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Celebrating Our Graduating Senior Student Ambassadors

graduate sitting on tree limb

The idea that the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf never feels more profound than when you are weeks away from graduating. This sentiment will be reflected in the following spotlights for our graduating seniors. The Sociology and Anthropology Department gears up to send off some of our beloved ambassadors out into the real world beyond our red bricks. I have been given the opportunity to interview these wonderfully accomplished women as they set off for the next chapter of their lives, hopefully keeping the pack close to their hearts along the way.

In no particular order I will highlight the key remarks from our interviews together and do my best to do their reflections of their time here at NC State justice. We wish them the absolute best and hope that this article can commemorate their accomplishments and experiences while a part of the pack.  This is the very first year of the Student Ambassador program and we celebrate our seniors!

All of the graduating Student Ambassadors will be returning for our new Alumni Student Ambassador Program in which they will be available for mentorship and seminars during the academic year on student success!

headshot of Brianna Johnson

Brianna Johnson, majoring in criminology and general anthropology with minors in forensic science and middle east studies, noted that the support she received from professors and advisors during her undergraduate career has helped her to develop into the person that she is today. Some of her favorite memories are hanging out in hammocks outside of Bragaw Residence Hall, taking fitness classes and participating in competitive sports at WellRec, attending the home football games and tailgates, and spending time in Talley Student union with her friends. However, she found a home in WellRec where she developed a healthier lifestyle, both mentally and physically. And when asked what her favorite NC State tradition was, she responded that it was Packapalooza because “…it was a great way to meet new people and see what all NC State has to offer.”

As for her experiences in the Sociology and Anthropology Department, Brianna said that her experiences have been entirely positive. Her advisors, Dr. Greene and Professor Stiffler, have been extremely helpful with her career decisions. Additionally, her favorite anthropology courses have been Zooarchaeology with Dr. Grossman and Human Osteology with Dr. Case because they allowed her to pursue her interest in working to distinguish between human and animal bones. As for Sociology, the courses that had a lasting effect on her understanding of the field’s purpose was Professor Fernandes’ Institutions of Control and Professor Davis’ Violence, Terrorism, and Public Policy.

One of her greatest personal accomplishments has been receiving The Outstanding Student in Second Year Arabic award from the Foreign Languages Department. She pursued Arabic knowing it was a critical language and as a personal challenge. This award validated her countless hours of studying and her time with faculty like Dr. Messiha, Professor Khater, and Professor DiCassio encouraged her to continue learning about other countries.

Following graduation, she plans to pursue a Master’s in either clinical mental health counseling or social work with the goal of working with children who have been affected by trauma, such as abuse or neglect. She aspires to work for a nonprofit like Prevent Child Abuse NC or SAFEchild.

headshot of Sydney Powell

Sydney Powell, a sociology major, never saw college as being some of the best years of her life, but choosing NC State gave her a “home, relationships, education, joy” and so much more. Her Wolfpack family has given her many wonderful memories and has helped to guide her to becoming the successful individual, student, and now professional that she is today. One place on campus that has felt unique to Sydney is the Court of Carolina because the wide-open space always felt welcoming to her and reminded her how beautiful NC State is. Her favorite tradition is one that she created for herself during the pandemic. She is an avid runner training for a half marathon and used this to stay connected to campus. Her runs made her feel like “NC State and [she] were one in the same and [she] wasn’t alone.” This tradition carried over into the current school year and has positively impacted her mental health in the process.

Sydney’s greatest accomplishment while being at NC State has been deciding what type of person she wants to be. No matter the experience, good or bad, she has taken away lessons that have shaped her into who she wants to be for herself, for her friends and family, and for those people she has yet to meet. Her education has allowed her to become more open-minded, patient, and confident in the way she treats others and the way she carries herself. Her time here has “given [her] the most valuable life lessons and the support along the way that [she] never knew [she] needed.” She values her time in the Sociology and Anthropology department because of the professors who went above and beyond to help their students. Sydney also found that the Student Ambassador program was a blessing for her in that it helped her to feel more connected during the low points of the last year. She genuinely believes that she could not have asked for a better department. 

Her plans for after graduation are a work in progress, but in the meantime, she has a fantastic opportunity interning with the HR department of a company on Centennial Campus. She enjoys the interpersonal aspects of the role and the opportunities to help others in a professional setting. The future will bring many things for her personally and professionally, and she looks forward to what it has in store. 

Lauren May, majoring in criminology and psychology, has spent a wonderful four years working with “outstanding professors”, the music department, and those involved with her internship through her criminology degree. As a student in the Sociology and Anthropology Department, Lauren has made connections with professors who opened her eyes to social and systemic issues in ways she could not have foreseen. When asked how she felt about her experiences she said, “I feel that my education through this department has largely shaped the rest of my life, and I feel it has made me a better person to be entering the field of Criminology.” 

She sees the wolf statues in Wolf Plaza as a symbol of her time at NC State. During her tour of the university, she took photos there to commemorate her first time on campus. Lauren reflected that “their unchanged stature will serve as a wonderful reminder of [her] time at the University when [she] take[s] pictures there for graduation… they stand the test of time.” 

