The selection process takes place during the late in the fall and early in the spring semesters and consists of four stages: nomination, application, group interview, and individual interview. Prior to starting the selection process, applicants are strongly encouraged to review the “About Us” section of the website to learn more about the Blackburn Institute’s vision, mission, and values. Below are the selections deadlines and information for the 2023-24 academic year.
Nominations: August 5, 2022 – January 18, 2023 (11:59 p.m.)
Students may self-nominate or be nominated by a member of the university’s faculty or staff, Blackburn Fellows (alumni), Students, or Advisory Board members. We seek students who:
- indicate strong interest in learning about issues facing the state of Alabama;
- demonstrate a desire and a capacity to lead through campus and community involvement;
- have a particular passion for improving their community, state, or nation;
- demonstrate an ability to work collaboratively to take strategic action;
- demonstrate an openness to dialogue with others holding disparate views on public policy, civic engagement, and community action;
- bring unique life experiences and ideas; and
- have at least one full year remaining as a student (undergraduate or graduate from any major/discipline) at The University of Alabama.
Nominees receive notification of their nomination via e-mail.
Interest Session: January 18, 2023 (5 – 7 p.m.)
Students who are curious about Blackburn and nominees are invited to an interest session, where they learn more about the Institute and the selection process, as well as meet current Blackburn students and have a chance to ask questions.
Application: January 19 (12 p.m.) – 30 (11:59 p.m.), 2023
In mid- to late-January, nominated students who are interested in the Institute will then complete an application consisting of one essay question. Essays are evaluated anonymously by a panel of Blackburn Fellows, Advisory Board members, students, and campus staff members.
Group Interviews: February 14 – 16, 2023
All applicants participate in a small-group interview with other applicants in mid-February. The panel of observers for the group interviews will typically consist of a Blackburn staff member, a current Blackburn student, and another member of our community (student, Fellow, or Advisory Board member).
Individual Interviews: February 23 – 25, 2023
A combined score from both the application essay and group interview performance is used to determine the students selected for individual interviews. Selected students will be notified by e-mail and conduct the interview in late-February with a review panel of advisory board members, staff, students, and fellows.
2023-2024 Required Events and Activities
Students accepted into the Blackburn Institute’s 2023 New Student Class are required to attend the following events.
- Sunday, March 5, 2023 (8 — 10 p.m.) – New Student Orientation and Social
- Friday, March 24 (2 p.m.) to Saturday, March 25, 2023 (8 p.m.) – D. Ray Pate New Student Retreat
- Monday, April 17, 2023 (4:30 — 10 p.m.) – Annual Networking Dinner sponsored by Vulcan Materials Company Foundation (Birmingham, AL)
- Friday, August 25 (12 p.m.) to Saturday, August 26, 2023 (9 p.m.) – Annual Symposium
- Sunday, October 1, 2023 (7 — 9 p.m.) – Pre-Trip Preparation Meeting
- Thursday, October 26 (8 a.m.) to Saturday, October 28, 2022 (11 p.m.) – Burt Jones Rural Community Experience
- Sunday, November 12, 2023 (7 — 9 p.m.) – Post-Trip Debriefing
- Monday, November 13, 2023 (5 — 7 p.m.) – Daniel Community Scholars Poster Presentations and Reception
- Wednesday, January 10, 2024 (7 — 9 p.m.) – Pre-Trip Preparation Meeting
- Thursday, January 18 (2 p.m.) to Friday, January 19, 2024 (11 p.m.) – Protective Life Government Experience (Montgomery, AL)
- Sunday, January 28, 2024 (7 — 9 p.m.) – Post-Trip Debriefing
Additionally, selected students commit to the following program activities:
- Advising meetings in the Fall 2023 Semester with Blackburn Institute staff members;
- Group work necessary to research and plan (Fall 2023), and implement (Spring 2024) a class civic engagement project; and
- Monthly small-group meeting on a Monday-Thursday evening (September, October, and November 2023 and February 2024).
Frequently Asked Questions
The typical time commitment for Blackburn about 1-2 hours per week. There will be some weeks with no meetings and others with extended immersive off-campus events. Most of your involvement will be participating in in-person events, but we provide all of these dates ahead of time to give your predictability with scheduling (see required events above). The group civic engagement project is the only non-event based work.
No. We are specifically looking for students who are interested in improving and advocating for the state of Alabama, but they are not required to be in-state residents.
You can be nominated by UA Faculty/Staff, members of the Blackburn community, or you can nominate yourself. All nominations including self-nominations are weighted the same. The nomination process is strictly to ensure everyone receives the application at the same time.
All UA students with at least one year remaining at the University. Students who are graduating but are enrolling immediately in a graduate program at UA are also eligible to apply.
The Blackburn Institute is one of the few places on campus where students have meaningful conversations and build deep relationships with peers with different perspectives and lived experiences. Students become more self-aware, develop a greater understanding of others, and learn how to conduct difficult conversations civilly and professionally.
Throughout the curriculum, students gain access to various national, state, and community influencers including government officials, business leaders, policy advocates and non-profit executives. This programming and the collaborative civic engagement project teaches students how to implement strategic initiatives when issues call them to action. The nuanced understandings they develop about Alabama, its people, and its history help students to build a vision of how to improve the quality of life for all people.
Relationships with Advisory Board members and Fellows who are committed to enacting change in Alabama and throughout the world provide students with inspiration, guidance, and partnership. Students also receive one-on-one advising from Blackburn staff to help them navigate their personal development, professional career pursuits, and passion areas for service. When students transition to Fellows upon graduation, the Institute continues to support their work and provide a lifetime of opportunities for networking and engaging with diverse individuals and critical ideas.
We are looking for all types of students with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, who are committed to making the state of Alabama better. We invite students from all classifications from undergraduate freshmen through graduate and professional students. We also look for evidence of demonstrated leadership potential and civic participation, which can come through holding positions of influence and other forms of service on campus or in the local community.
First, students are nominated by UA Faculty/Staff, a member of the Blackburn community, or may nominate themselves. Once nominations are closed, students will receive the application form which includes a written essay. Each applicant will also receive a group interview. After application essays and group interviews are reviewed, a select number of students will be invited back for individual interviews and the class of 50 will be chosen from this group.
Blackburn hosts the Perspectives on Leadership
speaker series, inviting industry leaders to campus to discuss leadership in their specific contexts. Additionally, we host an Annual Symposium
each August, which features a keynote speaker and several content session open to all UA students. Finally, students develop a civic engagement project
that is implemented in the local Tuscaloosa community or throughout the state of Alabama.
No. We are not a partisan organization and we expressly do not advocate for any particular political stances. Because of Blackburn’s goal to improve the state of Alabama, our students and Fellows have diverse political views and many of our members choose to pursue change through political means.
No. While each cohort does implement a civic engagement project each year, community service is not the primary goal of the Institute. Although many projects have a direct service component, we also encourage students to affect change through policy advocacy.
No. There are no direct fees associated with the Institute. All costs associated with meals and travel are covered by the Institute. Students may incur nominal costs to get to campus or purchasing toiletries for travel experiences. We encourage students to take advantage of the Crimson Career Closet
for events that require business attire.
None. While the Blackburn Institute does not advocate for any particular causes, we empower our students and Fellows as change agents for issues they care about in any areas that align with our mission, vision and values.
No. Although we have a rigorous application process, selection to the Blackburn Institute is not an achievement in itself. The work begins upon selection. We’ve adapted our student curriculum for a hybrid environment.
No. Although we have many high achieving students, there is no minimum GPA requirement.