Meet our 2023 Orientation Ambassadors, a multidisciplinary team of graduate students who are working with The Graduate School to plan and implement the 2023 Graduate 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.

Nathaniel Berry

Nathaniel "Berry" Berry (he/him/his)

PhD student, Department Physics and Astronomy, College of Arts and Sciences

Hometown: Jackson, Michigan


About Berry: When I'm not manning the telescope, you can find me playing some Apex Legends or Magic the Gathering! I also enjoy reading manga, watching anime, and playing the trumpet.

Advice for incoming students: I'll pass on the One Piece of advice I was given that has stuck with me: "Always make sure to incorporate one thing you enjoy/want to do into your day."

Shaun Jones

Shaun Jones (he/him/his)

PhD student, Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Public Health

Hometown: Fayetteville, North Carolina


About Shaun: I am a first year PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. I recently earned my MPH in Applied Epidemiology from the UNC Gillings School in May. I am a Barbara K. Rimer Cancer Fellow with UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and a health education associate/research assistant with the Duke Cancer Institute Community Outreach Engagement and Equity Office. I previously earned my Bachelor's in Cultural Anthropology and Biology from Duke University in 2017 before working in the Duke University School of Medicine's Psychiatry Department as a clinical researcher. My passions include tobacco cessation, Black and LGBTQ+ health, and eliminating health disparities in several areas including, but not limited to, cancer and nutrition. I ultimately plan to utilize mixed method approaches through epidemiologic data analysis and health education programming to combat issues affecting marginalized communities. I currently serve as a community advisory board member for Duke Cancer Institute and Durham's Community Health Coalition and as the co-President of the Black Graduate & Professional Student Association at UNC. In my downtime, you can find me hiking, bowling, and trying new restaurants.

Advice for incoming students: You deserve to be here! Take every opportunity to learn from your peers, professors and the community.

Danya Krueger

Danya Krueger (she/her/hers)

PhD student, School of Social Work

Hometown: Boise, Idaho


About Danya: My name is Danya Krueger, and I am a second-year PhD student in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work and a Graduate Research Assistant with the UNC-BHWRC. I earned a Master of Social Work from The Ohio State University and a Master of Business Administration from Boise State University. Prior to doctoral studies, I served as lead research associate at Boise State University School of Social Work in collaboration with the State of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. I have also worked as a licensed mental health professional in University Health Services at Boise State University and as an adjunct instructor at the College of Western Idaho. My research interests concentrate on serving and improving the health and wellbeing of the healthcare workforce through prevention-based and community-engaged intervention research. You can find me spending all my non-academic time with my husband and dogs.

Advice for incoming students: Your first year will feel like a roller coaster ride, with several high and low points. In the midst of the low points, remember the ride will peak again--you were accepted, and you deserve to be here. Find your people in and out of the program and lean on them. Lastly, pinch yourself once and awhile, you are pursuing higher education and America's first public university--it's an honor and adventure of a lifetime; enjoy it!

Annalee Lake

Annalee Lake (she/her/hers)

MPH Student, Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Public Health

Hometown: Portland, Oregon


About Annalee: I am originally from Portland, Oregon, where I found my love for nature while studying Environmental Sciences at Oregon State University. Before pursuing my Master in Public Health, focused on Environmental Health, at UNC, I began making my way out East, spending a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Omaha, Nebraska. When I'm not in class, I love to spend time outdoors, enjoying North Carolinas weather, baking, traveling, and discovering new restaurants in the Triangle. I enjoy trying out new coffee spots and finding new restaurants in the triangle with friends.

Advice for incoming students: Attend as many of the social events and outings as you can, especially int he first few months! Attending these events (which often give free food) are great ways to find people who you like and who have similar interests!

Melissa Lam-McCarthy

Melissa Lam-McCarthy (she/her/hers)

MPH student, Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health

Hometown:Dumfries, Virginia


About Melissa: Prior to returning to work in global health at UNC in 2017 and balancing my classes as an MPH student in the Nutrition concentration, I earned my culinary arts degree in New York City at the International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute). I worked as a line cook and specialty food sales account manager. I also have bachelor's degrees in Anthropology and East Asian Studies from the University of Virginia. I enjoyed living abroad in Kamigoto, Japan, Bangkok, Thailand and Shanghai, China after university. Honolulu, Hawaii is another hometown to me. My husband and I moved to Chapel Hill for my job as an assistant cheesemaker and cheesemonger. We have a cat daughter named Honey, five beehives and a garden of vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Advice for incoming students: It has been a long journey leaning on my support system of family, friends and mentors to get where I am today and persevering towards my degree. Be gentle on yourself and be open to sharing how you are feeling. Sometimes things do not go as planned, but it is part of the journey. When in a time of transition, feeling excited and overwhelmed, think about your values, dreams and goals. As my former academic coordinator, the wise Jonathan Earnest, said, "Remember your why…Remember your why…Remember your why."

