College of Education Category
The Alumni Association is honoring 27 NC State professors with the 2014 Faculty Awards for their outstanding work in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field. We talked (via email) with some of the recipients about their work and the keys to being a successful professor.
Today we’re visiting with Audrey Jaeger, an associate professor of higher education and co-executive director of the National Initiative for Leadership and Institutional Effectiveness in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Adult Higher Education. Jaeger is one of four professors being recognized as a Distinguished Graduate Professor.
What prompted you to become a professor? While working as an administer at a university, I had the opportunity to teach a course. I realized after that experience, I wanted to continue to engage with students in the classroom. Helping students discover their talents and challenging them to reach higher than they ever expected energizes me and reminds me I have the best job in the world.
What are the keys to being a successful professor? Each student has a different story. Being a good professor means attempting to understand those stories and how they affect a student’s learning. Students bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience — a good professor draws that information out and helps student capitalize on it.
In my role as a faculty member I work with graduate students, most of which are doctoral students. I believe that effective mentoring and guidance in the research and teaching process is extremely important to the disposition of early career researchers. I am committed to the development of graduate students throughout their careers; this extends well beyond their formal education. It is my responsibility to learn with and from students, and to create environments and conversations that capitalize on the generative nature of research.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? In my work with doctoral students, one of the most joyous experiences is that of helping students through their dissertation process. At that moment when a student successfully defends her or his proposal, and I can call the student by their name and add Dr. to their title — there is nothing better. I have lead 21 students through this process and each has been amazing. To celebrate a student’s success gives me the greatest satisfaction.
I also have the pleasure of working with master’s students. Their success is often related to receiving their first job offer. Helping student negotiate the complexity of a job search that ends with a new adventure for them is incredibly rewarding.
In additional to celebrating the successes of students with whom I work, I gain satisfaction from my collaborative research endeavors with students and colleagues. I believe the collective product attained when individuals collaborate exceeds that which is attained in a singular fashion. Working with incredibly talented individuals to uncover new knowledge is truly a gift.
Rocky Branch Creek is the stream that runs a mile through the heart of NC State’s campus along Sullivan Drive and behind Carmichael Gym. It was once an unsightly ditch with the distinction of being the most polluted stream in North Carolina.
Today, the creek meanders through a floodplain, full of aquatic life, and serves as a model of restoration practices for the region.
Lucy Laffitte, science education specialist for UNC-TV, used the transformation of Rocky Branch Creek as a centerpiece for her thesis when she received her Ph.D. in forestry from NC State in 2010. And she has documented the work in a new education video for Quest, a web-based venture funded by the National Science Foundation to provide education on the science of sustainability.
Laffitte was working as a graduate researcher and sustainability coordinator for Centennial Campus when she first became interested in the stream restoration project. The Rocky Branch Creek transformation was well underway and the university was interested in working on House Creek on the College of Veterinary Medicine campus and North Creek on Centennial Campus.
What interested Laffitte was not just how the project changed the creeks but how it changed attitudes, and her Ph.D. thesis focused on how institutions learn.
“Institutions grow rigid by nature over time and are not as innovative,” she says, and the way to change that “is to bring people from the margins — a student, a faculty member — into the process.”
Working for Quest, which is a collaboration of public TV stations in six states, Laffitte wrote and produced the video showing how NC State gained a new appreciation for rainwater as the Rocky Branch project unearthed the stream from culverts, integrated the flowing waters into the landscape and created floodplains to capture and filter rainwater. That appreciation is reflected in the interest in rain gardens such as those recently constructed at Syme and Lee dorms, Laffitte says.
One of the most important parts of the creek restoration was removing most of the culverts, a process called “daylighting.” “You have to put creeks in sunlight or they’ll die,” Laffitte says.
Rocky BranchCreek is continuing to change attitudes as it serves as a model for urban creek restoration. A greenway along the creek features interpretive signs that explain the restoration concepts, and the creek itself is used by students and faculty at NC State as an outdoor teaching laboratory.
