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All freshmen begin their career at The University of Alabama with a dream. Some consist of making straight As, while others revolve around sports. Courtney Rentas, however, began her freshman year with another vision: one that involved black and white floppy hats.
Three years later, Rentas, a junior with over 100 community service hours under her belt, stood on the mound outside B.B. Comer Hall surrounded by the campus’ most inspirational women, all adorned in black and white floppy hats. Her dedication and commitment to UA through both academics and service allowed her to finally accomplish her dream. In April 2015, Rentas became one of 31.
The XXXI, the only all-female honor society on campus, honors women who have shown great commitment to the University through service, leadership and character. Since the organization’s founding in 1989, 31 women have been tapped into the prestigious society each spring. The organization strives to empower women and recognize all the contributions they have made to the University.
Rentas, Kindle Williams, Camille Driver and Marie Tucker are all such women using their knowledge and perseverance to help others, serve the community, and make a difference in the lives of others. During their time at the Capstone, they have accomplished what people only dream of.
Rentas, a junior double majoring in biology and psychology on the pre-medical track, worked to get involved on campus in every way possible.
“My biggest regret leaving high school was not being involved in more,” Rentas said.
From the Student Alumni Association to honor societies, Rentas jumped at every opportunity to serve others. As she delved deeper into her biology major, her love for neurology began to bloom. So much so, the countless hours she spent researching neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, felt like seconds. After receiving a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Research Program, Rentas began work in The Caldwell Lab on campus her freshman. Two of Rentas’ abstracts, both of which were published in medical journals, outline her discoveries and research done in the Caldwell Lab. This year, Rentas was one of four recipients of The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Education in Excellence Program, an award designed to promote the study of mathematics, science and engineering.
Many other women have given back to the University through scientific research, like Williams. The chemical engineering and chemistry double major is a member of multiple honor societies including the American Chemistry Society and Gamma Sigma Epsilon, a national chemistry honor society.
Williams currently researches the synthesis of molecular electronics under Dr. Stephen Waski. She presented her work at the Computer-Based Honors Program Live broadcast and at the University’s Undergraduate Research Conference.
In addition to research, Williams dedicates a large amount of time to the Honors College. She has served as an Honors College Ambassador, Director of Academic Engagement, and Alabama Action group leader, currently holding the position of Executive Vice President of Civic Engagement.
She said her involvement in the XXXI will give her even more opportunities to give back to the University.
“I’m looking forward to making an impact I’m not even aware I could make,” Williams said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the other women. It’s such a diverse group of people.”
According to Driver, president of the XXXI, the diversity of the women allows them to each lead in a different way. Some women chose to serve their community through Greek organizations, some through the Honors College, and others through community service programs.
“I have volunteered every week since the summer after sixth grade,” Driver said. “It has helped me grow into a servant leader.”
Driver serves as an Assistant Team Leader at The Center for Sustainable Service and Volunteerism. Through CSSV she is able to share her love for service with others as well as help others grow into leaders.
Tucker, a member of the 26th Order shares the same passion for service. Through her experience, she has worked alongside numerous inspirational women who encourage her to strive for excellence.
“My experience in the XXXI has definitely shaped me,” Tucker said.
Tucker, a communicative disorder major, devotes herself to service and leadership. She has held numerous leadership roles through her sorority, SGA and her church. Through the Computer Based Honors program, Tucker was able to complete in-depth research.
“That was really life changing for me,” Tucker said.
Members of the XXXI dedicate their lives to helping others, making philanthropy and commitment to change key components of the organization. Tucker said she admires the open-mindedness of the members to various service events, particularly with the upcoming talent show at Capstone Village in which they will give back to the community in a fun, interactive way.
It’s not all business for the XXXI, however. The women said the friendships they’ve made are going to last a lifetime. The women in the XXXI inspire each other to grow as leaders, as students, and as servants.
“My favorite part of my experience was the friendships,” Tucker said. “In life, that’s what it comes down to.”
The XXXI was founded in a period of time when women did not have many opportunities. Women, Tucker said, sometimes get into a pattern of settling and the XXXI inspires women who fight for women’s rights by recognizing the accomplishments and impacts women can make in their communities.
“I am honored that I can surround myself with these influential women,” Driver said.