JeMya McClendon is a master’s degree student who is studying nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She attended Howard University and came to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in fall 2021. She is interested in pursuing medical school in order to positively affect health outcomes for Black communities and other communities of color. McClendon is a graduate student employee of The Graduate School’s Diversity and Student Success program.
What led you to pursue graduate school?
In undergrad, I had an interest in nutrition and its impact on chronic diseases. I wanted to work with those communities to see what we can change to reduce disparities that exist there. It ties back to being a face in communities that need someone they can trust and rely on.
Have any Black mentors shaped your time at Carolina?
I have just now been reaching out trying to find a mentor. I knew mentors were really important—I’ve been on a journey of figuring that out myself. I have had a lot of family support during the graduate school process.
How do you give back to the campus community and beyond?
I definitely want to be a mentor and reach out to students who are in the same spot as I was before graduate school, or who are a little unsure. If I meet people who have a similar background, we’ll sit down and talk about our paths. At Carolina, I’m involved with the Minority Health Conference and volunteer at the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) as nutrition student.
How have you built community at Carolina?
It’s been hard, especially coming from an HBCU where you’re very well represented. In my program, there are four Black students total, me included. I have a very small community, and I had to put in work to seek them out. At Diversity and Student Success (DSS), there’s a hub for minority students. I had to be very intentional about finding friends, which I had never experienced before. At DSS, I’ve gained a curiosity to learn what people are studying. I’ve learned something new; it has given me the perspective that there’s always a lot to learn and to know.