Austin: A Force for Change

Austin Blanton is a powerful force across Auburn’s campus. He serves as an Honors Ambassador, a leading member of a campus wide LGBTQ+ initiative, and as the Executive Vice President of Curricular Programs for Emerge, which keeps him busy. Not to meantion his triple major course load.

headshot of Austin

Blanton is a Honors College junior from Hoover, Alabama pursuing a triple major in Biomedical Sciences, Premed and Neuroscience. For as long as Blanton could remember he wanted to become a doctor and started to get involved with a Health Science Academy and EMT training in high school. “I love it because it combines science but also has the social aspect of face to face interaction while making an impact,” said Blanton. 

In addition to pursuing three degrees, Blanton also leads an LGBTQ+ initiative across Auburn’s campus. Blanton’s main objective is to help lead the effort to create a solid foundation and framework for this initiative. This includes bringing together action committees which help implement the agreed agenda on campus. 

Blanton biggest goal for this LGBTQ+ initiative is creating a mechanism for continuous change.

“I want this to be something that will continue to grow and happen year after year. I want to push for this to be a more equitable LGBTQ+ community at Auburn,” said Blanton. He is so excited to see the change that is already taking place throughout campus. 

“The best part of this process and initiative has been seeing the amount of support we have from the Auburn community,” said Blanton. Even at the initial prospective meeting, Blanton explained the gravity of how important this is and to see how far we’ve come. 

Blanton was blown away to see the over 100 responses to fulfill the 20 open leadership roles. 

The biggest challenge has been learning to work with faculty and administration as co-equals in this process. “It is a shift and we are working to pull together different parts of Auburn’s campus and treat them as co-equal to address this issue,” said Blanton. 

You would think the heavy coursework load and time commitment of helping lead a LGBTQ+ initiative across campus was enough to fulfill someone’s day, but Blanton is also Executive Vice President of Curricular Programs for Emerge. 

“The reason I got involved with the LGBTQ+ Initiative originated from the Catalyst Workshop that was put on by Emerge during sophomore year while I was a team leader.”

It was after that workshop that Blanton realized he needed to be doing more. 

“My experience with Emerge and the initiative is intertwined. Without the foundational knowledge from Emerge I would not bring what I currently bring to the table. However, without this initiative I would not have the opportunity to take what I learned from Emerge and apply it to a real-life setting,” Blanton noted.

Emerge has taught Blanton that every single person has the ability to emerge as a leader. 

The hardest part of balancing the schoolwork, LGBTQ+ Initiative and EVP of Curricular Programs is Blanton’s very passionate about all of them. “It is so important that I remain present for whatever task is at hand. I need to focus my time and prioritize what I am currently spending my time on,” he explained. 

To no one’s surprise, COVID-19 has impacted many things. However, Blanton has seen some of these recent impacts in a positive light. “I have really seen people push their limits and stretch their creativity in a way we have not had to before,” said Blanton. His goal is continuing to make this experience as beneficial as possible to students, even with the current situation at hand. 

In fact, Blanton plans to continue to carry over some of the changes that were made because of the pandemic. For example, they have started to do hybrid event formats to become more accessible to students and he has seen a positive impact from it. This helps students who are unavailable to attend the event and still have access to the information that was given out. 

Blanton attributes these accomplishments with joining Honors College freshman year.

Blanton was able to come in and connect with his peers and the Auburn community from the very beginning with Honors College. He was given the opportunity to get involved with ‘Week of Service’ and become an Honors Ambassador. “Becoming an Honors Ambassador has allowed me to come in touch with incoming students and show people the platform that Honors has given me to launch off of.” 

Thank you Austin for being a force of change across the Auburn University campus!

-Written by Megan Bloomquist

Staff Update: Taylor Mitchell

Getting to know you!

Name: Taylor Mitchell

Hometown: Columbus, GA

Degree (s): B.B.A in Marketing- University of West Georgia; M. Ed. In College Student Affairs Administration – University of Georgia

Why did you choose those degrees? My ultimate career goal has always been event planning. I would love to own my own business one day which inspired the marketing degree. During my undergraduate career, I was introduced to student affairs as a supplemental instruction leader. Student affairs has offered me the best of both worlds by combining my two passions: event planning and working with others, particularly college students.

