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Student Stories

What Our Students and Alumni Are Saying

Student Stories

“I had three requirements when I was looking at colleges as a high school senior. I wanted a school with a great nursing program, small class sizes, and my own bathroom as a freshman. UWA checked all of those boxes and cost of attendance was an added plus. I would tell prospective students to work hard and study every day. I would also tell them that it’s okay to not get it on the first try. Things happen and distract us but we have to remember why and who we’re doing it for. It doesn’t hurt to have to start over. As a student ambassador, I am the first person to orient a person to campus and build a connection with them. It always excites me when I see people on campus that I’ve given tours to or have been their orientation leader.”

LaDeja Jones, Huntsville, AL, Nursing

LaDeja Jones
LaDeja Jones
Caroline McKinley
Caroline McKinley

“I chose UWA because of its hometown feeling and its education program! I would tell prospective students to not be discouraged and to keep at it because it’s all worth it in the end. My experience with the West Alabama Marching Band has been the best! Game days are always my favorites! Even though band camp and practices can be very tiring, game days all make it worthwhile! That goes for theatre as well. I was Alice in Alice and Wonderland and had the time of my life! Not only is it rare for a freshman to be the lead but the cast and crew are so accepting of who you are and never judge! I love UWA because of its education program and its hometown feel. The professors actually care about you and your grades. They want to see you succeed which you don’t normally see in bigger schools, so that was a plus for me!”

Caroline McKinley, Thomasville, AL, Elementary Education

“I chose UWA because it was a little bit bigger than my high school and so it has that home feel, but it is big enough to let me step out of my comfort zone and experience new things. I would tell a prospective student to ask to observe the athletic trainers from UWA or anywhere and ask as many questions as possible so they have a feel for what their future job career may look like. I love being involved on campus. Both organizations that I’m in have wonderful opportunities. As an ambassador we meet new students, interact with them, and help them get settled into their new homes. My time at the University of West Alabama has been special and I know sadly it won’t last forever, but I know West will always be a chapter in my life that I will never forget. If you are thinking about attending but are still undecided, take a tour. My tour in my senior year of high school was when I fell in love with West and if you do decide to take a tour, I hope you fall in love with it just like I did.”

Shelby Baggett, Fruitdale, AL, Health and Science Athletic Training

“UWA felt like home before I ever enrolled. The staff was very friendly and helpful. The campus felt welcoming, and I didn’t feel like just a number there. It made me confident that this is the right place for me. History is about what you find interesting. To truly understand history, you need to know that it repeats itself but can be either improved or harmed if not properly understood. At UWA, students will go beyond reading and have chances to see historic places and experience history with the help of their professors. Being involved on campus is one of the main things that helped me with being away from home. I am not a traditional college student, but UWA has plenty of opportunities for all students and even faculty and staff to be involved on campus. Student Support Services provided a great opportunity for me to get involved, and as they say, “the rest is history.” With the desire to meet new people and be involved on campus, student organizations and activities offer events and opportunities. Community service organizations such as Alpha Phi Omega not only allow students to meet new people but also foster active involvement in the community, enhance leadership skills, and teach the importance of service. Volunteering with the theater department for their spring show was something I thoroughly enjoyed because the performing arts have a special place in my life. Learning about theatre technology gave me valuable skills that can be implemented in future shows. Overall, campus involvement enhances and adds depth to the college experience beyond textbooks. Academics are important, and learning how to manage both academics and campus involvement is necessary for a successful college experience. Truly, there is something about this place! I am grateful and thankful for my decision to attend UWA. This place is my home away from home!”

Brandon Williamson, Jackson, AL, History Education

“I chose UWA because of its size. Coming from a small town, I knew how easy it was to become connected in such a community, and boy was I right! This is only my second year, and it seems I know just about everyone. I’m part of the BOSS program, which has allowed me to get well-connected with professors, students and other resources that will help you succeed! Each group that I am part of has treated me well, so far! UWA is special – there’s just something about this place.”

