The Goodnight Scholars Program is delighted to welcome new Assistant Director, Anthony Olaiya Wright. In this role, Anthony will be responsible for program communications, recruitment, and the ambassador program. Additionally, he will advise scholars, co-teach our first-year seminar, and plan and lead student travel opportunities. Learn more about Anthony in the interview below. Welcome to the Goodnight Scholars Program team, Anthony!
Goodnight Scholars Program: Can you tell us about your professional and educational background?
Anthony Olaiya Wright: I am originally from Milwaukee, WI and attended the University of Wisconsin. I started off as an engineering major, switched to communications, and ended up graduating with my Bachelor’s in Business Administration. While I enjoyed my time there, I quickly realized that the corporate business route wouldn’t provide the personal fulfillment that I was looking for, so I went to Indiana University to pursue my Master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs. After graduation, I went back to Wisconsin to work in career services as an advisor for finance majors (ironically the subject area I performed the worst in academically). This also felt like a cool opportunity because, as an undergrad, my career advisors had often pushed me in directions that weren’t authentic to what I wanted to do, so this was my chance to better serve my students in the same capacity. Also during my time back at Wisconsin, I served as an Interim Program Manager for the Business Emerging Leaders Pre-College program; think of the Goodnight Scholars program except for aspiring business students. My most recent role was as a Leadership Development Program Coordinator in the Office of Student Life and Leadership at UNC-Chapel Hill.
What brought you to NC?
My girlfriend at the time, now wife, Oona-Ifé enrolled in the Master’s of Social Work program at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. We did the long distance thing back when I was in graduate school and didn’t want to do another two years apart, so off we went! We liked it so much down here that we recently bought a house!
How did you know you were interested in working with college students?
For a good chunk of my undergraduate career, the majority of my classes did not interest me. I was kind of going through the motions, taking my required courses, and setting myself up for a stable job post-graduation that would pay me well. Real boring stuff. The things I truly remember and learned the most from were my extracurricular experiences and the relationships I fostered in those spaces: serving as president of the Black Student Union, drumming for Gospel Choir, working as an admissions ambassador, being a HouseFellow (UW-Madison’s word for RA), presenting research for my scholarship program internationally, etc.. I was constantly surrounded by people who were invested in my development and who wanted me to be the most successful me that I could be. I wanted to be a part of this vehicle of support, love, affirmation, challenge, and growth for future college students, helping them fulfill their dreams of becoming their best selves. It feels purposeful, it feels congruent with who I am and what I value, and it feels great to be a positive part of folks’ lives.
What do you enjoy most about working with college students?
College is a really cool place to figure out so many things about yourself and the world around you. It is a privilege to be in institutions of higher education, to have the time to really explore your environment and who you are as a person. College students are filled with limitless potential and an abundance of university resources that when leveraged in ways that are authentic to who they are, can lead them to great things. The best part about working with college students is existing with them in this place of personal discovery, helping them to get to where they want to be, and pushing them to reflect on their experiences. I enjoy being a connector between students and campus resources that will help them be successful, but also have a great time while they are here.
What are you most looking forward to in your role as Assistant Director of the Goodnight Scholars Program?
I am excited to tell the story of the Goodnight Scholars Program in new and innovative ways through different mediums and outlets.
I shared this in my interview with the team, but I pride myself on being a storyteller. I believe that stories have the ability to lead to great things and impact many people. I am excited to tell the story of the Goodnight Scholars Program in new and innovative ways through different mediums and outlets. I love social media, in fact I plan to write my dissertation on how colleges can better utilize social media to foster a better sense of belonging for students of color, so it is exciting to be in a role where I can develop this sense of belonging and connectedness through our communications efforts. Also, when I was at Wisconsin I was a part of a similar program called PEOPLE (Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence) and worked for a program similar to the Goognight Scholars in BEL (Business Emerging Leaders Program). Being back in an environment that has more of a familial vibe is really exciting! Most of my favorite relationships, both as a student and as a professional, are thanks to those programs and I look forward to building new ones with the Goodnight Scholars.
What are your hobbies / what do you do for fun / in your free time?
I love to make and listen to podcasts! My wife and I have one that documented our engagement journey, I run one for my fantasy football league, and I am in the process of developing one about my very unique elementary/middle school with some friends. I enjoy listening to albums when they first drop and dissecting them with other self-proclaimed music critics. I make a point to watch all of the Oscar nominated films for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor (typically all the same movie) before the award show so that I can have an informed opinion. I guess you could call me a music and movie buff in a way. I like taking my dog out for long walks on different hiking trails and letting him explore. Golf and volleyball are my go to sports as an adult, but I am down to play pretty much anything for the exercise. I love grilling…love it. I really just go with the flow. I am down to do almost anything as long as I am with good people!
What is your ultimate travel goal?
I don’t think I have a specific destination in mind, but ultimately I want to always be in a place where I can prioritize seeing the world. I have been fortunate to travel out of the country a few times now: Ireland, UK, Mexico, but I want to go to places that aren’t as touristy. I want to find opportunities to have more culturally immersive experiences.
Photography credit: Brantley Atkinson/NC State Associate Director, Communications and Marketing