From giving speeches for the Chancellor to writing code in a NC State research lab, Goodnight Scholar Carmen Bollman ’21 is never afraid to try something new and challenging.
Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Carmen Bollman and I am a current senior at NC State pursuing a degree in Biochemistry with the hopes of becoming a Physician’s Assistant in the future. I am from a super small town called King, North Carolina, but I don’t have the charming Southern accent most would expect. My Mum is an immigrant from El Salvador, while my Dad is a proud Puerto Rican with some German and Cuban mixed in for extra flavor. Although I am from the foothills of North Carolina, I am not a big hiking person as I prefer to find the hidden spots for pictures rather than take the long hike up to the top. Since coming to NC State, I have proudly served as a mentor and ambassador for the Goodnight Scholars program as well as a Chancellor’s Aide. These roles have allowed me to push my own boundaries and find my voice in the public speaking world.
If you had to summarize your personality in one sentence, what would it say?
Barely restrained chaos with a lovely demeanor and good sense of humor to boot!
How would you describe your life as an NC State student thus far?
NC State has taught me a lot as a student, but even more as a person. Classes taught me that it is okay to not be perfect. Having perfect grades does not always mean you understand the material, and grades are not a direct reflection of how hard you work. There are classes that came easy, and some that really challenged me. I am grateful for both as I learned more about who I am and what I am willing to do to better myself both as a student and an individual. Dr. Edward Grant was a professor I worked with freshman year as I tried doing research for the first time. He taught me that things rarely work out the way we want them to (especially in research), but it is so worth it to fail 100 times and stumble on the right answer than to just give up. I learned how to code for the first time in his lab, and I definitely failed more than 100 times. Despite that, I cannot deny that I felt untouchable when I finally got my code to work!
Tell us about an accomplishment at NC State that fills you with pride.
One of my proudest moments at NC State was when I was asked to give a speech for the Chancellor and his guests at an event. The audience was full of department heads and philanthropists, which was a bit intimidating. I spoke about my family’s history and how we are built on resilience and taking risks. My Mum took a risk leaving her home country for the chance (remember, there’s no guarantee it will be better in another country) at something better for herself and whoever came after her. I spoke about the beautiful community I have found both in the Goodnight program and NC State in general. As I finished, I stepped down and was met with applause and that was the most gratifying experience I have ever had. It was really intimidating, but I was proud of myself for doing what I did and giving respect to the people who have helped me get to this point.
What is one experience you need to have at NC State before you graduate?
100% you need to go to a basketball game. Get there early and sit in the student section. Stand up and learn the cheers! You won’t get that again once you graduate and the energy is indescribable. Rent out a fathead of your favorite meme and try to psych out the other team during their free throws! My favorite memory is my friend renting out the Kevin Hart meme at a game and all of us waving it like mad every chance we got!
Tell us about your time in the Goodnight Scholars Program?
I grew up a lot in my time as a Goodnight Scholar. Freshman year I learned to ask for help from my fellow scholars, and I don’t think I would have made it through the first year without their support. The next two years were full of me pushing the limits of what I thought was possible for myself while also finding my voice in this world. I gained confidence as scholars would help me prepare for exams and interviews, and I learned to trust my new friends as they showed me time and time again that they would always be there when I needed them. Now, I am a senior and I feel my eyes water as I think of leaving. I grew so much as a person that I don’t want to leave! I poured back into the community through mentoring two scholars (they are so cool and we had a blast hanging out) and trying to pass along any opportunities I saw that might be helpful for someone else. I also tried to pass along what little wisdom I had to give to those who reminded me of my younger self to spare them some of the worries I had. That is what the older scholars did for me, and I was so happy it was my turn!
Being a Goodnight Scholar means being someone who isn’t afraid of trying something scary.
What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?
Being a Goodnight Scholar means being someone who isn’t afraid of trying something scary. Applying to the program felt like a one in a million opportunity, but I have had a once in a lifetime experience. I was so nervous to prove myself, but that was never an issue! I learned so many ways to pay it forward as the program opened so many doors for myself and my fellow scholars. I regard the program with a loving type of protectiveness. We all do crazy things as we are so committed to the idea of what could be that we don’t have time for what could have been.
Where do you picture yourself after graduation?
After graduation I see myself taking my cats and I to the next adventure! I plan on taking a gap year to explore more about my career field and research some PA school options. I plan on being a PA and working in different hospitals around the country as there is always more to learn. I never want to lose my love for people, so I will be sure to stay where I can work directly with patients in whatever I can! I really want to go back to the oncology unit as I learned so much about myself and how to appreciate the little wins and moments in life.
How have you learned to adapt to the COVID-19 situation when it comes to academics?
I thought COVID-19 would rob me of a perfectly good senior year. While everything did change, I am proud to say I changed with it. I found ways to motivate myself to continue as I reminded myself why I started this journey. Ceci, a beautiful soul and Goodnight Scholar, said it best when she said, “Remember, you are right in the middle of what you used to look forward to.” I am not ashamed to admit that I needed help sometimes as it was hard to look at a screen all day. I had really great people who reminded me that it was okay to take breaks when I needed to and kept me accountable. I started making lists (I love lists). Lists of things that had to be done today, by the end of the week, and by the end of the year. Little by little I started tackling each class and assignment with the idea that I will do well. These classes were not going to get the best of me, and I could do it! I just needed to relearn how to “do school”. Instead of meeting with study groups outside of classes, we coordinated Zoom meetings or sent texts whenever we needed clarification or a reminder of a deadline. I found new notetaking techniques that made it more interesting to sit in lectures or read textbooks so I could try to engage in the material. While it felt almost impossible at first, I found myself pushing to do better. Not perfect, just better than last time because that meant progress!
What would be your biggest piece of advice to a potential Goodnight Scholar or incoming Goodnight Scholar?
Listen to me very carefully. No no no, I am serious, okay? You HAVE to do this. Are you listening? You need to be yourself. This is the hard part, you can’t do something just because someone else wants you to. Don’t get that degree because that’s what you think everyone expects of you (yes, this includes your parents). Get the degree that excites you. Join that club that makes you curious! Do the things that feed into your true passions because then it will all be worth it. College will challenge you and be hard sometimes. You won’t mind it though if you do what you love! The passion makes it all worth it if you do what you love.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and pursue the things that really excite you, even the passions that have nothing to do with academics. If I hadn’t continued with photography and music, I don’t think I would have stayed sane! Everything adds up to you, so let’s make it the best you.