Courtney Foster, West Blocton, AL, Cell and Molecular Biology

“The reason why I chose UWA was because of the tight-knit community that they displayed on campus through social media. When I arrived here, I found that it was so true. I didn’t want to be another “student number”, I wanted to be a person. The College of Education here at UWA is amazing! They are very helpful and want you to succeed in any and every assignment and class that you are given. My experience with being involved on campus has been great. My first semester here at UWA was in spring 2023. Within that semester, I made a promise to myself that I would make my presence known on campus. I looked into Greek life and decided to join the prestigious Pi Delta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Their standards of academic excellence and scholarship are what really persuaded me to join. I decided to be an Ambassador because it gives me a chance to meet new people. I believe first impressions are lasting impressions, so to advocate for this amazing school, I wanted to serve it by becoming an ambassador. As a resident assistant, I am there to support students. My roles in Housing and Ambassador are different branches but the same tree and that is to support the students in every way I can for them to be successful. “Mr. Ivy League” is a pageant for males sponsored and hosted by the Mu Eta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. There were three categories I had to participate in, and lucky for me, I came out the winner. I was drafted into the 2023-2024 SGA Excuective Committee and am thankful to help serve SGA President Rob Lewis! Special thanks to SGA Vice President Kayla Holley for the recommendation. UWA has taught me how to work in diverse settings. How to properly respect people who come from different backgrounds and upbringings This is beneficial because, with me being a future educator, it is important to know how to respect other people who don’t come from the same community as you.”

Adonis M. Williams, Atmore, AL, Elementary Education

“Instead of me just choosing UWA, I think we chose each other. UWA felt so much like home that after my first visit, I paid my enrollment deposit the next day! This university offers me an opportunity to truly make my mark. The professor who has had the biggest impact on my college career so far is Dr. Cobb. I started my freshman year as a Computer System major and Dr. Cobb persuaded me to switch to Engineering as it is a growing field for women. I took Dr. Cobb up on the challenge, and it has been the best decision I have made in my college career! My absolute favorite part of my major is the daily hands-on experience in labs! I am the Darryl Hutcheson Memorial Scholarship recipient for this school year & I have had the opportunity to intern with Hall-Taylor Construction Company this summer. These are both opportunities I wouldn’t have earned without the support and guidance of Dr. Cobb and my wonderful advisor Dr. Datta!”

Kayla Holley, Montgomery, AL, Engineering Technology

“I’ve always had a passion for working with my hands. Growing up, I always loved turning wrenches and understanding the ins and outs of anything that had an engine. UWA is the only university that offers an automotive-specific degree. The tour of the automotive facility sold me right away. Curtis Jones was not only my instructor, but he was a mentor and helped me get an internship that has turned into a great career path for me. Being hands-on was my favorite part of my program. Classwork is extremely useful but nothing beats the hands-on experience that Mr. Jones utilizes within the program. I would tell a student interested in the Automotive ET to go for it. The amount of knowledge Mr. Jones shares with his students could never be duplicated at any other place. He has been in this industry for a long time and has seen things that you can’t teach with any textbook. The internship opportunity that I was given by United Rentals, happened because of UWA. If I had never come to UWA, the one-on-one conversation that I had with a United Rentals representative would not have happened. That internship turned into a job offer, which led me to become a full-time employee as soon as I graduated and now I’m a full-time resident of Livingston. Without my time at UWA, I have no clue what I would be doing or where I would be doing it. West Alabama has become a home for me. The small-town atmosphere was very welcoming and on-campus activities were always a blast. The memories made at UWA will live with me forever.”

Trent Martin, Ashville, AL, Automotive Engineering Technology

“I have always felt a pull to UWA. I have heard great things about the school my whole life, but more specifically, the nursing program. From the very beginning of my reaching out, the staff at UWA have been extremely helpful. Along with the DON NCLEX pass rate, my decision to choose UWA had no competition. Mrs. McClure is a professor who has made a lasting impact on me. She was the first person I met at UWA. She took time out of her busy schedule to meet with me face-to-face to answer my millions of questions and help me figure out a plan. Her kindness and bubbliness helped relieve my stress and made me feel more prepared. In addition to that, she is also an amazing instructor. She keeps students engaged, reviews previous information at the beginning of class, and goes into detail to answer students’ questions to ensure they understand without judgment. She goes above and beyond for her students, and I am very thankful for that. I enjoy meeting new people with different backgrounds. I get to help them and hopefully leave an impact on them the same way they do on me. I would tell prospective students to go for it! While it takes a great deal of studying and dedication, which is an adjustment for most people, including myself. I would tell them to stay focused and keep the end goal in mind when they are feeling overwhelmed. It will all be worth it when you get to the end.”

Alexis Wilson, Meridian, MS, Nursing

“I chose UWA because the minute I walked on campus for the first time, it felt just like I was right at home. I instantly fell in love and knew this was exactly where I wanted to further my education. One professor who has made a lasting impact on me during my time at UWA has been Dr. Marsha Cannon. Though she has only been my nursing mentor for two semesters, she has helped me learn to navigate my way through learning to study for nursing exams and how to be a successful nursing student. My absolute favorite part of my major is clinical rotations! I love being able to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to the hospital setting. Being able to meet patients and have a hands-on learning experience allows me to learn more about what being a nurse really is! To a prospective student I would be open and honest and tell them that yes, nursing is hard and takes time and lots of effort, but it’s not impossible. Being a nursing student is more than just sitting in a classroom, learning a bunch of material, and taking a test. Being a nursing student means learning skills and applying them to real-life scenarios, building relationships with peers who will ultimately become your best friends, and lastly, being able to feel proud knowing that one day you will be helping make a difference in many patients’ lives! I recently received a very special scholarship in honor of Hadyn O’Cain, a former UWA Marching Band Drum Major. Hadyn’s family allowed her legacy to live on in the UWA Marching Band by every Drum Major now receiving the newly named Hadyn O’Cain Drum Major Scholarship.”

