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The Graduate School has named Janay Franklin and Kendall Winter as the 2024 recipients of the Boka W. Hadzija Award for Distinguished University Service, one of the Chancellor’s Awards at UNC-Chapel Hill. The award recognizes graduate or professional students with outstanding character, scholarship, leadership and service to the University.

Winter, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of music, and Franklin, a Ph.D. candidate studying neuroscience in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program (BBSP), were both lauded for focusing on service to others in addition to their academic excellence.

Kendall Winter 

Winter’s student government advocacy has been an important part of her Carolina experience, as noted by David Garcia, professor in the department of music, in his written nomination of Winter for the award: “Kendall has been a fearless advocate for graduate and professional students’ welfare to both campus and system administrators, and she has striven to ensure parity between graduate and professional students and undergraduates. She has worked hard to make the Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG) a more transparent and effective force for positive change on our campus by championing Senator training, Senator-constituent communication and interbranch reporting.”

Headshot of Kendall Winter
Kendall Winter

Winter said her work in student government is a necessary component of her scholarship. Winter studies songs and performance in the American women’s suffrage movement from the mid-19th century to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Her ties to music are inextricably linked to advocacy. “It was about delivering a political message and fundraising for a political cause, and trying to do it in a way that would be accessible and popular,” she said.

Winter even included student government service as a necessary outgrowth of her studies in her proposal to her advisor and faculty.

“For me, service is inseparable from my scholarship,” Winter said. “I’m doing research on people who were advocates for creating space for more people to be a part of their democratic government. So as a scholar of suffrage, activism and music, it feels like being a part of my student government is a way for me to walk the walk and talk the talk. … This is core to my scholarly identity as someone who studies this type of political music making and political activism.”

Winter’s long list of student government work — including stints as an elected representative going back to 2018 and two terms as President Pro Tempore of the Senate for the GPSG — was what prompted Andrea Bohlman, associate professor in the department of music and director of graduate studies, to nominate her for the award. Bohlman cited Winter’s “extraordinary commitment to advocacy for graduate students in their whole being (through mentoring, governance, procedure and by just listening and amplifying) across all divisions of the University and through various student organizations here and in national and regional music societies.”

Among the pieces of legislation Winter worked on included a resolution calling on Carolina administrators to enact a slate of policies during COVID-19 designed to promote graduate and professional student wellness and academic success, and advocacy on behalf of including the voice of graduate and professional students in university-wide decisions.

“Sometimes advocacy is slogging and asking and not getting anywhere for a long time,” she said. “In some cases, we’ve gotten really thoughtful responses back from the University, which I was really pleased with. We had our voices heard. We felt seen not only by our campus, but also by the entire system office, which was a really validating experience.”

Janay Franklin 

Christiann Gaines Ph.D., the assistant director for doctoral success in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program, cited Franklin’s “exemplary character, academic achievements, leadership abilities and commitment to service” in her nomination of Franklin for the award.

Headshot of Janay Franklin
Janay Franklin

Among many other achievements, Franklin is a founding member of the Maximizing Exposure to Biomedical Research (MEBR) Program, which provides opportunities for underrepresented students in biological and biomedical sciences, and a cofounder of Project Legacy Foundation which provides financial support and continuing mentorship to high school students aiming to attend college. She has also focused on underrepresented communities via outreach to elementary and high school students, as well as undergraduates at various schools including her alma mater, North Carolina A&T State University.

Franklin’s work with North Carolina A&T has included mentoring master’s degree biology students with an interest in pursuing a biomedical Ph.D. degree, assisting students with graduate school application materials, collaborating on a virtual presentation to increase awareness of research opportunities at UNC-Chapel Hill and editing internship and graduate school entrance essays.

“[Historically Black Colleges and Universities] don’t get nearly as much funding as some other universities do,” Franklin said. “I identified gaps that I had and realized you don’t know what you don’t know until you get somewhere else that has all these resources. Funding makes a big difference. I try to go back to A&T and try to teach somebody else the same thing that I just learned. So, we’re all moving on together.”

Franklin says her primary drive is to help people, a motivation which has shaped her academic direction, as well as her commitment to service. Her initial interest in research, specifically microbiology, was spurred by her grandfather’s illness and the difficulty doctors had treating it. However, her later interest in neuroscience developed from witnessing the difficulties caused by alcohol abuse disorder and wanting to explore the underlying causes — leading her to her current research on understanding the biological basis of cocaine use disorder and relapse.

“I think most people probably have someone in their family or a friend that battles alcohol abuse disorder,” she says. “I’ve known people who battled it, and it made me want to help figure out what is actually going on at a neural circuitry level.”

Franklin said two of her proudest moments as a student at UNC-Chapel Hill were her involvement with Ph.D. Balance, which helps increase awareness and discussion of mental health challenges for graduate students, and her work with efforts of diversity, equity and inclusion in neuroscience.

Franklin said one moment stood out during her work with others to increase the numbers of historically underrepresented students and create and maintain a welcoming environment for students of color in the neuroscience curriculum.

“And after [George Floyd], I just didn’t feel afraid to speak up in terms of race anymore. I feel like that has made a difference,” she said.

Franklin has also been involved in student government, serving on the chancellor’s student advisory committee and as a student government senator for the neuroscience curriculum.

The late Boka Hadzija, a former professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, established this award in 2000 in honor of her students.

By The Graduate School

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