Innovative Scholarship

Rethinking how exceptional students learn is the cornerstone of the academic experience in Honors College.

Students have the option to enroll in Honors classes offered in their major and to choose our diverse small seminars, which are capped at 15 students. Honors seminars encourage discussion and deliberation, critical thinking and discovery. In the Honors College, there are many ways to learn—from departmental honors to small seminars, visiting faculty and artists-in-residence to self-directed study, honors by contract and internships. The Honors College prepares students for a future of service, advanced education, and outstanding professional achievement.

Parker Hawkins


Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Major: Accelerated Master’s Program / BS Marketing / MS Marketing

Parker is preparing to graduate with both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees by the age of 20. In his short career at the University of Alabama Honors College, Parker has built a project combining his marketing studies and life experience into a service that cares for others.

Parker is not one to point out his own hearing loss, but a professor noticed it for himself. He connected Parker to his wife, an audiologist, and mentored Parker through his independent studies. Parker began his research with Hear Here Alabama, a nonprofit mobile unit treating rural areas. He combined his enjoyment of people with a passion for quantitative and qualitative data analysis to develop a strategy for the organization’s social media and content marketing plans.

Working 10 hours each week in addition to his classes, Parker was thrilled with the task of translating his research into real business goals. “I want to wake up at 3 a.m. now to do my projects, because I literally cannot contain my excitement over my research and strategy formulation. I know this sounds nerdy, but I would not trade my passion for anything.”

When asked how the Honors College has helped him reach his goals, Parker said, “I owe my accomplishments to my mentors in the Honors College. Without these people seeing my determination for success and will to make a difference, I don’t think I could leave the University feel like I had.”

Advanced Research

Education is about finding answers, solving problems, and improving lives.

In the Honors College, research opportunities provide students with an environment that supports and encourages academic rigor. Some students partner with faculty in research projects; others begin work on a graduate degree while still an undergraduate. Still others use the most advanced technology available to conduct their own research in the Randall Research Scholars Program (formerly Computer-Based Honors Program). Not a computer major? Not a problem. This selective program is for honors students who want to make a difference in the world around them through research and dedicated study. Our students are some of the most highly awarded for academic achievement and outstanding scholarship in the nation.

Ilham Ali


Hometown: Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Major: Environmental Engineering / Minors: Randall Research Scholars Program and public policy

When Ilham was younger, she wanted to be an artist when she was grown. Well on her way to an environmental engineering degree, Ilham says she has not strayed away from her artistic goals. Research has been an unexpected component to her college career, allowing her to participate in a wide range of project and find creative solutions to local and global issues.

Ilham’s first research project was through the College of Education investigating heritage languages of Arabic-speaking families. Fluent in Arabic herself, she was able to translate and transcribe the interviews she conducted with families who spoke the language in their homes.

Growing up on the banks of the Tennessee River in Muscle Shoals and knowing her family in Sudan regularly dealt with flooding, Ilham’s next research venture had her on a team within the geography department developing real-time flood mapping. The hands-on result of their research is an interactive sand table in the Alabama Museum of Natural History that allows users to experiment with precipitation over land.

Most recently, Ilham spent the summer at MIT mapping invasive species by satellite, marveling at using satellites to improve lives on Earth. Operating by UN sustainable development goals, she and her team mapped invasive plants in rivers that affect local industries, created models for future residents to plan accordingly and developed a product from the plants to absorb oil spills and chemical runoff. She said, “It’s fun to go through a research program beginning to end.”

The common thread through all her research is her heart for people. “Research is only great when you can share knowledge with the public at large to create something useful and seeing it help others.”

Civic Engagement

We believe education changes lives—our students’ and those of people in the world around us.

There are plenty of opportunities for students to serve the community right now. Some Honors students commit to a semester-long mentoring program in local schools, while others register for a service-learning course. Some students volunteer for a weekend project sponsored by our Honors College Assembly. Our students quickly discover how education and service change them and can change the world.

Claire Stebbins


Hometown:Miamisburg, Ohio

Majors:  Journalism and Political Science / Minors: educational studies and social innovation & leadership

The daughter of two elementary school teachers, Claire was born into education. When she arrived at UA as a part of the University Fellows Experience, joining Engage Tuscaloosa her freshman year was an easy choice.

Engage Tuscaloosa is a K-12 student mentoring program that raises Honors College students’ awareness of education inequity while meeting the needs of local communities and expanding educational opportunities for young students.

Claire says civic engagement is “sitting down with community members and leaders and listening. It’s when the community tells you what they need, and then you work closely with them to help meet their expressed needs.” Following the Honors College example is a partnership built upon listening and understanding.

Claire saw an opportunity to expand the program and worked closely with the Honors College faculty and staff to create DRIVE, a program to boost college and career readiness skills in high school students. Along the way, Claire found her own mentors in Chip Cooper, artist-in-residence in the Honors College, and Vicki Holt, coordinator of Engage Tuscaloosa. “Each student, faculty and staff member I encountered genuinely wanted to help me succeed,” stated Claire.

“Without the Honors College, I would not have the opportunities, outlook or experiences that have shaped me and pushed me towards all of my goals. I 100% credit the Honors College, their programs, faculty and staff for equipping me with the tools and experiences I have used to land major internships, jobs and opportunities.”

Intercultural Interaction

Education should expand our minds—and our understanding of the world.

Global curiosity encourages compassion, collaboration, and engagement. Wherever we have the ability to explore our connections or our differences with one another, we have opportunities to engage with others “across cultures.” Our students find many opportunities to engage with others, and with the community, across cultures. Students can attend on-campus lectures that provide artistic insight or highlight other countries and celebrate cultures. They volunteer to be a “first friend” or conversation partner for an international student. They do community service in Alabama’s Black Belt.  They study abroad, including participation in Honors-only experiences. And through it all, they learn more about themselves and the world around them.

Ron Nelson


Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
Major: Management Information Systems / Minors: Spanish, biology, social innovation & leadership

Ron wants to be a doctor; in fact, he has already been accepted into medical school. Now he is earning a bachelor’s degree in management information systems through the Culverhouse College of Business. By his own admission, it is a turn he was not expecting on his path to medical school, yet it completely makes sense. “The Honors College has a unique way of challenging its members to expand their academic horizons,” Ron stated.

“In MIS, everything we do revolves around taking in large amounts of technical information and presenting it in a way that can be understood by people who lack backgrounds in technology. In my view, doctors are essentially health consultants tasked with the responsibility of taking in biological information and breaking it down for someone who doesn’t have a background in medicine, might only have a fifth-grade education or might not speaking English as their first language.”

Ron has pursued research in Cuba and studied health care, education and politics in rural Alabama through his undergraduate career, exposing him to a wide variety of cultures and ways of life. As a part of the variety and freedom the Honors College provides students to design their research and studies and the perspective he has gained on different cultures, Ron found his niche in reaching and translating for patients who are not native English speakers.

He earned his Spanish-English health care interpreter certification during his sophomore year and has since been working with a Spanish professor to develop curriculum for a training course to be offered on campus that will continue to benefit members of the community.

Ron intends his passion for diverse and under-served communities to carry into his future. “Gaining such unique experience has encouraged me to pursue a career in primary care. I ultimately hope to provide multilingual care to diverse, low-income and urban communities.”