Alix Mahon

Alix Mahon (she/her/hers)

PhD candidate, Physics and Astronomy

Hometown: San Bruno, California


About Alix: My name is Alix Mahon (she/her) and I am a Master of Public Health student studying Maternal, Child, and Family Health. I am interested in chronic, non-communicable diseases in pediatric populations and improving access to healthcare. I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from UC Davis in 2020. I've loved my time in North Carolina so far, especially exploring the local rock-climbing spots!

Advice for incoming students: I would recommend trying to suppress the urge to compare your success to others. This may sound like a cliche statement, but in grad school it can be hard to feel confident in your success when you're applying to a lot of the same positions as your peers and even your friends. However, grad school of all places is a meeting of people who are a wide variety of ages, personal/professional experiences and I've found that it's much better to focus on your excitement for your peers' successes rather than taking it as a sign that you are inadequate!!

Ayotomiwa Oludahunsi

Ayotomiwa Oludahunsi (she/her/hers)

MPH Student, Department of Maternal, Child and Family Health, Gillings School of Public Health

Hometown: Osun State, Nigeria


About Ayotomiwa: I am Ayotomiwa Oludahunsi, and I am an international student from Nigeria. I have worked as a research assistant, conducted data analysis of multiple data sets, carried out literature reviews, and reported findings addressing the health and safety of mothers, children, and families at the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I received my Bachelor's in Nursing Science from Nigeria and worked for about three years prior to pursuing my Master's in Public Health degree. I am interested in breastfeeding, family planning, and reducing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality domestically and in low and middle-income countries. I go rock climbing with my friends and enjoy cooking my local dishes.

Advice for incoming students:Being a graduate student is a lot of work, be committed, remember your purpose, and aim to achieve your goals regardless of the obstacles. Build good relationships and love yourself.

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.

Luke Pullo

Luke Pullo (he/him/his)

MCRP student, Department of City and Regional Planning, College of Arts and Sciences

Hometown: Bellerose, New York


About Luke: My name is Luke, I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP) student at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My interests in the discipline are in community and regional economic development and policy, particularly in industrial and workforce development. I am originally from Bellerose, Queens, New York. Outside of my work, I enjoy walking around town, the outdoors, and trying new restaurants.

Advice for incoming students: Make sure to make meaningful connections early on with your peers and department or program faculty and staff.

Rebecca Rice

Rebecca Rice (she/her/hers)

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

Hometown: Shreveport, Louisiana


About Rebecca: I enjoy most types of crafting. I taught myself how to quilt and finished my first queen sized quilt last year.

Advice for incoming students: Be kind to yourself. Remember that this is a journey and make time for the road stops along the way, i.e., meeting other students outside of your department and attending trainings that interests you.

Simone Wilson

Simone Wilson (she/her/hers)

PhD student, School of Education

Hometown: Flint, Michigan


About Simone: My name is Simone Wilson, and I am a rising third-year doctoral student at the School of Education concentrating on Culture, Curriculum, and Teacher Education. I am also co-president of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association. My research focuses on exposing white supremacist logics and undoing racism as they appear in spaces of higher education. I obtained a BA in psychology from Emory University and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Michigan. I am a Flint/Detroit, MI native. In my free time, I enjoy baking, reading, travelling, singing, and watching movies.

Advice for incoming students: Integrity and authenticity go a long way.

Brooke Staley

Zhongle "Lizzy" Zhou

MSIS student, Information Science, School of Library and Information Science

Hometown: Hangzhou, China


About Lizzy: Before I started my journey in information science, I focused my research on semiotics and cultural studies. Now I am transitioning to a more technique-centered path, which presents a huge gap for me but also guides me into a whole new world. Outside of school, I love video editing, blogging, and learning new languages.

Advice for incoming students: If you ever feel hesitant to converse with others because of concerns about your English proficiency, remember that the essence of communication matters more than linguistic perfection.