Juliana Hayes, Millry, AL, Nursing

“I chose UWA because I heard great things about their program, and it is one of the only 4-year schools that offers an ASN. Dr. Hill made my transition into a nursing student so much easier. She has given me great tips and advice about how to study, apply what I learn, and handle the stress of nursing school. Her door is always open, and I never felt like I had to figure it out on my own. My favorite part of nursing is the diversity. There is always something new and exciting to learn and that makes it so much more interesting. If you are interested in nursing, UWA is the best choice! The program will give you all the tools and skills you need to become an RN and the professors will be there not only to teach you but to support you on the journey.”

Thomesha Davis, Birmingham, AL, Nursing

“I chose UWA because I grew up in Livingston and saw the community that was built here. It is such a wonderful place. There is truly something about this place. All the professors are wonderful! I don’t know how I could choose just one. I would tell prospective students that nursing school is hard, but it is also one of the most rewarding things you will do. Just be prepared to buckle down and graduation will be there before you know it. I couldn’t recommend UWA enough for anyone who wants to attend nursing school, or even just college as it is. It is a smaller school, but that means you get more face time with your professors, who really want you to succeed and most of the time will help you in any way they can.”

Riley House, Livingston, AL, Nursing

“I chose UWA for a few different reasons. First, my mother graduated from here, so I felt as if I already had a connection. Second, I saw the connections that the students had with not only the professors but also other members of the faculty/staff. This leads me to the third reason I chose UWA. I saw that there was a very small student-to-professor ratio. I knew this would give me one-on-one time with my professors and the ability to receive help if needed. One of the professors who has made the most impact on me since my time at UWA is Dr. Thomas Ratkovich. Dr. Ratkovich is always open to helping students. He comes to class every day ready to teach and you can always see his passion for what he does. He is also a Campus Police, so when he is not in class, you can see him around campus. This inspires me because I want to love my job and have passion for what I do like he does. I believe my favorite part of my major is the people I get to experience it with. Between the teachers I see every day, my classmates and even my future students, we are all growing together and getting to experience life with one another. For prospective students who have an interest in Mathematics Education, I would like to tell them to take advantage of the professors, classmates, advisors and anyone else around them. They are all here to help you through whatever challenges you may face. Do not try to accomplish college on your own. I have received multiple scholarships and opportunities while at UWA. The scholarship that means the most to me is the INSPIRE Scholarship. This scholarship is for STEM majors which requires students to go through an application process that leads to an interview. This allowed me to get experience in an interview setting before I applied for a job. It also requires the scholars to teach in a high-needs school setting after they graduate. People at UWA always say, “There is something about this place,” and that could not be a more accurate statement. Between the people, the environment and the community surrounding the college, there is a sense of home here no matter how far you are from home. There is something for everyone at UWA. Find your something.”

Ashley Clark, Louisville, MS (Nanih Waiya), Secondary Mathematics Education

“I personally chose UWA because of the small-town environment! I knew from my first campus tour that the “family” feeling was one that could be unmatched—not only the smaller campus and class sizes but also the welcoming faculty/staff and current student body. Dr. Joni Maddox, the Clinical Education Coordinator and Professor within the Athletic Training program has been my blessing in disguise while at UWA. She is my go-to person for all things academia and coursework, as well as any and all personal concerns. She never leaves a question unanswered and is always willing to “just talk” whenever the time comes. She has truly taken on the role of my “Livingston mother!” The major of Athletic Training is a very challenging quest; however, I love how inclusive our professors are, who also serve as our clinical preceptors. They take every opportunity to teach, explain, and demonstrate the skills and requirements of our coursework. Trust yourself and go for it! Buckle up and buckle down because this profession can be very challenging and exhausting, yet it is so very rewarding! I received a Transfer Academic Scholarship when I transferred in from a junior college, as well as a very rewarding Athletic Training Scholarship that is awarded on a semester basis and is voted on by the program’s faculty and staff. I have loved both my educational and social experience while here at UWA and would encourage anyone and everyone to consider finding their spot on UWA’s campus! There truly is something for everyone!”

