Students represent UAB on the world stage

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Fellowships obelisk barchartUAB students are competing for — and winning — prestigious awards with help from the Office of National & International Fellowships and Scholarships, directed by Ashley Floyd.

Floyd, director of the office since 2012, has seen the number of winners increase each year. This year, 26 students won 30 awards — for a total 45 during her tenure. Her strategy is simple: Help students be more prepared for the application process.

“When I first came here, Dr. [Suzanne] Austin and I talked about building a culture in which students feel these scholarships are within their reach — that they should at least try to see if they could win them,” Floyd said. “Rather than focus on just the capstone awards, we decided to work on building a very intentional pipeline of younger students who would apply for awards available to them as undergraduates and prepare them for future competitions to fund graduate studies.”

Floyd reports an increase in students applying for building-block scholarships, such as the Amgen’s Scholars Research Program, Goldwater Scholarship and Udall Scholarship.

“This past year was a good indicator that students are succeeding in that pipeline,” Floyd said.

One example is Kenneth Gray, a 2012 Goldwater Scholarship winner, who recently received several fully funded offers for graduate school. He’s decided to attend Harvard. Another example is 2013 Goldwater Scholar Miranda Collier; she received the internationally competitive Clarendon Scholarship, which will pay for her studies at Oxford University.

“Winning an award like the Goldwater Scholarship as an undergrad positions these students well for future graduate school funding,” Floyd said. “So, I’m pleased to see that we’ve had more students applying for these types of building-block awards. It shows that they’re starting to think about fellowships and scholarships early in their student careers.”

Reputation abroad

Many of the awards send students around the world to do research or study at other institutions, which Floyd said is great for UAB.

“We are sending our most fantastic students all over the world — to other institutions, to other countries — and they are representing UAB,” Floyd said. “They are ambassadors to the university. When they have positive interactions with faculty at other institutions or with the scholarship foundations, that reflects positively on UAB.”

Recruiting assistance

Many of the students find the application process daunting because they have to write what is essentially a grant proposal. So, Floyd recruited the UAB Writing Center to host workshops on the writing skills needed for the award applications.

“That’s been a nice point of synergy,” Floyd said. “I really appreciate the center’s help. The students can have the most amazing ideas in the world and can be outstanding academically, but if they can’t figure out how to put those ideas on paper in a way that makes a national screening committee pay attention to their ideas, then their voices go unheard.”

Floyd said the key to continuing success is keeping students in the pipeline. For the annual fellowships luncheon, she asks each winner to bring a student they hope will apply for awards in the future. She also has help from deans and faculty who send her information on high-performing students.

“When faculty see someone exceling in their courses, particularly a student with unique academic interests, they should direct that student to me,” Floyd said. “Those referrals help me identify students who need to be applying for awards.”

She said the biggest challenge is reaching students who don’t know about the awards or don’t think they could win them.

“There’s always room to find more students who meet the qualifications for these awards. Right now I sense that I’m only scratching the surface of the pool of highly qualified UAB students who could take advantage of these types of opportunities,” Floyd said.

Learn more about the fellowships office online.

2013-14 winners

  • Jennifer Baldwin – Presidential Management Fellowship
  • Leah Berkebile – Clinton Global Initiative University; Critical Languages Scholarship - Arabic, Morocco
  • Elizabeth Bevan – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sea Grant - John Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship
  • Bliss Chang – Goldwater Scholarship
  • Miranda Collier – Clarendon Scholarship, University of Oxford
  • Timothy Fernandez – Howard Hughes Medical Institute Summer Fellow
  • Daniel Gilliam – Amgen Scholars Summer Research Program
  • Rachel Hicks – Presidential Management Fellowship
  • Noah Hull – National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense
  • Rebecca Hyde – Critical Languages Scholarship - Arabic, Oman
  • Ophelia Johnson – UNCF Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship; Goldwater Scholarship
  • Quincy Jones – UNCF Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship
  • Sudhanshu Kaushik – Clinton Global Initiative University
  • Young uk Kim – Teach for America
  • Michael Longmire – DAAD-Rise Scholarship
  • Ali Massoud – Clinton Global Initiative University
  • Dhruv Patel – Alpha Lamda Delta Warner More Graduate Scholarship
  • Shejuti Paul – Alpha Lambda Delta Trow Scholarship
  • Ranjani Poonzahagan – Parkinson’s Disease Fellowship
  • Courtney Rutherford – Udall Scholarship
  • Yoonhee Ryder – Clinton Global Initiative University; Critical Languages Scholarship - Korean, South Korea; William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship, American University at Dubai
  • Forrest Satterfield – Clinton Global Initiative University
  • Jiabin Shen – Clinton Global Initiative University
  • Camille Turner – Benjamin Gilman Scholarship
  • Donovan White – UNCF Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship
  • Miesha Williams – Clinton Global Initiative University