Junior philosophy major Victor Eduardo is the 2017 recipient of NC State’s Leader of the Pack Award.
The award recognizes undergraduates who make outstanding contributions to NC State in the areas of leadership, scholarship and community service. Students, faculty and university officials selected Eduardo from a pool of applicants, which included two other finalists from Humanities and Social Sciences.
In addition to excelling in the classroom, Eduardo has dedicated himself to fostering inclusive environments on campus. He’s an active volunteer at NC State’s GLBT Center and serves as a team leader for the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity’s Diversity Education for our Peers to Thrive program, a peer-to-peer initiative that aims to facilitate conversations about diversity and emerging social issues.
Eduardo, who is from Morrisville, also helps first-year students adjust to life on campus. He’s worked as a resident mentor in the Exploratory Studies Village, an orientation leader for New Student Programs and an ambassador for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
University officials announced Eduardo as the winner at halftime of the Homecoming football game on Nov. 4. His surprised reaction drew cheers from fans in the stadium and on social media. We caught up with Eduardo about the award and his experiences on campus.
Your reaction to receiving the Leader of the Pack Award at Homecoming was pretty great. What was it like to be recognized in that setting?
Thank you! I was with my father and my partner, and all the awesome finalists as well. We all felt a swirl of emotions, I think — it’s pretty overwhelming to stand on a grassy field where athletes simulate a game of war (a game which I know nothing about), all the while wearing dress pants and a bowtie and facing thousands of people who are eager to find out who will be recognized as the Leader of the Pack.
At the same time, I was honored by all the support I was receiving. When the announcement was made, and during the hours and days that have followed, I’ve been getting so much support and love from friends, family and acquaintances. It’s inspiring to hear that I’ve had an impact on people and that they’re proud of me for receiving this award.
It’s also very humbling. Part of why I was so emotional on the field after hearing the announcement was because I realized that I hadn’t made it by myself. My partner is always there to cheer me on, my mother was always a role model for leadership and taught me most of everything I know about it and many of my peers and friends at NC State have pushed me toward leadership and service. I had a family of people helping me get to where I am today, and being recognized in that setting was a humbling reminder of that.
What motivates you to help first-year students transition to college and also help create inclusive environments for all students?
For a long time, perhaps since middle school, I’ve understood how the beginning of something sets the foundation for what’s to come. In high school, it’s the reason I came out of the closet by the second week of my first year. I wanted to set the stage for four years of being myself and making genuine, impactful connections with others.
At NC State, I threw myself into campus involvement and volunteering because I recognized that I was surrounded by hundreds of opportunities and that they weren’t going to come for me if I didn’t chase after them. At the same time, I’ve dealt with a lot of challenges at the start of new experiences in my life, and I wanted to give back to others who may be having tough transitions as well. As a gay Latino student whose parents never attended a four-year university, I’ve dealt with pushback in accomplishing my goals and that has made me feel driven to make NC State more inclusive for others so they don’t have to deal with the same challenges. I believe strongly in passing on the torch, in sharing the lessons you’ve learned with those who come after you and leaving any place you go better off with the footprints, or pawprints, you leave behind.
I realized how many opportunities there were to help other first-year students with their “beginnings,” to share my advice and the stories and wisdom I had acquired in my time at NC State that could help make their experience more successful. Especially for first-generation college students and students of color, transitioning to NC State can be tough. While there are many initiatives to help make that transition better, I knew I could put a lot of energy into that myself and share my own experiences for support. As an orientation leader, I grew more than I have in any other role before. The realization that I can facilitate multiple small group sessions, work on a diverse team, handle crises and be emotionally available and supportive for more than 300 students in one summer has made me feel like I can take on any challenge. I aimed to have an impact on one entire generation of the Wolfpack that summer, and I really hope that I’ve been able to make that happen.
What led you to major in philosophy and what do you enjoy about the program?
I started out in the Exploratory Studies program, which taught me so much about myself in the year I was in it. It pushed me toward understanding my strengths and learning about what careers might be a great fit for me. I quickly realized that I have strengths in analytical thinking and logic, but also loved writing and interpersonal communication. Through some research, I realized philosophy was a great way to capitalize on both of those strengths and interests.
Philosophy is such a holistic and versatile major, and I knew it was a perfect fit for me. I knew it would give me the lessons to be a more virtuous person, question the world around me, and critically think through challenges. Especially at a STEM-focused school, I sometimes feel like a black sheep studying the humanities, but I’ve learned to love the way it teaches me to argue effectively, communicate my perspectives to others and move them toward a more inclusive community with the power of word and thought. I often leave my philosophy classes with my brain tingling with new ideas and paradoxes to ponder, and many of them (Philosophy of Science, especially) have changed the way I see the world for the better.
Other Leader of the Pack Finalists
Two other Humanities and Social Sciences students were finalists for the award. They are:
Isabelle Babson, a junior pursuing a double-major in psychology and sociology. Babson, of Raleigh, is involved in many facets of student life on campus, including Greek life, various ambassador programs and clubs. She’s proud to serve as a Humanities and Social Sciences Ambassador, which she says allows her to represent NC State to new and prospective students and help others find their voice on campus. She’s currently working as an intern with an occupational therapist at the Frankie Lemmon School and Developmental Center. After graduating, Babson plans to pursue a master’s degree in physical or occupational therapy.
Derya Pekari, a senior majoring in communication. Pekari, of Rota, Spain, is the co-captain of the NC State Rifle Team and has served on the Student Athletic Advisory Committee for three years. She helped organize volunteer opportunities and community outreach projects for NC State Athletics. After she graduates, Pekari plans on becoming an officer in the United States Navy. “I have my eyes set on the skies an am in the process of applying to become a naval aviator,” she says.