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Friends, professors and fascinating coursework helped guide senior Alice Bennett to the most meaningful aspects of her Carolina experience — and a degree in American studies.

Alice Bennett stands in front of the Old Well, which is wrapped in holiday lights.
Through a mix of courses, study abroad and a nontraditional gap year, senior Alice Bennett created a Carolina experience that was distinctly her own. (Photo by Jess Abel)

Alice Bennett charted her own course at Carolina. Originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, Bennett began her UNC journey in 2018 certain that she was going to be a journalism and media major.

“When I came to Carolina, I knew I was a good writer. That was my jam,” Bennett said.

But as she continued her academic career, classes from different departments began to speak to her. Two of those classes were in English and comparative literature, taught by associate professor Shayne Legassie. The first dove into the history of the short story through myth, fable and novella. The second explored the lore of everything from nature and wilderness to vampires.

“I couldn’t tell you which one I liked more,” Bennett said, noting that her favorite part of both courses was how invested her classmates were in the discussions.

Eventually, though, it was American studies that resonated with her. Many of her favorite Tar Heels were either students or instructors in the department. And through the Undergraduate Oral History Internship and Seminar, taught by history Ph.D. student Hooper Schultz and presented by the Southern Oral History Program, Bennett was able to explore queerness through the lens of the South, a topic of personal importance.

“I realized that a lot of my queerness is really tied to Southernness,” she said. “So I was trying to explore some of those feelings.”

Beyond her classes, Bennett says studying abroad with Honors Carolina in London was a favorite Carolina experience. She took literature, history and art classes and had an internship with the East London Out Project, an LGBTQIA+ center.

When remote learning disrupted her plans, Bennett decided to take a nontraditional gap year before her senior year. She worked on an organic farm in Virginia in 2021 before returning to finish her degree in American studies with a minor in journalism and media.

After Commencement on Sunday, Bennett is looking forward to celebrating with her friends and girlfriend and enjoying living in Chapel Hill as a college graduate. She says the people she met during her years at UNC define her time as a Tar Heel.

“It’s the departments and the people and the connections that I’ve made.”

By Jess Abel ‘19

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