Meet our 2021 Orientation Ambassadors, a multidisciplinary team of graduate students who are working with The Graduate School to plan and implement orientation!

Our Orientation Ambassadors are working toward their master’s degree or Ph.D. and represent a variety of areas of study. Each ambassador brings their own life experience and backgrounds to Carolina and are a resource for you as you launch your graduate career. Feel free to contact them with questions.

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron (she/her/hers)

PhD candidate, Gillings School of Global Public Health

Hometown: Los Angeles, California


About Deborah: I am a first-generation American, first-generation graduate student, and parent of two amazing kids. Before returning to academia to pursue my Ph.D., I worked in the HIV biomedical prevention field and global health for 18 years, 11 of them based in Johannesburg, South Africa. As an activist scholar, I’m also committed to participatory research and am currently enrolled in the University’s Graduate Certificate for Participatory Research.

Advice for incoming students: Find multiple mentors that span beyond your specific discipline; seek them out in unlikely places (i.e. take classes in other schools and explore the wider campus); and use different mentors for different purposes.

Peter Dykeman-Bermingham

Peter Dykeman-Bermingham (he/him/his)

PhD candidate, Department of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences

Hometown: Nashua, New Hampshire


About Peter: I started graduate school after working for two years at a biotech startup in Boston. I’ve gone rock climbing a couple times, and I'm slowly learning to like biscuits.

Advice for incoming students: Regularly see/talk to at least one friend who isn't a grad student.

Alex Goldych

Alex Goldych (she/her/hers)

PhD student, Department of Romance Studies (French language and literature), College of Arts and Sciences

Hometown: Syracuse, New York


About Alex: I graduated from Colgate University in 2019 and then started at UNC in fall of 2019. Outside of school I love to go hiking and explore the beautiful area that we live in with my dog Crush (named for the turtle from Finding Nemo). I also like to crochet when I can find the time. I spend a lot of my time tasting the amazing food and drink that there is around the Triangle, and I think I might be becoming a foodie. On campus you can find me at workout classes (10/10 would recommend) or frantically running to catch my bus after said workout class.

Advice for incoming students: I think that balance is the key to grad school. Use that free gym and therapy (seriously when will you have that again!) and don't spend all of your time working on school work. And you should talk to everyone you meet (including me!) because you never know where your new best friend is hiding.

Jackson Miller

Jackson Miller (he/him/his)

PhD student, Department of Classics, College of Arts and Sciences

Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico


About Jackson: I study the ancient Greeks and have excavated at several sites in Greece. However, before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill and becoming an archaeologist, I was an academic advisor at UT Austin for a few years, helping biology and biochemistry students with their degrees and pursuing their dreams! Finally, I am a twin!

Advice for incoming students: I think it’s super important to find friends and community outside of graduate school and your department! To do so, I recommend joining groups in the area or picking up hobbies! Or you could do what I did and go to the same lunch spot all the time and befriend the restaurant owner to the point that you’re good friends and continue to update each other! However, you find community outside of UNC-CH is up to you, but feel free to get creative about it! It’s really great to have other people with whom you feel at home with!

Kierra Peak

Kierra Peak (she/her/hers)

PhD student, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Department of Allied Health Sciences, School of Medicine

Hometown: Fayetteville, North Carolina


About Kierra: I enjoy practicing mindfulness meditation, journaling, and safely attending open mics!

Advice for incoming students: Be sure to check out library services as there are plenty of resources that you have access to! It's very likely that you won't be aware of every single resource available to you, but you might as well set yourself up to familiarize yourself with some of the resources now for when you might need them later.

Thomas Persico

Thomas Persico (he/him/his)

Master of Public Administration student, School of Government

Hometown: Manalapan, New Jersey


About Thomas: Fun Fact—I was an advisor to the nation of Sri Lanka at the United Nations in New York.

Advice for incoming students: Get involved in extracurricular activities no matter your school or program. Meeting others and learning about the world is what I have cherished most from joining clubs and group organizations. What makes UNC-Chapel Hill great is the large swath of diverse people from all over the world stationed within one university working toward similar goals.

Rebecca Rice

Rebecca Rice (she/her/hers)

PhD student, Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Gillings School of Global Public Health

Hometown: Shreveport, Louisiana


About Rebecca: To say I am a gardener is a stretch, but I love growing plants when spring comes around. While some may say I have too many tomato plants (at last count I had 30), I think I have the perfect number for season long fruit (plus, it is less than last year).

Advice for incoming students: One tip for incoming graduate students is to get to know your professors and the faculty in your department.

AhDream Smith

AhDream Smith (she/her/hers)

Master of Fine Arts in Acting student, Department of Dramatic Art, College of Arts and Sciences

Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee


About AhDream: I’ve been to the middle of the world twice: once in Ecuador and the other time in Uganda.

Advice for incoming students: Explore and discover all the resources available to you via the graduate school, your department, the libraries, other departments and ask questions. No question is too trivial.

Graham Zulu

Graham Zulu (he/him/his)

PhD student, School of Social Work

Hometown: Lusaka, Zambia


About Graham: Graham is an international PhD student of social work from Zambia and a research assistant at the Global Social Development Innovations center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to arriving at UNC-Chapel Hill, Graham was a research analyst at the Missouri Department of Corrections where he performed highly specialized and complex analyses, research studies, and prepared detailed reports using tables, charts, and narratives. Graham holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in development studies and demography from the University of Zambia, and a master’s degree in social work from Washington University in St. Louis. Graham has an excellent multicultural understanding with proficiency in English, Cinyanja, Finnish, and Turkish. He lives in Chapel Hill and has also lived in Turkey, Missouri, and Zambia. Graham likes working out in the woods, taking photos of nature, cooking, and reading history, religion, philosophy, and science books.

Advice for incoming students: Be open-minded, embrace being a student and accept failure as a valuable learning experience.