Holiday Guide 2020

Holiday Guide 2020

As the holiday season approaches, so does the annual conundrum—the quest for the perfect gift. This year, why not ‘check your list twice’ to ensure it includes unique selections from the following Auburn alumni. From nationally recognized best-selling author James Farmer, to local store owner (and current Auburn student) Sarah Jane Levine, there is something to appeal to everyone on your list!

Support the featured alumni by shopping the links provided


Since his graduation, Farmer has firmly solidified his place in the world of design. From appearances on “The Today Show” to numerous features in national publications, his work has been nothing short of prolific.

Recently, he released his second interior design book, “Arriving Home” (pictured right) to national acclaim. The publication follows the work of his firm, James Farmer Designs, as featured in 10 different homes across the country. According to the author, “For my second interiors book, I wanted to inspire and illustrate how the graciousness of Southern style translates into warm interiors for our clients in homes across the country.” From cover to cover, readers will be treated to Farmer’s signature Southern style: spirited, bold, but still classic in nature.

Remarking on his time on the Plains, Farmer reflects, “I love Auburn—and as our creed states, I believe in Auburn, too. I believe in the Auburn Family who generationally shares stories of food, football and faith when gathered. The time I spent at Auburn helped set a course for my career and forever influenced my life. That is the Auburn I love.”



Johnson currently enjoys helping clients in her role as a stylist for the national brand Anthropologie. Known for its quirky charm, the chain features
well-curated collections of clothing, home décor and more, as well as personalized shopping experiences for individual guests.

When asked what her perfect pick for the holidays might be, Johnson replied, “Why not consider the gift of a classic board game? Our reimagined editions offer a lovely way for young and old alike to spend quality time together. This season, Anthropologie is offering ‘Linen Book Editions’ of beloved classics, such as Candy Land (pictured far right) and other perennial favorites. Sure to delight recipients of all ages!


After graduation, Lee’s unique take on various wildlife imagery earned him acclaim throughout the Southeast. And while the bulk of his work continues to center around custom commissions, he has also recently launched a product line largely based on his own original art. Offering everything from handsome letterhead and stationery to signature shawls (pictured right), his online collection boasts something for everyone.

Recalling his time at Auburn, the artisan reflects, “I have loved Auburn as far back as I can remember. It is my home. I grew up here as a die-hard fan, then cherished my college years and eventually earned my degree here. Years later, I even opted to return to further myself professionally and personally. Auburn University always will be integral to my success—even now as I launch my own fine art and design business here in the Loveliest Village on the Plains.


Though her background is in corporate finance, Stanfield launched this creative endeavor to fulfill her own artistic passions while providing one-of-a kind pieces for discerning clients.

Stanfield confirms that the bulk of her pieces are “inspired by everyday life.” As such, she creates everything from casual piece to complement daily wear, to finer pieces perfect to pair with a cocktail dress. Her versatile collections truly offer it all.


This former Auburn cheerleader traded in her pom-poms for the busy life of a clothing boutique owner here on the Plains. In doing so, Register has made a splash with her innovation in online sales and attention to customer service. Her budget-friendly boutique offers an array of items perfect for any occasion or budget.


Everyday scenes of life take on a poignant, timeless quality in the muted photographic splendor of Philip Smith’s work (pictured left). A staff photographer with Auburn University for years, Smith recently moved to Washington, D.C. and took his camera out to find the beauty—and decay—of the modern world around him.

Whether it’s a quiet forest landscape or a tiger lapping up water, a foggy bridge at dawn or the gentle sway of Toomer’s Corner
after an Auburn victory, Smith’s gallery-quality fine art prints come ready to hang and add dimension and elegance to any space.


Decorate your home with stunning modern art from Lynthia Edwards ’00, a mixed-media artist and painter living in Birmingham, Ala. Through eye-popping color, swirling texture and evocative subject matter, Edwards’ work reflects her experiences as a Black girl raised in a small southern town, with the thoughts, emotions and ideas that animate her world.

