Tech Honors College Senior Andrew Pregnall is Awarded the Marshall Scholarship
Tech Honors College Senior Andrew Pregnall is Awarded the Marshall Scholarship to Study Health Data Analytics in the United Kingdom
Virginia Tech Honors College Senior Andrew Pregnall has been named a British Marshall Scholar, making him the first Hokie to receive the Marshall Scholarship in 15 years. Pregnall, driven by his passion to remodel the health care system to improve the health outcomes of the LGBTQ community, is a double-major in microbiology and history. “I’m studying microbiology and history to understand both the biological and social contexts of medicine,” Pregnall said. “You need both to effect change in individual and in public health.” As a Marshall Scholar, Pregnall will continue to pursue his ambition by studying Health Data Analytics at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.
The Marshall Scholarship is a nationally competitive scholarship founded in 1953 to grant distinguished American students graduate study at any British university. Gaining the endorsement of one’s undergraduate institution is an essential component of the application. Each year, colleges and universities across the country endorse their best and brightest for the candidate pool. The candidate pool is distributed across eight regions throughout the country. From each region, only a select few are invited to interview. Virginia Tech nominates around four to six candidates for the Marshall Scholarship each year. From a nationwide nominated pool of around 800 to a thousand candidates, only 40 winners are selected on average annually as Marshall Scholars, making the Marshall Scholarship widely considered one of the most prestigious college scholarships in America.
Candidates can choose to apply to the region of their residency or the region of their university. Pregnall was selected for the Washington, DC region which includes Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Throughout and following the application process, Pregnall has engaged with faculty and fellow scholars from across disciplinary colleges throughout his undergraduate career to secure a series of recommendations and undergo several iterations of thoughtful essays to best articulate his rich undergraduate experience. By combining his studies of history, microbiology, chemistry and the humanistic and social scientific elements of medicine, Pregnall has indeed crafted a unique undergraduate education. “Andrew exemplifies the best of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the college. “His brilliant, transdisciplinary work and fierce commitment to helping others are the quintessence of what makes Virginia Tech one of the most innovative and unique institutions of higher education in the United States.”
As a Virginia Tech Honors College student, Pregnall was supported in his transdisciplinary inquiries into history and medicine as well as seek solutions outside of disciplinary boundaries. “Andrew is a prime example of the type of student we want to produce through an Honors education,” said Paul Knox, dean of the Honors College. “Because of his interdisciplinary inquiries into history and medicine, Andrew is equipped to both understand the inequalities present in medical care and seek tangible solutions for people.”
Pregnall was actively involved in the Honors College during his time as a Hokie. Pregnall served on the Honors College Student Council as a representative for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. In this role, Pregnall helped lead the student working group who heavily contributed to the design of the Honors Laureate diploma, which Virginia Tech and the Honors College officially adopted in 2017. "Andrew's generosity of spirit, organizational ability and insightful contributions have been important to the growth of the Honors College,” Dean Knox said. “He will be a great ambassador for Virginia Tech and the United States."
The Marshall Commission was established in dedication to Secretary of State George C. Marshall’s legacy of generosity and his victory of winning peace in World War II. In alignment with Marshall’s legacy, the goal of the foundation is to fortify and sustain strong relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. The Marshall Scholarship covers university fees for study, cost of living expenses, books, research and travel grants as well as fares to and from the U.S. Ultimately, the Marshall Scholarship was created as a coeducational alternative to the Rhodes Scholarship. Pregnall, as an ambitious student, was also interviewed for the Rhodes Scholarship as a finalist – out of only 14 finalists from Rhodes District IX.
Pregnall is compelled to weave his studies in science and liberal arts together with his commitment to issues of social justice and equity within health care. His advocacy work has made tangible impacts on the delivery of health care and housing for Virginia Tech’s LGBTQ students. With the vision of securing a supportive residential community for these students and their allies, Pregnall worked with other students, faculty and staff toward the formation of a queer and transgender living-learning community on campus that could also expand the university's academic offerings.