What brought you to the Honors College? Being a Georgia girl, I wanted to stay in the South for the warm weather and to be close to family. I also knew I wanted to continue gaining experience in event planning and coordinating, so when this opportunity arose, I jumped at it!

Fun fact, Auburn was my first choice for college after graduating high school, so now working here has been a full circle moment for me. The Honors College allows me to work with some amazing and hard-working students and help create an engaging environment where students can learn and grow from one another.

Do you have any hobbies? When I’m not working, I’m spending time with family and friends, finding new series to binge watch, and looking for new places to explore!

What are small things that make your day better? Drinking coffee from a non-traveling mug, taking cute boomerangs of campus, and lighting a new candle

Movies, TV, or Books – or all three?  Movies and TV. However, I’m working on becoming a more avid reader!

You’d be surprise to know that I … am somewhat of a thrill seeker. I’ve even been ziplining across the Chattahoochee River!

What do you hope to accomplish here at the Honors College? I hope to help create a welcoming, inclusive, and tight-knit community for the Honors College students. I want students to feel like there is always something to do, to make a new friend, and to learn something new. Through my role, I hope to contribute to students’ overall sense of belonging and college experience by providing fun and innovating opportunities and events.

What are you most excited about working at the Honors College? I’m so excited to bring some new events to the Honors College! I’m ready to learn about what students are interested in seeing and doing and working to provide those experiences to them.

What advice would you give to an Honors College student? Take advantage of all the opportunities presented to you by the Honors College, your school or department, and the university as a whole. There are so many wonderful (and often times, free!) resources such as tutoring, writing labs, etc. available that students don’t take advantage of enough. Have fun, work hard, don’t be scared to try new things or meet new people, and help others where you can!

Do you have a favorite Auburn memory / or Auburn area memory?  I’m still new to the Auburn area, but I’m excited for the memories to come!

Best way to contact? Email me your event ideas at

Nice to meet you Taylor and welcome to the Honors College!

Taylor Mitchell Headshot

New Advisor: Savannah Woodall

Over the summer we added a new member to our advising team. Today we’d like to officially welcome Savannah Woodall to Auburn University and the Honors College. Let’s get to know Savannah, who advises students with the last names A-Gn.

Name: Savannah Woodall

Hometown: Lake Butler, Florida

Degree(s): B.S in Agricultural Education & Communication,  M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration

Why did you choose those degrees?

As the daughter of two educators, I always knew that somehow I’d work in the field of education, but I wasn’t sure exactly what the right fit would be. My bachelor’s degree program focused heavily on communication and leadership development, which I knew could translate into a career focused around helping people communicate well and grow their leadership skills. In my gap year, I began working in higher education at UF. I quickly realized that not only do I love helping people succeed, I love helping students see their potential and reach their goals even more. This led me to pursue my master’s in higher education administration.

What brought you to the Honors College?

With my background in agriculture, it was important to me to work at a land-grant institution, and from my time at Baylor University, I learned I really liked working at a mid-sized school.

Thus, Auburn was already in the running. What really drew me to the Honors College was the opportunity to work with such incredible high-achieving students. Getting to teach honors participation courses was the icing on the cake!

Do you have any hobbies?

Yes! When I’m not working there’s a good chance I’m traveling the globe (when it’s allowed) binge watching Netflix, taking photos, or finding a hole-in-the-wall restaurant to enjoy!

What are small things that make your day better?

Coffee dates, fresh sunflowers, and snail mail! I love sending and receiving handwritten cards.

Movies, TV, or Books – or all three?

All three!

You’d be surprised to know that I …

always use Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives food map to decide where I’m going to eat in a new city!

What do you hope to accomplish here at the Honors College?

As a result of working here, I hope that the students whom I’ll get to interact with will know how supported and valued they are. College is a time to discover your passions and pursue your dreams. I just want students to know that I’m here to support them through every step of their collegiate experience.

What are you most excited about working at the Honors College?

I am so eager to interact with Honors College students in both advising appointments and in the classroom! I’ve heard such great things about this group of students and can’t wait to meet everyone.

What advice would you give to an Honors College student?

Your college experience will fly by; so, make the most of your time and don’t feel like you need to rush! Take a class that you’re interested in (even if you don’t “need” it), pursue creative opportunities, and use every opportunity you have to network.

