Darian Abernathy, a junior Human Development and Family Studies major from Hickory, N.C., has been elected as chairperson of the Carolina Union Board of Directors for the 2020-21 academic year. Abernathy will succeed the current board chair, senior Jaylen D. Evans, in April.
Abernathy has been deeply involved in the Carolina Union since her first days on campus, participating in multiple Union leadership programs and serving as a student employee. Her initial experience at the Union came during her first semester at Carolina when, as a Lookout scholar, she took a class designed to help first-generation students with their transition to college life. The course was held in the Union and led by Associate Director of the Carolina Union’s office of Student Life (SLL) and Leadership, Dr. Shauna Harris.
Through that class, Abernathy was encouraged to apply to other Union programs including Leadershape and Carolina United. She also landed a job at the Union as professional development coordinator, and the Union has served as an unofficial campus home for her ever since.
Abernathy credits her mother with instilling a desire to achieve and encouraging involvement beyond the classroom. “My mom’s goal was always to make sure that me and my three sisters went to college,” Abernathy said. “She’s a pretty amazing woman to send four girls to college. She was so intentional with keeping us involved with our community, making sure we had good grades, being at teacher meetings and PTO meetings. I know all of that was hard on her, but I’m I’m very thankful for all of it, because without it, I could have gone down a very different path.”
Abernathy said that her approach as board chair will be to find out where she can help and try to serve others. “I never considered myself a leader until other people called me one,” Abernathy said. “I just thought, ‘No, I’m just being me.’ But I think the courses I’ve taken helped me see that I have a leadership style. I consider myself more of a servant-leader and that is going to be my approach as board chair. To lead by serving others, and asking what they need and giving back.”
Abernathy said a primary goal is to extend Union programming that helps round out student experiences beyond the classroom. “I love everything that the Union does in helping students and fostering the whole student rather than just the academic part,” she said. “I think that’s the Union at its best, and that’s what I want to help foster more of. I want to help the Union have that impact on more students because it has meant so much to me. I want to expose more students to that.”
She also wants to ensure the Union is serving UNC’s graduate and professional students. “They pay student fees so they pay for this facility and they deserve to have it serving them,” Abernathy said. “I want to help integrate them more into this building that they pay for and close the gaps between serving undergrads and grad students. I know understanding how to serve them better has been a priority this year and it will continue to be a priority for me.”