UA Graduates Take a Look Back



Robert Brackbill
Carlisle, Pennsylvania/Gardendale, Alabama 
Bachelor’s, Operations Management

Robert Brackbill

UA senior Robert Brackbill’s list of combat deployments in Afghanistan spans more than a decade, from the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002 to Operation New Dawn in 2014. Brackbill spent nearly 14 months of his deployment time conducting airborne insertions while in Taji, Iraq.

“I transferred to UA as a sophomore after serving 20 years in the United States Army. My advice for fellow veterans who are transitioning to the educational track: once you come to UA, get involved with organizations like the Campus Veterans Association, and definitely get in touch with the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, because you’re going to be able to meet with like-minded veterans with similar experiences and similar trials, tribulations and hardships that you’ve gone through in life and in your career, but also with people who are already experienced in their academic careers.”

Read more about Brackbrill’s story at here.


Ryan Coleman

Ryan Levon Coleman
Alabaster, Alabama
Master’s, Business Administration

Ryan is a former Capstone Man, class president for UA’s MBA program and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Ryan also earned his undergraduate degree at UA and will work for IBM after graduation.

“At The University of Alabama, you should go all in. Jump in with two feet first. You want to take in everything you can with such an amazing culture here. You can’t truly get that experience unless you go all in for it.”


Tate Nelson
Laguna Beach, California
Bachelor’s, Marketing; Journalism minor

Tate Nelson

Tate spent his spring break in Africa, biking Mt. Kilimanjaro to help raise money for Treasures for Africa, a ministry for orphans and abandoned children in East Africa. He wasn’t able to break the world record for biking the entire mountain, but he, along with his father, Rob, became the oldest and youngest people to ever cycle Mt. Kilimanjaro. Tate has also used his recent success in mixed martial arts, including a state championship, to promote the philanthropy.

“I got a mentor. Without my mentor, I wouldn’t have been able to have the success I’ve experienced here. Being able to trust and rely on someone to gain expertise from, someone who has been there before and knows the steps coming up was a game-changer for me. I wouldn’t have been able to put forth the effort and work ethic I needed to be accomplished as a student here at UA.”

See more of Tate’s story here.


Maria Gerasikova

Maria Gerasikova
Moscow, Russia
Bachelor’s, Philosophy, Political Science and French

Maria came to The University of Alabama on a water-skiing scholarship after being scouted during various competitions in the United States. A native of Russia, Maria has also lived in Lugano, Switzerland. She is the co-recipient of the philosophy department’s Iredell Jenkins Award for the best philosophy major, and one of four students to be given the Dean of Arts and Sciences Award of Merit. She has participated in Mock Trial and is the vice president of the UA Ballroom Dance Team. She will begin law school next semester.

“Get involved. We have amazing opportunities, such as Get on Board Day, where you can explore all of the different clubs UA has to offer us. And if you miss Get on Board Day, you can always go to The SOURCE website and find anything that interests you.”


Leah Seay

Leah Seay
Brunswick, Georgia
Master’s, Advertising and Public Relations

Leah, who earned her undergraduate degree at Auburn, says pursuing a master’s at UA is “one of the best decisions” she’s made. She held two graduate assistantships – the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations – that have developed her as a leader, communicator and strategist. She chose crisis communications as her thesis, and this summer she’ll move to Detroit, Michigan, where she’ll work full time for General Motors.

“Academics come first, but make sure you don’t get so bogged down and forget to smell the roses. Some of my best memories at UA have been when my friends have forced me to shut my laptop, close my books and go out for snow cones or to the movies.”


Josie Perry

Josie Perry
Cedartown, Georgia
Bachelor’s, Education, Multiple Abilities Program

Josie will graduate with a nearly flawless 3.91 GPA, a remarkable feat given the many obstacles she overcame prior to entering UA. Josie is a former foster child whose parents battled drug addiction. Through Alabama Reach and strong mentor relationships at UA, she’s been able to maximize all of the resources available to students.

“Become familiar with your advisers. They’re the ones who will guide your academic experience and keep you on track. Find a good study routine that works for you, whether you work better in your room, at the library or at night. Lastly, utilize the resources UA offers, such as the Center for Academic Success – can’t beat free tutoring – and the Writing Center, which is great for help for writing papers.”


Hannah Smith
Raleigh, North Carolina 
Bachelor’s, Biology, Anthropology; Spanish minor 

Hannah Smith

Hannah was a member of the Accelerated Masters Program, which enables students with a GPA of at least 3.3 to take up to 15 dual credit hours that count toward undergraduate and master’s programs in their senior year. Hannah established the Society of Women in Medicine after her junior year to help strengthen the pre-health honor societies and clubs.

“Set your expectations high and step out of your comfort zone – constantly. I’ve accomplished more than I could have imagined during my four years here. Don’t limit yourself, and don’t be afraid. If you believe in yourself and try new things, you can accomplish amazing things at UA.”


Kaylin Bowen

Kaylin Bowen
Greenville, Alabama
Master’s, Communication

Kaylin, an AMP graduate, worked as a graduate research assistant for Pulitzer Prize winner and UA instructor Rick Bragg. Each week presented unique and unexpected jobs. “I might be looking up every reference of salt in the Bible or tracking down an obscure reference to a circus that came through Alabama in the ’60s. It’s always an adventure.” She credits the experiences working with Bragg for developing her passion for narrative journalism.

“A lot of people come in with the idea of what college should be, either from movies or friends. Throw that out the window – get rid of it, because you don’t want it. College is what you make it. Just enjoy it.”


The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.