Do you have a favorite Auburn memory / or Auburn area memory?

I don’t have many memories of Auburn yet, but I’m excited to make them soon!

Best way to contact?

Email me at 

Savannah Woodall in front of War Eagle sign

Honors College Statement of Solidarity

Update: (August 2020) The Honors College at Auburn University’s statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion is now completed and can be view on our website. As always the Honors College is open to all communication about our statement. We can be reached via email at

In Fall 2018, the Honors College released its first mission statement to the Auburn University community. That statement, which now hangs prominently in Cater Hall, affirms our unit’s collective commitment to serve with compassion, to value the diversity of human experience, to pursue truth with courage and conviction, and to participate in the creation of a more just world. This statement of shared values is a call to action and a touchstone for our staff, faculty, and students as we pursue excellence in all forms.

While the Honors College has always valued diversity and inclusion and has worked diligently to support the needs of our faculty, staff, and students from underrepresented groups, we acknowledge the lamentable decision this unit made in February 2018 to invite a white supremacist to address Honors students following a film screening. There is no way to undo the past, but the Honors College underwent significant organizational restructuring beginning in summer 2018 that has included deep work to ensure that our actions align with our values in all circumstances. Our new mission statement—and a student-crafted diversity statement that is nearing public release—reflects this commitment to uphold the highest values embraced by the Auburn University community.   

Actions always speak louder than words, however.

The Auburn University Honors College stands alongside all members of our community who denounce the ongoing acts of violence, discrimination, and exclusion against our fellow citizens. These actions have no place in our society. While we pursue our own unit-based plans to increase diversity and inclusion within the Honors College, we also offer ourselves as continued allies to members of our community seeking real change. 

The final paragraph of our forthcoming diversity statement attests: “Awareness is the herald of change. We must first educate ourselves and seek to understand the challenges faced by those around us if we are to build a tomorrow in which we stand united in our differences. The purposeful promotion of diversity, inclusion, and equality is the foundation of our collective commitment to improve the lives of the people of Alabama, the nation, and the world.”

The Honors College stands ready to serve.

Fulbright Virtual Information Session

Students who wish to travel abroad, work, live with and learn from different cultures as a Fulbright U.S. Student are encouraged to attend a virtual Fulbright Scholarship information session on Monday, April 6 at 3 pm CST. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. This event is open to all Auburn University juniors, seniors, graduate students, or anyone with future interest in applying.  

During the virtual information session future applicants will learn more about campus and national deadlines for the 2021 scholarship, resources and support provided by Auburn University, online workshops provided by the Miller Writing Center, hear details about life as a Fulbright scholar, and have their questions answered. 

The Auburn University campus-wide intent to apply deadline is May 1, 2020.

To attend the moderated event, login to the following Zoom broadcast on April 6 at 3 pm CST. 

Fulbright Information Session

Time: Apr 6, 2020 03:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada) 

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

Connect using Computer/Device audio if possible.

Or Telephone: Meeting ID: 214 104 108

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 (US Toll) 

        or +1 646 876 9923 (US Toll)

Or an H.323/SIP room system:

    H.323: (US West) or (US East) 

    Meeting ID: 214 104 108


The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

For additional information about the Fulbright Scholarship or the virtual information session, contact the Honors College Coordinator for Scholarship and Research, Alex Sauer at

Regarding Remote Instruction

Auburn University will transition from on-campus instruction to remote delivery beginning Monday, March 16 and continue through the rest of Spring semester in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

University officials ask that students refrain from returning to campus after spring break. University officials will subsequently determine if students will return to campus for the remaining weeks of the spring semester. 

Auburn faculty will contact students on steps they should take to continue their academic coursework.

Your Honors advisor will be available to you remotely. If you have advising or registration related questions you can email your honors advisor directly or at Please do not drop classes. If you have any questions about your schedule, please contact your advisor.

All Honors College events are suspended until April 10 including the Honors College Film Series, Cater Porch Talks, Cup at Cater, Career Workshops and the newly developed Honors Exhibition. 

Honors College student organizations meetings and service projects are suspended during this time. This includes Diversity in Honors, Honors Serves and Honors Congress. If you registered for the Honors Congress Formal, more information will be emailed to you shortly. We encourage organization leaders to utilize online platforms, such as Zoom, to continue any necessary organizational meetings.

