University Recreation Student Employee Alumni Receives Fulbright Research Grant

Alex Kearney

Soccer has been a part Alex Kearney’s life for as long as he can remember. At the age of 5, he began to play recreationally and continued at the club level while in high school. After arriving at NC State, Alex wanted to keep his passion for playing soccer, while on transferable skills for the future, and making money to fill up his refrigerator.

As a senior, Alex, a double major in chemical engineering and international studies, began to work as soccer official and drawn to the position due to the flexibility of the scheduling, being on-campus and a chance stay active. After one semester, he was promoted to a Sports Program supervisor. In this role, he learned of the overarching principle “attitude and effort.”

“Attitude and effort” is a principle conceived by Sports Programs assistant director, Ben Strunk and passed on to all student employees that work in this program area. To Ben, the mantra is simple — “In life, we have little control over things that happen to us and all-around us. Student workers in University Recreation, for instance, cannot control the weather or the type of day that patrons are having around them that may influence their interactions.” Instead, Ben urges his staff to focus on what they can control — their attitude and effort and making a conscious choice in every decision how to utilize those qualities.

This concept is something that cannot be taught. However, the buy-in is echoed by the student staff.
“Attitude and effort is a principle to live by,” Alex says “especially when meeting new people and doing self-supervised work. Professional and polite interactions with a variety of people are important for first impressions.” To him, this meant showing up to work on time, being friendly and communicative with my co-workers and patrons and happily complying with requests to help out in any way I could.

These skills will come in handy, as Alex will travel to Gdańsk, Poland as a Fulbright Scholar.

While in Poland, Alex will study the role agriculture has in the development of hypoxic, or low-oxygen, zones in the Baltic Sea, one of the world’s largest dead zones. For nine months, he will-will measure the effectiveness of strategies that Poland and other Baltic Sea states have implemented.

The Fulbright Scholarship provides grants for individually designed study/research projects. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent before grant begins. Candidates must also have proficiency in the written and spoken language of the host country sufficient to communicate with the people and to carry out the proposed study/research. To be competitive, applicants should display strong academic performance, leadership experience and engagement in the community.

The process for Alex began in the spring of 2015, with an application process that involved creating a grant proposal describing his project, acquiring faculty recommendations and having his Polish language ability evaluated. After submitting his application in October 2016, he was asked to interview via Skype with the Fulbright Commission in Warsaw, Poland in January 2017. By March, he had received news that his grant had been accepted.

When reflecting on his time as an employee with University Recreation, Alex is grateful for the opportunity.
“It contributed to a sense of ownership I had for the university because I was involved in the successful operation of a university service. It is very different to provide a service instead of just consuming it, and I enjoyed seeing some of the inner workings of the university.”