Dalton Meador, Brookwood, AL, Athletic Training

“I chose UWA because my sisters attended, and they really enjoyed their experience. UWA made me feel like I was home. I also chose UWA because it offers one of the top Athletic Training programs. R.T. Floyd has made a big impact on my life. He shows how passionate he is about Athletic Training. R.T. has made me want to become the best I can be in the Athletic Training world and in life. I love everything that Athletic Training has to offer. My favorite part is getting to interact with the athletes and getting to know them. I have always wanted to help people and Athletic Training is my calling. My advice is to just go for it and not second guess yourself. Athletic Training is such a rewarding experience. It brings me happiness to know that I am making a difference in someone’s life.”

Laraleigh Roberts, Lauderdale, MS, Athletic Training

“I chose UWA because it offered me the opportunity to be involved in many different areas of student life, while still being able to receive a great education. After touring the campus, I saw that the staff truly cares about each student as an individual and works to help them succeed. I wanted to be a part of the close-knit environment between students and their professors. So many professors have made an impact on my education here at UWA. One professor who stands out is Dr. Mustafa Morsy. Although I have not taken his classes yet, I reached out to him for advice on applying to medical school. Since then, he has helped me tremendously in many professional areas and has also helped align me with research opportunities to broaden my experience. My favorite part about my major is that it offers many research opportunities and other ways to get hands-on experience. I feel like it will prepare me academically before I take steps to apply to medical school after graduation. I would recommend my major to any prospective student! The professors in our department are great to work with. UWA has many alumni scholarships and departmental scholarships to offer. My favorite scholarship has come from the Phi Mu Fraternity chapter on campus. This spring, I received the Bethany Joyce Harris Memorial Scholarship. I am so honored to be chosen as the recipient, as UWA and Phi Mu have a big place in my heart. To anyone interested in attending UWA, you will not regret your decision to come here. It is unbelievable what you can achieve in such a short amount of time. The quality of people who attend and work at UWA makes this place something special.”

Leah Stewart, Greensboro, AL, Cell and Molecular Biology

“My major is the reason I chose UWA; I wanted a program where I could better my art skills while still learning other important skills. I also wanted the college I chose to be relatively close to home. A professor who has made a bit impact on my life at UWA is Greg Jones. He’s always been there to help, and he’s constantly finding graphics projects I can work on. I would tell a student interested in my major to not shy away from failure; it’s how you improve. Everyone in the field has work they would rather burn when they look back at it… Everyone.”

Gracen Deerman, West Blocton, AL, Integrated Marketing Communications – Graphic Design Track

“When I attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College one of my bosses told me about the school and how much they had enjoyed their time here. I was originally on the fence about it being such a small town the college is in, but I’ve grown to love it here and all the opportunities and great people I have met while attending school at UWA. I am a student who did not start in the IMC program originally. I was previously in a major that I thought I wanted to be in until the day I went and toured the IMC department. I have never met a group of professors who were so kind and full of outgoing, bold personalities like myself. I have made a connection with each professor, and I can confidently say that I have learned something unique from each one. I would also like to thank Dr. Amy Jones for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the IMC program, where I truly feel I belong. My favorite part about my major is that you get a chance to truly tap into your creativity and use that to be successful in the real world. I would tell any students who are interested in joining the IMC program to not doubt their decision and that you truly will find out you have endless opportunities down this path. UWA is truly special in the sense that there is somebody for everybody. I am sure you will enjoy your time here with all the fun things that come with going here.”

Mahkayla Young, Ocean Springs, MS, Integrated Marketing Communications

“I chose UWA because of the scholarship opportunities and all the different ways to get involved on campus. I also wanted small class sizes to have better student-teacher communication with my professors. The professor who has made a lasting impact on me is Dr. Pendergrass. She has always been real, honest, and relatable, which is difficult to find when having many different teachers. She has inspired me to help my future students out in any way possible and helped me enjoy going to class by being fun and charismatic. She loves her students, evident through all her work on and off campus. My favorite part about my major is being able to go into schools and meet so many young students who are loved by their teachers and who love school because of that. To any prospective students looking into Elementary Education for their major, know that the College of Education has a heart for education and, therefore, has a heart for you and your career. Elementary education is the best degree for those looking to make a lasting impact on the next generation. I have received the Black Belt Teacher Corps scholarship, which is special because it helps me financially and allows me to serve the area I am from after graduation. The scholarship is for teachers who want to teach in the black belt area and provide the best education to the students who live in those areas, such as Pickens County, where I am from. I have enjoyed my time at UWA not only because of the school but also because of the people in Livingston. Getting out in the community and meeting new people in Livingston, you realize how much they pour into the school and love it just as much as you!”