— Sylvia Adcock ’81
When MariaRosa Rangel was a young girl growing up in a Chicago immigrant community, she took a field trip to the house of one of her grammar school teachers. Rangel saw a beautiful home and a pool and immediately wanted to have a life that could afford her those things. And she remembers her teacher saying the most important words Rangel would ever hear.
“She told me, ‘You’re the only one holding you back,’” remembers Rangel, who received her master’s in school administration from NC State in 2001. “She used to tell me that I was the engineer of my future.”
So it makes sense that Rangel, a senior administrator for the Wake County Public School System, chose education as her career path. She works with Wake County families who speak limited English and helps them navigate the school system, coordinates the system’s parent academy, and serves as the liaison for Latino media.
And for those efforts, Rangel, who was born in Mexico before her family moved to Chicago, will receive the Latino Diamante Award in the education category at a ceremony on Saturday. The Latino Diamante is a statewide awards program created to recognize outstanding achievement and to honor those making significant contributions to the Hispanic community of North Carolina.
Rangel, who also works with the Hispanic/Latino Advisory Group at NC State’s Department of Multicultural Student Affairs, says the honor means so much to her because the nomination came from within the community she’s trying to help. “These are the people that have seen me work for many years,” she says. “They watch what I do and they see what I work with. They can see my sweat from the work I’ve done.”
In addition to the Latino Diamante honor, Rangel will also receive the “Orgullo de Nuestra Comunidad” (the Pride of Our Community) award in November, given by Univision 40 to recognize outstanding Hispanic leaders in the community.
Rangel, 47, says her true reward is working directly with the Hispanic community. “I get to empower new immigrant families. I get to show them what they can have with education. I talk about my mother coming here as a single mom with five kids. And just to see a smile on their face when they get it.”
We’ve all experienced it at the office. There’s a pile of work in front of us, and we’re lost in thought, looking out the window at the sun shining on the green grass. And instead of thinking about what we can get accomplished, we want to steal away for a hike or a visit to the lake to enjoy the beautiful day.
Well, one researcher believes getting lost in such meditative moments can actually enhance worker productivity. Mark Ellison has dedicated his research on his blog, Hiking Research, to showing how nature impacts people at work for the better.
Mark Ellison in Olympic National Park, Washington.
“Research studies have shown that time in nature increases creativity,” says Ellison, director of admissions at the Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in Concord, N.C. “Research shows that people who spend time in nature are willing to work in teams and collaborate.”
So Ellison also teaches classes at the college to show employers and employees how they can connect with nature on the clock, so to speak. He teaches them how to set priorities so they can find time to hike. He teaches them reflective writing techniques. He provides them opportunities to plant herbs and plants at work and encourages them to hold meetings on hikes or walks around the grounds rather than in a stuffy office.
“My primary focus is to help people understand nature and what it can do to improve their health,” he says, “and to use nature as the vehicle to help them start some practices.”
That research began when Ellison was pursuing graduate studies in adult and community college education at NC State in 2006. He started researching how people who hiked the Appalachian Trail were positively affected in their lives. And that theme became his study for the next five years for his dissertation, leading him to his doctoral degree in education in 2010.
Ellison says that most audiences are receptive to his research and instruction. But, he says, a lot of people come to him with obstacles already in place in their minds, not in their offices, that make them hesitate before going out for a five-mile hike.
“Some people didn’t grow up in nature,” he says. “And you get people who are afraid. We have to get them comfortable in nature. And we’re so connected all the time that we can’t disconnect. If you don’t disconnect, you’re not going to have down time.
“I encourage people to turn stuff off.”
Every day is a full day, Yolanda Wiggins says. In the initial days of another school year, Wiggins has entered the fray of juggling class rosters, visiting classes and attending daily meetings with parents, students and teachers.
