The Park Scholarships program has invited Park Scholars from the Class of 2024 to interview Park alumni. This is the first of a series of interviews that will be published throughout the year. Addison Hughes ’24 was inspired by Melanie Conklin’s ability to pursue a career outside of her major field of study. She reached out to see how Park Scholarships had contributed to Conklin’s adaptability and leadership skills.
This fall, as NC State welcomes the 25th class of Park Scholars, it is valuable to look back at the first class of Park Scholars and see where they are today. For the past 25 years, it has not been hard to see the overwhelming amount of success that Park alumni have generated.
Melanie Conklin ’00, a member of the first class of Park Scholars, is an example of a successful leader who has come from the program. Conklin spent her time at NC State in the College of Design with career ambitions in product design and she also minored in English literature. Conklin served as one of the original directors of Service Raleigh, an annual tradition that has made a significant impact on the city in the two decades since its inception. As one of the first Park Scholars, she took advantage of all the program had to offer. She used a Park Enrichment Grant to pay for her housing during an internship in New York, which served as an important stepping stone in her future career. After graduating, Conklin worked as a product designer for several major companies including Johnson and Johnson.
Conklin took time off from her career in product design to be with her two children while they were young and she found herself looking for an outlet for her creative energy. Having minored in literature, Conklin had always been interested in books and all that goes into developing a story. Conklin spent time researching the publication process and eventually began writing her first novel, Counting Thyme. Today she is a successful author and published her second novel, Every Missing Piece, in May.
The following interview with Conklin today shows the difference Park Scholarships has made in her character, career, and life.
How have your experiences as a Park Scholar contributed to your professional choices and opportunities?
I felt like I had a lot more to bring to the table when it came to future jobs from being around such a diverse group of people. The Park Scholars in my class majored in different subject areas and I benefited from being around that. Park Scholarships also gave me a world of opportunities and the support to pursue them. There is no doubt I would not be where I am today without those opportunities and support. Park Scholarships also showed me that I can make things happen which opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities outside of my automatically assumed career path.
What is the most meaningful lesson you learned during your time at NC State?
As a Park Scholar at NC State, I learned how to be a leader and what hard work can do. I realized this through directing Service Raleigh. I have come back since to speak at Service Raleigh. Looking into a huge crowd of people that I didn’t know twenty-some years after I co-directed the first one shows the legacy you can make if you take the initiative to be a leader. This lesson has helped me continue to be a leader today within the book community. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, book publishing was crushed, so I co-directed a virtual book fest that brought together over 40,000 members of the literature community to help lift one another.
What is your favorite memory from your experience as a Park Scholar?
My favorite memory must be all the trips I was able to take through Park. Getting to spend time and just have fun with my classmates on class trips is still one of the highlights of my college career.
As Park Scholarships enters its 25th year, what do you expect to see from incoming Park Scholars?
We are all looking at what it means to redefine the world after the effects of COVID-19. I expect Park Scholars to have the ability to innovate the way that we work and live in many different realms.
What advice do you have for Park Scholars?
Take advantage of what makes you different. I was a part of College of Design and, at first, I felt that other Park Scholars in my class had more tangibly successful majors than I did. As time went on, I truly realized that we are all successful because of our differences. You should take advantage of what you are good at and what makes you, you.