Ask an Honors Student – Academic Peer Coaching will be available virtually. You will receive more information with dates, times, and platforms from Ms. Yvette Stone. 

Parents and guardians should be reminded that they can visit the Auburn University Parent Portal for more information. For the most current up-to-date information please visit Auburn’s COVID-19 information page.

The Miller Writing Center will continue assisting students with their needs. More information can be found on their website. 

All university domestic and international travel is suspended through April 10.

Dining facilities, libraries and residence halls will be closed through April 10. University officials will make arrangements for international students and others who are unable to return home. Students who have specific questions should contact the Division of Student Affairs. 

Decisions have not yet been made on spring commencement, summer study abroad programs or other events and activities beyond April 10.

The university medical clinic remains open. Those exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms should immediately call the Auburn Medical Clinic at 334-844-9825 before visiting the clinic. 

University officials will make arrangements for students who do not have access to the technology needed for remote instruction. 

Auburn officials urge the following safety precautions:

– Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds

– Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or your sleeve

– Don’t touch your face, especially your eyes, mouth and nose

– Disinfect commonly touched surfaces, including mobile devices

Auburn’s COVID-19 information page will be updated daily. 

It’s All About the Journey

Even though Justin Rist didn’t receive the Fulbright scholarship he applied for, he said the process has been very beneficial to him in professional connections, communication skills, and application experience. Rist, an industrial and systems engineering major, applied for the Fulbright Germany Research and Travel Award. 

The Application Process

Rist heard of the Fulbright Award while studying abroad in Bavaria, Germany after meeting the former Fulbright scholar Dr. Paul Harris. Afterward, Rist began working with Alex Sauer, the Honors College Scholarship and Research Coordinator, and professors in industrial engineering. He was put in contact with Dr. Shulz at FHWS in Schweinfurt, Germany, to design a project that they were both interested in and would work well for his application. This project involved applying data analytics to improve the play of foosball, a popular sport in Germany. 

For the application process, Rist had to submit his plan of study, which included a detailed explanation of the research project, a timeline for the completion of the project, and an explanation of the courses or other activities he would do to supplement the research. He also had to take a language proficiency exam, provide a statement about cultural engagement outside of research, and provide letters of recommendation.  

Professional Connections

Rist needed to show that he was able to complete the project within the grant period, so he formed relationships that could help him achieve it. Two German companies, Holisticon and Leonhart, were willing to provide him and Dr. Schulz with information and funding. 

He plans to continue working with Dr. Schulz on the project without the grant while he is getting a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering in the US. Even though he did not receive the scholarship, he still was able to strengthen his research portfolio from these connections and the project.

Communication Skills

Creating and maintaining these relationships with professionals and companies in Germany gave Rist stronger communication skills. He said it was intimidating at first to set up meetings with Germans he had never met before, but he was able to gain valuable relationships he otherwise would not have had access to. 

Rist said the main communication skills he strengthened were his confidence and initiative. He realized that even though it was intimidating to talk to his superiors, they were willing to take time to help him and wanted him to succeed. For example, he was only able to set up the meetings by himself, so he had to take the initiative and make that connection. As he progressed in the application process, making these connections became easier since he had built up his confidence.

Application Experience

Going through this application process prepared Rist for his graduate school applications. He said they had many similarities, including the letters of recommendation. He was able to use many of his recommenders from the Fulbright scholarship for the graduate school applications since they were eager to help Rist and were already prepared to write another letter. 

The tone of his writing was also similar in both applications. He understood how to write about himself in a way that made him an appealing candidate. Even though each application is specific to the program he applied to, he knew how to “brag on” himself in a formal way. 

Through the application process, he was able to take his love for sports data analytics, which he thought could only be a hobby, and turn it into a research project. He also had a greater appreciation for Germany and hopes his relationships there will lead to more opportunities to visit the country and work on his fluency in the language. 

If you are interested in the Fulbright, or other national prestigious scholarships, please contact our coordinator for scholarship and research, Alex Sauer.

Story by: April Garrett

Ada Ruth Huntley new SGA President of Auburn University

The Honors College recently followed up with new SGA President and Honors College student Ada Ruth Huntley, to ask her what this historic win means to her.

