Goodnight Spotlight: Sarah Hall

While she is a self-described “goofy extrovert,” Sarah Hall ’22 is all business when it comes to public health.

Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Sarah Hall ’22: My name is Sarah Hall and I am sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering with intended minors in biological sciences and French language. I was born and raised in Cary, North Carolina just down the road from NC State. Both of my parents actually went to UNC Chapel Hill, so I grew up a Tar Heel, but NC State is now my true home! I have two older siblings that I love hanging out with, and a golden retriever who is my baby. On weekends in the fall, I’m usually cheering on the Pack at Carter-Finley and in the spring I spend as many of my nights at PNC Arena as I can. My brother plays hockey, so I’ve grown up a die-hard Carolina Hurricanes fan and love watching them play. Most of my passions and motivations are human-related. People constantly inspire me with their strength, determination, and selflessness. As a result, I am passionate about paying it forward and making the world a safer, more sustainable, and equitable place. I believe that people are inherently good, so I’m motivated to do as much as I can to help those in need. To me, this means using my fascination with medicine and engineering to help make healthcare more affordable and accessible, particularly for women in developing countries. Part of this goal was inspired by my mom, who is a pharmacist in an emergency department at a large hospital and sees a lot of problems with our healthcare system every day. Another part was inspired by medical brigades to Guatemala and Ecuador that I participated in that focused on maternal health and healthcare accessibility, which made me realize how privileged so many of us are just by having the option of going to the Student Health Center or urgent care. Lastly, I am inspired by my desire to travel and experience new cultures and places. Using my French-speaking abilities, I would like to travel to Francophone Africa with the Peace Corps to help impact healthcare accessibility!

If you had to summarize your personality in one sentence, what would it say?

A loud, goofy extrovert who is fiercely passionate about creating positive change for the causes and people she cares about through hard work, determination, and an abundance of caffeine.

How would you describe your life as an NC State student?

A whirlwind collection of hours in Park Shops spent drinking coffee and doing calculus, Saturdays in the hot sun cheering on the Pack with my roommates at Carter-Finley, and a constant exploration of all of the resources and experiences that NC State and the Goodnight Scholars Program have to offer. As someone who likes to stay busy, I have never been busier than at NC State. However, it has all been a positive kind of busy. Classes can be overwhelming and stressful, but it’s been worth it because they are all classes that I am actually interested in and have practical applications for my career plans. As a freshman I was worried that I would waste time in my first year trying to get acclimated and miss out on major opportunities to experience clubs, athletic events, and other major parts of college life. Four years might seem like a long time, but I knew that they would fly by. Because of NC State’s incredible faculty and programs, I feel like I didn’t miss a single beat freshman year. The Goodnight Scholars professional staff also helped push me out of my comfort zone by encouraging me to simply reach out to faculty and staff to create opportunities for myself. In just one academic year, I was able to participate in undergraduate research, on- and off-campus service, world travel, and professional development. As a freshman, I was working in a microbiology lab with NC State’s Director of Global Health, studying E. Coli, salmonella, campylobacter, and listeria and the statistical incidence of these bacteria in everyday poultry. Through this research, I gained better insight on how Global Health is studied and how research affects policy and health recommendations. With help from a Goodnight enrichment grants, I also traveled to Ecuador for a medical brigade on an Alternative Service Break trip and studied abroad in France and northern Europe for a summer session! These two experiences were incredible to be a part of as a freshman and definitely kept me busy by intertwining academics and professional development with whirlwind adventure. Luckily, I was also able to be a part of the Goodnight Scholars’ LEGO Brick Build committee. By volunteering with the LEGO Brick Build, I was able to meet and get to know several other Goodnight Scholars who became great friends and teammates. I also got to see how meaningful the event was with the Boys and Girls Club and how important it is to pay it forward and educate about STEM! Lastly, I joined several fantastic clubs like the Helping Hand Project and Engineers Without Borders, both of which helped me develop technical and professional skills such as 3D design, teamwork, and report writing. I even helped design two customized 3D printed prosthetic hands with fellow Goodnight Scholars Jacob Walker and Trent Hooley. All of these amazing experiences kept me busy in the best way imaginable, and I know that so many other students also have opportunities to explore what they love and develop career-ready skills, which is why I think that NC State has been the perfect fit for me and other students like me.

