Application deadline has been extended until Monday January 30, 2022.

UNC System 2021- 2022 Presidential Scholars from left to right: C. Emmanuel Wright, Randi C. Dagenhart, R. Connor Wood

The UNC System represents 16 four-year institutions, one residential high school, and five affiliates representing various fields. As a world-renowned higher education system, the UNC System serves as North Carolina’s intellectual hub and economic engine. The Presidential Scholar program is designed to expose recent graduates to the full breadth of the UNC System through a variety of functions in and outside of the office. Created under the leadership of President Emeritus Erksine Bowles in 2006, over 30 scholars have come through the program and gone on to enroll in top-ranked graduate programs and launch careers as the leaders of tomorrow. Today, scholars rotate through a variety of cross-functional teams to serve and support the work of the System’s institutions and affiliates. To learn more about the program and previous scholars, explore this site and apply by January 16 to embark on this unique opportunity of a lifetime. 

The best part of the presidential scholar program for me is the opportunity to interact with the brightest students. I probably learn more from them than they do from me as we exchange ideas throughout the year. The scholars make meaningful contributions while experiencing the inner workings of a large and complex public system of higher education.

Peter Hans, President of the University of North Carolina System 


The Presidential Scholar position is a one-year full time rotational fellowship awarded to three (3) graduates of a UNC System undergraduate program. This position provides a wide range of exposure to the professional functions of the UNC System Office including but not limited to: communications, policy, data & analytics, government relations, budgeting, governing systems, academic and student affairs. Throughout the rotational experience, Scholars will work on cross-functional teams that require candidates to be adaptable and innovative professionals seeking to make equity-minded change. Scholars will engage with numerous professional duties including attending meetings, researching initiatives, serving as support staff to a variety of councils/committees, as well as providing insight from the student experience in crucial policy decisions. Scholars will also be invited to attend a variety of events including campus tours, presidential and chancellor(s) events, board meetings, and evening receptions. The UNC System will introduce candidates to numerous avenues change-makers can take and unique, career-launching opportunities while building an expansive network to support their goals. Candidates will be prepared to apply for a wide-variety of full-time positions or be prepared for enrollment in a top ranked graduate or professional program. 

To qualify for this program, candidates must be a December 2021 or May 2022 graduate of one of the 16 baccalaureate granting institutions of the UNC System. There is no professional or educational experience required. Candidates should be passionate advocates constantly seeking to understand how the UNC System can best serve its constituents. To learn more about the program and expectations, view the job flyer here.

To apply for this life-changing opportunity, candidates must complete the online application and upload various supporting documents. Those documents are: 

  • Resume, no longer than 2 pages
  • Cover Letter, no longer than 2 pages
  • Unofficial Transcript
  • Professional Letter of Recommendation
  • Essay response to the prompt “If you could create an initiative during your time at the UNC System Office, what would it be and why?”

This application should speak to your passion and interest in learning more about the UNC System and best serving the System’s constituents. 

Application deadline has been extended until Monday January 30, 2022.

Please submit your application by Sunday, January 16th, 2022 at 11:59pm. The interview process will include a short phone interview with the current scholars and program director, a virtual interview with the search committee, and an in-person interview at the System Office in late March. A final decision will be communicated by Monday, April 4th. The position will start in-person at the System Office in Chapel Hill in July 2022. 

Presidential Scholar Informational Sessions

Session DateZoom Information
Session 1: November 22, 2021View recording here
Session 2: Dec 16, 2021 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Session 3: Jan 3, 2022 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Session 4: Jan 9, 2022 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Session 5: Jan 14, 2022 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

We strive to host inclusive and accessible informational sessions that enable all individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to engage fully. For accommodations or information about accessibility please contact Randi Dagenhart at

Request a Session

If you would like to request a session for your specific student group, please contact to set up the session. Please give a background of the request, a contact person, and 2 proposed dates & times for the session. We will reach upon request to finalize the details for the informational session. 

Again, thank you for your interest in the Presidential Scholar Program. Please reach out to if you have any questions or concerns.  


The current scholars are Randi Dagenhart, the second scholar and first woman from UNC Pembroke, and R. Connor Wood, and C. Emmanuel Wright, the first two scholars from UNC Charlotte.

Randi C. Dagenhart

Randi Dagenhart, of Robeson County, graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a minor in management from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Her thesis evaluated the impact of locally implemented federal immigration policies in North Carolina. Her passion for community engagement began early on as a volunteer for her local chamber of commerce, where she was named Chamber Ambassador. During her time as a student at UNCP, Randi was appointed as treasurer for the UNC Student Government Association. As a member of SGA, she gained valuable experience in finance, campus engagement, and leadership. Randi also participated in Southern Regional Model United Nations as a delegate in Atlanta, GA, and as head delegate in Charlotte, NC. During her undergraduate studies, Randi worked in a management position with H&R Block. While there, she employed her leadership skills to drive productivity, corporate imperatives, and team empowerment. Dagenhart plans to use her time as a Presidential Scholar to cultivate the skills and knowledge necessary for her graduate studies and her future in public service and economic development.

R. Connor Wood

Connor Wood, of Greenville, is a dual graduate of the UNC System. In 2017, he graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics online program. Connor went on to graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Geography with a focus in economics, research and public policy from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. During his time at Charlotte, he became a published researcher, a TEDx Speaker, and received numerous awards for his involvement across campus. Through his research and academic classes, Connor developed a passion for policy and data. During his year as a Presidential Scholar, he plans to advocate for his fellow students across the system at this crucial time in educational policy. Following his year at the UNC System Office, Connor will attend American University in Washington, D.C. to pursue a master’s degree in public policy.

C. Emmanuel Wright

Emmanuel Wright, of Statesville, is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a double minor in military science and sociology. As an undergraduate student, Emmanuel served on a faculty and staff led “Black Student Mental Health Taskforce,” a working group called together after the events of racial injustice in the summer of 2020. Emmanuel currently serves in the U.S. Army Reserves and was an ROTC cadet for three years, holding various leadership positions during that time. During his time at UNC Charlotte, Emmanuel also served as a mentor and student coordinator of the Student Advising for Freshman Excellence (SAFE) Program at UNCC. In these roles, he was awarded Most Helpful Mentor during the weeklong SAFE Voyage and led the initiative in recruitment and mentor relations for the 2020-21 academic year. Emmanuel was awarded the Dean of Students Office Leader Medal due to his committed service to students, integrity, equity, trust and excellence. In hopes of pursuing a career in political activism, Emmanuel looks forward to learning about policy making and the process by which change is enacted for the betterment of North Carolina.


Program participants have gone on to enroll in top-ranked graduate and professional programs across the nation as well as launch careers as the leaders of tomorrow. 

Graduate ProgramsCareers
University of Virginia Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public PolicyDirector, Communications and Equity Strategy at Whiteboard Advisors
The George Washington Law SchoolCommunications and Outreach Coordinator, Duke State Relations
UNC-Chapel Hill School of LawResearch & Advocacy | Advancing Social Policy Issues at the State and Local Level
NC State University School of Public and International Affairs Administrative and Board Operations Assistant at PBS North Carolina
Legal Assistant at Ellis & Winters LLP