While her subject matter might seem familiar to audiences, it is Edwards’ interpretations of everyday life that thrill the eye most. Her cut-paper collages, created as part of her “G.R.I.T.S” series, evoke moments of homemade vanilla ice cream, awkward childhood glasses, sibling rivalries and more.


This enterprising fashion and apparel merchandising major is proving that one really can do it all! From her role as a full-time student to her position as a store owner, Levine juggles daily life with an easy grace and elegance—an aesthetic she also brings to the selections offered in her petite shop. There, she carries items ranging from “upcycled’’ designer wares to affordably priced accessory items of all kinds.


Add personality to your personal space with custom furniture from the “urban woodworker” Gregory Philip Curtis. The Decatur, Ga. native combines his love of the outdoors with rustic and industrial themes to create one-of-a-kind furniture pieces and home goods out of salvaged, eclectic and bespoke lumber.

Among the variety of items available on his site are wooden panel walls, modernist chandeliers, vanity mirrors, luggage tags (pictured right), portable floor tables and more. All of Curtis’ work is cut and crafted by hand, and he also offers custom design consultations to build anything from table goods to furniture according to client requests.



In her latest volume, Duncan channels her life-long passion for art into a book geared specifically to creative children. As she explains, the work encourages young children (especially girls) to simply “draw, sketch, imagine, explore, paint, smudge, color, write, but most importantly, to bring their ideas to life!” Duncan says the book’s intention is to remind readers that they are uniquely and wonderfully created, while also encouraging
them to explore and connect to their own creativity and spirituality. The result, “Made To Create,” (pictured above) is the perfect addition to any budding artist’s library collection.

With the holidays fast approaching, local designer Jess Margeson (Owner, Frou Frou, Inc.) shares her favorite tips and tricks for the season! Follow along for flawless packages, perfect presents and easy home décor ideas

1. Select an overall palette and stick to it!

This is where most mistakes are made (as related to both seasonal, event and home décor). To avoid a disjointed look, preselect a pleasing palette (limiting yourself to no more than three or four colors) and adhere to that when making small additions such as ribbon or wrapping paper. Incorporating metallic tones always lends elegance, especially when paired with the more expected tones of red or green. Here, I relied on more muted metallic tones.

2. Gather your supplies

As the season approaches, start stashing away cardboard boxes of assorted shapes and sizes. For instance, a box once full of tea packets now serves as a perfect gift box for a smaller item (like a man’s tie). This method reduces waste and pinches pennies—making it a double win!

3. Top it off!

When it comes to gift toppers, the only limit is your own imagination. Here, I fashioned present toppers out of coasters, old jar lids and even created paper pendants by hand. While ribbon always provides a rich accent, flat packages are perfect for stacking and packing, and paper toppers save cost (when compared to more costly ribbon).

4. Wrap packages just for décor

Gorgeous gifts double as great seasonal décor. Once your overall scheme is selected, purchase enough supplies to create gifts to double simply as accents. Pretty prewrapped packages are an easy (and budget-friendly) way to add accents to your holiday vignettes.

5. Splurge on staple items

Since you have saved on packaging where possible, go ahead and splurge on staple items. For instance, that wide roll of rich satin ribbon (especially in a neutral tone such as ivory or silver) is worth the cost. Here in the east Alabama area, Hall’s Wholesale has the best selection of solid-color satin ribbon. So go ahead and splurge on some classic satin ribbon, as well as some foiled paper (to create your tags and other accents) paired with thick wrapping paper. Sticking to a classic scheme ensures that you can reuse many of the supplies for years to come.

The holiday season brings many delights, but sadly, it can be a time of stress for some. Between moments marked with mistletoe, feelings can easily turn from merriment to exhaustion.

