Nearly 6,200 undergraduate, graduate and professional students will have their Carolina degrees conferred this weekend. After years of hard work, late nights and a lot of determination in the face of a pandemic, these Tar Heels are poised to become the next generation of leaders and take on the challenges facing the state, country and world.
The Well asked some of this year’s teaching award winners what advice they would give to the Class of 2022. Here’s what they said.
Clinical professor, School of Law
- Just as there are many right ways to write a brief, there are many right ways to be a lawyer. Try different approaches but only keep using the ones that work for you. If you aren’t sure what works for you, keep experimenting. And once you find the right way for you, remember that there are still many other right ways. (That also means that you can start over — rewriting a brief, leaving a job, switching careers.)
- Try to notice when you have power, which might be more often than you think.
- When you mess up and you’re not sure what to say, use Maui’s apology to Te Fiti in the movie Moana: “What I did was wrong. I have no excuse. I’m sorry.”
Teaching associate professor, UNC-Chapel Hill & NC State joint department of biomedical engineering; lead design engineer, FastTraCS
Be good to yourself and others and enjoy life as you live it. It has been my experience that banking social capital pays off — being empathetic and treating others with respect breeds positivity and growth in yourself and others. Learning to prop others up and help others grow is a great way to grow yourself. And as you grow, life will throw many twists and turns at you — highs and lows come and go, and with them you’ll gain so much experience and knowledge. Share the knowledge and experience you gain with others and allow others to teach you from their experiences. Start there, and you will be a positive beacon in this world and leave it in a better place.
Clinical associate professor, School of Law
Look for kindness, expect kindness, demand kindness and be kind. The legal profession is notorious for being adversarial. Our lives, however, do not have to be adversarial — should not be adversarial. In your places of work, look for the kind people and attach yourself to them, learn from them.
In representing your clients, make sure others look upon them with kindness and see their humanity — demand that for them. But also question your power and use your power kindly. Remember that mercy “is twice blest”: It blesses those who give and those who receive, and we are our best selves when “mercy seasons justice.”
Most importantly, consider that kindness demands that you be fully open. Be open to new people, new ideas — to a life of perpetual learning, constant questioning and self-awareness. Continually reflect on who you are in relation to others in the justice system and in your world, and then be sure to elevate quieter voices and disregarded experiences.
And, finally, be kind to yourself. When you need it, when you deserve it, let yourself be lifted up as well. Those moments of kindness — of connection — will sustain you.
Associate professor, College of Arts & Sciences’ history department
Pick your battles. You’ll forget most of those random nights with friends and the small quarrels over lovers or bathrooms that were once so important. It’s the unusual moments that you’ll remember — the handful of really meaningful professional achievements and the truly uniquely special times with friends.
As fun as college can be, the most enjoyable moments of your life are yet to come. Make sure you’re in a position to appreciate those. Sometimes people get too busy to enjoy the things they’ve earned. Be ambitious, but don’t let your career and life goals prevent you from living in the moment.
William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Genetics, School of Medicine’s microbiology-immunology department
Do not let all of the negativity drown you out, whether it’s directed at you or others who do not deserve it. Stand up for those who are less fortunate and speak up.