Celebrating Five Years of Spirited Impact: the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council
Volunteerism can come in a variety of forms, but one opportunity has allowed recent graduates of the Wilson College of Textiles to do what comes naturally: serving as their alma mater’s biggest cheerleaders.
On Nov. 8, 2017, a group of 12 alumni under the age of 40 came together to create the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council (DYALC). This new group offered David Hinks, dean of the Wilson College of Textiles, a unique look into the minds of the college’s youngest graduates.
MEET THE INAUGURAL MEMBERS OF THE DYALC
Learn more about the 12 members who formed the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council five years ago.
- Mike Ferguson ’04 (co-president)
- Chad Seastrunk ’04, ’05 (co-president)
- Jenna DeCandio ’17
- Jasmine Flood-Hill ’12
- Sarah Hoit ’11
- Caitlyn Holt ’12, ’13
- Wesley Horne ’04 (who now serves on the North Carolina Textile Foundation’s board of directors)
- Michael McDonald ’10, ’19
- Sarah Jane Simpson ’11
- Jeremy Wall ’14
- Monica Warsaw ’12
- Rede Wilson ’16
The idea for the DYALC was initially sparked by Hinks and Michael Ward, executive director of the North Carolina Textile Foundation, which serves as the philanthropic arm of the Wilson College of Textiles. Both leaders were in search of an innovative way to encourage recent graduates to maintain and strengthen their connection with the college.
We realized that alumni who have been in the workplace a relatively short time would have a very important perspective on how their college could be improved to support future young alumni like them.
— David Hinks, Ph.D.
Dean, Wilson College of Textiles
Hinks continued, “I was inspired by our recent alumni’s positive energy and interest in staying engaged with our college.”
After meeting with Centennial Scholarship alumni Chad Seastrunk ’04, ’05 and Mike Ferguson ’04, the group fully fleshed out the design of the DYALC. Seastrunk and Ferguson would go on to lead as the council’s first co-presidents from 2017 to 2019.
VIEW COUNCIL LEADERS THROUGHOUT THE YEARS
It was the council’s role to share the good, bad and ugly with the dean while also providing him with guidance in the areas of alumni engagement and fundraising. The council members echoed how their choice to serve on the DYALC was easy, given the significant impact the college has had on their lives.
“Simply put, NC State and the Wilson College of Textiles have played a major role in where I am today,” said Jasmine Flood-Hill ’12, an inaugural member of the DYALC, during a 2017 interview. “Attending the college was one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far. Being a member of this council has afforded me the opportunity to give back to a program that has provided me with a top-of-the-line education and continued outstanding support.”
One year after the council’s first meeting in 2017, a new cohort joined and expanded the DYALC from 12 members to 23, including two student representatives.
In addition to sharing their time and talents with the college, members of the council have offered their financial support by making gifts to the North Carolina Textile Foundation to pay forward the imperative support they’ve received. Extraordinarily, the DYALC has helped the foundation increase its number of under-40 donors by 80 percent through annual support of the university’s Day of Giving and endowed gifts.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the Wilson College of Textiles,” Courtney Petak ’13, who currently serves as the co-president of the DYALC, says. “This council has been a great way to stay involved with the college as we seek to get more young alumni interested in giving back and getting reconnected.”
Recognizing outstanding young alumni leaders
Since its inception five years ago, the DYALC has created initiatives that have led to young graduates being more engaged, connected and committed to the Wilson College of Textiles.
One such initiative is the Distinguished Young Alumni Awards program, which was created by the council in 2021. Every January, the DYALC names two award winners who have excelled in their careers, made a difference in their communities and given back to their alma mater in the short time since graduating.
2021 DISTINGUISHED YOUNG ALUMNI AWARD RECIPIENTS
Ritika Burman ’15
After graduating with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Delhi University, Ritika Burman made her way to the Wilson College of Textiles to pursue her passion for sustainability in the textile, apparel and footwear industry. Burman’s groundbreaking research has helped advance her career. Most recently, she served as SGS’s manager of responsible business services.