Though she admits it’s difficult to balance her work as principal of Winstead Avenue Elementary School in Rocky Mount, N.C., with family life, Wiggins says she’s determined to do the job right.
“Nobody’s going to work harder than me,” she says.
This fall, Wiggins began her 15th year in education and second as a school administrator. During her two years in N.C. State’s Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA), Wiggins learned how to deal with many of the problems she now faces as an administrator.
“I found myself in a lot of different situations where I was having to talk with parents, students and even teachers, and a lot of the coaching we got with that helped tremendously,” Wiggins says.
But Wiggins says working in education wasn’t always part of her career plans. For five years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in her native Halifax County.
“I never could envision myself doing that because I was very, very shy, very quiet and did not like getting in front of people,” she says.
It wasn’t until her editor at The Daily Herald in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., assigned Wiggins the education beat that she began to consider teaching.
“I loved covering education,” she says. “My news editor at the time took me off the education beat and put me on city government and county government and that was it — the passion was gone. After that, my true passion was working in the school system.”
With some encouragement from a frequent contact in the school system, Wiggins left her job as a reporter to teach.
After 13 years teaching language arts in Halifax County middle schools and completing her National Board certification, Wiggins was recommended for NELA by School Superintendent Elease Frederick. Wiggins began the program in 2010.
NELA offered Wiggins and educators from 13 other Northeastern North Carolina counties intensive coursework that involved role-playing, a year-long administrative internship and visits to various conferences and high-performing, low-income schools across the country.
After finishing the program, Wiggins worked at Hubbard Elementary School in Battleboro, N.C., during the 2012-2013 school year and left this summer to become the principal at Winstead Avenue Elementary School.
Wiggins says the support of her NELA mentor, Andy Overstreet of The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation on NC State’s Centennial Campus, helped her deal with difficult situations on the job. After completing NELA, graduates continue to have access to their mentors.
“That’s a fantastic part of the program,” Wiggins says. “[Overstreet] has coached me through some very difficult situations that were very stressful, and it was really good to get someone else’s viewpoint.”
Wiggins says mentoring students and teachers is the best part of her job. During the first week of school in August, Wiggins received an email from Hubbard Elementary Principal Shelia Wallace telling her about a conversation she had with a first-grade student.
“He found out I was leaving and told her she should have found some money in the budget to keep her because I was pretty good,” Wiggins says. “I thought it was pretty cute.”
— Alex Sanchez
Some had ties that went back four generations; others brought a mom or dad who went to NC State. And for one mother and son, the Alumni Association’s Legacy Luncheon this weekend was particularly meaningful. Hristiyana Zhelezova became an NC State alumna and a legacy parent all in the space of a few months.
The luncheon is an annual tradition that brings together new students whose parents or grandparents are alumni, and parents get a chance to pin their child with a “legacy pin’’ to welcoming them into the Wolfpack family.
Zhelezova and her son Paskal came to the United States from Bulgaria six years ago along with her husband and daughter. The family didn’t speak English, and Paskal enrolled at Apex (N.C.) High School, taking English as a second language courses while his mother studied as well.
She had been a lawyer in Bulgaria and after mastering the language, was able to transfer the credits from her education to NC State and enroll in a master’s program in education, earning her graduate degree in May. Paskal graduated from Apex High, and spent two years at a community college before transferring to NC State and the Poole College of Management. “It was extremely difficult,” she said of the first few years in the United States. “But we worked hard.”
Paskal says he is thrilled to be able to study economics at NC State. And his mother was beaming as she pinned the legacy pin on Paskal. “We came here to build a new life,” she said. “Now our history will be here at NC State.”
The crowd of more than 700 parents, grandparents, students and siblings enjoyed a buffet lunch at the McKimmon Center along with pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Wuf and words of advice from Chancellor Randy Woodson (“Go to class,” he said.).
