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The mission of the Honors College at East Carolina University is to
prepare tomorrow's leaders through the recruitment, engagement, and
retention of exceptionally talented students of character in a diverse
intellectual living-learning community and to challenge them to attain
high levels of academic achievement.
Will Zahran, pictured here receiving the Robert Wright Award at the 2018 ECU Commencement, was named one of four Presidential Scholars by UNC System President Margaret Spellings for the 2018-2019 school year.
Accolades and awards are not foreign to recent East Carolina University graduate, EC Scholar, and Robert Wright Award winner Will Zahran (class of 2018). Now, the biology major and business management minor from Fayetteville can add an appointment as one of the four UNC Presidential Scholars for the 2018-2019 school year to that list of awards.
UNC System President Margaret Spellings announced the appointment of the four new Presidential Scholars Tuesday, July 17. The Presidential Scholars were selected among May 2018 UNC system graduates who demonstrated leadership skills, strong motivation, intellectual curiosity, and independence, according to the release.
“The program is a win-win situation,” said President Spellings. “The scholars help the UNC System do its work while they earn valuable experience in preparation for promising careers in public leadership.”
Zahran learned about the program from the Honors College staff and through watching another fellow Honors College alumnus—Katie Stanley—experience the program after she was named to the 2017-2018 class of Presidential Scholars.
“It was an honor to be named among 3 other impressive recent graduates who are passionate about public service and have already accomplished so much in their respective communities,” Zahran said.
The Presidential Scholars serve a one-year appointment and provide a wide range of professional functions for the UNC System Office. The scholars will regularly interact with senior leadership and members of the UNC System Board of Governors, helping to research, write, and implement policy.
With multiple experiences in higher education administration while at ECU, Zahran said he is interested to learn how big data and analytics are used to inform administrators and policymakers on how to increase student success.
“I hope that this experience will open doors to a number of new jobs and graduate programs across the state where I can plug in,” he said. “Previous Presidential Scholars have found impressive opportunities afterwards, and it is humbling to walk in their footsteps.”
Rising junior EC Scholar Ananya Koripella during her medical fellowship in Greece this summer.
“As you know, I stayed in Athens for three weeks as part of the Atlantis Program. I was shadowing doctors at three different hospitals. It was so much fun! I saw different things from a coronary artery bypass to a live birth and c-sections to orthopedic tumor removals to pediatric refugee patients who had measles and chicken pox! I met all kinds of different people too. There was a patient from Romania who had the most interesting stories and used to live literally 20 minutes from Count Dracula’s castle and now I really want to go there so bad. He had pins in his hand because he crushed two fingers in an accident and didn’t even flinch one bit when the doctor was pulling them out.
Rising junior EC Scholar Ananya Koripella enjoys some free time while in Greece for a medical fellowship.
I’ve had more gyros and souvlaki than I can count; Tzatziki Sauce in Greece >>>>>> Tzatziki Sauce in the USA! I got to go to a lot of different places too! Literally, a half hour after I arrived at my apartment in Athens, my project coordinator took us all the way up to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon. The program took us to Sounion, a coastal city where the Temple of Poseidon is located. They also took us to Delphi known for the Temple of Apollo and the Oracle. On our own, the other fellows and I went to Aegina, one of the islands of Greece and to the Mykonos. I had a wonderful, wonderful time! There is still so much left on my list of stuff I want to see and places I want to go to, I’m definitely going to go back to Greece when I can! I’ve got over a thousand pictures on my laptop that I took with my Canon camera, I’ll definitely show you some more when I see you both in August!
Ciao for now!”
Rising junior EC Scholar Ananya Koripella in Greece this summer.
Written by: Brice Bowrey, Junior EC Scholar
I had the pleasure of travelling to Nashville, Tennessee on Nov. 15, 2018 as a Truth Initiative Youth Activism Fellow. This trip was the apotheosis of the work myself and several other Fellows completed for the last six months. During that time, we laid the groundwork for a large tobacco awareness campaign in the city of Nashville. This campaign was to be conducted among five high schools in the city and designed to further the Truth Initiative’s goal of, “inspiring tobacco-free lives and building a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco.”
While this is a laudable goal, I quickly realized it is much easier said than done. The process of recruiting high schools and high school students to be part of the campaign was arduous and riddled with rejection. Creating campaign activities involved the writing, rewriting and re-rewriting of our various ideas, only to realize that some legal or regulatory restriction made the concept completely unworkable. Adequately communicating and coordinating with my teammates and other branches of the Truth Initiative was, at times, nearly impossible. Nonetheless, my team and I persevered.
Upon arriving in Nashville I was fully equipped with determination and the communication, technical and leadership skills I had acquired while preparing for the campaign. After catching up with my teammates, we began the final preparations for the “Weekend Retreat” we would conduct. This Retreat was essentially a training day for the high school students that agreed to implement the campaign in their schools. We were to teach them about tobacco control issues, such as menthol and big tobacco’s predatory advertising practices, as well as equip them with the skills necessary to enact the campaign activities we planned. We also intended to conduct planning sessions with each school to ensure that the students left the Retreat with a basic implementation strategy they could flesh out independently.
As someone who was never particularly extroverted or comfortable with younger people, I began to question my ability to pull this event off. Would I be able to adequately convey information to the students? Would I horrendously botch something in my presentations? Would we be able to adapt the campaign activities to fit the individual needs of each high school? Alas, these concerns were for naught. The students were strikingly mature and intelligent. They were accepting of authority, yet unafraid to express their views and opinions. Despite my original expectations, I found working with these students to be far easier than working with some adults. Unlike many adults, the students possessed a certain creativity and willingness to consider unorthodox solutions. They were willing to learn and adapt. Due to the quality of the students, the Weekend Retreat ran exceptionally smoothly and the breakout planning sessions were highly productive. Perhaps most importantly, the students reported that they enjoyed the day and felt prepared to put their plans into action.
Since the completion of the Weekend Retreat, my team and I have served as advisors to the students involved in the campaign implementation. Their efforts are largely self-sufficient, but we are available to answer any questions and serve as a liaison between the students and the Truth Initiative. Although this was not my first experience in the world of tobacco control, I learned some important lessons. Most notably, my confidence in my ability to work with young adults dramatically increased. I also learned a lot about what it takes to be part of a large, national organization where one must regularly work with people that may be on the other side of the country. I have no doubt these are lessons I will not soon forget. While I don’t intend to pursue this line of work as a career, I have no doubt that being a Truth Initiative Youth Activism Fellow has prepared me well for my next foray into the world of tobacco control and public health advocacy.