Helping students find their voice

Two-time Carolina alumna Ada Wilson didn’t anticipate that her dream of aiding underserved communities would lead her where it did, but the work she does is both dear to her and life-changing for many Carolina students.

After earning her undergraduate degree in journalism and mass communication at UNC-Chapel Hill, Wilson remained at Carolina to earn her Juris Doctorate at the School of Law. She had intended to practice and eventually teach law, but was instead drawn to a position with UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (DMA).

“I needed to be in an environment where I could have a tangible impact on the lives of underserved communities,” says Wilson. As the department’s director of inclusive student excellence, she doesn’t hesitate to say that she had found her dream job. Wilson is an integral part of the support network for Carolina’s minority students, navigating multiple roles as a mentor, director and adviser to programs such as the Cultural Competence Leadership Institute and the Carolina Millennial Scholars Program. She helps ensure that no matter their background, students are able to connect with the unique opportunities Carolina offers.

Though she is licensed as a lawyer, Wilson’s heart is in her work at Carolina and with her students. She had hoped to aid others by practicing law, but sees working with DMA as a better way to directly engage with underserved and underrepresented populations. She influences prospective students through DMA initiatives such as Project Uplift and the American Indian and Latina/o recruitment programs, and accepted students with Decision Days and Achieving Carolina Excellence, programs that support students’ transition to university life. These are among the programs that formed her own undergraduate introduction to Carolina. She offers program support for students in the Minority Student Recruitment Committee and one-on-one guidance for those seeking to leave their own lasting impressions.

“I am committed to the mindset that everyone’s Carolina story will be different — no heelprint is identical,” she says. “I enjoy meeting students and watching them grow through our programs. From Project Uplift to graduation — it is so powerful.”

Wilson’s work is the kind that never really ends, but evolves along with the University. She maintains that helping students fulfill their potential goes hand-in-hand with shaping an ever more diverse and inclusive community. “There is always an opportunity for greater impact,” she says. “I want every student to find a voice and a space at UNC.”

By Anna Xin Lee, UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.

April 10, 2014.