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Trailblazing Alumni Chris McCauley April 08, 2022

Charles Scribner addresses the crowd at a Black Warrior Riverkeeper event.Charles Scribner exemplifies school pride when he reflects on his time at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“UAB is very important to me and my family,” said Scribner. “I’m proud that UAB is such an engine for the state [of Alabama].”

Scribner, born and raised in New York City, credits his wife and his career for bringing him to Birmingham. While earning his Bachelor of Arts in History and a Certificate in Environmental Studies at Princeton University, Scribner met his future wife Elizabeth Yates—a native of Birmingham and UAB Mathematics Ph.D. now named Dr. Elizabeth Scribner—who envisioned returning home after Princeton. As their relationship flourished, Scribner was also developing a passion for the international Waterkeeper movement and authoring a 100-page senior thesis about the history and effectiveness of Waterkeeper Alliance. Through his research, he met the team at the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a Birmingham-based nonprofit that is “dedicated to promoting clean water for the sake of public health, recreation, and wildlife habitat throughout [its] patrol area, the Black Warrior River watershed.”

“I interviewed the staff, and, in the process, they offered me the job of director of development,” said Scribner.

So, after graduating in 2005, Scribner—and Elizabeth—moved to Birmingham, and he began his journey with the Black Warrior Riverkeeper. According to Scribner, it is especially exciting and important to support the waterkeeper effort in Alabama.

“We’re number one in freshwater biodiversity,” said Scribner. “And, beyond that, we have a very… outdoorsy population that loves to cool off in our rivers and lakes and go fishing—it’s a great American tradition, particularly a great Alabama tradition.”

After working in his role as director of development for a few years, Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s Board of Directors promoted Scribner to executive director. Scribner was determined to build new skills and knowledge so he could further support the mission of the organization. He researched programs that focused on nonprofit leadership and management and found a graduate certificate program available through UAB’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration. When he reviewed the course offerings, he discovered that every course was applicable to his work at the Black Warrior Riverkeeper.

“I realized a background in environmental studies and a great passion for protecting the environment are not the same as being trained to run an organization,” said Scribner. “I knew what I wanted to do, and I wanted to do it better.”

Scribner enrolled in UAB’s Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management program in 2010, and, soon after completing it, he decided to pursue his Master of Public Administration.

During Scribner’s time in graduate school, he uncovered opportunities to apply his new knowledge at Black Warrior Riverkeeper. As the organization celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, Scribner acknowledges the numerous legal and advocacy victories his team has achieved along the way. That said, he is particularly energized about an emerging volunteer cleanup program. The program is prompting meaningful, hands-on participation from the public, and, to top it off, the outreach coordinator who is facilitating the effort, Katie Fagan, is an alumna of UAB’s Department of Anthropology. This enduring UAB connection—and many others—is particularly important to Scribner.

“The networking that takes place [at UAB] creates incredible connections that have been as valuable to my career as the classes I took in the MPA program,” said Scribner.

Although he finished his graduate degree in 2015, Scribner still finds plenty of opportunities to stay connected to UAB and the MPA program. In 2017, he won the College’s Alumni Service Award, and, in 2018, he became president of the UAB National Alumni Society’s MPA Chapter.

“I really enjoyed the process of working with other board members to turn the alumni society into something really organized and impactful,” said Scribner. “That’s easy to do when you’re working with other MPAs.”

As he looks to the future, it’s clear that he will continue to find ways to collaborate with his fellow UAB alumni and give back to the MPA program. Also, if you attend a UAB football game at Protective Stadium, you’re likely to see Scribner with his wife and four children cheering on his beloved Blazers.


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