Dear UAB Community and Friends,

As we finish up finals week here on campus, I want to congratulate in advance the more than 2,130 students who are graduating from UAB this spring semester. Roughly 1,420 undergraduates and 715 graduate students will receive their degrees, including 69 Ph.D. candidates from 15 states and six countries in 27 disciplines. I look forward to celebrating these achievements at our master’s/doctoral hooding ceremony this evening and our undergraduate commencement ceremonies tomorrow. Such talented and accomplished graduates are the truest testament to the quality of our student experience and they do their parents, their faculty mentors and our university very proud. 

I also congratulate our students who have distinguished themselves on the national and global stage this academic year. Our students again earned an impressive number of prestigious scholarships and fellowships (26), including a record six Fulbright Scholarships. These highly competitive awards take our students all around the U.S. and the world—from the U.K. to Norway to India to Taiwan—and recognize excellence in a range of disciplines—the sciences and mathematics, international studies, the arts and foreign languages.    

Group of award winners at UAB Fellowships Luncheon.Students honored for earning prestigious national and international awards at the annual UAB Fellowships Luncheon at UAB Alumni House on April 11, 2018.

Our outstanding academic programs also continue to garner national recognition. In the recent U.S. News & World Report “Best Graduate Schools,” 13 UAB programs ranked in the nation’s top 25. Our School of Nursing leads the way with a total of five programs in the top 15, including our Nursing Administration program that ranks no. 2 in the nation. I commend our faculty and staff campus-wide for making our academic programs so highly respected, and for continually developing new programs, such as our master’s in data science starting in fall 2018, that equip students for success in emerging 21st century fields.

Such leading-edge academic programs are key in our efforts to grow a robust innovation-based economy throughout Birmingham and Alabama. I was pleased this past Wednesday to speak at the annual Birmingham Business Alliance Economic Growth Summit highlight the tremendous strides we’re making in commercializing our most promising discoveries; fostering successful start-up companies that attract substantial investment; and training a vital IT workforce through Innovate Birmingham’s Regional Workforce Partnership, which recently graduated its fourth class (making for a total of some 130 graduates from this program). Through strong partnership and strategic planning, we are promoting a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that nurtures our own start-ups and attracts outside businesses, and our efforts have garnered competitive federal grants aimed at spurring such innovation nationally.

We hope to build on our momentum by securing an Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) designation as an APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity University, an effort being led by our Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the UAB Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. As part of the application process, we are working to identify strengths and areas for improvement in our economic development initiatives. To that end, I encourage faculty, staff and students to please respond to this brief internal survey—your input is important to our continued efforts to grow our region’s innovation economy.

Our successes over this academic year will lead to even greater ones in the next—in education, economic development and all areas of our mission. We continue to collaborate on Forging the Future, including the formulation of a Grand Challenge befitting UAB’s bold spirit of innovation and service, and we remain deeply grateful for the support of the donors, alumni and friends—over 100,000 strong—who have pushed the Campaign for UAB over $878.5 million.

My congratulations again to our graduating students, your parents and the faculty who mentored and inspired you.