Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lifelong Marine Biology Dreams Realized

Madeline Marens ’12 knew at the age of 5 that she wanted to be a marine biologist – a dream she never outgrew. She majored in marine biology and achieved her goal, landing a job as an aquarist at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

“I really enjoy the aquarium setting and feel like I can be engaged in shark conservation initiatives there,” she said. “The aquarium serves as an instrumental public agency to inspire and commit to the conservation of the environment. I enjoy the hands-on aspect of it.”

Marens credits several UNCW professors – Fred Scharf, Tom Lankford, Ann Pabst and Marcel Van Tuinen – for her passion for conservation.

“The education I received as an undergrad and now as a graduate student has helped me achieve the career I dreamed of as a child,” she said.

Find out more about Madeline at We Are UNCW.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards for Excellence in Teaching

A passion for teaching and a desire to help future educators are two things Frances Bessellieu ’82, ’99M and Sueanne McKinney ’82 have in common. The lifelong educators spent much of their careers helping at-risk or special needs children and preparing teachers.

They were honored by the Watson College of Education for their efforts to make a difference in the lives of young people and the advancement of teacher education. Bessellieu, a former teacher and consultant with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and McKinney, an associate professor of elementary education at Old Dominion University, were recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.

“I was well-prepared for the classroom and working with diverse populations,” McKinney said. “The number and quality of my field experiences gave me a realistic picture of the demands of teaching.”

Read more about Frances and Susanna at We Are UNCW.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Researching Issues Close to Home

Mount Everest may draw hundreds, if not thousands of people to Nepal each year, but it was the more remote regions that influenced Janardan Mainali '16M to study earth sciences. Nepal’s treacherous terrain affects more than just mountain climbers; it also impedes villagers’ access to basic elements like water. For his studies, Mainali was specifically interested in dynamics of natural resources and their inherent link to the people who live in the place he calls home.

Mainali, a Fulbright Scholar, began his master’s studies at UNCW in August 2014, and received a grant from the International Foundation for Science to fund his fieldwork in Nepal. “I was born and raised in a remote, hilly region of Nepal in an agrarian family,” he said, “and grew up observing change in the forests and farms around my house.” Following landslides, he said, “those barren lands were protected under the community forest regime and they are now full-fledged forests. That helped local people as they no longer had to walk long distances to collect forest products.”

As part of his master’s thesis in geoscience, Mainali collected data from 10 villages in his native Nepal to assess socioeconomic drivers of drought vulnerability in the Ramechhap district. “Thank you so much, UNCW and Wilmington, for being so accommodating to international students,” he said. “Thank you for making this journey so memorable. I will miss UNCW and Wilmington.”

Read more about Janardan at We Are UNCW.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Meet the new members at-large of the Board of Directors

The UNC Wilmington Alumni Association welcomed four new members at-large to our Board of Directors. These individuals will provide leadership and guidance to the association during their three-year term of service.

Danielle Bryant ’02 earned a bachelor’s in Business Administration and now lives in Raleigh, NC, serving as Human Resources Manager at Amec Foster Wheeler. There she is responsible for implementing human resource management strategies and acts as a strategic partner to the executive management team. Additionally, Danielle volunteers as a Meredith College Business student mentor, Chair of a Human Resources Construction Council and member of the Raleigh Wake Human Resources Association.

Deborrah Newton ’83 earned a bachelor’s in English and is currently an attorney, licensed to practice law in both state and federal court. Owner of Newton Law Firm, Deborrah litigates trial and appeal cases, with a concentration in State and Federal Criminal Law. She has served as both Secretary and President of the Wake County Academy of Criminal Trial Lawyers and is currently a member of Governor McCrory’s Mental Health and Substance Use Commission. Deborrah’s daughter Brittany is also a UNCW alumna, carrying on the UNCW legacy.

Cedrick Barrett ’00 attended UNCW on a full academic scholarship and earned a bachelor’s in Business Administration. Cedrick works as the Finance Director for the YMCA of Wilmington, Inc. where he is responsible for the fiscal management of the organization. Cedrick is currently a board member and past treasurer of DREAMS of Wilmington, and won the New Hanover County Partnership for Fatherhood Award in March 2016. He has remained actively involved with UNCW by attending alumni events and creating opportunities for students through partnerships with the career center and the Upperman African American Cultural Center.

Louis “Gus” Fennell, Jr. ’00 earned a bachelor’s in Business Administration, while serving on the Student Government Association as the Junior Class Senator and Senator at Large. Currently, Gus lives in Charleston, SC, and is a Vice President at BlackRock, Inc. where he works with investment professionals in North and South Carolina. Additionally, he serves on the Advisory Board for the Cameron School of Business Economics/Finance department.

Additionally, the board welcomed new chapter representatives:
· Joey Morganthall ’07 – Charlotte Area President
· Will Owens ’98 – Triangle Area President
· Juliana Nesbit ’06 – Watson College of Education President
· Jamie Thompson ’03 – Communications Studies President

Check back next month for more about these representatives.

To learn more about the role of the Alumni Board of Directors, and renewing members Brian Cruz and Dawn McKernan, visit

Monday, June 27, 2016

Power of Positive Mentoring

Patrick Boykin ’94, ’12M has firsthand experience with the power of positive mentoring.

