software and helped develop an innovative platform that connected streaming and gaming in novel ways. Streamers on Twitch could share in-game experiences, directly influence the state of the game world and earn income through on-stream interaction.

“I found Montevallo to be an excellent environment where I could find opportunities to grow as an individual and develop as a member of a larger community,” Casey said. “The support and encouragement I received gave me the confidence to take significant steps as I started the next phase of my life and career.”

Colby Conklin ’07

Colby ConklinTen years after graduating from UM in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Birmingham native and resident Colby Conklin opened his first restaurant, EastWest, in the city.

He’s now on the verge of opening a second restaurant, Mr. West’s Asian Kitchen, this summer in Trussville, Alabama.

“Montevallo provided me a foundation to build a reputable brand like EastWest,” Conklin said.

David Daniels Jr. ’03

David Daniels Jr.David Daniels Jr. is a native of Birmingham who currently resides in Seattle. He graduated from UM with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2003.

He is the human resource manager at Snap, Inc., which is the creator of SnapChat.

After pursuing a career in higher education administration from 2004-2012, he transitioned to the tech sector as a recruiter for software engineers at Microsoft. He progressed through various roles at Microsoft, which led him to explore other HR opportunities at other tech companies. He’s since held HR positions at Pinterest and SnapChat.

“I never imagined having this career journey 20 years ago when my original goal was to become a school teacher and administrator,” Daniels said. “I am still passionate about education and serve on a board for Ada Developer Academy, a software development bootcamp for women to pursue careers in tech.”

“Montevallo gave me the confidence and several opportunities to become a leader in the community. Several professors and staff invested in me and always encouraged me to dream big and remember to help others along the way. My Montevallo experience set me up for success and I’m now able to give back to the university in a way I never imagined.”

Clent Davis ’09

Clent DavisProfessional Angler Clent Davis is from Montevallo, lives in Montevallo and is a 2009 alum of Montevallo where he earned his degree in kinesiology.

In 2018, Davis won the Forrest Wood Cup, which is a professional bass tournament hosted by the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, Fishing League Worldwide. In 2012, he was named Walmart FLW Tour Rookie of the Year.

He is the founder of the championship-winning Montevallo Bass Fishing Team.

“UM is where my career began,” Davis said. “After starting the collegiate fishing team, I continued my career fishing FLW and now I am one of the anglers on the Elite Series Tour.”

Gabrielle Dudley ’08

Gabrielle DudleyGabrielle Dudley is a resident of Atlanta who hails from Bessemer, Alabama. She graduated from UM with a bachelor’s degree in history in 2008.

She is the head of research services for the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript and Archives at the Rare Book Library at Emory University. She was recently appointed by President Joe Biden and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as a member of the Civil Rights Cold Cases Records Review Board , which is charged with reviewing and releasing federal records that relate to the unsolved murders of Black Americans committed during the civil rights era.

Her list of awards and recognitions include receiving a Princeton University Research Fellowship in 2020, being named an Emerging Leader by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. in 2017 and receiving the Significant Contribution Award from Emory Libraries and Information Technology Services in 2016.

“Montevallo taught me how to be an empathetic leader,” Dudley said. “It was fertile soil to develop my critical thinking skills and grow as a global citizen.”

Hon. Matt Fridy ’98

Matt FridyAlabama Court of Civil Appeals Judge Matt Fridy is a Birmingham native who lives in Montevallo.

He graduated from UM in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor a political science.

Prior to his election to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, Fridy was a lawyer with Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt, LLC, where his practice focused on appellate litigation, constitutional law, campaign finance, business litigation and agricultural law. He also served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 2014 to 2020.

Some of his accomplishments include drafting permanent rules for the impeachment process – a process that had not been used in Alabama for more than a century – against former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley during his first year in the Legislature, and during his second term in the Legislature he drafted the “Campus Free Speech Act,” which was passed and serves to protect the rights of faculty, staff and students on Alabama’s college campuses to engage in free speech.

“Because of its small college atmosphere, Montevallo gave me the hands-on opportunity to learn the leadership skills important for the work I have engaged in since graduation as a lawyer, a legislator and now as a judge,” Fridy said. “In addition, the opportunity to actively engage with my professors at Montevallo provided life-long lessons to me on how to listen, how to understand and how to dialogue in an open and constructive manner.”

Dr. Jen Fry ’02

Dr. Jennifer FryFor Dr. Jennifer Fry, her education at UM gave her the time, experiences, motivation and training she needed to blaze a trail in her career all the way to a high perch.

The 2002 UM psychology graduate and Yuma, Arizona, native, was a coach of the 2011 Division 1 national women’s volleyball championship team and is now owner and CEO of JenFryTalks, a company that works with college athletic programs to end racism. She lives in Baltimore.

In February 2021, she was named NCAA Champion of Diversity and Inclusion. In November of that same year she was featured in Sports Illustrated in an article titled “Veteran Volleyball Coach Jen Fry Aces Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” She was also featured in an article about diversity on Michigan State University’s website in February 2022.

