Tuesday, November 29, 2011

UNCW Students Thankful for the Generosity of Alumni

It might not seem like Candice Miller from Kannapolis, NC and Tse-Lynn Loh from Malaysia have much in common, but both of their lives have been changed by UNCW alumni. They have each been awarded scholarships to help excel in their studies while lightening the financial burdens of attending a university.

Candice Miller, graduating December 2013, is studying Business Administration and has been awarded the John & Constance K. Phillips Scholarship. Otherwise unable to afford her education with the expenses of raising three children, this scholarship allows her to pursue her own dreams of earning a college degree as well as “helping my family’s dreams come true,” she says. Candice has decided to make Wilmington her family’s home after falling in love with the town. She chose to complete her education at UNCW after hearing from friends that the professors are unlike any other. Different from larger schools where students tend to feel like a number, UNCW prides itself on the tight-knit community feel between the faculty, staff, and students.

Aquarius is owned by the NOAA and operated by UNCW
Tse-Lynn, class of 2012, is from Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. She came to UNCW to study Marine Biology. Awarded the Perry Daniel Lockamy, Jr. Memorial Scholarship, Tse-Lynn has just completed a mission to Aquarius, the world’s only underwater research laboratory off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. Located at a depth of 60 feet, graduate students are sent on a ten-day mission to explore the nearby coral reefs. With a restricted ability to earn income as an international student, affording graduate school can be difficult. “The scholarship money will go towards funding fieldwork for my Ph.D. research, making it possible for me to collect data for two chapters of my thesis,” says Tse-Lynn.

Whether you are from North Carolina or across the globe, achieved a degree in business or marine biology, many UNCW alumni are generously affording students the ability to ease their college expenses and expand the quality of their education. See how you can make a difference in a student’s life like Candice or Tse-Lynn by visiting the Alumni Giving Campaign.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Alumna Shares Passion and Life-Long Connection with UNCW

Few have the love for UNCW that Lolita Bryant '04, '11M does. The love stems from the history of her father and his siblings living and growing up on the land that the stately georgian architecture now rests on. The area was quite different then. It was farm land.

Knowing that this land was once owned by her great-great-grandparents, Lolita’s face lights up when she talks about the university she feels so strongly connected to. Ask her about her education and there’s no mistaking the appreciation and fondness in her voice.

After attending classes at Winston-Salem State University she returned home and began taking classes at UNCW in 1983. She then attended James Sprunt Community College and obtained an Associate Degree in Nursing. Lolita returned to UNCW once the university started offering a bachelor’s degree in her passion, nursing. Stemming from courses she took at John T. Hoggard High School, Lolita’s desire became a reality nearly 30 years ago. She has been comforting, nurturing and guiding soon-to-be mothers as they bring their unborn children into the world since.

Working around her busy schedule, Lolita completed her bachelor’s degree, taking one class at a time, in 2004. She participated in the Senior Sankofa Ceremony just prior to graduation. Finding the event to be a very touching experience, Lolita vowed to attend each one since, and she has. Learning about the African American Graduate Association (AAGA), who co-hosts the event, Lolita quickly became involved as an alumni volunteer and later, as chairperson in 2009.

Appreciative of the encouragement and support she received by the faculty while taking classes, Lolita became interested in teaching as well. In conjunction with working towards her master's degree in the nursing education program, Lolita taught students at the hospital where she works and also the university. "If it's in your heart to do it, go for it. No matter what it takes to do it, keep going. Find those mentors that will help you stay focused and stay positive. Don't give up on your goal and you'll do it," she said.

This past May, she completed her master's degree and is looking forward to how she can  continue to inspire students and stay involved with the university.  "Because I love nursing the way that I do and I was so involved with the university, I would love to have a scholarship and be able to award that to a student," Lolita shared.    

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Alumnus Takes Ownership in His Community and Alma Mater

Jason Wheeler '99, '03M chose to pursue a career in finance not just because he found the subject matter interesting, he also wanted to help others. Learning to appreciate the value of a dollar at a young age while witnessing his parents scrape by, he acknowledged the lack of personal finance education available in the first 12 years of school. He knew that this was an important subject to learn, and he was good at it.

Jason and his wife, Ashley
Two separate, but consequential events presented themselves while Jason was a student. The first was a job posting through which he met his current business partner at Pathfinder Wealth Consulting. Initially working together at a different firm, the two quickly connected and formed the partnership after Jason had completed his MBA. They committed to serving the local community; a philosophy that is at the core of the company's business model.

The second significant event took place when Jason had nearly completed his MBA. He was approached about joining the alumni Board of Directors. As his first volunteer role with the university, Jason recalls, "I received an education in higher education." His guidance and support proved instrumental with the association, helping it to achieve higher levels of alumni engagement.

Jason, as an alumni leader, was selected to participate on the search committee for not only the Alumni Relations Director in 2007, but also the Athletics Director position in 2010 and recently, the search for UNCW's new Chancellor.

