ECU Alumni Association names 2024 Robert H. Wright Alumni Leadership Award recipients

Five mission-minded, fearless, bright and resilient East Carolina University students have been honored as the 2024 recipients of the Robert H. Wright Leadership Award by the ECU Alumni Association.

Luke Boldt, Rachana Charla, Anjalee “AJ” Hou, Javier Limon and Tete Narh-Mensah have each been recognized for their leadership and the impact they have made at ECU. The award is one of the most prestigious given to undergraduate seniors. It is named for Wright, the first president of East Carolina Teachers Training School and East Carolina Teachers College.

The recipients honor his legacy of using leadership to influence positive change through their academic achievement, integrity and service. The students will be recognized at ECU’s spring commencement ceremony on May 3.

“This year’s award recipients uphold the legacy of our university’s first president. They represent the best of ECU through their academic achievements, service and leadership,” said Amanda Murer, associate vice chancellor for alumni relations. “They lead the way for others with integrity and determination.”

Rachana Charla

Charla, an Honors College student from Charlotte, will earn a bachelor’s degree in biology from the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences and a minor in gender studies.

Rachana Charla

Rachana Charla

She works as a program assistant at the ECU Women and Gender Office and has spearheaded Feminist Fridays, working to address student needs and stocking menstrual stations. She has also worked with the ECU College of Education to provide STEM programming for girls in summer STEM camps.

Charla also has worked as a paid researcher on the GenX Exposure Study – a longitudinal study evaluating the effect of PFAS exposure on people living in the Cape Fear River valley. She was part of Emory University’s Break the Cycle of Environmental Health Disparities 2021 cohort to investigate environmental health and chemical phthalate exposure in children and was first author for a peer-reviewed manuscript published in the International Journal of Public Health.

David Collier, professor of pediatrics at Brody and Charla’s research mentor, describes her as one of the top students with whom he has worked and a transformative leader, likely working in women’s health.

“She has a very strong sense of fairness that manifests in the passion in which she engages in projects at ECU, in her conversations, in her commitment to diversity and engagement, and her will to change the world for the better,” Collier said. “I believe that a combination of fearlessness and fairness are precisely the qualities needed in our nascent leaders.”

Charla has worked as a volunteer doula at ECU Health Medical Center and is a program manager of the ECU Birth Companions volunteer doula program. She was part of the first cohort of volunteer doulas established in October 2022 and has provided physical and emotional support for birthing patients and has been able to directly support 13 births.

Charla said being part of the ECU community has provided her with unimaginable opportunities to grow and study with faculty, staff and peers who are focused on important work.

“Being a Pirate means taking a chance and wading into the waters with the hope of something better,” Charla said. “ECU offers just that, an environment where students are willing to invest in their university and foster vibrant communities.”

Post-graduation, Charla plans to further her education in the health care and medical fields.

Anjalee “AJ” Hou

Hou, a Greenville native, is a Brinkley-Lane Scholar earning a Bachelor of Science in economics with minors in business administration and science. Hou was one of 10 finalists for the Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding First-Year Student Award and has been named to the Chancellor’s List five semesters and the Dean’s List twice.

Lester Zeager, Hou’s advisor and development economics professor, said Hou completed projects that were previously without precedence in his courses and excelled in economics principles unfamiliar to most students.

Anjalee “AJ” Hou

Anjalee “AJ” Hou

“Anjalee Hou is an exceptional student and leader with a deep commitment to ECU, the Greenville community, and eastern North Carolina region,” Zeager said.

Hou participated in the Duke Summer Training in Academic Research (DukeSTAR) program, and her work studying the effects of E. coli on neonates was accepted to the Pediatric Academic

Societies meeting in Toronto. She has been published in the Journal of American College Health with Dr. Lei Xu for mental health and COVID 19 research and in the Journal of Higher Education and Outreach for research on the Blue Economy Corridor.

Beyond academics, Hou completed ECU’s Growing Organizational Leadership Development Series and the Chancellor’s Leadership Academy. She serves as president of the Asian Students Association and forged partnerships with ECU Dining to host the Lunar New Year in the dining halls, the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center to host annual culture fests, and the NAACP to host a unity march, opening doors and giving voice to minority groups. She also serves as president of the Brinkley-Lane Scholars Roundtable, where she organized a fundraiser called Toys for Joys to buy Christmas gifts for children at the ECU Community School. Hou also works at her family’s local restaurant, China 10.

“My time at ECU has afforded me with many professional development and leadership opportunities. I learned that leadership is a relational process of inspiring, empowering, and influencing positive change,” Hou said. “I am excited to have this definition guide my life as I pursue medical school. Additionally, the positivity and encouragement from my wonderful mentors, advisors, and professors will always remain a strong source of guidance.”

She has been accepted to ECU’s Master of Business Administration program and UNC’s Master of Public Health graduate program and will eventually continue to medical school.

Luke Boldt

A member of the ECU Honors College and a Brinkley-Lane Scholar, Boldt is graduating with a degree in public health and a minor in leadership studies.

