From the UNC General Administration: UNC Asheville Student Austin Dowdy, Marian Drane Graham Scholar

slider image option one : 
Marian Drane Graham Scholars

From the UNC General Administration:

What’s the summer like for a Marian Drane Graham Scholarship winner? Very, very busy.

This year’s recipients – selected from the University of North Carolina’s 16 incumbent campuses – spent six weeks working in a state agency, meeting members of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., and completing a capstone project for their respective campuses at the end of the program.

The program, which began in 2013, is named for Marian Drane Graham, the wife of former UNC President Frank Porter Graham, who led the University from 1930 to 1949 as the first system president. The program emphasizes leadership and public service, which is why the scholars are assigned to agencies in North Carolina. Students must be rising juniors or seniors, have at least a 3.0 GPA and have a faculty advisor sponsor willing to assist them with the capstone project.


As a literature major who hopes to teach and become a department chair one day, the North Carolina Community College system was a perfect fit for Dowdy’s internship. The Sanford native already brought with him knowledge of the community college system, having attended an early college high school and taking classes at a community college. Dowdy earned an associate’s degree before attending UNC Asheville.

“I’ve always had an interest in higher education,” he said. “I’ve had a variety of different leadership roles here at UNC Asheville. I was interested in exploring higher education through a wider lens. I knew how things worked at my campus, but I didn’t know how things worked at the state or national level. That really intrigued me.”

As part of his duties, Dowdy assisted in creating the student Leadership Development Program, a summer program that the community college system puts on for students who attend the state’s 58 community colleges.

“He helped me prepare programs for the sessions, set up schedules and coordinated the guest speakers,” said Johnny “JJ” Evans, the associate director of student life success for the system.

Evans said Dowdy brought valuable experience to the internship.

“He espoused to the state board and the system president about how the community college system differs from four-year colleges,” Evans said. “We were able to sit down with him and interview him about his experiences.”

Knowing that Dowdy eventually wants to become the head of an English department, Evans set it up so Dowdy could speak with several department heads throughout the system.

After graduate school, Dowdy said he wants to continue in education.

“I think the scholarship really validated my own interest in pursuing higher education as a career,” he said. “I was also able to learn about some of the challenges facing higher education, recognizing the difficulties for first-generation and early college students – I’m both.”

To read the full story, visit the UNC System website