Park Profile: Hannah Cooper ’21

The Park Scholarships Diversity Student Task Force has compiled profiles of Park Scholars, Park Faculty Scholars, and Selection Committee Members designed to give prospective students insight about the Park Scholarships program, the selection process, and how scholars made the decision to join the Wolfpack.

Hannah Cooper

Name: Hannah Cooper
Hometown: Newark, DE        
Class Year: 2021
Majors: Marine Science, Zoology
Minor: Applied Ecology
Role within Park Scholarships: Park Scholar

1. Tell us a little more about who you are, your background and identity.

I am from a middle-class family with two college-educated parents, one of whom has a doctoral-level degree. I grew up in a primarily white, middle-class neighborhood and went to a primarily white charter school with a lot of resources for most of my pre-college education. I was lucky to have my mom as a stay-at-home parent for the beginning of my life and then have her work part-time and be very available since that time. As the first child of four, I definitely felt a lot of pressure growing up to be a strong role model and set high standards, both in and outside of school. However, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to explore my passions and have not felt a lot of pressure to pursue a career that is extremely lucrative if it does not align with my passions.

Ever since adolescence, I’ve faced mental health challenges, but I feel very lucky that I have a family that was willing and able to support my seeking therapy. College has definitely presented obstacles I did not previously envision, but I have a strong support system to process these challenges, and I come out feeling more confident and centered.

Throughout high school and college, I’ve always sought out ways to be an advocate for issues I feel passionate about, particularly gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and environmental protection and justice. I am always interested in learning about ways I can affect change within my communities and enhance public understanding of said topics.

2. What are you involved with on/off-campus? What are you passionate about?

On-campus I am currently working on starting an NC State chapter of the Society for Women in Marine Science. This is an organization that provides professional development opportunities for women, networking opportunities, and works to increase the visibility of women in the field. This aligns with my passion for marine science and working to increase gender equity.

I also work with 321 Coffee, a nonprofit coffee shop employing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). My work with this organization fulfills a passion for advocacy and engaging in meaningful work. 321 Coffee is working towards increasing meaningful employment of individuals with IDD and increasing the visibility of workers with IDD in the Raleigh community.

Off-campus I am also involved in internships and jobs related to marine science. During my freshman and sophomore year, I worked for a nonprofit called Global Ocean Forum, whose mission is to promote sustainable development and strong governance of the ocean. In the summer of 2019, I participated in an REU at the University of Delaware where I researched the impacts of ocean acidification on juvenile clownfish. In the summer of 2020, I will participate in an internship with NOAA where I will work with ArcGIS to develop map services with deep-sea coral geographic information to present to policy-makers. All of these experiences aligned with my passion for marine science and my work with Global Ocean Forum and NOAA strengthen my skills in environmental advocacy.

Hannah Cooper

3. Why did you decide to choose NC State and the Park Scholarship? What interested you the most about the Park Scholarships program as a high schooler?

When I was making decisions about college, I was deciding between NC State and the Park Scholarship and a school in my hometown literally up the street from my childhood house. My family was in a fairly stable financial situation, but with three children to support through college to follow, it was definitely financially attractive to accept the Park Scholarship. I was also very attracted to the idea of challenging myself to leave home and go to school out-of-state.

I remember being really attracted to the Park Scholarships program after talking to students currently in the program and hearing how much they were enjoying their experiences. I also really liked all of the opportunities the program provided, such as Learning Labs and the CEI. It was clear that the program not only wanted to reward our successes in high school but also wanted to ensure our success throughout college and post-graduation.

4. How did you find out about the Park Scholarships program?

I found out about the program and NC State through my high school college counselor, who was an endorsing counselor for the program. He reached out to me and thought I would be a good fit for the program, and strongly encouraged me to apply.

5. In high school, what were you most proud to share in your Park application?

I was most proud to share my experiences outside of my academic success, and I think they greatly strengthened my application. I took a lot of initiative in high school to start clubs and help to start up a youth group at my church, and both of these were excellent examples of leadership and character.

6. What fear(s) did you have while applying to the Park program? Have you found them to be true?

I was definitely worried about not being a competitive applicant or fitting into the program if I got the scholarship. I found neither of these to be true. I’ve also learned that both of these fears are a result of imposter syndrome, which the program talks about heavily and is something that a lot of Park Scholars have experienced at some point.

Hannah Cooper

7. What advice might you give a high-schooler who is considering applying for the Park Scholarship?

My strongest advice to high-schoolers applying to the program is to go for it and be genuine in your application and interviews. While Park looks for academically strong students, the other three pillars of the program, leadership, service, and character, are just as important.

8. Is there a certain pillar that particularly resonates with you? Why?

The character pillar really resonates with me because I think it strengthens every other pillar. Scholarship, leadership, and service are all made more impactful and valuable with a strong character. I also believe that a big part of why I got the scholarship was being genuine about myself and my interests, and I think this will continue to serve me as I apply for graduate schools and future jobs.

9. What do you value most about fellow Park Scholars? What might you hope to see in prospective scholars?

I value that fellow Park Scholars are always interested in having a conversation. I always know that I can go to Peele Hall and that there will be someone to talk to and that we can have a valuable conversation. Park Scholars are all uniquely situated members of the NC State community and therefore are usually very willing to talk about shared experiences as Park Scholars and college students. I would hope that all future scholars are willing to have conversations and make connections with fellow Parks.

10. Can you share an important college experience that was made possible by the program?

Even before college, I knew I wanted to study abroad. I was so grateful that the Park Scholarships program supported this experience, including some extra financial support by means of a Park Enrichment Grant. I genuinely believe that studying abroad is an experience that every Park Scholar, and college student in general, should have during their time as an undergraduate. My semester abroad in Prague challenged me in all pillars of the program and stretched me to grow as a student and an individual. Support from the Park Scholarships program made it possible for me to enjoy this experience without having to worry as much about the financial aspect.

Hannah Cooper

11. What is one thing someone might not know about you as a Park Scholar?

One thing someone might not know about me as a Park Scholar is that I try to spend as much time on school-related work as I do on personal development and interpersonal relationships. I’ve grown to recognize the importance of a strong work-life balance, and I know the value of having strong friendships and relationships with my family. College is a lot of fun but is also really challenging, and it is incredibly important to have a strong sense of self and a strong support system. I’d encourage everyone who is coming to college to take frequent time to reflect on themselves, take a break from the typical stresses of school, and discover some effective self-care routines.

12. What have you learned about the Park Scholarships program since becoming a scholar that was surprising or that you weren’t expecting?

I was not expecting the Park Scholarships staff to be as supportive and involved as they are with all of the scholars. It is clear that they are all invested in the success and happiness of each scholar, and are always available and willing to talk through any issues and/or concerns a scholar may have.