Luke Boldt

Luke Boldt

Boldt, from Bolivia, North Carolina, is a dedicated campus leader and was a founding member and vice president of the ECU chapter of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Inspired by his fraternity’s commitment to service, he helped start the Greenville JDRF One Walk, which, since its inception in 2022, has raised more than $100,000 for Type 1 diabetes research. He has since served as the vice president of member programming and development on ECU’s Interfraternity Council, where he spearheaded initiatives to unite all Greek organizations and encourage collaboration.

Boldt is described as someone who has made an impact on others’ lives wherever he goes. In nominating Boldt, Professor Rebekah Rogers said he pursues his passions with a servant-leadership mentality.

“Luke is not someone to gloat or gleam about himself in the classroom or outside of the classroom, even as successful as he has proven himself to be,” Rogers said. “Rather, he leads through a quiet cadence at his own tempo. Though his tempo is his own, he maintains a steady focus on the goal.”

Boldt has sought experiential learning opportunities outside of class to gain more knowledge for his future career. He has shadowed health care providers in multiple areas and locations, including the Primary Care Physician Shadowing Program and Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. He also worked with the ECU Department of Nutrition as a health coach for patients from rural and underserved communities.

Boldt is involved with the ECU Newman Center, where he leads Bible study and has volunteered on international mission trips. Boldt said he is inspired by ECU’s purpose and mission to serve others especially in eastern North Carolina.

“I feel so privileged to have collaborated with students and be mentored by faculty that also share in this mission and bear witness to it each and every day by the work they do and the impact they have,” Boldt said.

He plans to attend medical school with hopes of practicing medicine in eastern North Carolina.

Tete Narh-Mensah

Narh-Mensah, from Silver Spring, Maryland, is a Brinkley-Lane Scholar majoring in biology who also has immersed himself in research in the College of Business, College of Fine Arts and Communication and Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences.

Tete Narh-Mensah

Tete Narh-Mensah

He works as the Student Leadership Assistant at the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, where he helped create campus events to promote voting and civic engagement.

With more than 650 hours of community/volunteer hours, Narh-Mensah embodies the university’s motto, Servire. He received the Community Impact Student Award from NC Campus Engagement in 2022. He serves as a volunteer coordinator for Teletutors, serves as a teacher’s assistant in his church and is a member of several student organizations, including TEAM (Talent, Empowered, Aspired, Men), ReLeaf and Timmy Global Health. Narh-Mensah also was a student leader during alternative spring break, where he was responsible for leading daily reflections with his peers.

Narh-Mensah said a lesson he has learned from ECU is that support can take you a long way.

“I can’t count the number of times students, staff or professors have supported me in my efforts through counseling, advice or instrumental support,” he said. “My favorite thing to do now is to return the favor by doing the same.”

In her nomination, Brittany Thompson, senior teaching instructor in the School of Communication, said Narh-Mensah actively seeks ways to embed himself into the communities he lives in to solve problems and serve.

“Through his passion and selfless dedication, Tete inspires people to listen to him, respect him, collaborate with him and follow him without any intent to do so,” Thompson said.

Narh-Mensah serves as the outreach chair for ECU’s Students for Equitable Health Outcomes, where he helped plan and implement projects to promote equal health care opportunities and education about health disparities. He used the opportunity to study abroad to learn more about various European health care systems in Pavia, Italy.

After graduation, he will work at the National Institute of Health’s malaria immunology and vaccinology laboratory while preparing to apply to medical school.

Javier Limon

Limon, from Greenville, is a Brinkley-Lane Scholar in the Honors College, earning a degree in political science with a public health minor. Limon is a recipient of the Senator John P. East Scholarship Award for students with a demonstrated interest in public service and/or potential to be elected to public office, and the Troutman-Carlton Political Science Scholarship, awarded to a full-time outstanding declared major in the political science department.

Javier Limon

Javier Limon

He has spent the past year serving as ECU’s first Hispanic student body president after breaking the record for the most votes ever recorded in an SGA election. In this role, he has served as the only student member of ECU’s Board of Trustees.

Throughout his time in student government, Limon has advocated for tangible policies that impact students’ lives, such as raising over 500 meals for the Swipe Out Hunger Initiative and working to endow a $50,000 scholarship to cover the living costs associated with student internships.

Limon received the Cupola Award, presented to a student and an ECU faculty/staff/ administration member who demonstrates the ability to promote diversity, protect student welfare, and foster a positive student image while enhancing the total student experience.

Erik Kneubuehl, associate vice chancellor for student life and SGA advisor, describes Limon as one of the most outstanding student leaders with whom he has worked.

“His attention to detail, ability to be data-driven and goal-focused, as well as his incredible empathy for others, exemplifies what we look for in higher education and our society – an informed and thoughtful leader,” Kneubuehl said. “Javier is a servant leader who has and will continue to dedicate himself to our community and helping others.”

Limon exemplifies leadership through service, whether serving the student body, the local community or the state. He has worked for YouTuber and philanthropist – MrBeast, interned for multiple political campaigns and served as a legislative intern in the U.S. Senate. Limon’s service to the campus community mirrors the image he sees in ECU.

“When searching for colleges, most of my options gave the notion that I was lucky to be there while ECU was the first to say “‘We’re lucky to have you,’” Limon said. “I am proud of how much we prioritize student success and a culture of care on our campus.” After graduation, Javier plans to obtain a Master of Public Administration degree at the University of North Carolina School of Government to enhance his abilities as a public servant.