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sPark: A Park Scholarships Symposium

On Friday, April 6-Sunday, April 8, approximately 100 students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and selection committee members converged at the StateView Hotel on NC State’s beautiful Centennial Campus for sPark 2018 — the Park Scholarships second biannual leadership and networking symposium. It was a weekend exemplifying the four pillars of scholarship, leadership, service, and character; bringing together individuals from all stages of life and career to ‘find their sPark’.

Carrie FarleyChancellor Randy Woodson joined attendees on Friday night to kick-off the weekend’s festivities. Keynote speaker Carrie Farley ‘00, a member of the inaugural class of Park Scholars, flew all the way from London to reconnect with her fellow classmates and inspire others with her talk on finding her “ikigai” — a Japanese concept that illustrates the intersection of what you love to do and what you are good at doing to determine the secret to living a long and happy life. Farley is the director of Iris Advisory, a consulting firm focused on the development and delivery of infrastructure projects in the Middle East and Africa. Prior to founding Iris Advisory, Farley worked for the International Finance Corporation, the private financing arm of the World Bank where she led transaction teams advising government clients on delivering infrastructure through public-private partnerships. Friday night concluded with a celebration honoring the fifteen, ten, and five-year reunions for the classes of 2003-04, 2008-09, & 2013-14.

Sparks flew on Saturday morning as five TEDx-style speakers took the stage. Richard Ezike ‘05 began the morning with an in-depth analysis of the transition to autonomous vehicles and Dr. Zhen Gu, NC State associate professor in biomedical engineering, presented his research on bioresponsive smart patches and the future of delivering insulin immune checkpoint inhibitors and cancer vaccines.  Dr. Tommy Vitolo ‘00, candidate for Massachusetts State Representative, fired up the crowd with an impassioned presentation entitled “Here’s a Tip: You the People!”, encouraging ‘sPark’-ers to discern and act on where their civic engagement impacts their communities most. Emily Neville ‘20, founder of Reborn Clothing Co. and sophomore in political science, delivered a moving testimony on her fight for confidence in the face of doubt when starting a new entrepreneurial venture and Dr. Ricky Bloomfield ‘02, Clinical & Health Informatics Lead at Apple, discussed how taking risks led to discovering his own “ikigai”.

sPark2018Three breakout sessions throughout the day offered insights into the wide range of exciting specialties that build the Park Scholarships community. In the morning, an enthusiastic branding workshop was held by Chasta Hamilton ‘07 and Joe Bond ‘15, while Julie Scull ‘08 and Kylie King ‘08 brought together their expertise on experiential learning. Additionally, Vitolo and Jessie Ritter ‘10 showcased the multitude of ways to approach climate change and environmentalism. The afternoon brought together Leah Haile ’13, Clarissa Rainear ’19, and Mary Charles Hale ’13 for a candid discussion on Imposter Syndrome, and three freshman Park Scholars (Bryan Cooper ‘21, David Flowers ‘21, and Ben Gray ‘21) teamed up with Jasmine Adair Flood ‘12 to start a dialogue on entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, Bloomfield and William Coe ‘14 combined their mutual interest in healthcare to discuss families and cultural changes. The final breakout session concluded on a high note — a panel on ‘Self-Improvement’ was led by Park Scholarships director Eva Feucht ’02,  Stamps President’s Scholarship Program director Chaffee Viets, and Caroline Lockrow Parulski ‘05. Matthew Draelos ’14, Dr. Anna Hurst ’05, and Jess Greenwood ’03 led a talk entitled ‘From Fungus to Facial Recognition’ and Dr. Matthew Campbell ’05, Ashley Lawson ’18, and Kim Lawson discussed the importance of ‘Educating and Empowering Citizens.’

sPark wouldn’t be a networking symposium without a networking session and sPark 2018 was no exception, and many cited this activity as their favorite part of the event. Eva Feucht guided attendees through an exercise entitled “Undiscovered Luck”, based on the book The Luck Factor by Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire. In this activity, the room was divided into groups of five with every person in the room given four minutes to ask their group for “luck” centering around the questions of:

What are you interested in now?
What’s a challenge you’re hitting?
What do you want to learn?
What cause do you want to impact?
Who do you want to meet?

In a room full of 100 members within the Park Scholarships community, the “luck” was overflowing!

Class of 2008Saturday reached a conclusion as everyone came together to listen to the State of the Park, delivered by Eva Feucht, which outlined the many life-changing milestones Park Scholars and alumni have been achieving since the inaugural sPark 2016. The evening was an emotional night as reunion speakers Jessica Hamm ‘04, Danielle Bliss ‘08, and incoming PAS-President Wade Colburn ‘14 each gave testimonials to their time as Park Scholars and the importance of giving to the Park Scholarships program as alumni. Attendees also heard from campaign chair Dean Norman and Park Philanthropy Council member Dominick Carbone ‘20.

While most of our attendees bid farewell Saturday night, a few stayed one more day for a special experience with NC State history. Dr. Thomas Stafford, vice chancellor emeritus, led a private Memorial Bell Tower tour on Sunday morning preceding a pizza party in Peele Hall sponsored by the Park Alumni Society.

The third biannual sPark will be held April 17-19, 2020. Join us again in two years and gain an expanded network of Park Scholars, fellow leaders, and changemakers; a renewed sense of purpose; and novel ways of thinking about the issues of our time!

Connect. Be inspired. Find your sPark!

posted 2018.04.23