Being the Change

Brittany Hamner in her classroom
Brittany Hamner in her classroom.

From the 2021 Collegian | When Brittany Hamner graduated from UA in May 2021, she walked across the stage prepared to take on the world. The 2020 Campbell-Portera Scholarship winner had spent the past four years learning all that she could, getting involved in multiple organizations on campus, and making memories that will last a lifetime.  

Hamner, a Tuscaloosa native and first-generation college student, decided to go to UA to be close to her large, tight-knit family. UA gave her the opportunity to be there for her siblings while taking advantage of the resources, both financial and academic, a large university had to offer. Her freshman year, she decided to study psychology and biology with a concentration in neuroscience, something that had sparked her curiosity all her life. 

“I’ve always been interested in the human brain and understanding behavior,” Hamner said. “I just want to figure out why people are the way they are. And then, when I got to UA, I loved biology and psychology, so it was a great experience for me to be able to study both of those.” 

As a psychology major, Hamner took Biological Basis of Psychological Disorders, where she met her mentor, Dr. Andrea Glenn. This mentorship allowed Hamner to explore other options for her career that she says she wouldn’t have had before.  

“The biggest piece of advice I could give would be to find a mentor, because I didn’t realize that the professors and the people who are in administrative roles really do want to be a resource to students,” Hamner said. “They really want to help. Students should know that most faculty members really like to teach and engage with students.” 

When she wasn’t studying, Hamner was involved in a variety of extracurricular activities. She served as an ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences, spent her summers as an orientation leader, and participated in the Blackburn Institute, a civic engagement group for students on campus.  

Brittany Hamner with many UA students in the UA Student Center
Brittany Hamner and her Blackburn Fellows cohort. (Taken prior to COVID-19 precautions.)

“With the Blackburn Institute, we traveled to rural areas in Alabama and learned a lot about the education system,” Hamner said. “Before I got to UA, I thought I wanted to leave Alabama after graduation. A big thing about Blackburn is ‘Be the change you want to see’ and, if there’s something you don’t like, and you’re exposed to it, you have a certain obligation to be a part of the change that goes with it. So when I was exposed to some of the problems in the education system, I wanted to get more involved.” 

Because she received the Campbell-Portera Scholarship, which goes to one male and one female Arts and Sciences student with exemplary academic and leadership achievements, she was able to dedicate more time to learning about the Alabama education system, as well as complete her studies in neuroscience.  

After graduation, Hamner will continue her work in the Alabama education system with Teach for America. She plans to teach in an inner-city Birmingham school as a secondary social studies teacher. 

“I never saw myself as someone who wanted to get involved in community issues,” Hamner said. “But being able to get involved in Blackburn on top of my studies really pushed me to do that. So because I was able to have those experiences, I found something that I love.”