Ananda Day '14 Carolina Covenant Scholar

Ananda Day ’14, Carolina Covenant Scholar

By Morgan Ellis ’07

When Ananda Day ’14 thinks about how she landed at a West Coast tech startup, she’s quick to acknowledge the Carolina Covenant.

“I wouldn’t be anything I am today without the University, much less the Covenant,” said Day, a product specialist at Carbon 3D, a company created by a UNC professor. “I wouldn’t be at some crazy tech startup in Silicon Valley.”

While the Covenant and UNC helped her to the opposite coast of the U.S. after graduation, the Covenant’s impact on Day was immediate and before she ever sat down in a lecture hall.

Day grew up in a single-father family of four in Raleigh, N.C. She worked hard in high school, on the soccer field and at part-time jobs, and dreamed of going to college in New York City. The Covenant—and its ability to answer the financial concerns that surround higher education for so many—gave her new choices and the chance to study at a public university.

“For the first time in my life, I had an opportunity to decide, to make my choices based on the things that really mattered,” Day said.

Those things that really mattered included taking time away from the classroom to discover what she wanted to get out of a college education. She received a scholarship from Global Citizen Year to take a bridge year, which took her to Senegal where she worked in eco-tourism and studied post-colonialism, international development and the Wolof language.

“I cared a lot about school growing up, but one of the reasons I took a gap year was because I felt like I was going to school just because,” she said. “I took a bridge year, in part, because I wanted to know why I was going to school. I wanted to know what problems I should be trying to solve.”

Her experience in Senegal inspired her to major in public policy and minor in entrepreneurship and public health. The Carolina Covenant gave her the freedom to start solving the problems that interested her most.

The Carolina Covenant

In 2014-15, the University celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Carolina Covenant—an initiative that provides a debt-free education to students from low-income families who earn admission to the University.

Since the Covenant’s launch in fall 2004, the program has helped more than 5,000 students to earn a degree from Carolina while adding invaluable socioeconomic diversity at UNC. More than one in 10 UNC undergraduates benefit from the Covenant.

With grants, scholarships and a work-study job, Carolina Covenant Scholars can earn a UNC degree without student loans. The Covenant offers academic and personal support to help scholars get the most out of UNC and graduate on time.

“The biggest thing the Covenant gave me was this freedom to make the most of Carolina,” she said. “Because I didn’t have to work 24/7, I tried to add to the Carolina community in every way that I could.”

Day was involved in the Undergraduate Arts Association, N.C. Fellows, flag football and swing dancing, among other activities. She rarely missed a performance at Memorial Hall—Covenant Scholars receive free tickets thanks to the Carolina Performing Arts’ Student Angel Ticket Fund—even opting to see the Mariinsky Orchestra the night before a 15-page final paper was due.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I got an ‘A.’”

She also started a business—Sprout—which partners with area farms to produce fresh, seasonal produce available for purchase by faculty, staff and students on campus. All of the proceeds helped fund Nourish-UNC’s sustainable development projects in Africa.

Using her own bridge-year experiences in her work-study job requirements, she helped administrators to start Carolina’s Global Gap Year Fellowships, which provide up to $7,500 to admitted students who wish to complete an international year of service. She also co-led the student organization GAPPL—UNC’s Gap Year People—helping students returning from a gap year to get the most out of their time at Carolina in light of their international experiences.

“You do people proud by making the most of yourself and their investment and then starting to do just what they did for you.”

—Ananda Day

The freedom and flexibility the Covenant provided pushed Day at Carolina. It pushed her to be a leader, to solve big problems. It’s still pushing her.

“When I came to Carolina, I wanted to pick the trickiest problems out there and try to understand how you think about them; how do you go about solving them and what are the tools you need to solve them,” Day said. “That’s exactly where I am right now, solving big, sticky problems and trying to create the tools to make it happen.”

In Silicon Valley, Day has worked for her scientific entrepreneurship professor Joseph M. DeSimone, Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry and CEO of Carbon 3D, since September 2014. The company has developed 3-D printing technology that forms objects continuously from a liquid media rather than printing layer by layer, thus making the process anywhere from 25 to 100 percent faster. The implications for on-demand printing in medical settings are unprecedented.

The Covenant’s impact on Day recently led her to make a gift to the program. It was her way to help future Covenant Scholars succeed at Carolina. And it was a way to thank those who supported her success as a Covenant Scholar.

“You do people proud by making the most of yourself and their investment and then starting to do just what they did for you,” she said. “I’m figuring out how to let them know that their investment was worth something because it was worth something to me.”