Any personal accomplishments that you are proud of?

My participation on the Alternative Service Break trip to Tena, Ecuador for a medical brigade. As a participant on the trip, I traveled with sixteen other NC State students, an NC State professor, the head of the Department of Academic Student Affairs, and several local Cary and Wake County EMTs. During the nine days of the trip, we visited five villages in the Amazon Rainforest and set up temporary medical clinics to provide routine healthcare for those who did not have easy access to it. We partnered with an NGO called Timmy Global Health, as well as with a local Ecuadorian organization to make sure we saw as many men, women, and children as possible. Students had a multitude of responsibilities during clinic, such as being a scribe for physicians, performing triage on patients to get their vitals, administering fluoride to younger children, and working in the pharmacy to fill prescriptions. I am incredibly proud to have been a part of this amazing experience because I was able to have a large impact on a community that needed help. I also believe that I grew a lot as a person from participating on this trip. As the only freshman, I was very unsure how much knowledge and perspective I could bring to the table for this trip. However, I recognized quickly that it didn’t matter how much prior knowledge I had as long as I was willing to adapt and do what was asked of me while also learning as much as possible. By bringing a bubbly disposition and can-do attitude, I feel like I made a big difference when interacting with patients and children and my peers. Clinic days could be very stressful and shocking, so while I was able to gain perspective about global health by actually working with an NGO, I was also able to process how the weight of our actions affects our outlook on the shortcomings of NGOs and how important it is to create impactful, sustainable solutions to healthcare accessibility. This was definitely the most life-changing experience I’ve had at NC State because I was exposed to so much in such a short amount of time, and it really changed the way I view my future career field and the way I react in difficult situations. I’m incredibly proud of how I stepped out of my comfort zone to pursue this experience and let myself grow from it.

Tell us about your time in the Goodnight Scholars Program.

My time in the Goodnight Scholars Program has been amazing. Never could I have dreamed of a community so uplifting and supportive of each other’s goals and dreams. Walking into the Finalist Interview Day at Hunt Library, I was incredibly nervous. However, not knowing truly what the Goodnight Scholars Program was, I didn’t realize the weight of the opportunity that was being presented to me. After spending a day with so many fun, inspiring Goodnight Scholars, I was so eager to be a part of this incredible community. To this day, I think that Finalist Interview Day is a great analogy for most opportunities in the Goodnight Scholars Program. They seem exciting and the possibility makes me a little nervous, but I’ll never know what I would have truly missed out on unless I take the chance. So many opportunities and doors have been opened for me by the Goodnight Scholars Program simply because I asked. This really highlighted itself to me during our first-year seminar when we had to interview professionals in our intended career field. Goodnight Scholars Program professional staff told us that we only had to interview one person in our career field and one person in a critical area of interest, but they encouraged us to interview as many people as possible while we had a good excuse. As a result, I interviewed three different professionals in biomedical engineering that Allison helped me get into contact with, and I was also able to sit down with the director of NC State’s Global Health Initiative. I learned a lot from these interviews and made professional connections I hadn’t thought I would develop until later in my college experience. In fact, just a month later I reached out to the director of the Global Health Initiative about potential research opportunities for undergraduates and ended up being offered a position in his microbiology lab for the next semester.

What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?