Furthermore, one accomplishment that has made her time at State feel worth it is becoming one of three drum majors for the NC State Marching Band. This was a position that she worked toward for two full years, and though Covid affected her ability to fully assume this role, the process proved that she could achieve anything she sets her mind to.

Lauren’s favorite tradition has been running on Hillsborough street after a big win against a rival school. Being an avid member of the Pep Band, she would typically wear her red and white band “stripes” (polo) in celebration. Her favorite memory came pre-Covid when she and her boyfriend got to meet Coach Keatts on his way to celebrate with the team. 

She is considering several job opportunities post-graduation but knows that she will be working in the Criminal Justice system in some role before continuing onto graduate school or furthering her career in other capacities. She strongly values hands-on experience since she feels it is the way she learns best and knows that it will be beneficial for her professionally in the future. 

headshot of Mary Erickson

Mary Erickson, an anthropology major with minors in history and international studies, came to state as a transfer student and has “consistently put [herself] out there to integrate [herself[ into our Department.” She follows up by saying that “Now that two years have come and gone, it is really bittersweet for me to say goodbye.”

There are two places that came to Mary’s mind when asked where on campus felt unique to her. She started with the Court of Carolina where she recalls the first time that she stared up at the 1911 Building from the base of the steps during her tour back in 2018. She felt a sense of pride knowing that that building housed her department. Since then, she has associated many other positive memories with the building, in part due to the amazing professors and friends she has met. Secondly, the Caldwell Lounge was a unique spot that she fostered many friendships and felt at peace in, remembering the times that someone would sit at the piano and play for the room. Mary’s favorite NC State tradition has been getting Howling Cow ice cream with friends on a Thursday night after a long week of classes. 

One of Mary’s greatest accomplishments in her time at State has been the thought and effort she put into her classes, as well as her earning her B.A in Anthropology. Though the idea of graduating still feels foreign to her, she feels fulfilled by her experiences despite the uncertainties of what comes next. She also let me know that she will be taking a weeklong sleep following commencement! And if all goes to plan, Mary will continue her educational career by pursuing a master’s degree and moving to New York.

Ena Pojol, a sociology major, describes her time at NC State as a “crazy ride.” Though her college career started off with some bumps in the road, she was able to build a strong support system for herself that helped her to succeed and reach her goals. Over time, the libraries became her place of comfort on campus. With the effects of the pandemic blurring the lines between home and school, she misses physically spending time at the library with the purpose of being productive. Ena enjoyed grabbing a coffee, finding a table with a whiteboard, and having the ability to spread all her work out for a few hours. Other traditionally NC State things that she has come to love are Packapalooza and seeing movies at Witherspoon. 

When asked about her experiences in the Sociology and Anthropology department, she replied, “My favorite part was the relationships I was able to build and maintain with mentors who truly cared about me and my success.” She has loved nearly all of her sociology courses and enjoyed all of the professors she learned from. The content was interesting, the professors were always helpful and understanding, and the knowledge she has gathered will carry over into her professional life. One of her greatest accomplishments during her time at State has been making the Dean’s List after overcoming many challenges in the beginning of her college career. 

Ena’s post-graduation plans include attending a master’s program. She has recently applied to UNC Charlotte’s Educational Leadership – Higher Education program and is waiting to hear back. She also has a plan to enter the workforce in the HR world. 

headshot of Amber Dover

Amber Dover, a criminal justice major with a social work minor, feels as though “our department embodies such close relationships between [her] peers and with [her] professors.” Despite the large student body, the small class sizes allowed her to feel progressively more comfortable engaging in her class discussions. She thoroughly enjoyed seeing the same faces in her classes as she navigated higher level courses, because it allowed her to develop strong academic bonds with peers having a passion for the same studies. Additionally she attributes the growth in her overall cultural awareness to the diversity within the Sociology and Anthropology department. She believes that this is the case because “[she has] interacted with individuals of unique, diverse backgrounds that influenced the strength of [her] worldview.”

A place on campus that has felt unique to Amber is the Court of Carolina, because even on a busy day, she can feel calm and at peace looking across the “beautiful grass field.” This is one of her favorite places to sit and do homework, especially on warm, sunny days. And though Amber found it difficult to decide, she believes that her favorite NC State tradition is when the Bell Tower is lit red after a Wolfpack Win. She relayed that “Watching the Pack play in the PNC Arena, cheering on our team as the seconds on the clock count down, and storming the court after a huge win is a huge rush of excitement that nearly words can’t describe. There is just something about going to see the Bell Tower shining red after a win that makes me feel prouder than ever to be a part of the Pack!”

Following graduation, Amber plans to attend law school as she aspires to practice criminal and family law to “achieve justice for vulnerable populations inside and outside of the criminal justice system.” She values her time at NC State and how it has prepared her for the future. She remarks that “[she] know[s] that [she] will always be proud and honored to say [that she is] a member of the one and only, NC State Wolfpack!”

This post was written by Shelby Feirstein, a junior studying anthropology with minors in forensics, genetics and French and a Department of Sociology and Anthropology student ambassador.

headshot of Shelby Feirstein