Kinsley Shirley, Gordo, AL, Elementary Education

“I chose to come to UWA because there is literally something about this place. The University of West Alabama was the campus that felt like home to me. I love how this campus keeps student achievement at the heart of its values. Choosing UWA has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have made life-long friends, priceless memories, and relationships that I will cherish for the rest of my life. All of my College of Education teachers have impacted my life greatly. Dr. Pendergrass has taught me how to stay cool when I find myself in situations where all I want to do is overreact. Dr. Harper has taught me how to love creativity in ALL things. Dr. Fortson illuminated my love for reading in ways I did not think would be possible. (Seriously, ask her about all the ways to spark student interest in reading. You’ll be AMAZED.)  Dr. Vick took me under her wing when I thought I was about to give up. There are SO many other teachers who have helped me along the way that I am forever grateful for. My favorite part of my major is getting to impact students from all walks of life. I love that I wake up every day and enrich students that differ in many ways. My major has shaped me into a confident individual who seriously loves what she does. My advice would be to not let the negative opinions affect your choice of major. Everyone has opinions, but I truly believe that everyone has a calling to make a difference in the world. It starts with a teacher. Stay strong.”

Addie Porter, Gordo, AL, Elementary Education

“I chose UWA because it felt like HOME, everyone at UWA welcomes you with open arms, and I can definitely agree with UWA’s slogan, “There’s something about this place!” My favorite part about choosing a major in the education field would be the outcome. Thinking about how I will one day impact the lives of young children is very extraordinary to me! Something I would tell a prospective student who is interested in majoring in education is to JUST DO IT! If you love children and have a desire to teach, do it, because somewhere in this big world, there are children counting on you. I am beyond grateful to receive the Julia S. Tutwiler as well as many others from the University of West Alabama to begin my journey toward becoming a phenomenal educator.”

Jaquada Brooks, Carrollton, AL, Collaborative Education K-6

“I chose UWA because it is a quiet and beautiful campus that is close enough to home so that I can commute. There have been several professors who have impacted me, but one that really stood out was Professor R. Henley. He always has his students’ best interests in mind. He helped and encouraged me to do my best, not only in his class, but in all my classes. My favorite part about my major is problem-solving and the potential to work remotely. No matter what major you choose, always give 110%. The more effort you put into it, the farther you will go. There are so many possibilities within the realm of accounting. Everyone at UWA is so friendly and welcoming. No matter if it is students, faculty, or staff, you will never meet a stranger. There is truly “something about this place.”

Taylor Kirkham, Linden, AL, Accounting

“I chose UWA because of the hometown feel that it has. Your professors know you by name and will help you succeed. The financial support was also a factor. I came with dual enrollment hours with UWA’s College of Education, and had scholarships through them, on top of my admissions scholarships. There is truly something about this place, you just have to find what that something is for you. Ms. Kim Giles made a huge impact on me. I had her for Precalculus Algebra last year. She always answered any questions I had and always was willing to help me. She would take the time to go over every step, multiple times if needed, to ensure we understood the information. My favorite part of my major so far is just learning all the things about teaching. I love that in a couple of years, all the information and experience I have from UWA will end up with me in a classroom of my own. I will start student teaching next year and I can’t wait! Something I would tell someone who is interested in education is, you don’t do it for the money, you do it for the reward of the heart. Education is a work of heart. You must have a passion and a desire for teaching and learning. At UWA, you are set up to succeed and change the lives of every student you teach.” 

Trace Crews, Gordo, AL, Elementary Education

Alumni Stories

“I tell people that I am living the ‘Tiger life’ because I have been working on degrees at the University of West Alabama since 2008. I was a novice teacher working full-time, and I desperately wanted to increase my experience, my knowledge in my field, and my pay. In 2009, I completed my master of arts in teaching. I decided to start the education specialist program at UWA in 2013. I received my degree in teacher leadership in 2015. In 2019, I began the doctor of education program. I received my degree in 2021 with a 4.0 GPA. I received my Instructional Leadership certification, and I was named the very first Outstanding Instructional Leadership Award recipient by the graduate school. Along the way, I have used what I have learned to become an asset to my school and my district. I work with my school each year as the chairperson of our School Improvement Plan and Leadership Team. I also work with our district to maintain our accreditation and to create and implement new curriculum programs and support that are vital to our teachers. I was named teacher of the year at Fayette Middle School in 2009, 2013, 2020, and 2021. I was the Fayette County secondary teacher of the year in 2021. I belong to numerous professional organizations and honor societies, and I still love to hear from my UWA instructors as well! In 2021, I served as part of the Rural Schools Collaborative caucus. In 2022, I was a member of the Instructional Leadership Advisory Committee at UWA. I am currently teaching 8th grade English, serving as an administrative substitute in my county, and working with the after-school program at Fayette Elementary School. I would love to be an administrator, but it would have to be a great job to get me away from my Fayette Middle School teachers and students. Not bad for a first-generation college student from a broken home who was told she didn’t stand a chance! Thank you UWA!”

