On Saturday, May 7, 2022, the 23rd class of Park Scholars will graduate from NC State University and join a thriving network of more than 1,000 Park Scholarships alumni. Throughout their four years at NC State, the Class of 2022 has embodied the program’s pillars of scholarship, leadership, service, and character.
The talented Park Scholars of the Class of 2022 were selected from a field of nearly 2,120 applicants. Led by Park Faculty Scholars Lisa Parks and Steve Greene, the class discussed Robert Frank’s Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy and formed lasting bonds when they met in Black Mountain for Freshman Retreat in August 2018. During Learning Lab I, the scholars learned how state leaders were handling public safety and natural disaster preparedness.
The next year, the class traveled to Washington, D.C. for Learning Lab II to learn how national leaders were approaching mass incarceration reform. They met with leaders in the American Civil Liberties Union, Department of Justice, Department of State, FBI, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, news organizations, and the Free Minds Book Club. For many Park Scholars in the Class of 2022, Learning Lab II played a critical role in informing their understanding of systemic racism in the U.S.
The scholars took part in Civic Engagement Initiatives that focused on topics including expanding the student-run business 321 Coffee, designing a website and marketing materials for Musical Empowerment, developing curricula for the Museum of Life and Science, creating a drip irrigation system for a school in rural Ethiopia, growing awareness about blood platelet donation, and more.
In fall 2020, they hosted the Gerald H. Elkan Lecture in Science and Society with featured speaker Thomas Hager, an award-winning science and technology author, who discussed “How to Talk About Science in a Post-Truth World.” In October 2021, they honored Julius Tillery, a leader in environmental, agricultural, and racial justice in North Carolina, with the 23rd annual William C. Friday Award and, this past September, they took part in a local Senior Retreat designed to help build community and inspire reflection at the beginning of their senior year.
Service and scholarship have taken this class around the world. With support from Park Enrichment Grants, the 35 members of the Class of 2022 traveled to 15 countries across five continents on volunteer and educational trips. They learned about engineering renewable energy, gained clinical experience, studied art, created documentaries, designed watercraft, learned languages, volunteered for nonprofits around the world, and more.
On-campus, scholars conducted award-winning research. They studied stream restoration, equine osteoarthritis, supernovas, infectious disease and gut microbiome, microgravity and plants, quantum computing, and more. They built SCIVIR, a low-cost air quality monitoring startup dedicated to accelerating environmental justice, founded the Global Health Cooperative to connect students and alumni pursuing careers in public health, brought TEDxNCState back to campus, and spearheaded campus-wide initiatives to cut single-use plastics and create a greener future.
Through internship and co-op experiences, and with support from mentors, they discovered their true passions. This class includes many members of the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies, two Goldwater Scholars, two Marian Drane Graham Scholars, an Astronaut Scholar, and a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar. Four members of the class completed their undergraduate studies early and these scholars began professional and graduate studies in the humanities, veterinary medicine, and analytics.
Service underpinned the NC State experience for the Class of 2022 Park Scholars. They have led beloved campus traditions through the pandemic. They’ve taken part in three Service Raleigh events leading thousands of volunteers on community projects throughout the Triangle. They’ve helped coordinate four Krispy Kreme Challenge events, which helped the event reach its goal of raising $2 million for the UNC Children’s hospital and its NC State Park Scholars Children’s Specialty Care Program.
These Park Scholars are leaders on and off campus who demonstrate selfless generosity. For their class legacy project, the Class of 2022 fundraised and built two community gardens to serve under-resourced families. They are committed to paying forward the support they have received and 100 percent of the scholars in this class have made a gift back to the program. They helped Park Scholarships raise more than $1.75 million during four NC State Day of Giving campaigns. They teach others through mentorship initiatives, student teaching programs, and wildly popular YouTube channels.
All of this and more was accomplished in less than four years by this extraordinary class of scholars. We look forward to seeing the many innovative, thoughtful, and exciting things the Park Scholars in the Class of 2022 will do in the years to come.