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Outstanding Young Alumni

Carolina’s 300,000-plus alumni live in all 50 states and more than 150 countries. Chances are, you’ve probably heard of people such as President James K. Polk, Thomas Wolfe, Andy Griffith, Michael Jordan, and Mia Hamm. They’re pretty famous.

Well, here are a few more recent Carolina graduates just mentioned in the Carolina Alumni Review. You might not recognize their names now….but we think they’re destined for greatness in the future. From starting new businesses to leading healthcare corporations to writing books that end up as Broadway musicals, their accomplishments are pretty incredible! But this is just a short list, which is certain to be continued…so keep checking back as this section of our website continues to grow!


  • Abby Bouchon (’13 BS) Rebecca Crabb (’12 BS), Jane Hall (’13 ABJM) Meghan Lyons (’13 ABJM/BA), Mackenzie Thomas (’13 AB), and Stephanie Zolayvar (’12 BS) all minored in entrepreneurship (a program that’s based in the economics department) and in 2012 and 2013 landed positions with Google that enable them to use their skills to promote causes and sports. Read more.
  • Colleen E. Briggs (’06 AB) of New Haven, Conn., has received her MBA from the Yale School of Management. Briggs has been named vice president of financial capability and consumer public policy in the corporate responsibility division of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
  • Brian M. Fenty (’08 ABJM) of Washington Depot, Conn., and fellow former Broadway producer Merritt Bae, have created TodayTix, an app that lets people purchase tickets for Broadway/off-Broadway shows seven days in advance for a lower price and also join a drawing to purchase tickets for popular shows.
  • James Eaton Hill (’10 AB) of Raleigh, co-owner of High Cotton, has created a polo shirt grown and sewn entirely in North Carolina.
  • Lindsay Jeanette Moriarty (’11 MPH, ’11 MPR) of Durham has been named one of Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 for 2015. Moriarty is the owner of Monuts, a bakery/café in downtown Durham that started as a doughnuts stand operating off a tricycle and now occupies a 3,000-square-foot restaurant with a full menu and over 40 employees.
  • Tina Prevatte (’09 MBA/MA) founded Firsthand Foods, a company that sources pasture-based, humanely raised livestock and works with meat packers to create product and distribute to restaurants, retailers and consumers.
  • Taylor Austin Ramirez (’11 MBA) has opened the Mason Dixon Bakery, Alabama’s first dedicated gluten-free, full-service bakery.
  • Joseph Richardson Powell (’01 BA) of Durham has been recently named one of Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 for 2015 and is executive director of the Me Fine Foundation, a nonprofit organization that offers support to families of critically ill children being treated at children’s hospitals.
  • Danae Ringelmann,(’00) of San Francisco is a co-founder of Indigogo.com, an online funding platform that lets anyone inclined to contribute help decide which businesses and products make it to market.
  • John Anthony Strenkowski (’04 BSBA) of Cary has been named to the first class of Blavatnik Fellows in Life Science Entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School, where he received his MBA. Based at the Harvard University Innovation Lab, the fellows each receive a one-year stipend of $95,000 and promote the commercialization of life science technologies.
  • Kurt Taylor (’11 BSBA) is the founder of Next Glass which recently made the 2015 ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ list. Next Glass is an app that uses chemical compounds to determine drink recommendations for its users.
  • Joel Thomas (’06 AB, ’11 MBA) is the Business Development Manager at Community Energy, Inc, as well as an adjunct professor at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.
  • Troy K. Trygstad (’06 PhD) of Chapel Hill has been named one of Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 for 2015. Trygstad serves as vice president of pharmacy programs at Community Care of North Carolina. He was recognized for bringing together regional networks of health professionals and services to promote cooperative and coordinated care.
  • Bernard Worthy (’10 BS) is the founder of Feedstyle, an app that allows college students to discover campus news, events and deals in one curated newsfeed.
  • Calvin Young (’10 BS) was recently recognized in the 2015 edition of  ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ for his work in the consumer tech industry. Young is the co-founder of Twice, a website that sells second-hand clothes.