Paul Ridgeway, president of the Alumni Association’s board of directors, spoke of the excitement of students beginning a new chapter in their lives — but also of the emotions parents were likely feeling. “You will realize that they have really moved away,’’ he said to the parents, “and they likely will not return to live in our homes.” Ridgway should know. He was also there as a proud parent and alumnus, pinning his own son Isaac, who is an entering freshman.
“Hopefully, NC State has been a parent of these students’ lives since birth,” said Benny Suggs, executive director of the Alumni Association. “They have heard their parents’ stories, attended football or basketball games, seen the NC State symbols on sweatshirts and T-shirts and know the fight song by heart.”
His words were proven correct when the crowd stood up for a special appearance from the NC State Marching Band and sang, “We’re the Red and White from State.” Paskal and Hristiyana Zhelezova were clapping as loud as anyone.
—Sylvia Adcock ’81
The Alumni Association is honoring 21 NC State professors with the 2013 Faculty Awards for their outstanding work in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field. We talked (via email) with some of the recipients about their work and the keys to being a successful professor.
Today we’re visiting with Margaret Blanchard, an associate professor of science education in the College of Education. Blanchard, who is also research director of The Science House at NC State, is one of three professors being recognized for Outstanding Extension and Outreach.
What prompted you to become a professor? When I entered graduate school, I had been teaching high school and middle school science for 6 years and coaching girls’ soccer and track. Initially, I thought I might become a middle school principal. Then, I worked on developing science curricula and teachers’ manuals for a website on the Florida Panther and an Energy CD, which was very interesting. Next, I supervised student teachers and taught a methods course and really enjoyed teaching at the college level to prepare future science teachers. Finally, I worked on several research projects and wrote my first grant proposal, which was funded. I decided that since I liked all of these things, I would be able to do them all if I obtained a faculty position in a College of Education. So I guess you might say that I eased into the decision to become a professor! I think the lesson is to experience as much as you can as a student, to find out what you like and to grow the skills you will need in the future.
What are the keys to being a successful teacher/professor? My #1 goal as a teacher is to treat students with respect. I also am convinced that the key to success in nearly anything is time management, strategic effort, and passion. I use a big board in my office to chart all stages of my grants, conference proposals, manuscripts, and other major deadlines. Every day I plan by making a list and I establish daily, weekly, monthly, and annual goals, and schedule regular meetings to review plans and revise them. That said, I always have time to talk to colleagues and students. One of the things I tell my students is that ‘W-O-R-K’ is a 4 letter word, so the key is to make the work fun. I try to choose positive and enjoyable colleagues who also work hard, and focus on research that I find interesting and rewarding. If something feels too hard, you may not be that interested in it.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? There are so many aspects of this work that are satisfying! The relationships I seek to develop with my students and collaborators are very satisfying. It is also great to feel as though the work I am involved with immediately improves the lives of students, teachers, and their schools as well as having implications for other educational researchers. Later, for those graduate students who become professors, we will meet at conferences once or twice a year and find ways to collaborate or act as sounding boards for each other and maintain our friendships. The funny thing about becoming a professor is that it can feel like you are always in school, keeping the student calendar and constantly learning from the research you and your students are doing.
The Center for Student Leadership Ethics & Public Service at NC State sends students who love to serve out into the world on what are known as Alternative Service Breaks. Students can choose between fall, winter or spring break and between programs that feature different countries or more locally-focused service projects. The stories in this series are just a few of many students who will be going out and developing leadership and service skills over spring break, which begins Monday.
Chelsea Bowman, Belize
Chelsea Bowman is excited to motivate others this spring break and contribute to a healthier environment.
Bowman, a junior from Randleman, N.C., is a student co-leader on the CSLEPS spring break trip to Belize. Since June, she planned to travel with a group of fellow NC State students to focus on environmental and agricultural issues in the area near Punta Gorda.
Bowman and her team will be working throughout the week with the Toledo Cacao Growers Association, or TCGA. The growers association is focused on creating a better life for its farmers through competition and ecologically-friendly practices.
“We’re working at the garden,” says Bowman. “So (the trip) focuses more on environmental issues.”
