Monday, December 5, 2016

UNCW Provided the Perfect Path

As a Pender County native, Stephania Bloodworth ’00 didn’t have to travel far for her college education – there was a place within commuting distance that fit her needs exactly.

“As I look back to my senior year in high school, really not knowing where I wanted to go to college, I think I had a fear of leaving home,” Bloodworth said. Nevertheless, she was determined to pursue a degree in accountancy, a field she was first introduced to in high school.

“The first and only college I applied to was UNCW, and it was the best choice that I have made,” she said. She attended classes in the Cameron School of Business as a commuter but also immersed herself in campus activities: the gospel choir, the Association for Campus Entertainment and more. “UNCW was small enough to feel like one big family, but also big enough to feel like you could meet people from various places.”

Read more at We Are UNCW.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Building UNCW's Culture of Philanthropy

Keith Fraser ’13, assistant director of annual giving, has the privilege of helping build a culture of philanthropy among the UNCW community.

“As a proud alumnus, I understand the importance of investing in UNCW,” he said. “Our investment in one another sends an important message to the Wilmington community, alumni and the state that we are accomplishing great things here.”

Prior to his current role, he served as a first-year admissions coordinator. While traveling and meeting prospective students and parents, he learned firsthand the importance of educational access and affordability for all students, regardless of their background or financial situation, which provides a rich context for his role in the Division for University Advancement.

“UNCW had a record-breaking year in fundraising. Nearly $15 million in gifts and commitments were made during 2015-16. Of those gifts made, 50 percent were less than $50. This is an incredible reminder that no gift is too small to make a big impact for our current and future students.”

Read more at We Are UNCW.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

An Adaptable Anchor in UNCW's Growth

In a way, some stately old trees found on the UNCW campus are a metaphor for Wesley Padgett’s outlook on life.

“Having grown up here, I have had the opportunity to watch the university change in so many ways, but one of the constants that has always provided me peace were the majestic live oaks that adorn this campus,” said Padgett ’04, a Wilmington native and networking specialist in the Information Technology Services department.

“Through time, trends, fashions and movements, those oaks have always reminded me to remain anchored but also be adaptive. They are truly a treasure to this campus and a constant reminder to me to try to be the best that I can be without being the focal point of attention.”

As an ITS employee whose job is to keep the university’s voice and cable infrastructures working, Padgett considers himself part of the “backdrop” of UNCW. On the other hand, his work allows him to connect with many people daily in all departments and functions.

Read more at We Are UNCW.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Increasing International Perspective with the Peace Corps

Serving as an education volunteer with the Peace Corps was a life-changing experience for Chris Cardona ’14. Not only did he immerse himself in a new culture, Chris also helped students in China build their confidence in speaking the English language.

Chris traveled to China after graduating from UNCW to teach English as a second language at a vocational high school in Wulong, China. For two years, he aided students in mastering English language competency and conversational skills while also serving as a mentor.

UNCW’s campus provided an atmosphere for meaningful conversations and to build genuine connections with professors, he added. “It’s also big enough that I could meet new interesting people every day. The growing international student population and the opportunity to study abroad made my experience enriching.”

Chris hopes to take what he learned from his Peace Corps experience to help youth in the North Carolina. 

Read more about Chris' story at We Are UNCW.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Changing Course & Paying it Forward

Cecil Reynolds ’75 had two desires as a youth – to attend the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and to play professional baseball. In the summer of 1969, he had to choose between his two passions: He earned a presidential appointment to the Naval Academy and was drafted by the Mets.

Two weeks before Reynolds was to report for duty at Annapolis, he withdrew from the Naval Academy and signed with the Mets. After four years toiling in the minor leagues and making several all-star teams, Reynolds suffered a career-ending injury the year of his first major league contract, which set him on a new career path – research and child development.

It was a psychology course at UNCW that sparked his interest in the field, he recalled.

Today, Reynolds is a leader in the fields of school and educational psychology. He is a distinguished research scholar, and professor emeritus of educational psychology and neuroscience at Texas A&M University. He’s also the editor-in-chief of Archives of Scientific Psychology and associate editor of Journal of Pediatric Neuropsychology. He is the author of more than 300 scholarly publications and author or editor of 55 books.

Reynolds was named the 1984 UNCW Distinguished Alumnus of the Year and a 1998 UNCW Razor Walker Award recipient for his contributions to the field. In an effort to help future researchers pursue their passion, Reynolds endowed a scholarship honoring psychology professor Robert Brown, whom he described as an excellent teacher, mentor and lifelong friend.

“We want to support opportunities for post-secondary and graduate education where and when we can. One of our hopes is that by modelling such support by giving back and not just talking about it, others will be inspired to give back as well. Giving back creates a rising tide, and it is true, a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Read more at We Are UNCW.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Transfer, Temp to Full Time

In just six years, Lauren Auton ’12 has gone from a UNCW transfer student to a full-time staff member and graduate student at the university.

“I started out in the Office of the Dean of Students as a work-study student, became a temp after graduation and then a full-time staff member,” she says. She currently serves as the assistant for student conduct and community standards in that office.

Auton graduated with a degree in sociology and criminology and is currently working on a master’s in conflict management and resolution. She credits her education from UNCW for preparing her to work well with diverse populations – a big part of her role now.

Read more at We Are UNCW.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Artist Turned Administrator

Donna Moore ’81 already possessed artistic talent when she enrolled at UNCW, but she credits her time at the university with opening her eyes to art’s broad influence on humanity and society. Today, as director of the Museum School at the Cameron Art Museum, she helps others develop their own special relationship with art.

“I started my studies with a personal connection to art, but I graduated from UNCW with a strong awareness and commitment to the life-changing power the arts can bring to everyone, everywhere,” she said.

