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Scholarship Support Helps Erin Meachum ‘23PHD Pursue Her Career Aspirations of Being a Higher Education Administrator, Creating and Changing Policy

Erin Meachum

When Erin Meachum ‘23PHD started her undergraduate studies, she had no intention of becoming a teacher. While majoring in English and comparative literature, she tutored and volunteered with multiple literacy centers and programs.

Upon graduation, she found herself overseas teaching English in a bilingual high school in Spain. That experience, along with her college experiences, cemented her desire to pursue education as a career. When she returned to the United States, she continued on that path.

After working in the private sector for a stint, Meachum landed a job teaching English as a second language (ESL) at Wake Technical Community College and Durham Technical Community College, while completing a master’s degree full time in English with a concentration in writing and composition from NC State. While earning her master’s, she also worked part time as an instructor at the NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ (CALS) Agricultural Institute (AGI), a two-year degree program, before moving into a full-time role in 2014.

Erin MeachumBefore COVID-19, Meachum served as a chaperone and co-director for study abroad programs to Ireland and Scotland through CALS. She also works full time as a writing lecturer for AGI, where she teaches English Composition and Academic Writing, Business Writing and Spanish for Ag Students, and serves as the assistant coordinator for the AGI Internship Program.

“I successfully secured funding for the internship program through the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission Grant. I have worked alongside the coordinator of the program and presented research on the internship program focusing on safety in the agricultural workforce, as well as creating an innovative internship program,” she said.

Through her teaching experiences and her time at AGI, Meachum was inspired to pursue a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development in the higher education program area of study, which intersects with her professional goals.

“Given the complex and changing field of higher education, pursuing a Ph.D. in higher education will allow me the opportunity to collaborate with world-renowned faculty, pursue a research agenda focused on student success and engagement in two-year degree programs and continue my career aspirations in higher education,” Meachum said.

She plans to work in higher education administration and policy creation. Specifically, she sees herself in an applied aspect of higher education, such as working as a provost or vice provost at a land-grant institution.

“Teaching affords me the opportunity to work individually with students, but if I want to make a broader change or a change at a broader level, a Ph.D. is required, and I think working in higher education is an exciting opportunity to pursue,” she said.

As the recipient of the Edgar J. and Ethel B. Boone Adult and Community College Leadership Award, Meachum is able to continue her career aspirations in higher education and work toward her goal of being an administrator and creating and changing policy.

Being awarded that scholarship directly helped Meachum finance her graduate studies by offsetting the cost of her tuition. She was also able to become a member of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) and attend their annual conference virtually.

In addition, financial support helped her to purchase necessary items for graduate school, including a laptop — since she had not owned a personal computer since 2010 — which was very beneficial for her statistics course, because she had to run several programs, and for her doctoral research.

“The benefits of receiving this scholarship are innumerable. This award directly helped me in financing my doctoral studies; therefore, definitely helping me along in my career goals because I want to complete the Ph.D. program as quickly as possible,” she said.

Meachum says that being selected for this scholarship is a real honor and very meaningful, knowing the legacy that Edgar J. Boone left and the impact he had on higher education. And she understands how much he valued public education, which she values as well. She hopes to continue to honor his legacy in her work and her research within higher education.

“As a North Carolina native and graduate of both UNC Chapel Hill and NC State, I understand the importance and have a deep passion for public education, and I’ve experienced it firsthand,” Meachum said. “I hope to continue the legacy and mission of land-grant institutions and honor the work and spirit of Dr. Boone.”

Meachum wants to contribute to the higher education field by studying student success at two-year degree programs at land-grant universities, specifically, the successes of students of color in agriculture with the ultimate goal of recruiting and retaining more students of color in agricultural-related disciplines. By pursuing her Ph.D., she hopes to be able to create and sustain policies that support those areas of focus.

“I was fortunate to have a lot of different teaching experiences throughout my career, whether it was the Durham Literacy Center, teaching overseas in Spain, teaching ESL at Wake Tech, or where I teach now. There is a common thread of we care about our students and we want them to succeed,” she said. “I’m very fortunate that education is a career that chose me. While I did not think I would become an educator when I entered college, I’m beyond grateful that I get to wake up and do this every day.”