“I’ve worked with Andrew in lots of different ways,” said Frank Shushok, senior associate vice president of student affairs, “but it’s usually because Andrew has seen an unmet need on campus, and he goes out of his way to advocate for that need. Andrew makes such a compelling, smart, and thoughtful argument for why things need to be better that I typically leave a meeting with him excited to get to work fixing it.”
Not only is Pregnall a passionate advocate and an agent of change, but he is also a deep and reflective thinker about his initiatives. “I think of service as changing the structural elements of a system – like its policies – so that the root causes of a community’s problems no longer exist,” said Pregnall. “I want to change our nation’s policy environments so that LGBTQ people no longer carry the burden of being second-class citizens.”
Pregnall’s passion for LGBTQ advocacy initiated through a Fralin Undergraduate Research Fellowship and his own experiences as a gay man. He investigated policies at Schiffert Health Center and made recommendations to improve the health care experience of LGBTQ patients. Such recommendations included the creation of a gender identity clause in the patient nondiscrimination policy and a long-term plan for providing gender-affirming hormone therapy at Schiffert.
In addition to his advocacy work, Pregnall has learned to integrate programming into his toolkit for studying policy and health. His work at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington D.C. and at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN has further developed his ability to engage in research that informs practice. Pregnall has a driving force within him that seeks clarity around the systematic drivers of what he is observing. His unrelenting initiative led Pregnall to a number of fascinating scientific endeavors at Vanderbilt where he increasingly developed an understanding of how research influences policy – and how informatics tools can be applied to generate research.
“Andrew embodies the ideals of Virginia Tech and scientific discovery,” said Sally Morton, Dean of the College of Science. “He is driven to address inequalities, and by exploring both microbiology and history, has developed the in-depth knowledge and broad perspective needed to make a difference.”
Pregnall’s recognition as Marshall Scholar is also a testament to the benefit of faculty mentorship. Pregnall had eight faculty members write on his behalf, five from Virginia Tech (including Marian Mollin, Paul Heilker, Ashley Shew, Robert Stephens and Stephen Henninger) and three external faculty members (Jesse Ehrenfeld, Jon Wanderer and Del Ray Zimmerman) from Vanderbilt where Pregnall had two summer research experiences.
“When I first got the call from the British Embassy, I did not know what to say,” said Pregnall. “I am incredibly grateful to have been named a Marshall Scholar, and I want to thank all the friends, family, and mentors who helped me to this point. I look forward to using this opportunity to foster stronger connections between the United States and the United Kingdom and to serve as a change agent within our health care system so that LBTQ folk can live their healthiest and happiest lives. I am confident that in doing so, we can build a culture that lifts up us all.”
Lined up to graduate in December from Virginia Tech, Pregnall is completing a senior honors thesis supervised by Dr. Marian Mollin, professor of history on the topic – an analysis of how the competing medical, social and political discourses that dominated discussions about the AIDS crisis during its early years created our cultural notion of a ‘patient zero.’ After his Marshall studies, Pregnall plans to return to the states to pursue a medical degree and Master of Public Policy.
Virginia Tech has had four Marshall Scholars in past years, including Ashley White (2005), Sarah Airey (2000), Stacey Smith (1999) and Anya McGuirk (1980). Current Virginia Tech students who are interested in exploring the Marshall Scholarship are encouraged to contact Christina McIntyre, Director or Professional Development, National and International Scholarships at email@example.com.
Written by Michelle Fleury
“When I first got the call from the British Embassy, I did not know what to say. I am incredibly grateful to have been named a Marshall Scholar, and I want to thank all the friends, family, and mentors who helped me to this point. I look forward to using this opportunity to foster stronger connections between the United States and the United Kingdom and to serve as a change agent within our health care system so that LBTQ folk can live their healthiest and happiest lives. I am confident that in doing so, we can build a culture that lifts up us all.”
- Andrew Pregnall