Making Her Mark

For Hawaii native Rhiannon Hein, the opportunities provided by UA made the cross-country trip to attend college worth it.

“It was definitely a leap of faith, but the recruiters from Alabama really made me feel wanted here,” Hein said. “I was pretty confident when I came here that I had made the right choice.”

Hein, a junior at UA, is a double major in English and history — and a double minor in creative writing and the Blount Undergraduate Initiative.

“Blount was actually one of the reasons I came to UA,” said Hein. “It offers some really great classes and sort of narrowed down the size of the university by offering special individualized attention.”

She hopes to use her education to become an author and a teacher.

“I’ve wanted to write fantasy novels for as long as I can remember, and I’ve also always been interested in teaching,” Hein said. “English and history really go hand in hand in the production of an epic fantasy series.”

As a freshman, Hein got involved with Read Alabama, an initiative designed to get young children excited about reading. Many of the children Hein worked with were first-generation students, still developing their language skills.

“Reading to children who are first generation to America was a rewarding experience, because they’re being immersed into a different culture and trying to learn a new language, and I can’t imagine how hard that must be,” Hein said.

Hein also delved into a new teaching opportunity called Outlet, a 57-Miles initiative with the goal of teaching poetry as a form of expression to children in the Black Belt of Alabama.

As a member of the Outlet team, Hein helps develop curriculum and works with a team of two other UA students to lead a poetry class for students at Pickens County High School.

“I’ve learned more about myself and my teaching methods, which is great for my future career as a teacher,” said Hein.

Hein describes Outlet as the most rewarding community service she has ever done. She said the benefits the program provides students are evident.

“Some of the poetry that these kids write is shocking,” Hein said. “They say that they can’t write but there is a natural inclination there that only needs a little bit of prodding.”

At the end of each year, students can submit their work to be published in a chat book that is distributed to everyone who participates.

“It’s a really great way for them to see that their words matter and their thoughts matter and that we respect them and what they’re feeling counts,” Hein said.

In addition to fostering imagination among the youth of Alabama, Hein also promotes creativity among members of the UA community as editor-in-chief of the Marr’s Field Journal.

The Marr’s Field Journal is UA’s art and literary magazine. The publication was created in 1989, and allows UA students the chance to have their work published and seen by MFJ readers.

Hein jumped at the chance to work on the MFJ staff as a freshman, and much to her surprise, earned the title of editor-in-chief the same year.

“It was extremely exciting because I had worked on my high school’s literary and art magazine but I wasn’t expecting to have the opportunity to make such a difference right away,” said Hein.

Paul Wright, director of Student Media, said Hein seemed like the perfect fit for leader of MFJ despite her young age.

“I thought she was intelligent beyond her years,” said Wright. “She seemed very responsible and driven. All of that proved to be true.”

Since Hein started serving as editor-in-chief, there has been an increase among student submissions for the journal due to a more focused effort on getting the word out to students about the opportunity.

“I think that The University of Alabama definitely has an art and literary scene, but you have to know where to look,” Hein said. “I think offering students the opportunity to be a part of a creative process here is extremely important, especially for students who want to do that with their lives.”

Recently the Marr’s Field Journal moved to a digital format to be more accessible to students. Hein hopes this will give the MFJ staff an opportunity to incorporate dance, music and spoken word into the publication.

No matter what happens, Hein said she can’t wait to stick around and see the publication continue to flourish.

“I was lucky enough to receive the job of editor-in-chief for a third year, and I’m hoping I’ll get to do it for a fourth,” Hein said.