To me, being a Goodnight Scholar means being a part of a diverse, inclusive, and academically-minded family. Coming from Cary, I did not realize how many vastly different lifestyles and communities there were in North Carolina. Being a Goodnight Scholar means that you are surrounded by students who are not only passionate about STEM and paying their opportunities forward, but also incredibly unique and have different backgrounds and perspectives to share with you. As a Goodnight Scholar, there has not been a single day I’ve had on campus where I haven’t felt like I have people to reach out to when I need guidance, support, or even just someone to eat dinner with. A large part of being a Goodnight Scholar also means recognizing opportunities to better yourself and your community and reaching out for those chances, even if they’re out of your comfort zone. Many Goodnight Scholars are involved in service such as Shack-A-Thon, Habitat for Humanity, the LEGO Brick Build, Service Raleigh, Packapalooza, and many other volunteering events. Whether they’re on the committee or board for these events, or have just signed up to volunteer, Goodnight Scholars recognize these opportunities as a chance to develop planning and organizational skills, team-building, and cooperation with others. Goodnight Scholars also love the opportunity to lend a hand and help the community in any way! All of these wonderful qualities can be found in each of my fellow Goodnight Scholars, and they constantly inspire me to try harder and be the best version of myself even when I don’t always believe I can. To me, these are just some of things that I think of when I’m asked what it means to be a Goodnight Scholar.

Do you have an unforgettable memory from your time in the Program thus far?

One of my most unforgettable memories as a Goodnight Scholar so far was this past year’s Goodnight Graduation Gala at Reynolds Coliseum. Getting dressed up to have a lovely dinner with friends always promises to be a good time, but nothing quite prepared me for the Grad Gala. The reception was wonderful because I got to see and meet a lot of scholars that aren’t in my cohort or classes. Getting to goof around with them and catch up was so much fun. At dinner, I got to sit with several faculty and staff and Goodnight Scholars I hadn’t met before. I loved learning more about their work and goals and how they contribute to the amazing community that NC State has. The actually ceremony was my favorite part though. Throughout the year, I had the pleasure of meeting older scholars at all sorts of programming and events. For the most part, this meant joking around and having fun at whatever event we were at. As a result, I didn’t know very much about all of their accomplishments, work, goals, and dreams as students and people. Listening to the professional staff introduce each one of their feats and goals was, in some cases quite literally, jaw-dropping. Knowing about the work and experiences of scholars in my cohort, I already knew that I was surrounded by incredible people. People gifted in academics, empathy, service, and hard work. But listening to every amazing thing that the graduating class was able to accomplish in just their time at NC State was flooring. It not only renewed a sense of determination to be my best self and pay it forward, it gave me hope that I will also be able to make an impact on the community around me in my time at NC State and as a Goodnight Scholar. I don’t have to wait until graduation to start working towards my goals. My future starts when I want it to, and it’s started now. I’ll never forget how amazed, proud, and awestruck I felt, and I was lucky to get to celebrate their achievements with them.

What is one experience you need to have at NC State before you graduate?

Before I graduate I would love to have an internship in the engineering industry. I know that many large companies, such as Biogen, Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, Novo Nordisk, and Pfizer all hire NC State students for internships in their offices and factories. As someone who is leaning more towards professional school, I feel like it is crucial for me to gain actual industry experience before I decide I want to go to medical school. In this regard, I definitely believe in “How will you know if you don’t try?” I think that NC State is the best place to be in this position, so I’m looking forward to attending the Engineering Career Fair and putting myself out there! One other thing I have to do before I graduate is get the Chancellor’s pin. Seeing as how Chancellor Woodson is at many Goodnight and NC State events, I have convinced myself that this is an attainable goal, so I’m going to be keeping an eye out for him for the next three years in hopes that one day I’ll up the nerve to compliment his pin and be victorious.

Where do you picture yourself after graduation?

After graduation, I picture myself attending medical or physician’s assistant school before joining Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders and traveling to Francophone Africa or the Caribbean. I’m also considering working in research and development in the biomaterials concentration of biomedical engineering so that I can help develop new medical technologies that can help with transplants for heart and other organ diseases as well as fighting cancer. If I don’t go to professional school, I would like to use my problem-solving skills as an engineer to develop less expensive medical alternatives so that healthcare is less expensive and more accessible for everyone worldwide. If I do attend professional school and travel, upon returning, I would like to work as a hospital physician in Boston or on the West Coast. Eventually, I would love to work for the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland to help write policy that will ameliorate obstacles to healthcare accessibility in developing countries.

Photography credit: Jason Perry/Goodnight Scholars Program

This post was originally published in Goodnight Scholars Program.