Dr. Cristy Lynne Thompson, Class of 2021

“I went to UWA for my undergraduate degree, and I came back to get my master’s. It was a small community, and it felt like home to me. I got my bachelor’s in exercise science. I got my master’s degree in physical education and sports management. I was an orientation leader. I was a school ambassador. I was a part of the Campus Activity Board of Directors, and I was a cheerleader. I had a great time participating in all of those organizations. I learned how to work with a lot of different people. I became more independent. I had to rely on myself to get things done. The University of West Alabama gave me some of my best friends, and I don’t know what I would do without them. I even met my future husband there, so it gave me a lot.”

Aisha M. Robertson, Class of 2021

“I chose to go to UWA because I fell in love with the campus, teachers, and overall environment of the school. I majored in integrated marketing communications. I was able to use my overactive imagination. The teachers really pushed me to become better. I did a lot of fun projects. We would have to make commercials and funny videos, and I had a good time doing that. I was an RA for two years. I was a band manager for a year and a half. I was in the choir. I was in UWA Theater. I was an actor in the productions, but I helped wherever I could. I really enjoyed doing ‘The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon.’ It was an amalgamation of different fairytale stories, and it was very comedic. I got to go as crazy as I wanted for most of my roles, and I really enjoyed it. I produced a student short film during the pandemic. We recorded and edited it and put it out there for people to watch because we couldn’t perform in front of people due to COVID-19. I made a lot of friends in theater. One of my closest friends from theater sang at our graduation, and seeing her up there brought me to tears.”

Matthew “Matt” L. Heard, Class of 2021

“I wanted to become an athletic trainer, and I knew that UWA had the best athletic training program in Alabama. I was nervous because I was in a new place, but it was fun after the first few days. The teachers helped me one-on-one. Homecoming week, the Golden Key, and the intramural sports stood out to me. I got into athletic training when I played basketball in high school. I didn’t have too much free time, but I worked out or ran when I could. I gained maturity and accountability while I was there. I’m currently an athletic trainer at Shorter University.”

Jordan R. Byrd, Class of 2021

“I was in the middle of teaching my first year, so I needed a university that would offer all online courses for a master’s degree. If I could earn a master’s degree, it would make it more convenient for me to hold a full-time job. West Alabama offered connections to scholarships, which would make college more accessible. That’s what made me choose UWA. I got my master’s degree in biology education. The content helped me understand biological processes better, so it became easier for me to educate my students. I didn’t sell myself short. I did a lot more than I thought I was capable of.”

Natasha L. Holder (Holcombe), Class of 2019

“What inspired me to attend UWA was the family-oriented atmosphere. I wasn’t just a number at UWA. The president, instructors, and university officials knew my name. I felt like I was cared about. I never met a stranger at UWA. I always came in contact with a friend and built my family there. I met lifelong friends there. I wouldn’t change anything I did as a student; it helped me grow to be the individual I am today. I was involved in a lot of clubs and organizations, and I found out who I really was because of UWA. I became a better leader and a better person. I was involved with the Student Government Association and was an orientation leader. I was an ambassador and was also in the Scarlet Band. I was in the choir and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. I was able to land a job through one of the departments and served as a graduate assistant. I gained some experience as a higher education professional, which served as a precursor to where I am now. I received both my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree from UWA. After getting my master’s degree, I started working at UWA with the Upward Bound Program as a coordinator. I’ll always pay homage to UWA. No matter where I go, I’ll always find someone who went to the University of West Alabama.”

Preston R. Thomas, Class of 2019

“I came from Demopolis, Alabama. Both of my parents attended UWA, so they were both alums, and that was mainly the motivating force to attend myself. They helped move me in and came to the football games, especially homecoming, so we made memories there. When I first got on campus, it felt like home; everybody was so nice and welcoming. I knew it was the right place. The events that were held on campus were fun. Being a freshman on campus, it was nice being in the same body with other freshmen and people going to UWA to make new friends and get to know people. We played bingo and that kind of stuff. I wanted to be in the Nursing Program. The whole Nursing Department was awesome; they had a good staff. UWA helped me become more confident by being in social groups and being exposed to different people. Being a part of different honor clubs and everything helped me with my leadership skills. I never thought I would be in a leadership position until I surrounded myself with so many brilliant minds at UWA. I started working at a hospital but ended up in a nursing home, and I developed leadership skills there. It helped me come out of my shell and shaped where I am today. I owe it all to UWA.”