"I think there was around 7,000 or 8,000 students at UNCW when I was an undergrad and then nearly 12,000 students when I was finishing my MBA. You're talking about growing the university by a third. I think people appreciate my history. I've seen the university from an alumni perspective and internally as well." Jason refers to his experience not only as a volunteer, but as a member of the adjunct faculty. He has been teaching finance courses at UNCW for the past three years.

Jason attained a new volunteer role, as a member of the Foundation Board, due to his history and experience providing sound guidance to the university.

When speaking with Jason, it's easy to see his passion for UNCW and its students. "Some of the idea of coming to UNCW not knowing anybody and finding myself is, still today, part of my story. Just being on the board itself, speaking up and meeting people has allowed me to succeed in my own personal mission of becoming a larger part of where I live."

No Feat Too Large for Dedicated Alumnus

Showcased as one of the most beautiful alumni facilities in the south, the Wise Alumni House can attribute its grand appeal, in part, to the passion and dedication of a small group of alumni. Donated to the university by Ms. Jessie Hargrave Kenan Wise's grandchildren, the historic mansion had to undergo considerable renovations in order to become the home of the Alumni Association. Renovations so substantial, that the alumni association secured a $400,000 loan to make them possible. For one of the devoted supporters, Jim Stasios '70, this type of commitment was nothing new. 

Jim's history with UNCW includes many of our most memorable achievements, including the day that the university, then Wilmington College, became part of the UNC system. Jim remembers modifying and combining a few car decals to form UNC Wilmington on the back window of his Volkswagen the day he heard the news.

Jim with his wife, Maria
It wasn't long after graduation that Jim first became involved with the Alumni Association. After attending several events, Jim joined the Board of Directors and later served as chairperson. During Jim's time on the alumni board the association developed the UNCW license plate program, supporting student scholarships. It was also during this time that the Wise Alumni House renovation project took place. Efforts to raise funds to retire the note included a home decorators showcase with celebrity Martha Stewart, automobile auctions and "hard hat parties" where donors would sponsor a particular room or structure of the house.

The volunteers celebrated when they had finally collected all the funds to retire the loan, and then again years later when the house achieved it's centennial. "That was a very proud moment for all of us. To have that come about and having the historical marker put out on the front of the house." Jim stated.

Jim has had an impact in many areas at UNCW, and his volunteer roles weren't always singularly focused or consecutive, sometimes he was juggling multiple organizations. "At one time I sort of overlapped, where I was a member of the alumni board, involved with the Seahawk Club board and I was on the Foundation Board." said Jim. Similar to the duration he was involved with the alumni board, he appreciated the experiences with these organizations immensely. "I met a whole other group of people who had involvement with the university, but in a different perspective. I enjoyed that very much."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How Lucky We Are to Have Alumni Like You

UNCW boasts more than 53,000 alumni living around the globe. Teachers, nurses, business executives, scientists, lawyers, film makers and entrepreneurs are among those who call themselves Seahawks.

We couldn't be more proud of our alumni and their accomplishments. To hear stories about days on campus and how those experiences have shaped their lives today is fascinating. To feel the empathy and encouragement our alumni have for our newest graduates is inspiring. To see the generosity, time and financial support contributed to the university, benefitting the needs of our students is heartwarming.

We are thankful for all alumni, whether a 1947 graduate from Wilmington College or a former student who received their diploma just last May. In the spirit of the holidays and giving thanks, we would like to take an opportunity to feature some of our alumni all-stars, people who persistently show their Seahawk love and passion for UNCW.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Former UNCW Student Body President Supporting Entire N.C. University System from Nation’s Capital

Bradley Ballou ’06 did not stop his political career in student government. Originally coming to UNCW for the smaller Southern hospitality atmosphere of the university, he has found himself in the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C.

His education and experience as Student Body President and a member of the Board of Trustees, taught him “more about politics and policy than any other prior experience,” said Bradley. To have “studied politics before practicing it has been enormously beneficial to me.”

Upon graduation from UNCW and after receiving his master’s degree in Political Management from George Washington University, Bradley worked for Senator Elizabeth Dole. He served as her scheduler and later an advisor on Energy and Environmental policy. After the 2008 election and end of the campaign, Bradley experienced an especially difficult time finding another job, like other Republicans in Washington D.C. His persistence and experience earned him an opportunity with the American Council of Life Insurers as part of their government relations team for a year following the election. From there Bradley started his current role for the University of North Carolina system.

Currently the Director of Federal Relations for the University of North Carolina, Bradley acts as a lobbyist for all 17 UNC system campuses and as a liaison between the University and Congress as well as all branches of the Federal government.

Bradley enjoys having networking opportunities with other alumni during events in D.C. as well coming back to visit Wilmington. “Living in this concrete jungle, I really miss the fresh sea air,” says Bradley, who goes to the south end of Wrightsville Beach every chance he gets. Visit Bradley and other alumni in the area at the Washington D.C. Area Alumni Reception on December 1 for a chance to welcome Chancellor Gary Miller and Mrs. Georgia Miller to UNCW.

UNCW Alumni Relations/Hannah Miller