Each month, the Goodnight Scholars Program highlights a select number of current Goodnight Scholars who represent the Program’s highly diverse and involved student cohort. This month, the spotlight focuses on Asheville native, Franklin Blum ’17.
Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Franklin Blum: I come from a family of eight, with five brothers and two very special and courageous parents. People often note that my brothers and I could form our own basketball team, although if you line the six of us up, we look like a team of six, six-foot point guards. I may be biased, but we do make a pretty good team. Having played sports, cooked meals, attended school, and grown up together, we are truly a band of brothers. One special moment that happened recently was that my youngest brother achieved his Eagle Scout rank, finalizing the count at six Eagle Scout siblings in a single family. We thought it had to be some sort of record, but another family beat us to it. Nonetheless, I have many special memories with each of them. I grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and I guess you can say we like to explore new places. We moved from the east side of the city, to a northern part of the city, and to south of the city not far from the Biltmore Estate where my family currently resides. This leaves west of the city as the only part of the geographical compass yet to be explored. Where will they go next?! But really, regardless of what side of town we lived in, Asheville has been a wonderful place to call home for so many years. I was homeschooled through ninth grade, at which point I transferred to Veritas Christian Academy, a small private school in South Asheville. Because my class size was very small with only 18 in my graduating class, it allowed us to do a lot of cool things, such as travel to Greece and Italy for a week for our senior trip.
Although my college decision came down to three North Carolina schools, I chose NC State because the Goodnight Scholars Program pretty much shut the doors of every other school and opened the door to an incredible opportunity. I am studying biomedical engineering (BME) here at NC State, and I am loving every minute of it. I chose BME because it offers the chance to combine my love for science and engineering to touch people’s lives in meaningful ways. Growing up, I really liked biology, anatomy, and math, and I also really liked working with people, so I decided BME was the best major that would allow me to engage in these interests.
Talk about some of your greatest accomplishments thus far at NC State.
Last fall, I started conducting research in the Cell Mechanics Lab in the Biomedical Engineering department. Our lab is currently working to engineer smart bandages that can be applied in a wide variety of functions, such as antibacterial applications or controlled drug release systems. This experience has instilled new life in my passion for utilizing the innovative potential of engineering to improve human health. Being able to personally play a significant and meaningful role in the development of this new technology has helped me to see the real implications and impact of my studies.
I am also fortunate to have received admittance as a Grand Challenge Scholar. The Grand Challenge Scholars Program, sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), is a combined curricular and extra-curricular program with five components that are designed to prepare students to solve the fourteen grand challenges facing society. These grand challenges include undertakings such as reverse engineering the brain, managing the nitrogen cycle, and securing cyberspace. In addition to conducting research, members of this program must also complete a portfolio of undertakings that include interdisciplinary, entrepreneurship, service learning, and global initiative components. As a member of the NC State division, the challenge I have undertaken is engineering better medicines, which I will explore by examining the viability of smart bandages in the application of various drugs to augment wound healing.
Lastly, this past summer I completed the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) at Duke University. A program designed for those interested in healthcare and serving traditionally underrepresented and underserved groups, SMDEP brought high-achieving students from all over the country to Duke for six weeks. We explored the different career paths in healthcare, completed preparatory coursework for professional school, shadowed physicians, and uncovered the current challenges facing healthcare professionals. This program inspired me to continue in my current path towards a career in healthcare.
Although my college decision came down to three North Carolina schools, I chose NC State because the Goodnight Scholars Program pretty much shut the doors of every other school and opened the door to an incredible opportunity.
What has your experience in the Goodnight Scholars Program been like thus far?
During my freshman year, I did everything Goodnight. I attended every event I could fit into my calendar, whether it was the General Hugh Shelton Leadership Forum, faculty dinner series, Toastmaster’s public speaking workshop, or an etiquette luncheon taught by the same person who teaches some of our top military and government officials. Sophomore year, academics grew more intense, so while I did not frequent as many events as the year prior, I was still able to stay engaged through the Goodnight Scholars Mentor Program, which turned out to be an invaluable opportunity. I still remember the day I met my mentees at the Summer Retreat. Being a mentor allowed me to pass on the passion that I have for the Program in a meaningful way. It was remarkable to see that very soon both of my mentees were even more excited and involved in the Program than I was as a freshman. I was so glad to see that they too were able experiencing the same life-changing moments that I have had with this Program. The Goodnight Scholars Program has been such an important facet of my college experience, and it was rewarding to help two new scholars see the wealth of opportunity that they too have available to them. Seeing their excitement for the program and their high level of involvement has inspired me to continue staying actively involved with this unique community. There are so many opportunities each week to grow and interact within this vibrant family of scholars, and frequently participating in Goodnight events gives me something to look forward to every week.
