More than 3,000 students will receive degrees during May Commencement ceremonies at North Carolina State University on Saturday, May 15. Following are short profiles of some of those students. Their stories could add to your coverage of graduation activities or provide the basis for an interesting feature story.
Media Contact: Tim Lucas, News Services, 919/515-3470 or firstname.lastname@example.org
April 30, 1999
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Globetrotting Vet Student Aims to Make the World Her PracticeClarissa "Gooey" Engstrom of Morrisville is dedicated to traveling the world and caring for its animals, and she’s got the passport and the resume to prove it. Building on her two- year Peace Corps stint in Africa and the doctor of veterinary medicine degree she’ll earn from NC State University, Engstrom is preparing for a career in global veterinary medicine.
Engstrom’s first stop after graduation will be Edinburgh, Scotland, where she will study for a master’s degree at the Center for Tropical Veterinary Medicine with funding from a prestigious Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship. After that, she wants to work on integrating sustainable development with animal welfare and wildlife protection.
The 31-year-old Concord native is passionate about animals. "They are strong in the face of their problems," Engstrom says. "In them, you can see the tenacity of life and the fragility of life in the same moment. You need to treat animals as individuals," she says.
As a Peace Corps extension agent in Zaire from 1989 to 1991, Engstrom taught aquaculture and small animal husbandry to farmers. Her experience in Africa included learning to speak and write Swahili, caring for juvenile chimpanzees in Burundi, and working with high-risk human populations on AIDS awareness. After returning to the United States, she organized the mammal collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
While a student at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Engstrom cared at home for goats, chickens and orphaned puppies, in addition to her "regulars" – two dogs and five cats. Should someone ever joke that she wears her heart on her sleeve, Engstrom has a ready response: She could just nod, extend her arms and show them her horseshoe cufflinks.
Engstrom will receive a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the College of Veterinary Medicine. A Morrisville resident, she is the daughter of George and Linda Engstrom of Concord. You can reach her at (919) 303-5599, or through the Teaching Hospital Large Animal Clinic at (919) 513- 6500.
History Student Found Future Amid the Ruins of the PastFor many college students, summer vacation means heading for the sand and sun. Last summer, Walter Ward of Gastonia got plenty of both in the Jordanian desert, where he was part of an NC State team that excavated the ruins of the world’s oldest structure built for use as a Christian church, in the lost Roman port city of Aila.
The historical dig, led by NC State professor of history Dr. Thomas Parker, took place amid the tourist trappings of modern-day Al Aqabah, a Red Sea resort town. The ruins of Aila are buried in the desert sand only a few blocks from the city’s seafront tourist strip. With the threat of commercial encroachment into the historical site looming, Ward and his teammates raced against the clock to excavate the site and document what they found. After weeks of diligent work, Ward unearthed a nearly intact clay vessel, probably used to store grain for household use. His vessel was part of a huge number of astounding finds – including parts of a cross, Roman coins, a church cemetery, and the mud-brick walls of the church itself – that support Parker’s widely accepted theory that the structure was built as a Christian place of worship in the late third century, decades before similar structures were built in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Working in the intense summer heat and scalding desert sand, Ward discovered not only remnants of the past, but also a direction for his future. A double major in chemistry and history, after graduation he plans to travel for a few months and then return to NC State as a graduate student studying ancient history under Parker. After earning his doctorate, he hopes to teach ancient history at a major university -- and perhaps find a lost city or two of his own.
Walter Ward will receive a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and a bachelor of arts degree in history from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He is the son of Orrie and Virginia Ward of Wilmington, and can be reached at (919) 821-5918.
For Student Speaker, It’s All About CommunityRemember Ray Starling’s name. Someday it may be engraved on the stationery at the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh, or at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C.
Starling, this year’s commencement student speaker, hails from tiny Autryville (pop. 203) in the heart of eastern North Carolina’s farm country. But there’s nothing "small town" about his accomplishments in life so far, his plans for the future, or his ability to connect with a crowd. As national vice president for Future Farmers of America (FFA) for 1996-97, Ray traveled to more than 35 states and to Japan and gave more than 400 motivational speeches to youth groups on the importance of staying in school, staying off drugs and working hard at whatever you do. The year served as a capstone for his lifelong involvement with FFA and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), and strengthened his commitment to a career in agricultural law and protecting the interests of North Carolina’s farm communities. This fall, he’ll attend the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill to pursue that goal.
At NC State, Ray has served as a Teaching Fellow and as president of the Agricultural & Extension Club. He is a member of three academic honor societies, a soloist of the Varsity Men’s Glee Club, a University Fellow, a student senator, and also is active in off-campus volunteer work. Having once been called upon to help deliver a baby as a member of a volunteer rescue squad, delivering a graduation speech to a crowd of 20,000 should be comparatively easy for him.
In his speech, Ray plans to remind his classmates that graduation "is not only the end of one era, but the beginning of a new one." No matter where they wind up, NC State has prepared them to face what lies ahead. The tangible resources on campus, the faculty and their knowledge and enthusiasm for teaching, are invaluable assets that will stay with graduates always. "Graduation," he will tell them, "is more than a ceremony – it is a recognition of the community that has helped you to succeed."
Starling will graduate with a bachelor of science degree in agricultural education from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He is the son of M.F. and JoAnne Starling of Autryville, and can be reached at (919) 852-0949.
Psychology Student Took to Heart, ‘If at First You Don’t Succeed...’In her first semester at NC State, Amy Bryant of Fuquay-Varina earned a 1.6 GPA. In her second semester, she earned a 3.2.