Jessica Singleton ’09
While riding the NC State Wolfline bus, Jessica Singleton bumped into a friend who steered her to the Wilson College of Textiles – and the rest is history. Today, she serves as a technical designer and mask expert for U.S. men’s domestics at HanesBrands, Inc. She is also the founder and owner of Laché Supply and Company, which specializes in menswear design.
2022 DISTINGUISHED YOUNG ALUMNI AWARD RECIPIENTS
Mohamad Midani ’12, ’16
In 2010, Mohamad Midani’s passion led him to NC State — from Cairo, Egypt — to study at the only college in the United States devoted entirely to textiles. Since then, he’s led the creation of an international textile consulting firm, been named an adjunct assistant professor at the Wilson College and launched an invention that converts agricultural waste into natural textile fibers and reinforcements.
Shane O’Toole ’15
Since graduating, Shane O’Toole has pushed the technological envelope and chased his passion for sustainability and athletic performance apparel. By day, he develops bio-based polyester and other carbon-negative polymers for Origin Materials. At night, he works on his successful startup, MooseDog, which produces eco-conscious hybrid 3D-printed, zero-scrap performance shoes, hats and accessories.
“Each year, our awardees are incredible examples of the expertise and dedication coming out of the Wilson College of Textiles,” says Andrew Hicks ’10, ’11, former chair of the DYALC’s awards committee.
“We are always excited to connect awardees with students to show them how our field can adapt to each student’s particular interests.”
Blending a connected young alumni community
Another integral DYALC initiative, the Blend Mentorship Program, has led to an even more significant connection between recent graduates and current students.
What began as a four-month-long pilot program with only 11 graduate students and seven young alumni in 2020 has grown to include more than 80 mentees and over 70 mentors. Through their wealth of knowledge, our alumni mentors offer critical career advice and expand students’ networks in a way that directly benefits their futures.
Blend connected Claire Henson, a textile engineering graduate student, to her mentor Courtney Oswald ’18, who serves as Under Armor’s senior apparel materials developer. This led Henson to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a material development intern at Under Armour’s corporate headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.
“I couldn’t have gotten here without the help of all of the amazing individuals at the Wilson College and Under Armour, but above all, I want to thank Courtney,” Henson says. “She is an inspiration in every sense of the word and taught me what it’s like to not only be a hard-working team player but a compassionate one as well.”
With their wealth of knowledge, Blend mentors have gone above and beyond to support the next generation of textile leaders and make career-building connections.
“The students are so impressive, and it’s amazing to see such talent coming into the textile industry soon,” one mentor said in their response to an anonymous survey. “I’m excited to have made such great connections that will continue into their careers and my own.”
Recruiting the next generation of textile students
Since 2021, recent graduates have been able to find their place in the college’s recruitment process — which aims to bring the best and brightest minds to the Wilson College. They’ve done that by serving on the Young Alumni Recruitment Network (YARN).
This new DYALC program empowers young alumni to speak with prospective students who live in their cities while also sharing crucial information about the college’s one-of-a-kind academic programs and student experiences.
I can’t explain how valuable it is for prospective students to hear how our young alumni have used their Wilson College degrees to enter extraordinary careers.
— Heather Lyerly
Senior Director of Academic Services
“It’s one thing to read about these success stories on our website, but it’s another entirely to hear about study abroad trips, research projects and successful career fair experiences firsthand,” Lyerly explains.
Open to all alumni under the age of 40, YARN encourages out-of-state and international graduates to sing the college’s praises across the nation and around the globe.
Because of the extraordinary work that the DYALC has done over the past five years, Wilson College of Textiles graduates now know that their connection to the college doesn’t have to end at graduation. Instead, it can grow even more profound as a lifelong member of the Wilson for Life family.
To learn more about the DYALC, please visit the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council’s website.