The team will also coordinate with the House of Chocolate, a museum that features the story of the Cacao plant. The Belize team might help build drying racks for the beans, but the garden will be the main focus, says Bowman.
The service trip will also have a lot of fun activities for the students.
“Through the week we just work with (the TCGA), have lunch in town and then on the weekends we have extra-curricular activities,” says Bowman. “That includes Mayan ruins and snorkeling, water falls. We only work Monday through Friday.”
This kind of volunteering is not new to Bowman. Last year, she spent her spring break and first time out of the country with another CSLEPS program in El Salvador. She laid foundations and poured concrete for houses with the Fuller Center for Housing program.
“I’ve always felt the need to do more activities, become a leader,” says Bowman. “I really enjoy service, I did in high school.”
Bowman, an education major, would like to let that love for service carry over after college. “I’d like to join the Peace Corps,” she says. “Just wherever they send me, the location doesn’t matter to me.”
Bowman became a leader because of all the love she has for volunteering. She hopes it inspires others on the trip. “My biggest hope is for my team members to become as inspired as I am to become involved with serving, here at NC State and carrying over what they learn to be a leader themselves,” says Bowman. “I hope they become leaders in service like I have. That’s what I really want; and to also make an impact with the TCGA.”
– Molly Green
NC State University, the Wolfpack Club and the Alumni Association will recognize some of NC State’s greatest stars tonight at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., honoring 18 alumni and friends of the university for their professional and personal accomplishments and their continuing support of NC State, the Wolfpack Club and the Alumni Association.
The honorees at the 9th Annual NC State Evening of Stars are:
COLLEGE DISTINGUISHED AWARD RECIPIENTS
Tommy Bunn ’66, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Bunn, president of the U.S. Tobacco Cooperative, has spent more than 45 years in the tobacco industry. He got his start growing tobacco on his family farm, then went on to work for 21 years as executive vice president of the Leaf Tobacco Exporters Association and the Tobacco Association of the United States. He also worked in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the N.C. Department of Agriculture, and was a charter member and chairman of the Golden Leaf Foundation Board of Directors.
Charlie Stuber ’65 PhD, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: For more than 35 years, Stuber held a joint appointment as a genetics professor at NC State and a research geneticist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. Stuber then came out of retirement to return to NC State in 2006 to develop and direct the Center for Plant Breeding and Applied Plant Genomics. The USDA Agricultural Research Service named him the Outstanding Scientist of the Year in 1989 and inducted Stuber into their Science Hall of Fame in 1989.
Steven Schuster ’73, College of Design: Schuster is the founding principal of Clearscapes, a full-service architectural design firm in Raleigh. Under Schuster’s leadership, Clearscapes has been recognized with more than 75 design awards and worked on such notable projects as the Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, the Haw River Ball Room, the Raleigh Convention Center and the Contemporary Art Museum. Schuster is also a national leader in the historic preservation community. He serves on the Board of Visitors at NC State.
Robert Bridges ’70 MED, College of Education: Bridges taught sixth grade and then high school in Wake County before becoming principal at Crosby-Garfield Elementary School. He then went on to work in Wake County’s central office as a director, assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent before becoming the superintendent in 1984. After five years leading the state’s second largest public school system, Bridges went on to become provost at St. Augustine College in Raleigh, and then worked as an education and management consultant and chaired the N.C. Advisory Commission on Raising Achievement and Closing Gaps.
Stephen Angel, ’77, College of Engineering: Angel is chair, president and CEO of Praxair, Inc., a Fortune 300 company that ranks as the largest industrial gases producer and distributor in North and South America, with sales of $11 billion in 2011. Before joining Praxair, Angel spent more than two decades at GE, most recently as general manager of the company’s $2 billion power equipment business. He serves on the board of directors of the U.S.-China Business Council and PPG Industries, and is a member of the Business Roundtable, the Business Council and the U.S.-Brazil Forum.