As a work-study student at UNCW, Moore was given the job of assisting legendary Wilmington artist Claude Howell in the art department. He was a demanding mentor, but she learned much from him.
Read more at We Are UNCW.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wilmington College Reflections

Almost 50 years later, Shirley Zeznock recounts the story of the impact Wilmington had on her and husband Eugene ‘67. 

“In 1965, my husband Eugene and I moved our young family to Wilmington, North Carolina and settled on Harbor Island. Eugene planned to finish a bachelor degree in Accounting that he had starting working on years before at what was then known as Wilmington College, now UNC Wilmington. The original college buildings sat across from New Hanover High School on Market Street. At the time, Wilmington College only offered associate degrees and a large percentage of the student body was comprised of enlisted service men returning from the Korean War.

Our return to Wilmington was very exciting. We had previously lived in Wilmington in 1956 to 1957 and at that time I was a new Registered Nurse working the night shift at James Walker Hospital on Rankin Street.

During our second two years living back in Wilmington, 1965 to 1966, I had the best job ever at Babies Hospital. This children’s hospital originally opened in 1920 and was located on the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway just before the first bridge to Wrightsville Beach. I had returned to Wilmington as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and was the sole anesthetist in the hospital. I previously had worked in a large and busy operating room so this new job felt almost like a vacation.

I lived five minutes from Babies Hospital. The daily schedule usually was finished by late morning and even though I was on standby six days a week for emergencies, I had lots of time to… take a few college courses. All the new-found free time gave me the opportunity to work with the Wilmington College Marine Biology department which was right next door to Babies Hospital. They were doing a wide range of studies that I found very interesting and they even had an adopted seal named Lucille on site.

We left after the Wilmington College graduation ceremony in 1967 for improved job opportunities near Philadelphia but throughout the years our connection to the area remained strong… and after our retirement in 1995, we permanently moved back to Wilmington. We still remember and cherish all the opportunities made possible for us here."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

An Advocate for Equitable Education

As a young man growing up in rural North Carolina, Sherick Hughes ’97 experienced inequities and opportunities at the intersection of race, class, gender, education and desegregated schools. He later witnessed those same inequities and opportunities while working with urban and rural public elementary school youth in North Carolina and Ohio.

His experiences sparked a desire to advocate and seek solutions that would provide equitable educational opportunities to all.

Over the years, Hughes’ work has aided in the advancement of education. His research was applied to a N.C. Supreme Court case involving schools; to rural extension education efforts in Pennsylvania; urban education policy efforts in Indiana; and, most recently, his research on the myth and math of affirmative action was requested by national- and local-level legal advisors. “It has the potential to be used in pending cases regarding race-conscious college admissions,” he said.

Read more about Sherick at We Are UNCW.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Meet the New Chapter Leadership

Joey Morganthall – Charlotte Area President
Grad Year: 2007
School & Major: Cameron School of Business, Business Administration & College of Arts and Sciences, Communications Studies
Current Employment: Broker, MPV Properties
Activities as a student: Vice President – Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, 4 Years- Club Soccer Team
What motivated you to get involved with the Alumni Association?
I wanted to give back to UNCW because of the quality experience I had at UNCW.  I want to ensure that my education at UNCW is a long term investment, and that Alumni continue to give back and help raise the standards of the University. 

Juliana Nesbit – Watson College of Education President
Grad Year: 2006
School & Major: Watson College of Education, Social Studies Certification,  B. A. in History, 
Current Employment: Social Studies Teacher at Topsail High School
Activities as a student: NC Teaching Fellow
What motivated you to get involved with the Alumni Association? I enjoy being able to give back to the university and the Watson College. I like the networking opportunities, building connections between the university and community, and having an inside look at how certain things at the university are run.

Will Owens – Triangle Area President
Grad Year: 1998
School & Major: College of Arts & Sciences, Sociology and Criminology  
Current Employment: Attorney/Partner, Owens & Miller, PLLC
What motivated you to get involved with the Alumni Association?
I gained a lot from my experience at UNCW, and want to give back to the extent I am capable from 120 miles west of Wilmington.  Through the Alumni Association, I've been able to both reconnect with former classmates, and also meet other alumni from other classes and even other generations.  We've formed good friendships and even a few business relationships.  By volunteering with the alumni association, I'm hopeful of helping other Seahawks foster the same positive experience. 

Jamie Kury Thompson – Communications Studies President
Grad Year: 2003
School & Major: College of Arts & Sciences, Communication Studies and French
Current Employment: Development Director, Coastal Horizons Center
Activities as a student: Alpha Phi, French Club, Study Abroad in Marseille and Paris
What motivated you to get involved with the Alumni Association?
I have had the pleasure of working with interns from the Communications Studies department over the last 8 years. It has been an incredible experience and it made me realize that I really enjoy staying involved with UNCW. It is so wonderful to see how much the department has grown since I was an undergrad and I want to find ways to be of service to a university that did so much for me as a student and now as a professional.   

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

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.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

What Moves, Inspires and Drives You? This Seahawk Sticks to Her Values

Nadya Nataly ’08 co-founded Forever Original, a marketing and PR firm based in New York City, and she pens a monthly lifestyle column entitled City Girl. Now working as a journalist for the Duplin Times in Kenansville, NC, volunteering for diverse causes and planning for law school, Nataly fondly – and with gratitude – recalls her time as a Seahawk.
“During my time at UNCW, I was encouraged to find out what moves, inspires and drives me,” says Nataly, who majored in creative writing. “It’s exciting because being an undergraduate is one of the most pivotal moments in a student’s life; to have support and a foundation that allows curiosity and development [was] a luxury. When it was time to graduate, I felt ready for the world.”

Find out more about Nadya at WE ARE UNCW.