There is no doubt that the sense of community and unity at UNC-Chapel Hill is unique to college campuses. Around the world, alumni and students can bond over this shared experience and proudly proclaim that they are Tar Heels. This sense of community is what drew senior Leah Vance from Cleveland, Tennessee to North Carolina. In the past four years, Leah has also contributed to this special community through numerous service projects and involvement on campus. Leah’s contributions and accomplishments are what make her this week’s Campus Celebrity!
HC: What is your favorite thing about Carolina?
Leah: I love the sense of community. Even when I was senior in high school and came to look at UNC, I could tell that there was something different about Carolina. That initial “feeling” that I should be here came from the obvious unity on our campus. UNC-CH is populated with so many different people of various ages, backgrounds and outlooks, but we are all bound together by sense that we’re all working towards making some sort of difference, both while we’re here and once we’re out. That unified passion brings our campus together in such a powerful way. I think that character is incredibly unique to Carolina, and I love it.
HC: What activities and organizations are you involved in on campus?
Leah: I’m the co-director of UNC Habitat for Humanity’s project, Build a Block, so there’s lots of Habitat in my life. I’ve been working in a cancer research lab at UNC’s Medical School, and I try to stay active in the School of Public Health’s incredible global and local health opportunities. I tutor for premedical classes through the University and do a little ESL. I’m a member of Alpha Chi Omega and have had the opportunity to serve as Philanthropy Chair within the sorority, working mostly with Orange County’s Family Violence Prevention Center. Sometimes I try out an intramural, like flag football, but my hand-eye coordination has never been a strong point.
HC: Which of these activities means the most to you or is the most important to you?
Leah with other Alpha Chi’s
Leah: UNC Build a Block has become an incredibly important part of my life. When I began, I was really excited about working with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County to build safe, affordable houses for people in our own Carolina community, but I never realized how wonderfully successful the initiative would turn out. We’ve had groups from all over campus come together to help us raise the fund and recruit volunteers so that we can start helping people in our own backyard.
HC: What do you like to do in your free time?
Leah: I love lounging around and chatting about life with friends. I’m a huge fan of traveling, and I love a good episode of 30 Rock or Modern Family. I like to bake, and I am hopeful that one day my baking skills will transfer into cooking skills. I’m also big on exercising with friends — gym dates, walks, the occasional class at the SRC. It’s fun, healthy and social — the full package, basically. My roommates and I have an addiction to the Bachelor/Bachelorette that is shaming, but I guess I’m ready to go public with it.
HC: Why did you decide to major in Environmental Health?
Leah: I’ve always been interested in health, and once I got a grasp of what public health is and what a large impact it can have on any population, I wanted to see what it was about. Environmental health, itself, looks into exposures from the environment and their impact on populations, but in the School of Public Health, I’ve also been able to take classes in many of the various concentrations. I want to help better the health of individuals as a doctor, but I also want to make sure it’s done in a larger framework of improving the overall health of the public.
HC: What are your plans for after graduation?
Leah: Right afterwards, I’m heading out of the country! Then, I’m taking a year off before applying to medical school. I want to be a doctor, maybe a pediatric oncologist, but that’s about all I know.
HC: What’s something most people don’t know about you?
Leah: Anyone who’s lived with me knows this, but I sing in the shower, sometimes unconsciously and always too loudly.
HC: What is your favorite memory from Carolina?
Leah: That’s a tough one, because I’ve had so many amazing times here. I’m going to go with my first one: the first week of school, there was a group of us who had met at Carolina Kickoff and decided to get dinner together. After dinner, we went on a walk around campus, and when we were passing that fountain on north campus, someone was like, “Hey, anyone want to go swimming?” And within five minutes, we were all running around in the fountain. It was such an appropriately spontaneous start to college that I will always remember that, and I’m still friends with those crazy girls.
HC: What advice would you give to underclassmen?
Leah: You’ll hear it a lot. But we seniors mean it when we say, please choose fun opportunities over another hour in the library. Please invest in late night runs to a random movie, surprise vacations and any way to make the most of your time with the incredible people you’ll find here. Study, too, of course, but don’t let it consume your life.