Jimmy Clark ’74, College of Engineering: Clark is the owner and president of Guy M. Turner, Inc., a diversified company that is a leader in the handling and moving of the heaviest equipment in the fields of rigging, machine tool installation, crane services and specialized transportation. The company has 12 offices in the United States and Canada. Clark serves on the NC State Board of Trustees, as well as on the board of directors for the NC State Alumni Association and the Engineering Foundation. He previously chaired the NC State Board of Visitors.
John Edmond ’87, College of Engineering: While earning his PhD in material sciences and engineering, Edmond teamed with other graduate students and young faculty on some promising silicon carbide research. Upon graduation, the group co-founded what became CREE Inc., one of the world’s top LED manufacturers. Today, Edmond is director of advanced optoelectronics for the Durham-based company, which makes energy-efficient LED lights, lighting components and semiconductor products.
Susan Warren Rabon ’82, College of Humanities and Social Sciences: Rabon is a member of the N.C. Utilities Commission, which regulates the rates and services of all of the state’s public utilities. Rabon, who received her law degree from the University of Virginia, has also worked as a clerk in the N.C. Court of Appeals, as special counsel and then chief of staff for the N.C. Department of Justice, and senior assistant for administration in the office of the governor. She has previously served on the NC State Board of Visitors.
Kevin Beasley ’79, Poole College of Management: Beasley, a CPA, is a partner-in-charge of tax practice at the Raleigh office of Grant Thornton, one of the Big Six international accounting firms. He previously worked at Arthur Anderson, where he rose to the position of partner and earned a spot in the inaugural class of the NC State Accounting Hall of Fame.
Ray Tanner ’80, College of Natural Resources: Tanner, a former All-ACC baseball player at NC State, was named athletics director for the University of South Carolina last year after spending 25 years as a collegiate head baseball coach, including nine years as the head coach at NC State. Under Tanner’s direction, the baseball team at South Carolina won two NCAA Division I Baseball Championships and made six appearances in the College World Series. Tanner has been named National Coach of the Year three times.
Sung Won Lee, ’60 MS, ’67 PhD, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences: After earning his graduate degrees at NC State, Lee returned to his native South Korea to lead the S-Oil Corporation to success as the third largest oil refinery in Korea. He also served as chairman of two South Korean chemical companies. But his passion is downhill skiing, and his family built Korea’s oldest and largest ski and snowboard resort, which will host alpine skiing events for the 2018 Winter Olympics and 2018 Winter Paralympics. Lee is founder and president of the Asian Ski Federation, former vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia and honorary president of the Korean Ski Association.
Michael Fralix ’00 PhD, College of Textiles: Fralix is the president and CEO of [TC]2, a company that develops next generation supply chain technologies such as 3-D body scanners used in product development for apparel and equipment, made-to-measure clothing, clothing size and style recommendations and body shape analysis.
Dr. Laura Rush ’97 DVM, College of Veterinary Medicine: Rush began her career as a registered nurse, specializing in the care of cancer patients, before going to vet school. Following graduation, she joined the faculty at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and headed a laboratory funded by the National Institute of Health that focused on cancer research in dogs and humans. Rush now works as vice president and associate medical director for GSW Worldwide, a healthcare marketing firm where she helps develop marketing strategies for healthcare companies.
WOLFPACK CLUB AWARD
Nora Lynn Finch, Ronnie Shavlik Award: Finch was a pioneer for collegiate women’s athletics, serving as the ACC’s first female assistant athletics director and negotiated the first women’s basketball tournament television contract with CBS. At NC State, Finch served as head volleyball and softball coach, associate head coach for women’s basketball, and assistant, associate and senior associate athletics director. She is currently the ACC’s associate commissioner for women’s basketball operations and senior women’s administrator. She has been inducted into the National Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.