“The small town of Montevallo impacted my life because I was able to find my way academically, make friends socially and compete against high-level competition athletically,” Fry said. “Montevallo was an important part of my academic journey that led to my completing two masters  and graduating with my Ph.D.”

Hannah Godwin ’17

Hannah GodwinHannah Godwin is a native of Birmingham who after graduating from UM in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in business marketing, moved to sunny San Diego where she works as a model, social media influencer, angel investor and founder of Setty, a photo and video filter app.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with some of my dream brands that are making a difference in the world and creative space such as Lancôme, L’Oréal, Victoria’s Secret, Amazon and more,” Godwin said. “Aside from that, I have created my own collections with companies such as JustFab, DIFF Eyewear, SHEIN and Hammit LA.”

In the modeling field, she was recently chosen to walk for Sherri Hill in New York Fashion Week, which was a bucket list dream for her. For her work on social media, she was nominated for the Upcoming Influencer of the Year Revolve Awards.

“Montevallo prepared me for the lifestyle I currently have by focusing on real life scenarios in business that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned,” she said.

Amy Griffin ’08 and Jamie Griffin ’07

Jamie and Amy GriffinAmy Griffin is a born and bred Montevallo native who graduated from UM in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication with a concentration in journalism.

She currently lives in Helena, Alabama, with her husband, Jamie Griffin, who is a 2007 UM business alum. Together, they run a home-farm business called Helena Hollow where they host a Party Barn  about eight times per weekend; during the fall a popular pumpkin patch called The Patch that averages nearly 50,000 visitors in seven weeks; The Battleground nerf gun course and other seasonal events.

“Being able to build a business on a farm that’s been in my family for more than a century means so much to me,” said Jamie Griffin. “But also, being able to do it with my wife and kids is priceless.”

“Going to UM is a huge part of our family’s successful business. I believe The College of Business is one the best you could attend.”

The Griffins have received numerous awards for Helena Hollow. Some include Shelby Living’s Best of the Best 2015 (2016, 2019, 2020, 2021) Best Place for a Kid’s Birthday Party Finalist, Shelby Living’s Best of the Best 2016 (2017, 2019, 2020, 2021) Best Place for a Kid’s Birthday Party, Best Wedding Venue Finalist, Birmingham Parent Magazine Family Favorite Winner 2019 (2021) Favorite Pumpkin Patch and Fox News best pumpkin patch in Alabama.

“The University of Montevallo, and the town of Montevallo as a whole, taught me that being myself is the most important thing I can be,” said Amy Griffin. “Being from Montevallo has always allowed me to see others as my equals and to accept people just as they are. Creativity is a gift I was born with, and Montevallo gave me the confidence to turn my wild ideas into what is now my family’s livelihood.”

Mary Light ’19

Mary LightAn Enterprise, Alabama, native and 2019 UM graduate, Mary Light is now a New Yorker working as a FEMA Congressional affairs specialist in the One World Trade Center.

“One of my favorite aspects of this job is getting to liaise between FEMA and New York’s members of Congress,” she said. “Through FEMA and in working with these offices, I get to play a part in bettering the lives of people affected by Hurricane Ida in the New York City metropolitan area.”

Light graduated from UM with a bachelor’s degrees in communication studies and political science.

“Attending the University of Montevallo is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” she said. “It gave me the confidence and sense of purpose to succeed as well as a support system I never knew I needed.”

Daniel McBrayer ’08

Daniel McBrayerDaniel McBrayer is a 2008 UM graduate who earned bachelor’s degrees in management and political science.

McBrayer is a native of Pelham, Alabama, and currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the chief trial assistant district attorney for Shelby County and tried what’s believed to be the first jury trial of a human trafficking charge in Alabama. The trial resulted in a 90-year sentence.

“Montevallo was a five-year watershed moment for me,” McBrayer said. “Thanks to small class sizes, I had strong relationships with the faculty. They in turn taught me a sense of diligence and persistence that guides my career to this day.”

Jordan Hutchison ’10 

Jordan HutchisonJordan Hutchison hails from the small town of Hazel Green, Alabama, and now lives in the metropolis of Atlanta.

He is a 2010 graduate of UM and earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in general business.

He currently serves as the director of partnerships for the XY Planning Network, an organization of more than 1,600 financial advisors across the nation.

He’s received various industry recognitions for providing insight on the human side of financial planning, is a national speaker on the topics of life transitions, identity and flow states and will soon publish his doctoral research on the “Flow Theory in the Financial Planning Profession,” which will be the first published work on the subject.

“Montevallo allowed me to pursue various interests throughout my time,” Hutchison said. “This provided me the opportunity to genuinely find where my true passions lived.”

Julia Maloney ’13 

A Jacksonville, Alabama, native, Julia Maloney graduated from UM in 2013 with a bachelor’s in Julia Maloneypolitical science and a minor in pre-law.

She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia, where she works as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s anti-trust division.

She is a recipient of the 2021 Attorney General Award, bestowed upon her for prosecuting a pharmaceutical manufacturing case that recovered more than $450 million.

