Q&A with NCSSM Alumni Award winners: Tricia Seitzer Garland, Akhil Jariwala, and Marshall Massengill (Part 1)

2020 NCSSM Alumni Award recipients (L-R): Tricia Seitzer Garland ’10, Akhil Jariwala ’10, and Marshall Massengill ’05

In the words of Elizabeth Moose, Dean and Instructor of Humanities, spoken during Alumni Weekend 2020: it is the alumni out there making contributions to the world — working to make it a better place — who are really the ones fulfilling the vision of what NCSSM was founded to do.   The Alumni Awards recognize NCSSM alumni for their service to the NCSSM community and beyond. The 2020 recipients were announced during our virtual Alumni Weekend in October 2020. Here is your chance to get to know three of these outstanding alumni.

Tricia Seitzer Garland ’10

Award: The Maius Opus Moveo “Accept the Greater Challenge” Young Alumni Award   Hometown: Oxford, N.C. BSBA, UNC Kenan-Flagler, 2014   What are you up to these days? I lead Blue Cross NC’s Business Development team. In this role I am focused on creating partnerships for Blue Cross that will help move the needle on lowering cost and improving quality of care. I am passionate about finding ways to improve our health system and have been focused on this work since graduating college.   On volunteering and giving back to NCSSM: I feel I owe everything I have accomplished to NCSSM. NCSSM gave me the education foundation that ensured academics wouldn’t hold me back from different majors or career paths in college. This education really opened all the doors for me to then choose which one I wanted to go through.    On serving as a class Reunion Chair: I will always be grateful to the school, so when I was told there was a need for help with Alumni Weekend, I was happy to do it. I was nervous about taking the role on but had amazing Reunion Chair partners in Akhil [Jariwala ’10] and Hetali [Lodaya ‘10]. It was great to reconnect with them as well as so many other folks from our class.   Is there a memory that, when you think of NCSSM, frequently comes to mind? Discussing literature in Dr. Martha Regalis’s classes. That was my happy place. I am pretty certain I made sure to have a class with her every trimester.   What would you tell your 16- (or 18-)year-old self, if you could?   You actually have no interest in becoming a doctor.  

Akhil Jariwala ’10

Award: The Chancellor’s Award for Exemplary Service   Hometown: Raleigh, N.C. B.S., Business Administration, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2014 M.B.A., Stanford, 2020   What are you up to these days? I am a product manager at Google, building cloud technology tools that make it easy for anyone to build their own apps. The cloud market is reshaping the way businesses work in the time of COVID, and at Google, I get to be at the forefront of that transformation. I’m still a Noogler (read: New Googler) and I’m staying hopeful that someday I’ll get to meet one of my coworkers in person or ride one of those famous Google buses!   On volunteering and giving back to NCSSM: I first discovered the Conrad Challenge, an entrepreneurship competition for high school students, when I was a senior at NCSSM. Two classmates and I were eager to do something about climate change, so we created a piezoelectric wave energy device. The experience altered the trajectory of my life: it was then that I uncovered my passion for tinkering, which I now get to do professionally every day. For the past three years, I’ve served on the Conrad Challenge board, teaching high schoolers around the world (including many NCSSMers!) lessons in entrepreneurship, courage, and leadership.   On serving as a class Reunion Chair: My NCSSM classmates are among my closest friends, even to this day. They picked me up when I failed, helped me find home away from home, and pushed me to do the hard things because they knew I could. I decided to serve as a Reunion Chair for our 10-year reunion because I was so eager to reconnect with everyone and see where life had taken each of us. I was so pleasantly surprised to see during Alumni Weekend how fast old friendships became familiar again.   Is there a memory that, when you think of NCSSM, frequently comes to mind? My senior year Mini-Term, my hallmates and I set up cameras in our class lounge and spent the week using Tracker lab software to calculate DVAT [position-velocity-acceleration-time] on ping pong shots. I’m not sure I’ve done anything quite that geeky ever since, though I did improve my table tennis game leaps and bounds.   What would you tell your 16- (or 18-)year-old self, if you could?   Your roommates will end up becoming your best friends! Also, put those white tube socks into a bin and bury them away forever.  

Marshall Massengill ’05

Award: The Chancellor’s Award for Exemplary Service   Hometown: Johnston County, N.C. B.S., Computer Engineering, NC State University, 2010   What are you up to these days? Professionally, I work for VMware as a senior consultant in their professional services group, providing integration and support for a lot of different Fortune 100 companies. I’m also a CTO Ambassador for VMware and get to act as a customer advocate and educator for our internal teams — education is a passion of mine, so I’m thrilled to be in the CTOA program at VMware. If anything inspires me, it’s empathy for my customers — be they an international nonprofit struggling to track tigers across borders or a pharmaceutical company that’s making a much needed vaccine. Empathy and understanding of their problems help me deliver outcomes for them.   On volunteering and giving back to NCSSM: The Zebracorns is outwardly a FIRST Robotics Competition team but not-so-secretly, we’re an R&D lab for robotics, mechatronics, and programming. I am sometimes referred to as the lead mentor for the team but I don’t see it that way — there are about five of us that are “full-time” mentors for the team and spend every free minute we have doing something to further the program, engage with students, and organize team logistics.  Among the coolest stuff that I get to do is assist students to write and publish whitepapers, and present at professional conferences. I also help with managing a lot of the relationships the team has with our sponsors and companies we are partnering with — that’s a lot of fun too. The Zebracorns is really a gateway organization to bring these groups into the world of NCSSM and expose NCSSM students to them.   Is there a memory that, when you think of NCSSM, frequently comes to mind? There are so many. From the shenanigans with my friends from my hall in Hunt dorm at the school, to personal relationships that I developed, and then all of the professors and teachers that left their mark on me. I’d say the memories that stick out the most involve Dr. Chuck Britton and the old robotics lab, and I’m glad to keep that experience alive for new students with the Mechatronics Lab at the school, albeit a bit more organized.    What would you tell your 16- (or 18-)year-old self, if you could?   Ohh, I love this question. If I had the capacity to do it, I’d tell the 16-year-old me that it’s all going to be OK and not to be so stressed out and anxious. I think, like any person, I’ve got regrets and memories that I look back on and would love to redo, but the culmination of my experiences has led me to where I am now, and I’m happy with how things have turned out for me — though I do wish I had been less stressed out about my future back then.

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