Nicole A. Martin, Class of 2018

“It was a low-key location where I was able to really focus on my education. I knew that I was in sports, so it was really good to have a place without a lot of distractions. My professors were always really good at communicating, talking, being there, and really understanding who we were as student athletes. It was a great place for me to mature, grow up, and finally get stuff done that needed to be done in my life. I really enjoyed going there, playing football, and getting my degree in education. I liked the fact that it was an all-encompassing program. In California, we had to do our student teaching after we graduated. At UWA, I was able to do my student teaching as an undergraduate. When I graduated, I was prepared. I could go right into teaching. There weren’t a lot of educational programs that did that. We even had a school on campus for Education Program teachers and students to practice and get hands-on experience. I was an athlete and got two GSC championships back to back. I played under Coach Will Hall, set records, had fun, and made new friends I keep up with to this day. It helped open my eyes to what I wanted to do, which was coaching. It helped set the path to spark my love of football. It was the South; everybody loved football. It was a great place for me to be myself and find other people who were passionate about the game of football, athletics, and intramurals. I loved the fact that the campus was so large that we could walk on trails, get close to everybody, and go play tennis on the tennis courts, and ride our bikes down to the pond. It was a really cool environment, being one of the largest campuses in the country. I took full advantage of it and matured. I became a person who showed up on time, got his job done, paid attention to detail, did things right, and was polite to his community members. It’s a goal of mine to save money so that I could go back to a homecoming week or a ten-year reunion.”

Chance Terrance Sigala, Class of 2017

“I went to UWA on a golf scholarship. I found happiness in the Interdisciplinary Arts Program. I really enjoyed the art classes I had taken to fill credit hours, and I had always liked art and theatre. I really enjoyed the classes, and I was able to push myself to improve. I was very excited because it was my first time away from home by myself. Everyone at UWA was welcoming, and there was always something to do on campus. I really enjoyed the poetry readings that the Liberal Arts College offered. I always enjoyed going to those and hearing what people wrote. I loved the creative writing process, and the professors in that department were always so nice. I published a piece called ‘Best Friends Forever’ in The Sucarnochee Review. My professor in the Honors Program was an amazing person. She was always there to talk to me if I needed her, and she treated me like a colleague instead of a student. It was thanks to her that I met my best friend. I went on an honors trip to New Orleans in the first semester of my freshman year, and I was assigned a room with the person who is now my best friend. We live far from each other now, but we still keep in contact and text all of the time. I haven’t been able to get back to the university yet, but I am making plans to go to Homecoming soon. I played golf for all four years at UWA from the fall of 2013 to the spring of 2017. I remember the amount of work that the team put into building the driving range. We went out every day and cleared weeds, pulled rocks, and collected everything that we needed for practice. We were able to do that as a team, and it was really enjoyable”

Victoria “Tori” F. Smith, Class of 2017

“I liked that UWA was a smaller school, and I loved the Biology Department. The University of West Alabama felt very welcoming and there were a lot of classes offered within the biology major. I had field-based classes, I went on a week-long camping trip in the mountains with one of my classes, I went to Florida with my Subtropical Ecology class and we went from North Florida all the way down to the Keys. That was one of my favorite memories at UWA. I was very active in Beta Beta Beta, where I had a lot of friends. Livingston was a really good area for people who enjoy the outdoors. There was a lot of public land and a river nearby, so we would have impromptu fishing trips,which was fun. Toward the end of my biology degree, I realized that I really enjoyed research. I stayed at UWA to get my master’s degree. I got the chance to go to Russia twice for research. That was one of the coolest experiences of my entire life. I want to stay in academia. I really like the freedom of being able to generate my own research ideas and pursue them.”

Joshua “Josh” David Millwood, Class of 2016

“As a smaller college, UWA gave me the chance to be involved. I felt a connection to campus. I was able to cheer there, and I became president of my sorority. I was able to do a lot at UWA thanks to the one-on-one attention I was given by my professors. I majored in sociology with a social work track, and I had a minor in psychology. I’ve always wanted to help people and make a difference, and it was one of the best fields I could do that with. My professors were great, especially Dr. Fred Myers. They really cared about their students. I stayed at UWA to get my master’s degree, and I feel very lucky with how many opportunities my education has given me.”

Lara Nicole Tucker, Class of 2011

“I was a working professional, and I liked the flexibility of UWA. I was able to take classes in person and online, and that was a convenient fit for my lifestyle at that time. UWA was very welcoming, and the professors were very close-knit and family-oriented. They built relationships with their students, and their work was important. I came away from UWA with more knowledge than I had before I started, and I was able to make connections in class. My time at UWA made me a stronger person both professionally and personally.”