“Without the University of Montevallo, I wouldn’t have had the courage to leave Alabama, study for the LSAT and become more than just​ the small-town girl I thought I would be,” Maloney said. “The Washington internship program at UM provided opportunities that otherwise I wouldn’t have had.”

“I interviewed for that internship three times and finally earned a spot as a rising senior. The program exposed me to other highly motivated students from across the country and helped me to be comfortable leaving and living on my own outside of Alabama.”

Fred Miller ’04 and Dr. Terra ’06 Miller

Fred and Terra MillerFred and Terra Miller are Birmingham natives who now reside in Decatur, Georgia.

Fred Miller graduated from UM in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history. His wife, Terra Miller, is a 2006 UM graduate. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mass communication.

Fred Miller is the principal of Ruth Holdings, Inc., the parent company of he and his wife’s LLCs, which are mainly real estate holdings. Fred Miller was formerly a federal lobbyist advocating for housing issues, and the regional manager of the Fortune 500 company, Weyerhaeuser, where he was the two-time recipient of the Weyerhaeuser President’s Award.

Terra Miller is a commercial real estate appraiser for Calhoun Sands Valuation & Advisory, Inc. She formerly worked as a consultant and an analyst for the National Institutes of Health where she won the Director’s Award and HHS Secretary Recognition.

In the past 15 years, the Millers invested in more than 300 multi-family and single-family rental units and launched an effort to renovate and build single-family homes in low-income areas to provide homeownership opportunities for those living in Section 8.

“Montevallo was the canvas I needed to find and hone skills that have served me the rest of my life,” said Fred Miller.

Terra Miller said she is grateful to UM for giving her the freedom to explore statistics across the humanities and sciences.

“I’m grateful to McNair Scholars, my college home, my first advisor Dr. Byrd and everyone who listened to my audacious dreams and affirmed I could fly with no limits on what a UM degree could do,” said Terra Miller.

Jeff Purvis ’02, MBA ’16

Jeff PurvisJeff Purvis is a UM double graduate having earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and social work in 2002 and a master’s degree of business administration in 2016.

He’s a Hoover, Alabama, native who lives in Pelham, Alabama. He is president of A.C. Legg, Inc., a nearly century-old seasonings company in Birmingham.

In 2012, Purvis received the Mary Lou Elder Williams Alumni Loyalty Award from UM for his involvement with the University since graduating.

“I would not be where I am today if it had not been for my Montevallo experience,” Purvis said. “My professors challenged and encouraged me to learn both inside and outside the classroom. They taught me theories while the abundance of opportunities to get involved on a small campus gave me the practical experience of applying them.”

“I was able to gain wisdom from these experiences that I don’t think most students at larger universities have the opportunity to participate in.”

Kristin Thompson Scroggin ’00

Kristin Thompson ScrogginKristin Thompson Scroggin is a 2000 Montevallo graduate from Tuscaloosa.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in communication studies and is now owner of genWHY Communication Strategies, a consulting company that helps businesses attract and retain millennial and Generation Z employees. She’s also a lecturer at The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

“Over the past 11 years, I have been studying generational diversity and helping companies and organizations ranging from Fortune 500 and tiny nonprofits to government agencies like NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the Missile Defense Agency, better attract and retain the next great generation of employees,” Scroggin said.

In 2018, she was chosen as the winner of the Society of Research Administrators International’s Best Concurrent Session Award. She’s also been nominated for the Huntsville Small Business of the Year multiple times, and the Catalyst Center Entrepreneur of the Year.

“Montevallo helped me to refine the communication skills I needed to be a professional speaker and trainer,” Scroggin said. “The professors pushed me to do excellent work and empowered me to seek out ways to use my skills to create a fulfilling career.”

Eric SanInocencio ’03 

Eric Sanlnocencio Eric Sanlnocencio is a 2003 graduate of Montevallo who received his bachelor’s degree in mass communication.

He’s from Daleville, Alabama, and resides in Seattle where he is head of content and brand for Amazon.

Sanlnocencio won the first Shorty for Social Good Award for the groundbreaking #TexansCare campaign created by the Houston Texans Digital team he led. He was also named best in Birmingham Minority Business in 2013, awarded UMNAA’s Nathalie Molton Gibbons Young Achievers Award in 2016 and selected for the UMNAA Board in 2022.

“Every important relationship I have in my life is because of Montevallo,” he said. “I met my best friend, DeWayne Peevy, my biggest advisor, Coach Bob Reisener, and the love of my life, Heather Huot ’02  (now Sanlnocencio) during my time there.”

“Montevallo has not only shaped who I am, but directly led to every opportunity I’ve had both personally and professionally. I am forever thankful to my alma mater.”

“Every important relationship I have in my life is because of Montevallo,” he said. “I met my best friend, DeWayne Peevy, my biggest advisor, Coach Bob Riesener, and the love of my life, Heather Huot ’02 (now SanInocencio) during my time there.”

“Montevallo has not only shaped who I am, but directly led to every opportunity I’ve had both personally and professionally. I am forever thankful to my alma mater.”