Graduates credit supportive friendship and success to Honors College
In Hollywood, college is pictured as a place where you’ll find yourself and — more importantly — you’ll find your lifelong friends who support and encourage you to be successful. For four East Carolina University Honors College graduates, that turned out to be the case.
Among Teresa Hupp, Kaylee Warren, Wrenn Whitfield and Abby Ulffers, there are three Captain of the Ship finalists, two Robert H. Wright Leadership Award winners, countless internships, club founders, sorority executive board members and more.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve noticed living with them is they really pushed me to be successful and take as many opportunities as possible, because they’re such successful people, said Ulffers, a public health major. “Being surrounded by people who worked so hard and do so well and are so successful has pushed me to be that way too.”
Although some may expect four driven honors students to compete with each other for accolades, the graduates said that wasn’t the case.
“There’s been no competitiveness, but part of that is that none of us are on the same path,” said Whitfield, a biochemistry major. “With all of us having varying career paths and aspirations, we know that we’re different, but we also know what each other’s strengths are.”
The beginning stages of their friendship started before they even moved into Gateway — now Ballard — residence hall as freshmen. Hupp, a nursing major, and Ulffers found themselves in the same groups during Selection Sunday, the day that EC Scholar finalists interview for the program. After both were selected, they decided to become roommates and ended up across the hall from Warren, a mathematics and economics double major and fellow EC Scholar, who was roommates with Whitfield.
“Living on the same hall was really the catalyst for our friendship,” Hupp said. “That’s how we got to meet Wrenn — we were literally across the hall from each other.”
Pushing one another
Their freshman year ended abruptly when all students were sent home after spring break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This carried over into their sophomore year with the girls living separately: Ulffers with her parents in Greenville, Hupp in the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority house, and Warren and Whitfield in an apartment. However, they decided to get a house together for their junior and senior years.
“When I came to college, I knew you had to live with people, and you had to have a roommate,” Whitfield said. “But I didn’t realize that I would have friends that would push me in the same way that the three of them have pushed me. We understand what’s important to each other, and we help each other find ways to make time for those things.”
Whitfield credits her involvement with RISE29 — which led to becoming the project coordinator for the ECU School of Dental Medicine’s Hyde County Outreach Clinic — to Warren, who had previously completed an internship through the program.
If not for Hupp, Ulffers admitted that she probably wouldn’t have gone through sorority recruitment during their freshman year. She has now served as both the vice president of philanthropy and the chapter president of Alpha Xi Delta.
“She gave me one of my biggest opportunities in college and for sure, one of the most influential experiences I’ve ever had,” Ulffers said.
Throughout their college journey, they have remained connected to the Honors College and credit it for the creation of their friendship. All four have participated in admissions events for the college and shared their stories with potential ECU students.
“We are extremely proud of Abby, Teresa, Wrenn and Kaylee,” said Todd Fraley, Honors College interim dean. “These four young women are wonderful representatives of the Honors College and all of ECU. It has been fun to follow their success but also their development as lifelong friends. We are excited for them as they all embark on their next adventure and we look forward to keeping them engaged with our current honors students and EC Scholars.”
Although they have participated in study abroad experiences, formals, award ceremonies and more, all four admitted that their favorite memories together were the simpler ones, such as all being home at the same time to catch up or attending a home football game.
“Some people’s friendships are nonexistent after living together for four years, and I can understand why that happens,” Hupp said. “Honestly, the sweetest thing is being able to see the growth from freshman year to senior year. Being able to witness that growth and seeing all the different life stages that we went through and having that close support system has probably been the best thing.”