As he began his career, legendary UNCW leaders like Chancellor Emeritus James Leutze and former basketball coach Jerry Wainright offered Boykin advice and guidance. They also asked him to mentor a new generation of Seahawks.

“After I graduated, Chancellor Leutze, Coach Wainwright and others would reach out to me periodically to assist with classroom discussions, mentoring basketball players and other needs for which they needed community input,” said Boykin, a commercial relationship manager with PNC Bank. “The relationships that I formed while there, and post-graduation, have formed a certain level of loyalty to UNC Wilmington.”

In fact, Boykin, along with two of his UNCW basketball teammates – Corey Stewart ’95 and Mika’il Petin – are establishing a nonprofit organization to help youth in Wilmington.

“The purpose of the organization is to give youth in our community the tools necessary to be successful through mentorship, education and sports."

Read more about Patrick at We Are UNCW.

Monday, June 20, 2016

From Graduate Student to Grant Writer

Upon beginning her graduate program in Liberal Studies (GLS) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the fall of 2012, Tara Goodwin ’15 had no idea how passionate she would become about the language of grant-writing. She certainly did not predict that her internship with the Cape Fear Literacy Council (CFLC) would grow into a future placement as a grant writer within the organization.

Goodwin knew almost immediately after starting her internship that she wanted nonprofit grant writing, specifically for the Cape Fear Literacy Council, to become her profession.

“I have seen how funding directly impacts the experiences of students at CFLC and how students facing struggles with literacy skills can not only change their lives with the help of CFLC but also change our community,” Goodwin said. “To me, that makes my job as a grant writer that much more important.”

Read more about Tara at We Are UNCW.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Cameron School of Business 2016 Outstanding Alumni

Strong work ethics, integrity and commitment to lifelong learning are just a few qualities
shared by Charles Craft ’79, David Pirrung ’90 and Maurice Smith ’79, this year’s Cameron 
School of Business Outstanding Alumni.

Charles Craft
Craft is a partner at RSM US LLP (RSM), the largest provider in the nation of audit, tax and financial services with a focus on the middle market. Pirrung is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of IAT Insurance Group, a property and casualty organization headquartered in Raleigh. Smith is the president and CEO of Local Government Federal Credit Union (LGFCU), a cooperative serving the financial needs of those affiliated with local governments in North Carolina.

Craft, a Wilmington native, graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and became a CPA in 1981.  He continued to accrue decades of experience in the industry, including ten years with a large regional firm. Craft ultimately became a founder and stockholder of Lanier, Whaley, Craft & Co. until they joined with RSM US LLP in 2013, where he now serves as a partner and CPA. Along with the leadership he currently provides the Wilmington tax practice, Craft serves on several boards, including the Executive Advisory Board of the Cameron School of Business and the MSA Advisory Committee at UNCW.

Craft credits his success to family, and to surrounding himself with people who challenge him to grow. "Seeing people around me succeed is part of success," he said.

David Pirrung
Like many, Pirrung took a more winding road before he ultimately settled on a school and a major. Originally from Pennsylvania, Pirrung first spent a year on a scholarship at Rochester Institute of Technology as a physics major, and then another year at community college. He arrived in Wilmington in the summer of 1988 to attend summer school, said Pirrung, “in a pick-up truck with a motorcycle strapped to the back.”

Pirrung said it was the magnetism of the faculty that got him really interested in school for the first time. Realizing he wanted to continue his education at UNCW, he worked first in real estate to his establish North Carolina residency, then returned to campus the following spring. He continued to work full-time in real estate while taking a full course load until he graduated with a Bachelor of Science. Not long after graduation he joined Ernst & Young in Raleigh, and was soon promoted to senior manager. He moved to a CFO position at a start-up insurance company, and ultimately landed at IAT Insurance, a global organization with approximately one billion of premiums written annually. Pirrung was named the CFO in 2005.

“Make yourself the expert,” he suggests, particularly to recent graduates transitioning to the business world.

Maurice Smith
Smith’s work ethic began with his family, and advice his father that he took to heart: “Nobody in the room better outwork you.”

Smith grew up on a small farm in Southport. Along with the value of hard work, he knew from an early age that he wanted to go into banking. When it became time to gain his secondary education to help fulfill that goal, he knew that as his parents' only son, he would need to go to college close to home so he could return to work on the farm on weekends. For this reason, UNCW fit the bill.

In 1979 Smith earned his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, and upon graduation began his career with the State Employees Credit Union. He served in a variety of roles until 1992 when he joined LGFCU as executive vice president. In 1999 he was promoted to president.

His education did not end with UNCW. He earned a Juris Doctorate from the North Carolina Central University School of law and is licensed to practice in North Carolina, the District of Columbia and before the United States Supreme Court. He is also a North Carolina Certified Superior Court Mediator. Smith serves on numerous boards, including the Board of Trustees at UNCW.

His sage advice could apply to anyone: “Learn everything.”

-- Kimberly Falkenhagen

These award recipients will be featured in UNCW Magazine's next issue, coming out in July.