Eve Carson Scholarship turns 15

Fulfilling her plan to support student leaders honors the legacy of the slain student body president.

A UNC-Chapel Hill student, Emily Smither, clears fallen leaves from the Eve Carson Memorial on campus. Displayed on the memorial is a portion of famous quote from Carson reading
Emily Smither, executive director of the student-run Eve Carson Scholarship, clears fallen leaves from the Eve Carson Memorial. The memorial includes the following quote from Carson: “Learn from every single being, experience, and moment. What joy it is to search for lessons and goodness and enthusiasm in others.” (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

In her first year at Carolina, Emily Smither ‘24 quickly became familiar with the campus through daily walks. Two spots on Polk Place caught her attention: the Carolina Blue butterfly bench and the Eve Carson Memorial Garden.

Both are dedicated to the memory of Carson, the student body president who was murdered in 2008. Smither researched and became captivated by Carson, who would have turned 38 on Nov. 19, and her vision for Carolina.

“Her values have been my guiding light throughout my entire Carolina experience,” said Smither, a Morehead-Cain Scholar like Carson. “The service, the character, the leadership and the transformative growth.”

Smither serves as executive director of the student-run Eve Carson Scholarship, which recognizes juniors who have “exhibited passion and transformative growth” while developing as campus leaders. It’s the result of Carson’s plan to create a scholarship run by students to recognize and support classmates heading into their senior year.

Now in its 15th year, the scholarship confirms Carson’s impact as a leader and believer in student power.

“Students celebrating students is paramount to the whole mission of the scholarship,” Smither said. “That is what we’re focusing on: highlighting them and making students aware of the scholarship to really re-instill the values that Eve embodied.”

The Eve Carson Scholarship begins its new application season Nov. 27. Scholars receive up to $5,000 for a summer experience and $15,000 toward senior-year tuition.

The 15th anniversary logo of the Eve Carson Scholarship. The logo is a buttlerfly and its wings with various shades of blue, ranging from Carolina Blue to Navy Blue. Highlighted in Navy is "15".

Now in its 15th year, the Eve Carson Scholarship is the result of Carson’s plan to create a scholarship supporting campus leaders.

Members of the Class of 2025: Learn more about applying to be an Eve Carson Scholar. The application opens on Nov. 27 and closes Dec. 22.

Among the six current Eve Carson scholars is Güzin Karagöz, a native of Istanbul, Turkey, who came to the U.S. as a high school student. At Carolina, she became a campus leader through the Residence Hall Association, first as a community governor at Hinton James and later in a campus-wide role as executive administrative coordinator.

Her work included co-chairing the residence hall renaming committee and creating the Carolina Community Iftar, a campus-wide event and free meal to educate people on Ramadan.

“It was amazing what we could do as students on campus and the impact that we were able to have,” Karagöz said. A political science and contemporary European studies major and data science minor, she plans to become an immigration attorney. This summer, she took courses in Germany and Austria that are helping her develop a senior thesis on European immigration policy.

“The one thing that stands out to me the most is Eve’s passion for service,” Karagöz said. “It comes across to me very clearly that she was very passionate about helping to improve her community.”

That sentiment is shared by Student Body President Chris Everett, who said he tries to “embody Eve as much as I possibly can.”

On the back wall of Everett’s office reads one of Carson’s most iconic quotes: “What makes UNC truly special is not our beautiful campus, our distinguished reputation or even our basketball team. It’s us who make UNC what it is.”

A UNC-Chapel Hill student and executive director of the student-run Eve Carson Scholarship, Emily Smither, poses for a portrait while sitting on the Carolina Blue butterfly bench on campus. The bench is dedicated to former student body president Eve Carson, who was murdered in 2008.

Emily Smither said Eve Carson’s values of service, character, leadership and transformative growth have guided her experience at Carolina. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

What sticks out to Everett is Carson’s commitment to her fellow students — of all backgrounds. He points to her promotion of policies dealing with treatment space and identity for queer students. “To do that in the early 2000s — and to do it proudly — is something I am so in awe of.”

Over time, fewer people at Carolina have direct connections to Carson. But Smither hopes the continued focus on what she stood for can ensure Carolina remains the place Carson would want it to be.

“She left a footprint,” Smither said. “And those footprints, they create a blueprint. That blueprint is literally sitting right there, ready to be implemented across campus.”

A portrait of former UNC-Chapel Hill Student Body President Eve Carson. She is standing on a brick pathway and in the background, on the other side of Cameron Avenue, is the Old Well.

Following former Eve Carson’s death in 2008, then-Chancellor James Moeser said the student body president “personified” the Carolina spirit “perhaps more profoundly than anyone I’ve known in my whole time here.” (Photo by Mary Moore McLean)