LeAnna Roberts wearing a red graduation cap in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium

16-Year-Old UA Grad: ‘I’ve Always Been Treated Like a Regular Student’

At 16, many students are thinking about getting their driver’s license or taking the ACT. LeAnna Roberts, however, is thinking about her upcoming graduation from The University of Alabama.

Roberts, a biology major from Tuscaloosa, will graduate summa cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in May and continue studying at UA to earn her MBA through the STEM Path to the MBA program.

“I am currently taking graduate level courses and will continue over the summer with plans to graduate with an MBA degree next May.”

One might think that being a very young college student already presents enough challenges, but Roberts eagerly matched her coursework with her community involvement.

“I have been an Al’s Pals and Vision Days mentor during my two years as an undergraduate student and I am a volunteer at Druid City Hospital,” said Roberts, who is also an active member of and holds executive positions in multiple honor societies.

“This past summer, I interned at the UAB Kidney Undergraduate Research Experience and performed kidney research, studying the effects of acute kidney injury, under the mentorship of Dr. Anupam Agarwal, a nephrology specialist and dean of Heersink School of Medicine at UAB.”

Roberts recently had an abstract focusing on health disparity and literacy in the Black Belt communities in collaboration with Dr. Avani Shah, an associate professor in UA’s School of Social Work, published.

Roberts has even greater post-graduation plans.

“I am currently preparing to take the Medical College Admission Test next month so I can start the application process for medical schools,” Roberts said.  “I’m looking into medical schools in the southeast but will be applying to programs throughout the country.”

She knows what field of medicine she wants to study, and having her MBA will allow Roberts to influence the medical field beyond clinical care.

“I want to become a surgeon to close the gaps in health care for so many, both nationally and internationally.”

I had a lot of great experiences at UA and gratefully my support system is not just within my own family but includes the people at UA as well.

A unique challenge for Roberts, however, is one many students face, just not in the same way.

“The most challenging thing my first year was transportation since I was only 15 years old,” Roberts said. “My dad dropped me off at the Student Center then took my brother to school before he went to work and my mom would pick me up in the afternoons. It was probably the most productive time for me, having to be on campus all day.”

Roberts might be a tad bit younger than her classmates, but she’s been able to experience college life right alongside them.

“My favorite thing about Alabama is although I am 16 years old, I have always been treated like a regular student by my peers and professors,” she said. “On my very first day, April Ingram, director of specialized masters and Ph.D. programs, and Jennifer Dempsey, STEM/CREATE Path to the MBA instructor, reached out and welcomed me.”

Roberts had her pick of schools when she graduated from high school, but the support system she found at the University was unmatched.

“Some of my most memorable and fundamental experiences are from my grandparent’s hometown of Aliceville, Alabama. Watching my aunt and uncle’s journey through the field of medicine as a young child has reinforced this aspiration for me,” Roberts said.

“I had a lot of great experiences at UA and gratefully my support system is not just within my own family but includes the people at UA as well.”