Blount Undergraduate Initiative Celebrates 15th Anniversary

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Blount Undergraduate Initiative, a four-year liberal arts program in The University of Alabama’s College of Arts and Sciences, will celebrate its 15th anniversary Saturday, Nov. 1, with an open house at 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and a reception at 6-9 p.m.

All alumni, faculty and staff who have participated in the program are invited to attend.

Although the Blount Undergraduate Initiative comprises only some 20 percent of the coursework of students in the program, giving each student an academic minor in the liberal arts, it has a strong reputation for its influence on Blount graduates.

Dr. Joe Hornsby, professor of English and director of the Blount Undergraduate Initiative, said he hears the same message from graduating seniors each year: The Blount Undergraduate Initiative was the single most important part of their collegiate careers.

“Blount has been the most transformative organization I’ve ever participated in,” said Michelle Fuentes, a 2007 graduate of the program who received her doctorate in political science from UA this year. “I think the program is particularly unique and special because it grounds college friendships in not only a social atmosphere, but in intellectual bonds that last well into our lives as young professionals.”

The Blount Undergraduate Initiative was established in 1999 as an intellectual and social haven for exceptional students interested in the liberal arts.

Its students take small, seminar-style classes from faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences, starting and ending with courses that include extensive conversations about the ideas of some of the world’s greatest thinkers, including Plato, Sigmund Freud, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Edward O. Wilson and Steven Pinker, to name a few.

Extensive reading and writing are standard in the program.

The program began when Dr. James Yarbrough, professor of biological sciences and then dean of the College of Arts and Sciences , envisioned creating a college experience similar to that which he and other faculty members had experienced as undergraduates, one in which the residence hall was an important part of a student’s life and intellectual growth.

Today, the Blount Living-Learning Center embodies that vision. All freshmen in the Blount Undergraduate Initiative live and take classes in the center their freshman year, while upperclassmen have academic “homes” in the heart of campus in Oliver-Barnard and Tuomey halls, located on the main Quadrangle.

The program is named in honor of the late Winton and Carolyn Blount of Montgomery, who gave $7 million to the College to endow and establish the Blount Initiative.

For more information about the anniversary celebration, phone the Blount Undergraduate Initiative office at 205/348-1706.


Stephanie Kirkland, communications specialist, College of Arts and Sciences, 205/348-8539,


Joe Hornsby, director, Blount Undergraduate Initiative,