Non-Profit/Public Policy

  • Callie Brauel (’09 BA/BS) co-founded and co-directs A Ban Against Neglect (ABAN), an organization that turns an environmental epidemic into hope for the young mothers living on the streets of Accra, Ghana.
  • William Bryan Gentry (’08 AB) received the Ned Brooks Award for Public Service from UNC.
  • Taylor Jo Isenberg (’10) was recently recognized in the 2015 edition of  ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ for her work as the National Director for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, a national initiative that engages in a unique form of progressive activism that empowers young people as leaders and promotes their ideas for change.
  • Matthew M. Knepper (’09) of Indian Trail has been named one of the ’30 Under 30′ top young thinkers in economics, education and political science by Pacific Standard Magazine for his work on the economics of health care policy, specifically examining the high cost of the U.S. healthcare system and potential solutions for greater efficiency.
  • Kelly Leonhardt Phoenix (’10 AB) currently serves as the Executive Director of Nourish International, a non-profit born out of a UNC student organization.
  • Alyson Zandt (’09) is a program manager at Management Development Corp (MDC), which helps organizations and communities close the gap that separate people from opportunities. She served as the Autry Fellow from 2009-2010.

Creative Writing/Entertainment

  • Stephen M. Bahnaman (’07 MSLS) of Raleigh competed on ABC’s 500 Questions, breaking the record for number of questions reached and taking home $110,000 in prize money.
  • Sara Elizabeth Crowell (’13 BAJMC) won the First Documentary Film Contest for her film Mountain Style.
  • Amber Lee Cushing (’12 PhD) of Concord, N.H., won $25,250 as a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
  • Andrew Constantine Gretes (’09 MAT) published his first novel, which is called How to Dispose of Dead Elephants.
  • Douglas Nathaniel Harris (’11 BA) of Charlotte appeared in the role of Jim O’Connor, the young clerk and dinner guest in a production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie by the Masterworks Theater Company at the 47th Street Theater in New York.
  • Leah Michele Konen (’07 ABJM) of San Francisco has published a young adult novel, The After Girls.
  • Danyele Kristen McPerson (’03 AB) of Dallas competed in season 10 of the show Top Chef.


  • Karyn Collie Dickerson (’04 AB) of Greensboro has been named N.C. 2013-14 Teacher of the Year. Dickerson, an English teacher at Grimsley High School, will tour the state as an ambassador for teaching and represent North Carolina at the National Teacher of the Year conference
  • Atrayus Omar Goode (’07 BA) of Durham has been named one of Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 for 2015. Goode is president and CEO of Movement in Youth, a program he started in his junior year at UNC. The program pairs students from local universities with high school students and has seen a 100 percent high school graduation rate and 99 percent college attendance rate.
  • Christie C. McNeill (’04 BA) was recently recognized in the 2015 edition of  ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ for her work as chief of staff at AmplifyEducation, Inc. McNeill manages a multi-million dollar unit responsible for creating antalytics-driven K-12 products.
  • Nicole Gina Pfleger (’06 Med) of Marietta, Ga., received the 2012 Young Alumni Award from UNC’s School of Education. Pfleger is a counselor in the Cobb County, Ga., schools, where she developed initiatives to help homeless children, programs to provide positive male role models for boys with behavior problems and math tutoring for economically disadvantaged students.


  • Nicholas John Bakatsias (’05 JD) was named director in the law firm of Carruthers & Roth PA.
  • Wyatt Brandon Hicks (’08 AB) of Mechanicsville, V.A., a former UNC football player, was sworn in as a police officer. He was elected president of his class at the training academy he attended.
  • Elizabeth J. Palmer (’02 BA) of Charleston, S.C., has been named Young Lawyer of the Year by the South Carolina Bar for her work as a member of the S.C. Bar Young Lawyers Division for implementing the national public service initiative Bullyproof. Palmer also served as public service director of Project Street Youth, a nationwide initiative to provide legal services to homeless and transitional youth.
  • Wilson Lamark White (’06 JD) of Sunnyvale, Calif., has received the Outstanding Recent Graduate Award from UNC’s School of Law. White is an associate litigation counsel at Google Inc., where his primary job is management of patent litigation.


