March 10, 2017
Rendering of the new UAB College of Arts and Sciences building March 10, 2017

She’s the first dean of UAB’s Honors College, and a noted scholar in international relations and political science. And she can still twirl a baton.

Shannon Lindsey Blanton, PhD, mastered the art of baton twirling early in life. She made majorette as an incoming freshman at Jones County High School in Gray, Ga., and was selected as captain of the majorette corps as a sophomore.

“It was the first time I’d been a leader,” she recalls. “It was my job to set the practice meetings and take the lead in creating the routines. I had a lot of fun, and loved being part of the group. That was a big leadership experience for me.”

During her junior and senior years, she was solo twirler, which involved twirling fire, hoops, multiple batons and Samoan knives. “Twirling solo taught me to master my composure and perform under pressure,” she says. “Being part of the corps was fun, and so was the opportunity to stand out in front of the crowd. I have fabulous memories of those times.”

Dr. Blanton says there’s more to a great education than a rigorous and challenging academic experience. A truly great education also includes opportunities outside the classroom in which students can find their passion and follow it to the future.

“A lot of my students are 18, 19, in their early 20s -- a really important period in their lives when they’re finding who they are, establishing their own identities and figuring out who they want to be in the future and what direction they want to go,” she says. “Experiences that exist outside the classroom are equally important in giving them a space to test their passion, develop their leadership skills, tap into their creativity, expand their ability to be innovative and teach them to work on a team.”

Being part of a team – whether through athletics, band, or other campus groups – gives students valuable training in how to work with others. “Students come to UAB for the best academics, to work with the best faculty and scientists,” Dr. Blanton says. “But there are other aspects of college life that also matter. And those are a really important part of growing intellectually and as a person.”

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