The University of North Carolina System recently posted that six UNC System students recently completed internships and honed their leadership skills through the Marian Drane Graham program.
One of the six students was Khedema Robert, a senior majoring in economics and finance & banking in Appalachian State University's Walker College of Business.
The internship 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.
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 other 2017 scholars are: Jane Chiffriller, University of North Carolina Wilmington; Austin Dowdy, University of North Carolina Asheville; Dajer Hernandez, University of North Carolina Pembroke; Candice Kelley, University of North Carolina Charlotte; Hannah Lemacks, Western Carolina University.
KHEDEMA ROBERT, SENIOR, APPALACHIAN STATE UNIVERSITY
Robert, an economics and finance double major from Charlotte, said she’s always had an interest in government, and landed an internship with a city planning department during her freshman year. So, applying for the Marian Drane Graham Scholarship and interning with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Equality seemed like a logical next step.
Though she said she didn’t have a lot of knowledge of environmental topics before, Robert said she learned a great deal during her internship.
“I didn’t know anything about water or environmental quality when I started,” she said. “I’m more into how they get legislation passed and how they allocate their funds.”
Working with the department, Robert saw how the organization worked with businesses on environmental issues and get applications approved to work on specific properties.
“They were trying to get these corporations to understand the land that they’re working on, and not allow them to take advantage of it,” she said.
Melanie Williams, an environmental senior specialist with the department, said Robert chiefly assisted with compiling data and turning it into graphics. Those graphics help the department analyze water quality and develop river basin plans.
“She was a natural,” Williams said. “She was very positive. We threw stuff at her out of left field, and she was a champ in tackling it.”
Robert said she enjoyed the Washington trip because she’s always been interested in public service. In fact, she said, the trip helped inspire her to seek an internship in D.C. next year.
“Meeting the aides, it made it feel more real, because it felt like work that I can do,” she said. “It was relatable – I felt like I was getting the inside scoop.”
Right now, Robert said she’s open to pursuing a path either in politics or business. She’d like to work as a consultant with small businesses, but she said she can also see herself working with a politician to get pills passed.