Monique R. Stewart, Class of 2011

“I chose UWA because I heard wonderful things about their Nursing Program. It had a great reputation, and it was something that I was really looking for. In my opinion, it still offers one of the best programs. When I graduated, I was more prepared. I had true bedside readiness. I felt really confident in my training and education. I was one of those people who was born to be a nurse. It came naturally to me, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult. My professors had such a passion for nursing, and they inspired me so much. We did our clinical, and we had the opportunity to go into hospitals and care for people. It was a really unique experience. I matured a lot through my years at UWA. I learned a lot and gained the tools and skills needed to be successful.”

April Holcombe, Class of 1995

“I wanted to go to a small college where I could focus on my academics and graduate. I had three siblings right behind me who were going to be going off to college soon, so I didn’t have time to waste. Livingston University fit the mold for what I needed, and it was close to home. I liked the entire environment, and it was small enough that I could know my classmates. There were enough campus activities to make college campus life interesting and fun, and the school did a great job of making sure students’ needs were met. I had a good, solid foundation there in my undergraduate studies. I dabbled in the sociology field while I was there as well, and that sociology background helped me to get a better understanding of people. UWA gave me a more clear outlook on the world and life. My biology professor helped me make some impactful decisions about my future. At the point of almost graduating, they didn’t offer a class for the last semester, and I wanted to graduate along with my class. The professor looked it up and found I could take the class in the summer and stay on track. I was able to graduate with my class that year.”

Joe James Peterson, JR, Class of 1989

“UWA was a small, family-oriented institution of higher learning. I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else. I loved the people and activities. The education I received was great. I was a homecoming queen, a majorette, a twirler, and a resident assistant in the dormitories. I was also in the band and a sorority. All of those experiences at UWA made my time there memorable. I was the president of the National Alumni Association and made lifelong friends with the administrators.”

Verlanda Annetta Tate, MS, MBA, JD, Class of 1989

“I grew up in Linden, Alabama, which was about 30 minutes from Livingston. My brother was a couple of years older than me and went to UWA. My original plan was to go to UWA for two years and then transfer, but once I got there, I liked it so much that I never left. I graduated in three years because I started in the fall of 1981 and didn’t take any summers off. When the first quarter began, the only people I knew there were my brother and my roommate, who was a classmate in high school. I was so shy in high school that if I didn’t know you, I didn’t speak to you. I remember walking to class one day and thinking, ‘I’m going to be completely miserable here if I don’t learn to open up and talk to people.’ I made the decision that day to be more outgoing, and I made lifelong friends. I was in the band and on the flag corps. I was a little sister to a fraternity. I was in a hostess group for basketball and football. I played intramurals. It had a small hometown feel, and I loved it. I could go to a teacher’s office if I had a question about something. The biggest thing I could take away from UWA was that I met my husband there, and we’ve been married for 38 years. We met during my last quarter there in the summer of 1984. We had our first date on June 4th, 1984. We got engaged on July 4th, 1984, and got married on August 4th, 1984. My daughter went to school at UWA and played basketball for four years there. I started going back to homecoming at UWA for a girl’s weekend every year. I love everything about homecoming. I met a woman named Shirley, who was six years older than me and also went to UWA, at homecoming, and we hit it off.”

Dawn H. Thomley (Henderson), Class of 1985

“The overall size made me want to go. I lived on campus for all four years. The overall class sizes and a lot of the faculty being good left an impression on me. I had the opportunity to serve as SGA president, and I was elected Mr. University. It was a good experience overall. My favorite memories are the friendships I made. I was in business, and it laid a good business foundation that I utilized throughout my career as a business owner. I’m most grateful for the opportunity to attend at the time I did and for participating in the extracurricular activities that were available.”

William (Bill) David Sager, Class of 1977

“I liked that UWA was a smaller school, and I loved the Biology Department. The University of West Alabama felt very welcoming and there were a lot of classes offered within the biology major. I had field-based classes, I went on a week-long camping trip in the mountains with one of my classes, I went to Florida with my Subtropical Ecology class and we went from North Florida all the way down to the Keys. That was one of my favorite memories at UWA….”

Joshua “Josh” David Millwood
Class of 2016

In Their Own Words

If video content for this exists or can be put together from various existing videos as a visual recap of positive thoughts and experiences that current/recent students had at UWA, whether on campus, with faculty, in classes, or with each other.

If video content for this exists or can be put together from various existing videos as a visual recap of positive thoughts and experiences that current/recent students had at UWA, whether on campus, with faculty, in classes, or with each other.

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