Recent graduate Chris Bouzane, BA ’22 in History and Political Science, was chosen to be among this year’s cohort of the highly competitive UNC Presidential Scholars Program. The Presidential Scholar program is designed to expose recent UNC System graduates to the full breadth of the System through a variety of functions inside and outside of the office. During their year term, scholars rotate rotate through a variety of cross-functional teams to serve and support the work of the System’s institutions and affiliates. Many Scholars go on to top-ranked graduate programs and launch careers as the leaders of tomorrow. UNCG News caught up with Bouzane to learn more about his experience.
What inspired you to apply to become a Presidential Scholar? Was there anything unique or unusual about the application?
The Presidential Scholar position is highly competitive because of the vastness of the UNC System Office and the diverse nature of applicants – everyone’s experiences and involvement are considered. Because it is open to any UNC System graduate of the previous Fall or Spring semester, and only three are selected for the appointment, the Scholar position serves to represent the prestige of our graduates and their institutions. The number of applicants ranges between 50 – 80 and after four rounds of interviews, the final selection of these applicants is made by the System President, highlighting the distinction of serving in this position.
The Scholar position is truly a learning opportunity and everyone at the System Office highlights that aspect and puts it front and center in everything we (Scholars) do. As somebody who wasn’t necessarily set on my post-graduation plans, this program felt like the perfect opportunity for me to continue my personal and professional development. I am surrounded by mentors who truly care about the work they do and are focused on helping me achieve the fullest extent of my own personal success. For these reasons, I was instantly drawn to the possibility of becoming a Presidential Scholar and felt inspired to undergo the application process.
Please describe your role. What is a typical day or week like for you?
A trademark of the UNC System Presidential Scholar program is the completion of multiple rotations throughout the System Office’s main divisions. This allows Scholars the unique opportunity to interact on a day-to-day basis with a variety of professional and policy functions of this office. This also exposes Scholars to much of the System Office workforce to learn and receive advice from them on their careers. Rotations follow the meeting schedule of the Board of Governors, and Scholars assist in the planning and execution of these board meetings. These rotations include working in the System Office’s divisions of Academic Affairs, Legal Affairs, the Office of the President, Strategy & Policy, Finance, Government Relations, and Military & External Relations.
I currently work in the Office of the President and our Strategy and Policy team, so a typical day may include one-on-one meetings with individual members of our S&P team to discuss projects we are working on and ways to advance the System’s Strategic Plan. After some one-on-ones, I usually have two or three meetings a day doing team check-ins and collaborating with members of other departments in the System Office where our goals may overlap. These meetings are either in-person or virtual, giving me the ability to continue my work while still contributing to these discussions and advocating for students. Whenever possible, I can speak with President Hans and other Senior Leadership in the System Office, either for work related questions or for my own personal and professional development. These individuals truly serve as mentors for myself and my fellow Scholars, so it’s a real privilege I cherish.
Honestly, there is no typical day or week as there is always something new to get done, with some days and weeks being livelier than others. For example, when the System Office is hosting our Board of Governors, I typically have more on my plate so I can be of further assistance to the Board, our Institution Chancellors, and their delegations.
What are some unique or cool experiences you’ve had since starting this position? Are there any more unique experiences on the horizon?
One unique experience I had recently was touring the PBS NC office and studio. For those who aren’t familiar, PBS NC is an affiliate of the UNC System, so getting the chance to tour and meet the people behind the scenes was something truly special. As someone who grew up on PBS and continues to watch it to this day, I enjoyed getting to meet the people who embody their mission and values – to spark lifelong curiosity and wonder, empower our communities and enrich the lives of all North Carolinians, doing so with purpose, imagination, and open minds. While there, my fellow Scholars and I were able to sit down, speak to, and learn from Interim-President David Crabtree, who has had an incredible, decades long career in news media and provided invaluable wisdom and advice.
One of the great opportunities of serving as a Scholar is traveling around the state to tour campuses and participate in collaborative meetings. On these tours we are exposed to the true champions of higher education in our state – the faculty, staff, and administration of our institutions. As we are exposed to everything these institutions have to offer, we can meet with student leaders on campus to continue that cycle of service and pass on the knowledge we have learned during our time as Scholars. In addition to touring campuses, Scholars attend meetings for the Association of Student Governments (ASG), Chancellor installation ceremonies, and interact with the State Legislature. The scope of opportunity the Presidential Scholar position provides is truly endless.
How do you think UNCG prepared you for this role and/or life-after-graduation in general? Were there any particular experiences, professors, projects, etc that stood out to you?
My UNCG professors’ passion for teaching and their research opened my eyes to new passions of my own.
UNCG prepared me in several ways for this role and my path to success for life after graduation. Holistically, UNCG is home to a beautiful campus that embodies diversity and is home to a pool of talent present in our faculty, staff, and administration. This access to resources and support gave me all the necessary tools for life post-graduation.
Specifically, I would like to thank the History and Political Science Departments for challenging me academically. Both departments were home to the best courses I took during undergrad and are filled with faculty who are truly passionate about the work they do. The courses I’d say that prepared me for this role would be Dr. Allison Bramwell’s “Urban Politics” course, Dr. Denisa Jashari’s “Riots, Rebellions, and Revolutions” course, and my history 411 Capstone course: “The Irish Famine,” taught by Dr. Jill C. Bender. Each of these courses challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and to develop new skills. Whether that be research, writing, or analysis based; the skills I’ve learned from these professors have stuck with me and been utilized in the Scholar position. Moreover, their passion for teaching and their research was infectious. Through these courses, my eyes were opened to new perspectives and passions of my own, leaving a lasting impact on my future goals and my own personal development. Honestly, there are too many courses and professors who have contributed to my success at UNCG, and I wish I could list them all, but then this might turn into an entire paper.
I also must thank my peers in the Student Government Association who served as friends and mentors throughout my time at UNCG. The members of the 96th, 97th, and 98th sessions helped me to get outside my comfort zone, become a more confident individual, and opened my eyes to new ideas and experiences. I am more than confident that each of these individuals will go on to do great work in their lives and will continue to serve as mentors for those fortunate enough to make their acquaintance, as I had.
Lastly, I must thank every member of the UNCG faculty, staff, and administration for their countless hours of support and respect. Without them, our university would not be the place it is today. They are the embodiment of what it means to be a Spartan, and their collective wisdom is an invaluable resource for our university.
What are your overall career and future goals?
Like most recent college graduates, I am not entirely sure what my future career goals are. I’m filled with many interests, which motivates me to pursue them all. On one hand, I want to give back to my community and become a teacher, working in K-12 education, and spreading my love of history. On the other hand, I would like to continue my journey in higher education by building on the work of my bachelor’s degree and pursuing a Master of Public Administration (MPA), so I can continue to serve my community in other ways. I’m thankful for the Scholar position because I’m surrounded by talented individuals who not only share my passion but have worked in the fields I am interested in pursuing. The advice and wisdom they have and continue to share with me has truly been invaluable. With that said, I ultimately want to live a life of service. So whatever career path I choose to follow, it will be in pursuit of that goal.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Yes! The application for our next cohort of Scholars (2023-2024) is open. I want students to know that this opportunity is open to everybody, regardless of what they majored in. I encourage anyone considering this position to apply. It is a wonderful opportunity. For more information students can go to our website. Applications are due November 27.
For students who may be on the fence, want more information, or just want to chat 1:1, I encourage them to reach out to myself and my fellow Scholars. We are more than happy to chat about our experience and answer any questions.Students can reach me via email.