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Shannon and Robert Blanton.

Shannon Blanton, inaugural dean of the UAB Honors College, pursued a Ph.D. in international studies in part because of a study-abroad trip to western Europe that she took in high school.

“I absolutely loved experiencing different cultures and learning about countries different from my own,” she says. As an undergraduate, however, the cost of travel kept her grounded from additional educational trips overseas.

The exhilaration and frustration of those moments have inspired Blanton and her husband, Robert Blanton, Ph.D., professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Political Science and Public Administration, to establish the Blanton Honors Enrichment Endowed Award. The goal of the award is to assist Honors College students seeking experiential learning opportunities, from study-away programs to research, service projects, creative activities, and travel to symposia or professional conferences.

“These ‘extras’ can easily fall between the cracks for students,” especially for those already facing financial barriers, Robert Blanton says. “Because funding for these things may not be part of regular scholarships, students may not take the opportunities to participate.” That’s unfortunate, he adds, because “experiential learning can have a transformational impact. These experiences often take students out of their comfort zones” and “force students to experience the real-world implications of the things they study and the practical ways in which they can improve their communities.”

Currently, Honors College students can sign up for exciting faculty-led study-abroad courses each spring. (Past programs have explored socioeconomic and political change in Cuba and sustainability in Iceland.) A double-decker bus full of students recently traveled to Oklahoma to attend the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, and others collaborated with faculty mentors on scholarly projects over the summer. Students also can serve as interns with Project Horseshoe Farm, a service organization assisting vulnerable adults and children in Greensboro, Alabama. “These are just a few examples that convey the significance of experiential learning as part of our students’ academic experience,” Shannon Blanton says. “We hope our gift will enable students to take advantage of the amazing opportunities available to them at UAB and to do more than they might otherwise be able to do.”

She adds, “It has been exciting and rewarding to be part of the growth and development of the Honors College. I felt it was important and fitting to make an endowed gift that will benefit Honors students for years to come. Our gift reflects our support and enthusiasm for UAB, and our commitment to being part of the effort to provide funds for our talented and motivated students.”

“UAB has been great for us, both personally and professionally,” Robert Blanton says. “We were always taught that your spending reflects where your heart is. Our gift is indicative of our support for UAB and the students here.”

Head of the Class

The Blantons are among many faculty and staff whose support of UAB and its students goes far beyond the classroom. Meet a few others making impactful investments:

  • Eddie Nabors, an instructor in the Collat School of Business, has committed funds to establish the Beta Alpha Psi Endowed Graduate Scholarship. Nabors serves as the faculty advisor for the UAB chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, the honorary and service organization for accounting, finance, and information systems professionals. Nabors is creating the scholarship to pay tribute to the organization and support outstanding accounting graduate students.
  • Teena McGuinness, Ph.D., CRNP, FAAN, chair of the School of Nursing’s Department of Family, Community, and Health Systems, and John McGuinness, M.D., have committed funds to support the school’s building expansion. The facility will house state-of-the-art classrooms and simulation rooms to prepare nursing students for real-world experiences.
  • Moon Nahm, M.D., professor of pulmonary, allergy, and critical care medicine, and his wife, Chong Nahm, have established the Moon H. Nahm, M.D., and Laura S. Nahm, M.D., Endowed Scholarship in Medicine. Nahm is known for his research to improve the worldwide affordability of pneumonia vaccines. Their daughter, Laura, graduated from the School of Medicine in 2011.
  • Alesia Jones, UAB’s chief human resources officer, is helping those following in her footsteps by committing the lead gift for a scholarship to benefit Collat School of Business students majoring in human resources. The school welcomes additional contributions from other human resources professionals and Birmingham-area businesses to create an endowment for the scholarship.
  • Kenneth R. Sloan, Ph.D., and Christine A. Curcio, Ph.D., have made a contribution toward the new building for the College of Arts and Sciences now under construction on the Campus Green. The office of the chair of the Department of Computer Science will be named for them in recognition of their gift. Sloan is associate professor emeritus from that department, and Curcio is a professor of ophthalmology in the School of Medicine.

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