NC Higher education: Head of the class

 In May 2016, NC Higher Education

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DawkinsJay Dawkins

Hometown: Fayetteville
School: N.C. State University (‘10)
Leadership position: Student body president, 2008-09
Current job: Co-founder and CEO of Cityzen, a Raleigh-based online polling platform

How did your educational experience prepare you for the future?
My N.C. State experience really reinforced “you get what you give.” Between leadership roles in student government and Greek life, a part-time job and engineering classes, I had more than a full plate. I quickly learned that success in anything depends on effectively focusing your time and personal energies.

Did you have a mentor or professor who made an impression?
Susan Nutter, head of the N.C. State Libraries, really made an impression, not through her words but through her actions. I’d see her working at the library until 9 or 10 at night. She quietly built this amazing team that prioritized listening to students and constantly trying new things. That led to N.C. State having arguably the most innovative library in the world, and I think serves as a great example for any organization.


TremayneSmith1Tremayne Bryan Smith

Hometown: Salisbury
School: East Carolina University (‘11)
Leadership position: Student body president, 2010-11
Current job: Special assistant to U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield; student at The George Washington University pursuing master’s degree in political management

Did you have a mentor or professor WHO made an impression?
There have been two hands-full of inspiring people who have poured into me, but one of note would be ECU Dean of Students Lynn Roeder. She’s the one who told me that the education and opportunities I was afforded at ECU would undoubtedly lead to my success. And as much as service is a responsibility for those who graduate from ECU, so is being responsible for helping others along the way, to “lift as I climbed.”

What advice would you give to incoming students?
1. Go to class. Keep your priorities straight. Extracurricular activities are necessary additives, but going to class and doing course work is the main focus. 2. Learn your resources. I was the first male to graduate college in my family. I HAD to find a way to learn what I didn’t know. Utilize the resources at hand. Work smart, not hard. 3. Have fun. This period in your life is truly the last bit of childhood you’ll ever experience. Find time to sincerely enjoy it. Get out of your comfort zone. Have an open mind — you may surprise yourself.


kmartin copyKevin Martin

Hometown: Weddington
School: UNC Chapel Hill (‘89)
Leadership position: Student body president, 1988-89
Current job: Vice president for mobile and global access policy, Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook Inc. (member of the Federal Communications Commission, 2001-09, FCC chairman 2005-09)

How did your educational experience prepare you for the future?
UNC gave me the foundation that I would need both in graduate school and in life and prepared me for my academic challenges at Duke and then Harvard Law School.  (Martin has a master’s in public policy from Duke University and a law degree from Harvard University.) Even more important, however, were the leadership skills and the confidence and independence that I gained. These helped provide me with the ability to take on any new challenge.

What advice would you give to incoming students?
UNC is a big school and it may take some time to figure out exactly how you will fit in. Just relax and enjoy your time there.


SueAnn_ForrestSue Ann Forrest

Hometown: Greenville
School: Campbell University (‘16)
Leadership position: Student government vice president, 2015-16; immediate past president
Postgraduation plans: Hopes to attend N.C. State University’s Master of Public Administration program

Did you have a mentor or professor WHO made an impression?
Britt Davis (vice president for institutional advancement and senior adviser to the president at Campbell) has helped with numerous projects and has also guided me in my postgraduation opportunities. Another mentor is Hope Williams, president of the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities. I’ve had the privilege of working as an intern with this organization for over a year. I always joke that very few people like their boss, much less aspire to be just like their boss. However, I do. I admire her professionalism, work ethic and kindness to others.

What advice would you give to incoming students?
Become a member of a group, club or organization. It is extremely important to connect with the campus community and to meet friends during the first few weeks of classes. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!


HARRINGTONAlexander “Xan” Harrington

Hometown: Charlotte
School: Appalachian State University (‘02)
Leadership position: Student government president, 2001-02
Current job: Program management official at a division of Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How did your educational experience prepare you for the future?
Appalachian was a challenging academic environment that expanded my critical thinking and decision-making skills. Most of my classes were small, and most of my professors had their doctoral or terminal degree in their field. This intimate setting held me accountable to not only my professors, but also my classmates. I learned how to ask questions, research issues and develop persuasive arguments in a systematic and succinct fashion.

What advice would you give to incoming students?
College is a tremendous opportunity that should not be squandered. Having fun is part of the experience, but it’s important to recognize that the next step is the real world. Students benefit greatly from active participation in classroom discussions, studying rigorously, asking thoughtful questions and taking every opportunity to apply their classroom learning in clubs, service organizations and their community.

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