Ada Ruth told us, “I am so blessed and excited to get to serve as Auburn’s SGA President. This university and the people in it mean the world to me, and I am thankful that so many students believed in my ability to do this job. I am also very thankful to everyone in the Honors College for their support, and I am also thankful for the opportunities that I’ve had to grow as a leader within the college. I would not be the leader I am today without those experiences.”

Congratulations President Huntley – we are thankful for you!

You can read more about this story in Auburn Universities Student-run Newspaper: The Plainsmen.

Link to the story:

Locke’s Life-Changing Experience

It is not often that a student has a genuinely life-changing experience, but that is how Riley Locke, a sophomore in computer science and Honors College Ambassador from Clanton, Alabama, described the 2019 Global Grand Challenges Summit. 

The summit, held every two years and rotating between three countries, is an organization of students and engineers from the U.S., U.K., and China that formed in 2008 to set engineering goals for improving the planet. The goals set by the academies of engineering from these countries range in disciplines from education to medicine to cyberspace to the environment. 

Each country sends 100 students to attend the summit, and Locke was one of the 100 students selected from the U.S.  He was the only student selected from Auburn University. 

Dr. Edward Davis, an assistant professor in materials engineering in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, chose Locke to participate in the summit held in London this September. Dr. Davis said Locke is a “highly motivated student” and that during the summit he was able to engage with current leaders in engineering and the next generation of engineers.

As a student in the Auburn University Grand Challenge Scholars Program (AUGCSP), Locke had the opportunity to express interest in the summit. The AUGCSP’s primary goal is to produce students with the skills, broad knowledge, and ideas to develop solutions to the world’s most pressing technical issues and the engineering grand challenges.

Locke wants the organization to  grow not only within the engineering department but also into other departments. One of the focuses of the program is multidisciplinary study, and Locke said that this crossover to other departments is where the magic happens.

The Trip

On the first day of his ten-day trip, Locke attended the finale of the intercountry competition where five teams from each country who had won a competition in their respective country competed. 

For the rest of the first half of the trip, Locke participated in the student-collaboration lab event. Six-member teams—consisting of pairs of students from each of the three countries represented at the summit—collaborated to come up  with a product that would help solve one of the grand challenges. Locke joked that this hefty task placed “no pressure” on them. 

A mentor assisted each group. Locke’s group actually used their mentor’s own research to inform their product proposal. Their mentor, a chemical engineering professor from China, is working on the creation a model for turning bamboo into aerogel insulation. Since Locke’s  academic focus is coding, he said this product made him “get out of [his] comfort zone” and explore another kind of engineering. 

During these first few days, the students also went to break out sessions where they learned about entrepreneurship, how to grow the Global Grand Challenges program, and the theme for this year’s summit. The theme, “Engineering in an Unpredictable World,” encourages students to think about how engineers can help solve the challenges created from a global population of 10 billion people, and whether AI and other transformational technologies can change our world for the better.

The summit took place during the last five days of Locke’s trip, where he said, “things get really fancy.” The trip became a business formal event with well-known academics, industrialists, entrepreneurs, and invited speakers from around the world.

The Results

Locke was able to connect with leaders of Lockheed Martin. When he returned to Auburn the next week, Lockheed Martin was recruiting on campus. He said it was “kind of like fate.” Locke spoke with the recruiters and was able to get a summer internship with the company. 

When asked about the most important experience of his trip, this networking opportunity was one of Locke’s top choices. Another key experience was befriending fellow students from all three countries. During the day, he said, “you give it your full attention because it deserved your full attention,” and afterward, “you go out at night with other students to see the city and have fun.” The pace of the ten-day experience was tiring, but Locke still wishes he could have seen more of London.

As possibly the youngest student participant attending the summit,  Locke felt mentored by every other student. They encouraged him in his education and his fight against the “imposter syndrome” that is common to college students. Locke said these students getting jobs at large companies and doing incredible things inspired him.

The Big Picture

The summit also helped Locke see the big picture of what engineers can do. Dr. Davis described the summit as showing “that engineering serves humanity and that engineers should work together to solve society’s problems.” 

Locke’s participation in the summit, the networking with leaders in engineering, and the friends he made from around the world all helped him realize that he is capable of more. He said he recognized his own self-worth within the field and elevated his dreams for the future.