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Hunter Drinkard

Scholarship initiative blazes international trails for student success.

For UAB junior Hunter Drinkard, preparing for a tough test or making career plans no longer seems so daunting after spending four months studying abroad in southeast Asia. He simply flashes back to a subway station in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he had to find his way surrounded by a language he did not understand.

“I did that trip alone, and that gives me confidence that I can do anything I set my mind to,” says Drinkard, a native of Creola, near Mobile.

Drinkard’s trip was made possible by a travel fund created by Lydia Cheney, who benefited from her own study-abroad experiences at Birmingham-Southern College in 1970—and by the Blazing the Way Scholarship Match Initiative.

Blazing the Way expands the power of donor gifts that create annual or endowed scholarships. Investments for annual scholarships, a four-year commitment, are doubled with a 1:1 match from UAB. Endowed scholarships can be awarded immediately because UAB provides the spendable portion of the payout for five years while the full pledge builds. Both types of scholarships have three giving levels and are eligible for naming by donors. Funds are made available to students meeting academic criteria, and donors can set additional criteria such as need or participation in a particular course of study or department.

“We are excited to see the first gifts of the Blazing the Way Scholarship Match Initiative start assisting students,” says Tom Brannan, UAB vice president for development and alumni. “We hope donors will feel encouraged to make a gift for any undergraduate program. This is an opportunity for many people who may not have thought they could give in this way or make this kind of an impact. We want them to see that they can, thanks to Blazing the Way.”

Learn More

Find out how you can maximize your support for students through a scholarship at uab.edu/blazingtheway.

Journeys of transformation

Lydia Cheney.

Cheney was prompted to donate because of her own college experiences studying history and art in France and Italy. “Those trips have made an impact on my entire life,” Cheney says. “They taught me the value of travel as education, and I want other students to have those types of trips.”

Sanjay Singh agrees. In the mid-1990s, he helped establish the first study-abroad program for UAB’s Collat School of Business. He and his wife, Dora, continue to help students enjoy similar experiences through Blazing the Way.

“These trips are transformational. They have a profound impact on learning,” Singh says. “You can read about different cultures. But you cannot really appreciate it until you are in those countries, seeing and interacting with the people. There is no substitution for that, just like there is no substitute for on-the-job training.

“That was the motivation to set up the gift. It doesn’t pay for the student’s entire trip, but it pays a significant amount. And there cannot be a better opportunity, since UAB is matching gifts dollar for dollar. UAB understands there is nothing more important than investing in the future.”

Lydia Cheney.

Global perspective

Cheney says her matched investment will continue to pay dividends long after students like Drinkard come back home. “When they are immersed in the culture of a county, they have an enhanced understanding of the world, and they’re going to have a stronger worldview as a result,” she says.

That reflects Drinkard’s experience. A political science and communication studies major, Drinkard spent time in Thailand taking courses on global environmental politics, intercultural communication, and southeast Asian diplomacy (taught by a diplomat). And since Cheney’s generosity funded much of his trip, Drinkard could afford to visit more of the region, including Malaysia and Singapore, when he wasn’t in class.

“On a program like that, you’re no longer a tourist. You become a resident,” Drinkard says. “You appreciate the cultural norms more. Along with the academic experiences, study abroad gives you personal experiences.”


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