The remarkable turnaround, she says, was due to renewed commitment -- as in the Renewed Commitment Program offered by NC State’s Office of Student Development. The program, made available to struggling first-year students, helps them turn their academic performance around by teaching them to treat school as an eight-to-five job and professors as clients. Program participants must attend every class, meet with professors on a regular basis, sit in the first three rows of the classroom and follow strict guidelines for homework and study habits. By placing equal emphasis on physical, emotional and academic success, Renewed Commitment helps students learn to manage time wisely, set priorities and approach life with a well-balanced outlook.
For Amy, the program has made the difference between barely scraping by and excelling. She is graduating from NC State with a degree in psychology, and next year will receive her K-6 teacher certification from Meredith College. As a teacher, she hopes to instill the skills she learned in Renewed Commitment in future generations of students. At NC State, she is a member of the Animal Science Club, the Campus Crusade for Christ and is a Resident Advisor. She also frequently presents motivational speeches about the Renewed Commitment Program to first-year students.
Amy Bryant will graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the College of Education and Psychology. She is the daughter of Ray and Billie Bryant of Fuquay-Varina, and can be reached at (919) 512-6658 before graduation or at (919) 552-5400 afterward.
Meteorology Graduate Has a Clear Forecast for the FutureBrandon Locklear’s head has always been in the clouds. It’s a good thing, too. Because of his lifelong fascination with clouds and weather and his stubborn refusal to give up on a dream, the graduating senior from Pembroke already has a job with the National Weather Service -- and the forecast for his future is bright.
As a boy growing up among the farms and small towns of Robeson County, Locklear had the grades and the ambition to go far. He graduated from Purnell Swett High School near the top of his class and was accepted at NC State. But he worried that his dreams were beyond his reach and that his place was in Pembroke with his family, Lumbee Indians for whom Robeson County is the ancestral home. Today, tears still come to Locklear’s eyes as he recalls how his grandfather urged him to trust the strength of his family and his Lumbee heritage to propel him beyond his hometown in pursuit of his goal.
At NC State, when his head hasn’t been skyward or his nose hasn’t been in the books, Locklear has served as president of the university’s chapter of the American Indian Engineering Society, an organization that helps encourage Native American high school students to pursue a college education and careers in science, engineering and technology. He also is a member of the American Meteorological Society and has served two internships at the National Weather Service forecast center on NC State’s Centennial Campus, where he read the severe weather warnings issued during dangerous storms.
Brandon Locklear will graduate with a bachelor of science degree in meteorology from the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. He is the son of Clyde and Donna Locklear of Pembroke, and can be reached at (919) 859-6906.
Engineering Student’s Robot May Help Build First Lunar SettlementWhen humans finally establish the first permanent settlement on the moon, they may have Amanda England of Greenville to thank for it.
Amanda led an NC State student team that designed and built working prototypes of a remote-controlled lunar rover, lunar lander and habitat module for the Space ‘98 Robotics Competition sponsored by NASA and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Her team’s prototypes took first place in the competition and caught the eye of NASA engineers, who may some day incorporate bits of the students’ designs into the actual robotic devices used to build a moon settlement in the next century. At the center of the NC State entry was Thumper, an ingenious remote-controlled robot designed to do all the assembly and excavation needed to build a lunar habitat before permanent settlers arrive.
Closer to home, Amanda shared her robotics expertise with fellow students by teaching a three-hour undergraduate course on how to build a six-legged robot. She’s worked alongside some of the private sector’s top engineers during summer internships at Lockheed Martin and GE.
After graduation, Amanda will put engineering aside temporarily to plan a June wedding, after which she will begin working at Lord Corporation in Cary while she pursues her master’s degree at NC State.
Amanda England will receive a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the College of Engineering. She is the daughter of Gerald and Paula England of Greenville. She can be reached at (919) 512-0582, or at (252) 752-8909 after May 5.
Eschewing Daytona, These Students Spent Spring Break in HondurasWhile other students were flying off to the Bahamas, Key West and Daytona Beach for spring break, graduating seniors Elizabeth Gatlin of Raleigh, Olin Taylor of Charlotte, Tracy Thorpe of Raleigh and Olivia Sledge of Winston-Salem headed to Honduras for a week of grueling work building new homes for victims of Hurricane Mitch.
As part of a 29-member Habitat for Humanity volunteer crew, the students saw first hand the devastation left in Mitch’s wake and the abysmal conditions in which many citizens of the Central American nation now live. Whole villages have been wiped out; shelter, food and clean water are luxuries in those remaining.
Though devastated by what they saw, and plagued by tropical illnesses and broken-down vehicles, Gatlin, Taylor, Thorpe, Sledge and their teammates were able to help build new homes for two families in the village of Ocotella in San Pedro Sula province. The students said the most memorable moment of the trip was when the families’ children showed their appreciation by giving the students homemade gifts they had secretly been making all week.
The trip was made possible by the NC State Center for Student Leadership, Ethics and Public Service. Each student contributed $1,500 of their own money to defray costs for Habitat for Humanity.
Elizabeth Gatlin will graduate with a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences from NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). She is the daughter of Sherman W. and Deborah M. Gatlin of Raleigh. She can be reached at (919) 881-9542. Olin Taylor will graduate with a bachelor of science degree in botany from CALS. He is the son of Robert M. and Jane H. Taylor of Charlotte. He can be reached at (919) 832-8348. Tracy Thorpe will graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in English from NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She is the daughter of Brenda S. Thorpe of Raleigh and the late Alfonza L. Thorpe. She can be reached at (919) 512-4851 until May 5. Olivia Sledge will graduate with a bachelor of art degree in architecture from NC State’s School of Design. She is the daughter of John F. and Elizabeth D. Sledge of Winston-Salem. She can be reached at (919) 512-4303 through May 5 and at (336) 659-1542 after that.
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