What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?
When I look back on college and describe what it was like to future friends or family, I will undoubtedly describe what it is like to be a Goodnight Scholar. For me, college and the Goodnight experience are inextricably linked. This Program has played a definitive role in my collegiate career. Through memorable friendships, countless opportunities, and invaluable training, the Goodnight Scholars Program has played a major role in shaping the person I am today. In this Program lies the opportunity to do something great and the tools and training to do it. Where else can you have a sit-down dinner with a former governor, industry professionals, or emerging leaders in every technical and educational field? Or experience the rich culture of this great nation through trips to Boston, across the state from the mountains to the coast, or even down at the local theater to attend a live performance of an award winning musical? Or perhaps receive tips on your resume, interview techniques, or how to best present yourself in an online business profile? In a single program exists the opportunities a student would ordinarily need to join multiple organizations to receive. This Program is truly unique because it gives scholars a sense of being completely invested in. There is no better feeling than to know that you have an entire community at your back supporting you in your professional and personal growth. I remember my first year as a Goodnight Scholar, walking back from an event and just thinking to myself, “is this real?” The moment I stepped on campus for the Summer Retreat, I realized just how lucky I was and how incredibly special my future years at NC State would be. This Program has boundless opportunities and resources to help you be become the person you envision yourself becoming, and they are all at your fingertips.
How has the Goodnight Scholars Program prepared you for life after college?
Participating in this Program has been a transformative experience. The frequent professional exposure has made me more comfortable when presented with the opportunity to interact in a professional setting. Having three years of professional training, and one more to go, makes navigating the professional environment a habit, not something that you need to read up on and practice the night before an interview, conference, or other professional event. In addition to the invaluable soft skills acquired through professional training, the Goodnight Scholars Program has also instilled in me a spirit of service. Having been given so much and having so many opportunities to give back makes giving back instinctual for a Goodnight Scholar. In addition, the community of scholars provides an invaluable human capital network. Developing and learning together has allowed us to grow not only in professionalism, but in friendship. I know that when I leave college, I will have a supportive network of scholars and faculty that I can go to for guidance and advice.
Speaking of life after college, what are your future career goals and aspirations?
I hope to utilize my degree in biomedical engineering as a solid stepping stone for a career as a physician. I have wanted to become a physician since I was eight, and it is something I still intend to pursue. However, as I have really enjoyed conducting biomedical research, I have also recently been considering pursuing an MD-PhD combined degree. I will be exploring this option in the coming years. I envision settling in a community where there is a great need for physicians where I can utilize my medical training for those who need help most. I hope to also be involved in my community by becoming an active member of my local city or county government. Having been given so much through the Goodnight Scholars Program, I am excited to give what I can to my future community.
What advice would give to a new or prospective Goodnight Scholars about being involved at NC State and the Goodnight Scholars Program?
This Program makes it so easy to be involved as a freshman and stay involved throughout your time at NC State. Do not take it for granted! So many of your peers would give anything to have the opportunities this Program offers, so make sure to utilize the many gifts you have been given as a Goodnight Scholar. In addition, stay in touch with your Goodnight cohort even when things start to pick up in your collegiate journey. As long as you stay connected, the people in this community will be there to support you when you need it and cheer you on as you succeed in college and beyond. In terms of general advice for any student, get involved with the material in your major as early as possible. You only really get to see what your major will entail if you take on something hands on, such as a research position or an internship in industry. It can be easy to lose sight of what you are doing or why you are in your major as you go through the occasionally not-so-interesting daily routine of coursework. However, engaging in hands-on experiences, such as research, makes the fruits of your labor an immediate reality. Lastly, for new and future Goodnight Scholars, I hope you too will grow in an appreciation for what an incredible Program this is. As I you begin your college careers, take advantage of the support, guidance, and familial connection that defines and resonates throughout this community.