Brittany Grant has been serving and supporting underrepresented communities since her undergraduate days. She currently works with the Carolina College advising corps to help ensure low-income, minority high school students have all of the resources and knowledge necessary before embarking on their college experience. She discovered this opportunity to practice her passion for helping others through her work with both Project Uplift and Uplift PLUS through the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion.
Grant understands the importance of embracing different cultures and creating new meanings through words. She had the opportunity to spend a semester in Quito, Ecuador, which allowed her to explore different sceneries and learn about Ecuadorian culture through her host family. She plans to pursue her love for counseling at a deeper level by earning a Master’s in Counselor Education.
How did your identity shape your approach to diversity work?
As a first-generation college student from a small, rural town, conversations centered around the importance of diversity and inclusion weren’t very present in my life. When I began school at Carolina and I started working for The University Office for Diversity and Inclusion, I found myself needing to learn so many things related to diversity work. Even though I’m more informed now than I was before, I still try to approach diversity work with the intent to learn and grow.
How would you describe where you grew up?
I come from a small, rural town in Eastern North Carolina where you can drive 25 minutes and see nothing but cornfields the entire time. We had less than 5,000 people in our town and less than 200 in our graduating class so everyone knew everyone. Looking back, I didn’t appreciate where I grew up as much as I do now. Of course, my town has its fair share of problems, but growing up there gave me the experience and perspective which has helped me to be successful in my current role as an adviser in a similar area working with a similar demographic.
How did you choose your major of Romance Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics?
I’ve always had a fascination with language and how different cultures create meaning through different words. After taking one Spanish class my sophomore year with Dr. Cowell, I knew I had found my major. It was the one subject that didn’t feel tedious for me. I loved going to my Spanish classes and yes, I even enjoyed the homework. When I found out I could combine my love for literature and language into one degree, I knew I was in the right department.
Did you have a mentor throughout your undergraduate program?
I always credit my former boss, Sharbari Dey, for helping me get to the place I’m at today. When I found myself struggling to adjust to life at Carolina, Sharbari was there to encourage me to be the best student. When I had no idea which major I wanted to pursue or which career path was right for me, she was there to offer me suggestions, connect me to new opportunities, and give me the motivational speeches I so desperately needed. Because of her, I found Project Uplift which, in turn, led me to find the Carolina College Advising Corps, which then revealed my passion for counseling. I owe so much of my personal and professional growth to her.
Did you study abroad during Undergrad? If so, can you describe your experience?
In Fall 2018 I spent four months abroad in Quito, Ecuador. As someone who had never been outside of the country, this experience was life-changing, to say the least. I got to spend time learning Spanish at the university and practicing with an incredible host family. I made friends from all over the world, many with whom I still communicate. I got to experience some of the most beautiful mountains, waterfalls, and volcanoes. One of my favorite memories is spending a weekend in the Amazon Rainforest where my friend and I had the chance to take a guided tour through the forest, we went tubing down the river, and we even got to visit a local animal rehabilitation center.
What is one thing you wish you knew before entering college?
I wish I had known that I did not need to have my entire life figured out in my first year of college. I spent so much time worrying about the future that I feel as though I missed out on a lot of the fun of the present.
Can you describe some of the roles you had within the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion (UODI) during your undergrad years?
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of UODI all four years of undergrad. During my time as a work-study student, I did everything from assisting people with diversity education research, helping coordinate special events, and I even wrote a few articles for the monthly newsletter. Serving in a variety of roles during my time at UODI helped prepare me for the variety of roles I would have in my current position.
What were some of the highlights working with as a Project Uplift and Uplift PLUS counselor?
Through working as a counselor with these programs, I met the most incredible people, many of whom I’ve gone on to work with in CCAC. In fact, Project Uplift was the reason I became interested in joining CCAC. Friday nights were also something to look forward to as we all dressed up to watch performances from different student organizations and enjoyed pizza after. Of course, my favorite part was being able to serve as a mentor for high school students and to offer them advice that I wish I had known before entering college.
What is one of your favorite Carolina memories?
I am a HUGE Game of Thrones fan. So, when the school brought out a replica of the Iron Throne for people to sit on during all the first-year celebrations, it’s safe to say my GOT-loving heart was very content. Plus, those first few days of college getting the chance to meet everyone and to experience the campus for the first time will always be nostalgic for me.
Can you describe your role within the Carolina College Advising Corps?
The Carolina College Advising Corps is an organization dedicated to serving low-income and underrepresented students. As an adviser, I spend most of my days meeting with students or their families to talk with them about post-graduation plans, planning events to increase college awareness, and collaborating with school staff to figure out how to best serve students.
Where do you see yourself within the next five years?
Currently, I’m finishing out my second year as a college adviser. As a result of the work I’ve done with this program, I’ve decided to pursue an M.S. in Counselor Education at East Carolina University. I will join the program in a few months where I plan to specialize in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I hope to not only become a Licensed Professional Counselor, but I would love to work with local universities to spread awareness and resources surrounding the mental health of first-generation college students, especially in Eastern North Carolina.
What does “Diversity” mean to you?
For me, “diversity” is recognizing the differences that make us who we are and realizing that we can all learn and develop new perspectives as a result of these differences. To do that, there also needs to be inclusion involved, making sure a variety of voices, identities, and ideas are in positions to be heard and that people are listening to understand and not listening simply to respond.
Written by Casey P. Jones