Where are they now?

Each year, a group of graduating seniors is chosen by faculty and staff members to receive the Promising Alumni award. Recipients are chosen based upon promise in their chosen academic fields and their campus involvement, according to the university’s alumni website.

Since 1994, almost 200 students have received the award, according to the alumni website.  

Some have gone on to graduate school, some have gotten internships that turned into jobs and some have gone on to work at jobs they said they love.

Lucy Berry, former executive editor of The Flor-Ala and 2011 recipient of the award, has done the latter.

“I started working at The Decatur Daily two days after graduation,” Berry said. “I’m a business and general assignment reporter.”

Berry, who is from Decatur, said being close to home with her job was an important factor, as she is currently planning a November wedding with her fiancé, Charlie De Buty.

Will Batson, a 2009 recipient and former Lions football player, currently lives in Nashville and is pursuing his dreams of playing professional football. He’s played with the Tennessee Titans but is working as a free agent right now.

“I’m just getting workouts from different teams,” Batson said. “I got an economics and finance degree at UNA, so I’m doing some work on the side to support myself, too.”

While coming back to Florence was always part of his plan, 2006 Promising Alumni award recipient Jonathan Fleming said he’s been across the country and back before coming home again. Fleming is spending his first semester as an assistant professor in the geography department.

“I moved to California and worked as a product engineer for Esri, one of the biggest geography software companies in the world,” Fleming said.

Fleming said after California he moved to Mississippi to work on his Master’s degree at Mississippi State University. Fleming said that while he was at MSU he also got his Ph.D.

Thomas Corum, a 2010 recipient, said the three months after graduation were a whirlwind for him.

“I started working for Intergraph, got married and bought a house, all in a three month span,” Corum said. “I’m currently working on my Master’s degree through the distance learning program at UNA.”

After interning for Congressman Parker Griffith in Washington, D.C., the summer after graduation, 2008 recipient Will Hodges got his Master’s Degree in advertising and public relations from the University of Alabama.

Hodges said he is now an account executive for Brunswick Group in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve been with the company for just over a year now,” Hodges said. “It’s a corporate communications firm originally founded in London. My job varies, but it’s the perfect mix of public policy and public relations.”

Hodges said his time in college taught him not to be intimated by new things, and current undergraduates should not let fear stand in their way of reaching what they want.

“You have to develop a healthy disregard for any fear that might set you back,” Hodges said. “Don’t be afraid of people above you or new things.”

Rachel Bobo Faulkner, former Miss UNA and 1997 Promising Alumni award recipient, now lives in Columbus, Miss., with her three children.

After the death of two husbands, both alumni of the university, Faulkner said she uses her life as a testimony for others, through both speaking and leading faith-based worship across the South.

“My life, despite what has happened, really is great,” Faulkner said. “Life is hard, and people everywhere are looking for hope. And what Satan intended for bad in my life, God has allowed me to use for good.”

After she graduated with a degree in public relations, Leah Beth Downs McNutt said she went to work for the Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama as the annual events and campaigns manager in Birmingham.

“Our office oversees 36 counties, one of which Florence is in, and I work with the major events and fundraisers we do,” McNutt said.

McNutt said she is currently pursuing her MBA from the university through a distance learning program.

Emily Anderton Hinton, a 2008 recipient, said she has been working as a kindergarten teacher in Florence for four years.

Since graduation, she has gotten married, earned two advanced degrees, and she and her husband are expecting their first child, she said.

“I might pursue other things later in life, but I’m just focusing on life right now,” Hinton said. “I’m proud to have spent time at UNA and still be in Florence.”

The weekend she graduated, Katie Todd, 2010 Promising Alumni award recipient, said she moved to Nashville.

“I worked at Dell for nine months,” Todd said. “I’ve been working for almost a year as an admissions counselor at the Art Institute.”

Todd said she loves what she’s doing now.

“Nashville is great,” Todd said. “I made it, and I love it here. It’s funny; you go to school to learn how to do what you think you want to do, but then you do something completely different.”

Allison Ray, a 2011 Promising Alumni recipient, said she can credit her involvement on campus with where she is now.

“I’m a graduate assistant for the department of residence life at the University of Maryland,” Ray said. “One of the biggest functions of my job is to coordinate sustainability initiatives within my residence community. I was an RA for three years at UNA, and this is a new area for me to be working in.”

Ray said she is currently working on her Master’s in public policy, focusing specifically on international development.

Currently a kindergarten through third grade Physical Education teacher and middle school football and track and field coach, 2009 recipient Samuel Thigpen said he was blessed to find a job almost as soon as he graduated.

“It was a full-time job to find a job,” Thigpen said. “I was willing to be mobile, and I found a teaching job in Birmingham. I work 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on any given day, but I really enjoy it. I’m starting year two now.”

Thigpen said he also has been appointed section chief for three chapters of his fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, and serves in an advisory role.

Ben Rock, a 2004 recipient, has spent his time after college working in visual merchandising and as a freelance writer. He attributes his college job in career services as a factor in his success in his current job.

“I’m currently the communications coordinator for the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council,” Rock said. “I also still work in freelance writing, and I’m co-authoring a novel that will hopefully be published by the summer of next year.”

Winn Brewer, a 2008 recipient, is using his degrees in radio/film/television and geography to work in video editing and media support for National Geographic in Washington, D.C.

“What started out originally as a three-month internship has turned into two years of steady work,” Brewer said.

Brewer said achieving what you want after college is possible.

“If you put yourself out there and are willing to move—if you can be brave enough—you can achieve it,” Brewer said.