  • Jennifer Lauren Fair (’07 ABJM) of Raleigh has been promoted to senior account manager at MMI, a public relations firm in the Triangle.
  • Kirstin Chloe Garriss (’11 BAJMC) of Frederick, Md., has been named a TV news reporter at WHAG News, in Hagerstown, Md.
  • Ian Duane Gordon (’03 ABJM) of Oakland, Calif., wrote a feature article published in the March/April 2013 issue of Mother Jones, where he is a copy editor. The article, “Played,” looks at baseball in the Dominican Republic.
  • Nikole S. Hannah-Jones (’03 MA) of Brooklyn, N.Y., has been named 2015 Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists for her work about the continuing segregation of America’s schools, in particular stories published by ProPublica and The Atlantic Magazine in Spring 2015.
  • Hunter Lewis (’00 BA) of Mountain Brook, Ala., is editor of Time Inc.’s Cooking Light where he featured a person, First Lady Michelle Obama, instead of food on the cover for the first time in the magazine’s 28 years. Inspired by Obama’s “Let’s Move!” program to fight childhood obesity, he launched a feature aimed at getting youngsters and their families to cook and eat better, “Let’s Cook!”
  • Caroline Elizabeth Lindsay (’04 ABJM) of Denver, Colo., has been promoted to advertising account executive for Printwear and Promowear magazines for National Business Media.
  • Ali Ufuk Nardali (’04 AB) of New Haven, Conn., has been named an editor of The Yale Law Journal.
  • Elizabeth Poindexter (’10) is the Marketing Coordinator for DurhamCares, a nonprofit that works to engage Durham residents in community service.
  • Colin Timothy Reed (’06 ABJM) of Lawrenceville, N.J., has been named deputy communications director for the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
  • John Sides (’96) of Washington, D.C., co-founded and writes for the political blog The Monkey Cage, now a feature of The Washington Post. Among his distinctions, he was named 2011 Blogger of the Year by The Week.
  • Emily Stephenson (’10) is a reporter on the financial regulation team at Thomson Reuters.
  • Matthew Samuel Tepper (’04 AB) of Mineola, N.Y., has been named campaign manager for the mayoral campaign of Christine Quinn, currently New York city council speaker
  • Ajashu Lenoir Thomas (’07 BA) of Alexandria, VA., has been named deputy press secretary in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • Carolyn Maura Van Houten (’14 BAJMC) of San Antonio has been named the top photojournalist in the 2015 Hearst Journalism Awards Program. Van Houten is a photographer with the San Antonio Express News and has won the top spot in the multimedia division in the Hearst competition in 2014.
  • Ariel Zirulnick (’10 BAJM) is the Middle East Editor for the Christian Science Monitor, an independent international news organization that delivers thoughtful global coverage.


  • Joanna Jordan Conley (’03 BSPH) of Orlando, Fla., named CEO of the Poinciana Medical Center in Kissimmee, Fla.
  • Dr. Meredith Elliott Miller (’04 AB, ’10 MD) of Raleigh has received the first Dr. Charles A. Sanders/Project HOPE International Residency Scholarship for her work in the Dominican Republic at the Project Hope Maternal and child health clinic.
  • Joseph Ross Rudisill (’04 BSBA) was named associate administrator at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital.
  • Erin McElvania TeKppe (’10 PhD) received her certification as a Diplomate of the American Board of Medical Microbiology.


  • Luke Justin McKay (’11 MS, ’14 PhD) of Bozeman, Mont, has received a NASA postdoctoral fellowship to support his work as a postdoctoral research associate in the department of microbiology and immunology at Montana State University. McKay studies microbes that live under extreme conditions in the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park and between Robertson Glacier in Alberta, Canada.
  • Shaena Montanari (’08 BS) was recently recognized in the 2015 edition of  ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ for her Ph.D work on analyzing fossils. She is currently working with DNA barcoding to understand the diets of different mammals that are being ousted by humans, to make sure they have enough prey to eat.
  • Meredith Leigh Weiss (’10 PhD) of Chapel Hill has received a $41,672 research award from Strategies for Human Resource Managers for a research project, “Employment Opportunities for Individuals With Intellectual Disabilities: Strategies for Human Resource Managers Interested in Expanding Integrated Employment Practices.”


  • Rachel Lynn Dawson (’07 BSBA) of Berlin, N.J., is a midfielder of the USA Field Hockey Team and brought home the gold at the Pan American Games in Toronto, scoring two goals during the tournament.
Students walk down Franklin Street in downtown UNC Chapel Hill
Views from the Installation of Chancellor Holden Thorp on University Day 2008