In his past two years at Carolina, Joel Thomas ’06 helped oversee the transformation of a campus group into a social movement.
Three years ago, as a sophomore biology major, Thomas joined the students holding Hunger Lunch events on campus to raise money for sustainable development projects in impoverished communities. Last year, Thomas and other group members converted the concept into a larger nonprofit organization, which they named Nourish International. Thomas said he sometimes spent 30 hours a week as the organization’s assistant manager helping to manage those changes, helped along by his studies for a minor in entrepreneurship.
Thomas was one of seven seniors to be recognized in April with Edward Kidder Graham Awards for their leadership, innovation and dedication to student organizations. Each year, members and advisers of student organizations nominate seniors whose contributions have significantly advanced the goals of their organization. Sponsored by the GAA, the awards also are given to faculty members and advisers who have significantly benefited student organizations.
Hunger Lunch remains the signature fundraiser for Nourish International, but the organization has added other ventures, including a swing dance event and Hold ’em for Hunger, a poker tournament that raised $6,000 this spring.
Thomas intends to participate in one of Nourish International’s summer projects; his team will set up community schools to teach students to garden in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Meggie Flaherty ’06 soon became involved with the campus United Nations Organization after transferring to Carolina as a sophomore.
“It took a long time to find the club because there were only three people in it,” she said. Today, stable membership is about 75 students.
This growth was due, in part, to Flaherty’s leadership, which, she said, includes “knowing when to step aside and let someone else do something.”
Flaherty said she will have to limit her participation with the UNO for now.
“I’m growing up. I’m going to grad school at Johns Hopkins and teaching in Baltimore,” she said. “I’m also getting married.”
As for Thomas, he’s going to stick around. He will be employed as full-time director of Nourish International at a new downtown office after returning from Argentina. Although much awaits him in his new position, Thomas is excited to lead the nonprofit and to continue the work that he helped begin.
“This year has mostly been planning and getting our board of directors together,” Thomas said. “Next year is really going to be a giant experiment.”
Faculty members also were recognized for their contributions to campus life. Jean DeSaix ’78 (PhD), a lecturer in the biology department, received an award for her service as adviser to UNC’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The ceremony also honored Eunice Sahle, assistant professor of African studies, for her dedication to student learning both inside and outside the classroom.
Sponsored by the GAA, the class of 2006 and UNC’s Division of Student Affairs, the award is named for the 1898 alumnus and former UNC president who introduced the concept of the student union to Carolina in 1917.
2006 Edward Kidder Graham Award Recipients
Adjoa Adofo ’06, Organization of African Students’ Interests and Solidarity
Lisa Bevevino ’06, Episcopal Campus Ministry
Meggie Flaherty ’06, United Nations Organization
Elizabeth Pratt ’06, UNC Habitat for Humanity
Joel Thomas ’06, Nourish International
Lauren Westafer ’06, Health Sciences Living & Learning Community
Chasity Wilson ’06, Residence Hall Association