Francesca DeFranco

When it comes to her career aspirations, Francesca DeFranco refuses to be boxed into a corner. She wants to combine a love of nursing and law into a future career as a nurse attorney, advocating for health care policy and even assisting doctors and nurses in legal cases.

“Why choose when you can be both?” she asked. “I’ve shadowed various nurses and talked to multiple lawyers. I enjoyed both immensely, and through research I found this career opportunity and fell in love.”

The unique combination of interests will lend themselves to DeFranco’s experience as one of the newest EC Scholars. EC Scholars is the most prestigious undergraduate award program offered at ECU. The four-year merit scholarship recognizes outstanding academic performance, commitment to community engagement and strong leadership skills. Recipients receive an Honors College scholarship for four years, along with a stipend for study abroad, for a total value of $62,000.

DeFranco, 18, the daughter of Lisa and Frank DeFranco, also plans to explore her penchant for visual arts when she comes to campus in the fall, taking advantage of programs and activities through her scholarship.

“I went to an arts school for high school where I gained visual arts training,” she said. “Visual arts is my hobby, but helping others is my passion.”

Before she jumps headfirst into her studies and activities on campus, DeFranco will spend the summer traveling in Europe, working as a swim instructor at a YMCA camp and volunteering at HUGS Camp, where special-needs individuals gain valuable life experiences.

Once she does officially begin her ECU career, she will be confident in the support system that is already pushing for her success.

“East Carolina felt like home,” DeFranco said. “When I arrived on campus I felt the overwhelming sense of community and support. Along with this sense of home, ECU has provided me with various opportunities to thrive and challenge me academically. This combination is exactly where I want to further my education. ECU will provide me with incredible resources, educators and opportunities to travel.”

That travel includes Italy, as part of the study abroad portion of her scholarship.

“I hope to go to Italy to explore my heritage,” DeFranco said, “and also to immerse myself in the rich art and history the country provides.”

She also has her sights set on the rigorous programs through the College of Nursing and, beyond that, to attending law school, where she will earn the final pieces of a future in nursing law.

“Individuals who choose a career in health can advocate health care policies, lobby for nursing associations or help inform lawmakers on important issues within the health care industry,” she said. “As a nurse attorney, I can also work as a writer or editor for professional nursing and legal journals.”

“ECU has provided me with various opportunities to thrive and challenge me academically.”

High school:  Northwest School of the Arts

Intended major:  Nursing

Hometown: Charlotte