|(From left) Ashley Floyd, director of National & International Fellowships and Scholarships, chats with Ameen Barghi and University Professor Edward Taub at this year's awards luncheon. Barghi, who works in Taub's lab, is a Goldwater Scholarship recipient.|
It didn’t take long for Ashley Floyd to realize she was coming to a special place when she accepted a job as UAB’s director of National & International Fellowships and Scholarships in 2012.
“Before I even started, I got an e-mail from a student, Mallick Hossain,” Floyd says. “He said, ‘I think we should meet. I want to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship, and I want to talk about my application.’ He had initiative, and he was very professional.”
Hossain, a senior and 2011 Goldwater Scholar and 2012 Rhodes Scholarship finalist, wasn’t the only student to impress Floyd. Each student she worked with on applications approached the process with the same level of drive and professionalism. Of those, 22 students were selected as institutional nominees, finalists or major award recipients and earned more than $187,000 for tuition, research grants or study-away opportunities. More than $150,000 is potentially available to some of the finalists.
UAB students have claimed Goldwater Scholarships, UNCF/Merck Scholarships, William Jefferson Clinton Scholarships, Alpha Lambda Delta Graduate Fellowships, Benjamin Gilman Scholarships, National AIDS Memorial Grove’s Young Leader Scholarship, William Jefferson Clinton National Hunger Leader Award, Teach for America Award and an Afya Bora Fellowship in Global Health. In total, UAB students have won 145 of these awards since 2004.
“The funding these scholarships have afforded our students is important, but it’s even more important that they have been able to further their studies and aspirations,” says UAB President Ray Watts, who addressed the finalists and recipients at a luncheon in their honor earlier this month. “As they have gathered these individual awards, they have also brought prestige and honor to UAB. This sends a great message — that these students are achieving a great education and preparing themselves to be 21st century citizens of the world. We want them to be competitive in the global knowledge economy.”
|Provost Linda Lucas talks with students Jarvis Johnson (left) and Maurice Asouzu (right) at this year's awards luncheon. Johnson and Asouzu are 2013 UNCF/Merck Scholarship recipients.|
The two Clinton Scholars — Leah Berkebile and Jacob Ledbetter — will sharpen their Arabic language skills and understanding of Middle East cultures in Dubai to gain a competitive edge in their future careers in military medicine and renewable energy economics.
“This is the kind of track I definitely wanted to be on when I came here,” says Ledbetter, a sophomore from Cullman majoring in economics. Ledbetter, who was the recipient of a critical language scholarship this past year that took him to South Korea, will work in the Department of Energy Scholars Program in Washington, D.C., this summer.
“The honors program really helped guide me into the kind of things I needed to be doing to have a shot at these types of opportunities,” Ledbetter says of UAB’s Honors College.
Ameen Barghi, a junior from Birmingham and 2013 Goldwater Scholarship recipient, had the same aspirations when he came to UAB.
Barghi’s first UAB experience actually began his junior year in high school when his counselor at Oak Mountain encouraged him to inquire into UAB’s Teen Volunteer Summer Program. After some Internet research and an email to Associate Professor of Psychology Gitendra Uswatte, Ph.D., Barghi was interviewing to join the Constraint-Induced (CI) Movement Therapy research program of renowned University Professor Edward Taub, Ph.D. Four years later, Barghi is pursuing a neuroscience degree and continues to work in Taub’s lab, investigating the benefits of constraint-induced aphasia therapy, another version of CI therapy.
“I guess I presented well,” Barghi says of that first interview. “I had no exposure to anything medical related, but I quickly became very interested in this work. There is no doubt the work I’ve been able to do has led to this opportunity.”
In fact, Barghi was able to use many of the things he had written on the CI aphasia-therapy research on his Goldwater Scholarship application. He says the entire awards process was made easier because of the activities in which he had participated.
“The process of applying was much easier than it could have been,” Barghi says. “Ashley was very open to working with us, first of all. And everything that I learned in the lab meetings that we had — even to the contacts I’ve made with UAB graduate students in the lab — all of that made the questions that the scholarship application asked much easier. The graduate students I’m working with now were very helpful.”
Taub says Barghi was eager to learn the moment he walked into his lab as that high-school junior.
“He kept right up with all of the graduate students and was not at all intimidated by their advance status,” Taub says. “He did a very good job then, and he still is now. He’s working on some very important experiments and just doing excellent work on them.”
Barghi says it will be tough to see the graduate students leave the lab this month and move on. He gives them high marks for all of the advice and help he gave them. Taub says he thinks Bargi will adjust well.
“Ameen will just train the new graduate students,” Taub says.
‘We win them’
Floyd wants to continue to expand the National & International Fellowships and Scholarships program each year, and she says the processes are in place to do so.
Floyd, UAB’s first full-time scholarships director, is charged with identifying talented students early in their careers. And she’s not just targeting star students.
She wants incoming freshmen to know and think about the opportunities that are out there for them, so she visits scholarship receptions for perspective students. Floyd also will begin teaching freshmen this fall in the Honors College — another way she will access students from many backgrounds.
“We want to capitalize on students who have potential, but have never imagined these types of scholarship and fellowship opportunities would be possible,” Floyd says. “We want these next students coming in to believe it’s possible for a student from Cullman to come to school at UAB and win an award that will send him to Dubai to study for a semester. Yes, these are nationally competitive awards, but we win them. We want to get these incoming students excited each year.”
Another important piece is the mentoring aspect for these students.
One of the distinctive aspects of UAB’s Fellowship and Scholarships program is that there are three faculty committees that help mentor students, review their files, give feedback, conduct mock interviews and help in other areas.
There are three committees, appointed by Provost Linda Lucas, who oversee the fellowship and scholarship awards — General Fellowships (Rhodes, Marshall and Truman scholarships), Goldwater Scholarship and the Fulbright Scholarship.
“The faculty on these committees can take ownership of the process and really give the students tremendous guidance,” Floyd says. “They also can be ambassadors for these scholarships within their academic areas and can help us get even more students excited about these awards.”
Floyd hopes to see more students applying for awards as soon as next year. UAB is making a concentrated effort to increase applications for the Fulbright Scholarship, which ties in perfectly to the university’s commitment to global citizenship.
“The Fulbright sends students all over the world to teach English, conduct research and study,” Floyd says. “It’s perfect for what we do here. But we don’t want to limit ourselves just to Fulbrights. There is a lot of money out there to help students further their education, and I want to help them find it.”
By: Tyler Greer