Stephenson named to Blount scholar program

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 22, 2000

When Greenville High School senior Lauren Stephenson first applied for the Blount Undergraduate Initiative at The University of Alabama, she didn't get her hopes up. The new four-year program at the university's College of Arts and Sciences only accepts 100 students per year, and becoming a Blount Scholar is not easy.

"Coming from a small town you don't usually hear about programs like this, and you expect it to be filled with kids from larger cities who have been exposed to more,"

Lauren said. "I was intimidated at first because I had never read Plato, I had never read Socrates, and I didn't know if I was qualified. Then I realized that I didn't need to know these things before I entered the Blount program, the point is to learn those things while I'm there."

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The Blount Undergraduate Initiative is a four-year program that affirms the value of a liberal arts education based on classical traditions. It's objective is to instill in students the habits of mind that characterize self-reliant thinkers. The program is predicated on the assumption that all students, no matter what their backgrounds, can read and discuss excellent literature that engages the imagination and the intellect and provides a rich source of continuing inquiry.

Lauren said the Blount program first attracted her because it confirmed what she believed about a liberal arts education.

"A liberal arts education can be valuable in almost any field," she said. "I am better with feelings than I am with numbers so I wanted to study areas that help me tap into those feelings and help other people."

The program includes a freshman residential year in which Blount students all live in the same dormitory and take special classes in a "living-learning environment." The essence of the program is creating what is called a "learning partnership" between the student and the teacher.

"It is so intimidating going to a large university, so it is nice to know that I will be developing one-on-one relationships with my teachers, that my teacher will actually be living in the dorm," se said. "It creates a more home-like environment."

When the program began last fall, University President Andrew Sorensen called the Blount Initiative "one of the most significant undergraduate academic developments in our state in decades," and in fact the program was established with one of the largest single private gifts ever received by the University.

The $12 million program, which was seven years in the planning stages, is aimed at creating a small, liberal arts college atmosphere in the heart of the university's large campus.

Stephenson said she thinks the smaller atmosphere will help her adjust better to college life.

" My parents preferred that I live in the dorm for at least my first year," she said. "And, I think living in the Blount dorm will make it seem like a much smaller place and it will be easier to get to know everyone."

Stephenson, who has been no academic slouch during her career at Greenville High, said she will miss her friends here, but she is looking forward to moving on with her education.

"College gives people opportunities that they may not otherwise get," she said. "I think this program is going to expand those opportunities, so I think what I am looking forward to the most is the adventure of college."

The 18-year-old daughter of Allen and Gina Stephenson of Greenville was a four-year member of Mu Alpha Theta, the math team, Key Club and FBLA. She was also a three-year member of National Honor Society and the Beta Club.

The highlights of Lauren's academic resume include a term as SGA president, serving as a delegate to 1999 Alabama's Girls' State, serving as a 1999 Birmingham Southern Model Senator and as a delegate to the Governor's Conference on Youth Crime and Violence.

She was chosen as Who's Who Among American High School Students for four years and attended leadership conferences at both The University of Alabama and Auburn University. She also has been awarded the Alabama Alumni Leadership Scholarship and the Wal-Mart Scholarship.

Those facts notwithstanding, Lauren says she knows she will be in good company when she gets to the University in the fall.

"This program will be filled with students just like me. They are all good students from different parts of the country, and it's definitely going to be a challenge," she said.