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. Each year, colleges and universities from across eight regions endorse their best and brightest to the Marshall Scholarship’s candidate pool. Virginia Tech, for example, nominates about four to six candidates to the pool. From a nationwide nominated pool of around 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.

Throughout the application process, Pregnall has engaged with faculty and fellow scholars from across disciplinary colleges to best articulate his rich undergraduate experience. This recognition is also a testament to the benefit of faculty mentorship: Pregnall had eight faculty write on his behalf. By combining his studies of history, microbiology, chemistry, and the humanistic and social scientific elements of medicine, he 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 of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “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 his pursuit to seek solutions outside of disciplinary boundaries. Pregnall served on the Honors College Student Council as a representative for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. In this role, he helped lead the student working group who heavily contributed to the design of the Honors Laureate diploma, which was officially adopted in 2017.

“Andrew’s generosity of spirit, organizational ability, and insightful contributions have been important to the growth of the Honors College,” said Paul Knox, dean of the Honors College. “He will be a great ambassador for Virginia Tech and the United States.”

Pregnall has also 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, Tennessee, has further developed his ability to engage in research that informs practice.

“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.”

The Marshall Scholarship was ultimately established as a coeducational alternative to the Rhodes Scholarship in order to fortify relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. Pregnall, as an ambitious student, was also interviewed for the Rhodes Scholarship as a finalist — out of only 14 finalists from Rhodes District IX.

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.

“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 LGBTQ 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 Marian Mollin, an associate professor of history, on how competing medical, social, and political discourses that dominated discussions about the AIDS crisis during its early years created the cultural notion of a “patient zero.” After his Marshall studies, Pregnall plans to return to the states to pursue a medical degree and master’s degree in 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 the Marshall Scholarship are encouraged to contact Christina McIntyre, director of professional development, national and international scholarships, at cmcintyre@vt.edu.


—Written by Michelle Fleury