By: Dr. William Taylor, Assistant Director, Pre-Graduate & Pre-Law Advising, UNC UCS
Today, we bring you James Ennis Street, interviewed by Dr. William Taylor. James is a Senior, and is a Public Policy and Critical Race Theory Double Major. He is an On-Campus Coordinator | Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Senior Advisor | UNC Student Government, Co-Chair | Black Congress, Political Action Chair | Carolina Indian Circle. He is on the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor, Phi Sigma Nu Fraternity, and is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar.
Dr. Taylor: Think of a meaningful experience you have had while here at UNC; tell me briefly about the experience and what about it that has been most meaningful to you personally.
Street: The most meaningful experience I’ve had at UNC has been Project Uplift (PU). For me, the PU experience began when I visited UNC as a rising senior in high school looking for more information about the college experience and application process. During my experience at UNC, I met Carolina students who continue to be my mentors, role models, and cheerleaders, even five years later. I applied and was chosen to be the On-Campus Recruitment Coordinator (OCC) for the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion in my sophomore year at UNC, thus allowing me to coordinate PU from 2016-2018. Project Uplift increases access to underrepresented students through information and mentorship, all while raising retention rates of students of color by providing a familial bond. This experience has allowed me to advocate for students from underrepresented backgrounds and create systems of support for myself and others.
Dr. Taylor: In what ways has this experience prepared/ is this experience preparing you for your next steps after UNC?
Street: After graduating from UNC, I hope to enroll in a law school and earn my Juris Doctor degree to advocate for marginalized communities through political, governmental, and non-profit work. Through interactions with thousands of students, Project Uplift has bolstered my desire to increase institutional access for people from underrepresented backgrounds. I will never be able to forget the positive impact that PU has made on me, every participant, and the University. I plan to use these memories to keep me grounded, humbled, and focused as I look towards creating a better future.
Dr. Taylor: Choose one of the following competencies: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving, Teamwork/Collaboration, Leadership, or Global/Intercultural Fluency. Now tell which of these competencies the experience you’ve been describing has helped you develop most and how it has done so.
Street: Project Uplift has allowed me to problem solve and lead, while expanding my global fluency through teamwork and collaboration. Each week, approximately 300 students from diverse backgrounds join me, my administrative team, and staff. The number of personalities, backgrounds, and beliefs found at PU allow all of us to expand our understanding of the world. As one might imagine, however, working with so many people can create challenges. I thank PU and my position as OCC for developing me as a leader and sharpening my problem solving and critical thinking skills.
Dr. Taylor: What advice do you have for other Carolina students who might want to pursue this or a similar experience?
Street: I would advise all Carolina students seeking to pursue PU or a similar experience to remember why the program matters, the impact that you have and where you have the impact, and how to improve what is already working. Many times, student leaders get involved with tiring, energy-depleting programs like PU just to finish them and add them to their resume. When things become difficult, remembering the importance of a program’s mission, such as expanding access and recruiting, can make the opportunity much more enjoyable for both participants and current students. In a similar vein, centering around and focusing on the impact that you have on the participants, the program, and the Carolina campus community is also very important because it allows you to create subtle changes and develop a meaningful culture. As with all programs, there will always be room for improvement. Take note of the things you enjoy and the things that need improvement. Become the person who elevates the program to the next level, not the one who criticizes and complains every step of the way.