ALUMNI ASSOCIATION AWARDS
Ryan DeJong ’05, Outstanding Young Alumnus: DeJong, chief operating officer of FIRM Consulting Group, has led the Tampa NC State Alumni Network since 2007. As network leader, DeJong has aggressively promoted his alma mater and the Alumni Association. He recruits and manages volunteers to staff local college fairs and plans many types of group activities for his fellow Tampa Wolfpackers.
Sherice Nivens ’98, Outstanding Young Alumnus: Nivens, cardiac sales manager for Intuitive Surgical, is a member of the PAMS Alumni and Friends Advisory Board and a founding member of the Dean’s Circle. She served as the keynote speaker for the 2009 Department of Chemistry graduation ceremony and the 2010 Society of African American Physical and Mathematical Scientists annual banquet.
Bill Collins ’54, ’61 MS, Meritorious Service Award: Collins, a world renowned expert in tobacco field production, was a Philip Morris Professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for 28 years. Since retiring in 2005, Collins joined the CALS Office of College Advancement as senior director of development. He is a former member of the board of directors of the Alumni Association.
Judi Grainger ’72 MS, Meritorious Service Award: Grainger served as president of the Alumni Association board of directors in 2011 and served for a total of 14 years on the board. She also serves on the NC State Board of Visitors, the College of Education Advisory Board and the board of directors of The State Club.
It didn’t take long for Sarah Cutler to show her true colors as a child. While the first words she spoke were “Momma” and “Daddy,” her mother says the first phrase Sarah uttered was “Go Wolfpack!”
Sarah and Brad Cutler were young football fans
That’s because Sarah was the latest in a long line of Wolfpackers in her family. Her mother, Ann Gentry Cutler, and her grandfather, Howell Gentry, both graduated from NC State, as did several other members of her extended family. Her younger brother, Brad, plans to attend NC State after he finishes high school.
Sarah is now a junior at NC State, majoring in mathematics and math education. And she and her family will be recognized during the Wolfpack game against Wake Forest on Saturday as the 2012 NC State Family of the Year, an award given out by the Office of Parents and Families Services. The recognition is part of Parents and Families Weekend at NC State.
“Our family history is so intertwined with the university,” says Ann Cutler, a 1982 graduate. “It’s home to us.”
The Wolfpack connection started with Howell Gentry, a 1958 graduate who was the first person in his family to graduate from college. He was already married when he came to NC State – he earned money by milking cows in the university dairy each morning while his wife worked in Kilgore Hall as a secretary for the horticulture department. He went on to work as superintendent of an NC State research station in Reidsville, N.C.
Ann and Sarah Cutler
“My whole life, between my dad going to school there and then working for the university, there was a real connection,” says Ann Cutler.
Cutler was a finalist from her high school to be a Morehead Scholar at UNC. But she showed up for the interview wearing red, and knew even then that NC State was the place for her.
“To me, it was just like being at home,” she says. “I was so used to being on campus.”
When it was time for Sarah Cutler to consider college, her dad encouraged her to look at some schools other than NC State. You see, her dad is one of the few family members who didn’t go to NC State, although they all say he’s a strong Wolfpack fan.
“He thought she might be a little brainwashed, so we did take her to other college campuses,” says Ann Cutler. “It was enlightening for her and for us, but it always came back to NC State.”
Sarah Cutler, who nominated her family for the award, says she loves the faculty, staff and students at NC State. She plays the mellophone in the NC State marching band and, like her mother before her, is active in the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.
Sarah and Brad Cutler
“Even though State was so big, the College of Education felt like more of a small family,” says Sarah, whose family is from the small town of Bethany, N.C. “I feel like I have the best of both worlds here – the advantages of a big university but the feel of a small community.”
But while she feels support from her friends and professors at NC State, Sarah Cutler still relies on her family. She talks to her mom by telephone every day and her dad often stops by to take her to lunch when he is in town for business. They are always in the stands to watch her perform with the band.
“My family has supported me and encouraged me to keep a level head and step outside my comfort zone at times,” she says.