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Donna Andrews remembers the day she met a shy Racquel McCrary.

Then a UAB freshman, McCrary was lingering outside the Spencer Honors House, home to the University Honors Program (UHP), following a meeting for students interested in joining the program, which is part of the UAB Honors College.

“I asked if I could help,” Andrews recalls. “Racquel answered that she was interested in the program but had decided not to apply and was about to leave. I asked her, ‘Why don’t you come inside and talk about it?’”

McCrary followed Andrews, program coordinator for the UHP, back into the building. There, Andrews “stressed how the honors program could help me in college and in my career,” says McCrary, a Huntsville, Alabama, native. “She told me it would bring me opportunities and broaden my education at UAB.”

Andrews was the reason she applied to the program, says McCrary, now a junior majoring in public health and Spanish who volunteers at UAB’s 1917 Clinic, which serves people living with HIV. She’s in the process of applying to medical school with plans to specialize in women’s health.

She’s also the first recipient of the Donna Andrews Honors Scholarship.

The scholarship was established by professor emeritus and UHP founder Ada Long, PhD, to honor Andrews for the pivotal role she has played in the program’s success and to support deserving students as they pursue their educational goals. When Long founded the UHP in 1982, she wanted to create an environment that fostered a spirit of inclusivity and diversity and an interdisciplinary approach to education. “What I love about UAB is that there is every kind of student imaginable—from every conceivable major and every background,” Long says. “My sense was, and still is, that if you put all these people together, they learn so much just from talking to one another and getting to know each other.”

When Andrews joined the UHP team in 1996, she helped grow an environment of opportunity and confidence—particularly for African American students. Mentoring McCrary was a familiar role for Andrews, who “is a center of comfort and encouragement to everyone,” Long says.

Long retired in 2004, but she and Andrews have an enduring friendship and still discuss ways that UHP can make a difference. When Long asked Andrews for advice on encouraging diversity in the program, Andrews considered her background.

“I come from a rural area where a lot of African American students—women in particular—are disenfranchised and go unnoticed,” Andrews says. While she had the resources to leave her home near Gadsden, Alabama, to pursue an education and a career, there are many who might not have the know-how or resources to make that happen, she notes. “I’m glad to see more inclusion today, but African Americans still get left behind.”

In response, Long established the Donna Andrews Honors Scholarship with the goal of helping deserving students in the UHP—or who are interested in the UHP—succeed. The scholarship gives preference to African American students with financial need from underserved rural or urban areas.

Andrews feels honored by the scholarship, especially because she knows how the UHP can impact its students. McCrary, for instance, is no longer the shy girl Andrews remembers meeting outside the Spencer Honors House several years ago. “She has really changed,” Andrews says. “She has presented at conferences. She speaks up. I know this program works if I see those kinds of results.”

Learn more about supporting the Donna Andrews Honors Scholarship for the University Honors Program: Michael Wilson, constituent engagement specialist, (205) 996-1405, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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