The Dinner

Well, I promised to write a bit about my experience attending the dinner for those who had received or were receiving the Thorpe-Mitchell Diversity Leadership Fund Scholarship. So, I will attempt to do just that.

A cool and somewhat gloomy Thursday dawned, but I felt satisfied that I would get a shorter workday. I knew that in order to arrive in Chapel Hill so that Dr. Mitchell, my former grad school mentor, could pick me up; I would have to depart from the jobsite around 2:15. Before catching the 805 bus at 2:30, I finally scuttled across the lot and picked up 2 7-day Triangle Transit bus passes. For some odd reason, they never gave me one for this month, so I’d been having to cobble together enough cash to board every morning. This was a pain.

It had been two years (2!) since I last ventured over to UNC Chapel Hill’s Health Sciences Library, where I lived during my grad school days. So I guess it shouldn’t have been too surprising that I couldn’t remember things as well as I’d thought I might. After detours into grass and accidentally sliding inside of other buildings, I arrived at the School of Medicine in which my mentor’s office is contained. The sounds of students and smell of mingling perfumes flooded me with nostalgia and longing to be back in that circle.

She was at that moment engaged in another appointment, so I cooled my heels in the reception area and played with GPS apps, learning what all was nearby. Much of UNC is labeled, which is pretty cool.

Then we were off. The get-together was to be held at the Hampton Inn Chapel Hill Carrboro, which was not far at all away from the med school. So we arrived early, as it was to start at 5, went to wash hands and all that fun stuff, and settled in.

I had a name tag on, and so as I sat there a confusing array of people stopped by to say hi and inquire about the status of my life, what I was hoping to do, etc. All of the other recipients, as well as nearly everyone else there, works in the Allied Health field. This is a broad area, covering careers from Rehab Counseling (which is what I had tried) to Occupational Therapy, Clinical Laboratory Science, and Speech Language Pathology, to name a few. And most of them actually had decent jobs, too.

We were to give a short speech detailing what we had achieved, how the scholarship had helped us, and why we felt that diversity of culture, gender, and thought was necessary in the field of Allied Health. And, well, I don’t know what I said. I had ideas, but guess I was a bit intimidated by my own current position and desire not to come across as a negative ned. I croaked something about appreciating the award, it having been my second such after being named a Ronald E. McNair Research intern in 2001. McNair was the first African American astronaut who sadly lost his life in the Challenger explosion. As I’ve probably said before, that program’s goal is to increase participation of underrepresented groups at the graduate level. So, I feel I still have a high mandate to become more successful somehow, also in order to reimburse the scholarship fund I got while at UNC. I want to help others to have a better opportunity to get where they want to be as well.

With regards to networking, a couple of the individuals I spoke with are going to see about finding me some contacts to learn about journalism or communication studies programs. I met and was assisted in getting food by a nice young woman from Texas who now works at Duke doing something that sounded over my head. Haha.

For eating, they mostly had finger food. I had a few meatballs, a delicious little turkey sandwich with all kinds of stuff in it, some brie cheese, (whatever that is,) tuna, and a delicious brownie. Because I was unaware that my turn to speak would be next, I found myself hastily ramming the last of that brownie into my mouth as I made my way to the podium. This may be why I had a hard time talking in straight sentences: chocolate can amp you up!

And that’s really all that happened at the dinner. My phone also told my mentor how to get back to my apartment, and she says that now we will stay in touch and I might go over there to chill with her and her husband sometimes as I did while in grad school. She really is like a mother to so many of us.

Now I just need to try and ride the forward momentum gained from that experience to new heights, and hopefully stay up there this time! It was strange going back to the same old job on Friday, but also I felt better as I could see that tiny pinprick of light shining at the end of the proverbial tunnel. More soon.

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