Shawn Jerome Guy ’08
2007 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Senior Award
Shawn’s comments on receiving this honor:
“Over the years, I have received a number of titles, but the most important one to me thus far is that of Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Senior. I feel both honored and privileged to receive such a highly esteemed award that is given in memory of one of UNC’s first African-American graduates.
“As I sat among some of the most prestigious individuals that have graduated from this University and listened to the story of Harvey Beech, I could not help but begin to draw parallels from his experience to mine. Though my experience pales in comparison, I realized that even though I am not one of the first African-Americans to graduate from Carolina, I still remain one of the few African-American males in several of my classes. In a society where there are more young black males in prison than on college campuses, I realize there is a lot of work to be done.
“I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Black Alumni Reunion and its participants for allowing me to stand on their shoulders as I strive for success. I look forward to the day that someone climbs onto my shoulders.”
When Shawn Jerome Guy read about the Harvey E. Beech award on the General Alumni Association Web site, he was drawn to its emphasis on the relationship between current students and alumni and its value of community service. He’s a perfect fit for this award. Shawn has benefited from the advice and encouragement of older friends who are UNC alumni, and himself had served as a mentor and role model to students at his former high school in Halifax County.
A senior, double majoring in information science and african-american studies, Shawn had been an avid UNC athletics fan from the age of five. Then as he got older he learned that UNC is top-ranked, as he said, “in the universe.” His desire to attend UNC was solidified after he participated in two UNC outreach programs for minority high school students—Upward Bound, and one in which he now serves as a counselor, Project Uplift, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. Though his family was thrilled when he learned of his acceptance to the university, others told him before he came to Carolina “you’ll just be a number” among so many students. Shawn decided to ensure his success by following the advice of Terri Houston, director of Project Uplift. He sought out smaller classes, sat in the front row, asked questions early before problems arose and visited professors during their office hours—strategies he now offers to the incoming students he counsels.
Those strategies have obviously worked for Shawn since he’s maintained high GPAs in two majors while holding part-time jobs and serving in many campus organizations. He chose to major in information science because its versatility offers him a variety of career options. He has gained valuable work experience in part-time jobs on campus in the computer science accounting department as well as the Information Technology department of the Kenan-Flagler Business School. Shawn’s ultimate goal is to become the CIO of an organization. Toward that end, he wants to build on his current academic momentum and go to graduate school next year to pursue a master’s degree in information science. His first choice for graduate school is the M.I.S. program at UNC.
Shawn turned an interest in African-American studies into a second major, enjoying the variety of topics in the field. His exploration of African-American studies led him to ask, “What can I do to make a difference?” Feeling an obligation to the younger generation of his own community, he worked with his high school to tell them about the opportunities Carolina offers through the Tarheel Target program of the Minority Student Recruitment Committee. Shawn was especially gratified to win an award that honors Harvey E. Beech. From his study of African- American history, Shawn could appreciate the obstacles that the first black law student at Carolina had to overcome to achieve his academic and career goals.
In several ways, Shawn has used the intersection between his two majors to establish connections with people and share his specialized knowledge with them. As co-chair of the organization Fighting Against the Digital Divide, Shawn tutors UNC employees in computer skills. Many of the participants, on the housekeeping and mail service staffs, for instance, are members of minority groups. His work in the program has been a good mesh of his academic pursuits. Shawn also serves as the technology chair for EMBRACE, the Emphasizing Brotherhood Across Campus Effectively committee of the Black Student Movement.
A strong example of Shawn’s desire to give back and mentor others is his long involvement with Project Uplift, a campus visitation program for prospective students and their parents. Terri Houston remembers when Shawn applied to the program as a high school student. He later volunteered with the program during his freshman and sophomore years. Terri admired his quiet confidence and special dedication to speaking to young black men, willing to be a role model and mentor to them. She eventually hired him to be a counselor in the program and found that he was especially effective at reassuring parents of prospective students that their children would be fine when they got to Carolina. Now a leader in the program, Shawn is one of her most trusted “go-to guys.”
Shawn feels he has gained as much as he has given, considering his most rewarding experience at Carolina to have been the people he’s met. He’s made friends among his fellow students who he feels will be his friends for a lifetime. He’s also been inspired by the dedication and success of faculty who are “at the top of their game.”
Shawn’s proven commitment to giving back to his community bodes well for his continued involvement with Carolina after graduation. Terri Houston is convinced that “he will be an alumnus who won’t forget his university.” Future generations of Carolina students will benefit from his dedication and involvement.