Dr. Barry Burkhart (licensed psychologist and retired Auburn professor) explains how best to handle it. Burkhart reminds us to begin with the basics. “The first rule is self-care. Both psychological and physical self-care are essential. This means exercise, eat well, get adequate sleep and think ‘approach coping,’ not avoidance. Drugs, alcohol and isolation are all avoidance coping and only serve to collect interest on the threat. By contrast, in ‘approach coping’ you move toward the threat and even the smallest step helps. Celebrate these small steps and, most importantly, share them with others. The most powerful antidote to stress is human connection. After self-care, connection with others is the second rule of stress detox. A final thought: when in doubt, be useful, playful and kind to yourself and others. We all share this difficult and toxic year. Try to make it easier to bear for all.”

Dr. Barry Burkhart, Ph.D., ABBP | Licensed Psychologist
Professor Emeritus | Department of Psychology | Auburn University


The Great Debate

The Great Debate


Our national discourse seems as fractured as ever.
How do we learn to talk to each other again?

In early 1804, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson opened a letter addressed to him at the White House. Jefferson, entering his second year in office, was at the height of his popularity. He had worked to minimize British influence in the new government and had just negotiated the Louisiana Purchase from France, doubling the size of the U.S. and turning the country into a continental power. “I think you ought to get a damn kicking, you red-headed son of a bitch,” read the unsigned letter. “You are a pretty fellow to be President of the United States of America, you dirty scoundrel.” Jefferson had just been flamed.

He was not the first, and surely won’t be the last, to feel the sting of a baseless personal attack. But in 2020, in the wake of another contentious election, a pandemic keeping us cooped up and social issues hitting the streets, our civil discourse seems at an all-time low. How did we get here and how do we get to a place where we’re talking to each other, and not at each other? Talk to any Auburn expert in this field and they will invariably mention two things. One is the rise of social media and the other is 24-hour cable news. While both have democratized news to an extent, they have also created echo chambers where people only go to have their worldviews confirmed. Believe the earth is flat? There are dozens of Facebook groups for that. Believe all conservatives or Democrats are incompetent? There’s a cable news channel that will confirm that for you

These echo chambers have created a tribalism that has hardened people’s opinions and made compromise almost impossible.

“Who would have thought Facebook would be the number one source for news on the planet?” said Emory Serviss, marketing professor and program champion for the marketing major at Auburn’s Harbert College of Business. “But there’s no Fairness Doctrine [a discontinued FCC policy that required broadcasters to present controversial topics in equitable ways] on social media, so people can read opinions that reinforce only what they already believe.”

Social media also has a second layer that leads to our eroding discourse: anonymity. Hiding behind any username, people are often much more confrontational than in person.

“When we’re in front of each other, I may be willing to give and take on certain things,” said Serviss. “But there’s far less of a social penalty for being disagreeable online.”

Mike Milford, associate professor and associate director for communication in Auburn’s School of Communication and Journalism, says our contentiousness has always been there, but now we have new ways of making old mistakes.

Milford says one major development is a “third-party” style of rhetoric being used across our media and political landscapes, where the goal of everyone’s speech is not to accurately analyze an issue or create compromise, but to grab attention.

“It’s kind of like everyone is throwing a Hail Mary every time they speak,” Milford said. In this attention economy, where, according to research, sensational news travels six times faster than factual news, clicks and likes and views are the ultimate goal. This style is most favored in Twitter rants and online in platforms like Reddit, where every comment is voted on and ranked in the thread. No one is merely talking, but everyone is evaluating, ranking and judging.

So how do we get to a more respectful national repartee?  Serviss says it’s about being open minded and escaping the tribalism of modern life.

“Be open to different points of view,” Serviss said. “Be open to ‘different’. The differences are what make us stronger, and just be open to those differences. Don’t immediately close yourself off.”

For Milford, who studies complex rhetorical theory, his biggest piece of advice is surprisingly simple: actively listen to others. And if you must convince someone of something, know it’s going to take time. “There’s a difference between winning an argument and winning someone over,” said Milford. “For real persuasion to take place, it has to take place incrementally. It takes a lot of endurance to be a good citizen.”

Just ask Thomas Jefferson.