Inaugural Copeland Fellows close out cohort
When applications opened for the first cohort of the Copeland Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship, Mark Copeland ’96 and his wife Tracy ‘95 wanted to provide a program for College of Business students that celebrated and encouraged a culture of diversity and inclusion. Another goal was for the program to build upon the legacy started by COB’s leadership and professional development curriculum.
In 2020, Copeland said, “Diversity and inclusiveness are not ‘nice to haves.’ They are business imperatives. As (our) COB graduates embark on their next journey, they will quickly realize that diverse perspectives drive better decision-making, stimulate innovation, increase organizational agility, and strengthen resilience to disruption.”
On April 14, the first cohort of the Copeland Fellows – Jonathan Coleman, Evelyn Gonzalez, Aurora Shafer and Grant Smith – presented their last deliverable as Copeland Fellows in the Ledonia Wright Culture Center on the campus ECU. After two years in the program, their projects demonstrated what they learned.
Gonzalez, who will graduate with an accounting degree in May, plans to continue her education by pursuing her Master of Science in accounting from the Thomas D. Arthur Graduate School of Business. Her final Copeland Fellows project examined why Hispanic students do not pursue an accounting degree, a topic based on her firsthand experiences at ECU.
“I will never forget when I entered my first accounting class and realized I was the only Hispanic in the room,” Gonzalez said. “This did not feel normal, as I was used to having Hispanic peers in my class. I am grateful that I overcame this and have seen more Hispanic students in my classes.”
Gonzalez also said being a Copeland Fellow allowed her to dig deeper into why Hispanic students are not pursuing an accounting career.
“I found out that (Hispanic) students do not pursue a career in this field because they do not have mentorship to help guide them in the field of accounting,” she said. “The experience taught me the importance of connecting with my peers and mentoring younger generations.”
Coleman, who is pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree from the Arthur School, went into the Copeland Fellowship with an open mind and not knowing what to expect.
“I just wanted to meet as many people I could … who could teach me how we can carry ourselves with diversity, inclusion and how we portray the university as we teach others around us,” Coleman said.
Coleman, whose project, “Brother in Me,” provides mentorship to Wellcome Middle School students in Greenville, says the Copeland Fellowship has prepared him to be ready for the next phase of his life and career.
“When you get into the workforce, you’re going to be with other people who may not look like you and may not have the same ideas as you,” Coleman said. “We all bring something different to the table.”
“My expectations have clearly been met. I was able to see how these students have grown over the past two years to make an impact in Greenville and eastern North Carolina. I couldn’t be prouder.”
As far as moving the Copeland Fellowship forward, Copeland hopes to see past fellows mentor the newer fellows.
“I really want to see the next group of Copeland Fellows drive the program and shape it (the program) into what they want as they look to the future and how the program will make an impact,” Copeland said.