In some cases, navigating life at a young age can be challenging. For Austin Dowdy, figuring out what he wanted to do with his future came easy for him. Growing up in a single-parent household with two younger sisters, Austin realized the importance of getting a higher education. While in middle school, Dowdy was presented with the opportunity to attend Lee Early College High School in Sanford, NC. Going to college was something that Austin always envisioned himself doing, and by going to Lee Early College High School, he was able to attend Central Carolina Community College while still in high school. Beginning his educational journey in 2012, Austin graduated in 2015 receiving his Associate of Arts Degree and High School Diploma by the age of 16. Dowdy enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 2015 and is now a senior studying for his Bachelor of Arts in Literature with a minor in Mass Communication. Austin is pursuing a career in Higher Education, and he credits his experiences with past instructors and mentors for helping him find his own path.
As Austin prepares for his next chapter in life, he has taken the necessary steps in ensuring a successful career in Higher Education. Ultimately, helping students at the community college or university level find their own paths and being a mentor to them to be successful is what Austin wants to do. He wants to give students the guidance just as his mentors gave to him. In the summer of 2017, Austin was presented with the opportunity to take part in the Marian Drane Graham Scholars program through UNC General Administration, and was matched with the North Carolina Community College System office to intern in the Academic and Student Services Division for 6 weeks. This experience allowed him to recognize and further validate his interest in pursuing a career in Higher Education.
As an intern in the Academic and Student Services Division, Austin worked alongside Associate Director of Student Life, Mr. John “JJ” Evans. Together, they coordinated the logistics of the Student Leadership Development Program (SLDP). This annual program invites community college students from across the NC system to participate in learning and refining leadership skills, attend mini-sessions, and grow as student leaders. Austin was able to observe the students during SLDP and was impressed with seeing the students grow throughout the week. For Austin, it was a great opportunity to be a part of and very rewarding to see the program be so successful.
At UNC Asheville, Austin also serves as a student leader. Serving as Program Director of the University Ambassadors, he oversees the day-to-day operations of the program and coordinates with University Ambassadors to give daily/group tours, and put on successful Admitted Students Day events and Open House events. Austin is a member of the Student Government Association as the Executive of Academic Affairs, where he oversees all SGA initiatives pertaining to the academic experience at UNC Asheville, with a focus on ensuring that all students have access to a quality curriculum, empowering teaching, and useful learning support. He is also a Program Supervisor for pre-rendezblue 2017, where incoming students can move-in early and participate in 1 of 9 uniquely themed programs to get themselves acclimated to the university and the city of Asheville.
Within less than a year, Austin will be receiving his Bachelor of Arts Degree from UNC Asheville, and he hopes to go into a Master’s program in Higher Education Administration or English. He plans to stay in North Carolina so that he can give back to a state that has provided so many opportunities to him. When asked what advice would he give younger generations to encourage them to be successful, Dowdy stated, “I would encourage them to pinpoint and pursue their own interests early on. You can make a career out of virtually anything, which is super exciting. Be motivated and don’t let things stop you. Also, success looks different for everyone. Your definition of success may not be someone else’s definition of success. Don’t let others tell you what you’re meant to do. Only you can know what your purpose is. Even if things seem hard or difficult, keep going. Keep pushing to reach your fullest potential. Giving up is simply not an option.”