The Levine Scholarship Experience: A Story of Becoming - Megan Bird ‘21

Friday, March 12, 2021

As May approaches, signalling the end of my undergraduate studies as a Levine Scholar at UNC Charlotte, I am simultaneously struck by overwhelming gratitude for my experience here as well as my responsibility for the gift I have been given. I initially accepted the Levine Scholarship because I anticipated that it would allow me to curate my ideal undergraduate experience and try my hand at nearly everything that sparked my interest. This could not have been more true. 

Taking this circuitous route, I learned that this exploration itself introduced and unlocked doors that I didn’t know existed when I began this journey. I have discovered my passion and real opportunity where data science meets political theory. Furthermore, because the scholarship funded summer experiences, I also had the privilege of choosing internships not for their salaries but for their ethical impacts and intellectual environments. This led me to places like Providence, RI, where I had the great fortune of assisting Dr. Corey Brettschneider in his research, spending my days annotating Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous opinions or combing through the Rockefeller Commission Report. It also brought me to both the courtroom and the newsroom as I explored my nascent interests in criminal justice and journalism, working for two defense firms and three news organizations over the past four years. Perhaps most valuable, though, were the close relationships that I formed with professors. The Levine Program provided me with a supportive network through which I was able to land research positions and teaching assistantships that deepened my interests in both statistical analysis and political theory and extended my education far beyond the classroom. Additionally, I was able to realize Leon and Sandra Levine’s vision of civic engagement and begin to pay their generosity forward by partnering with my classmates to develop life-skills workshops for incarcerated youth and working with a grassroots organization to provide vital supplies to houseless Charlotte residents. These community experiences and many others have been invaluable to me and, I hope, to those with whom I have worked. 

Simply put, the Levine Scholarship freed me from the many practical challenges of being a student and enabled me to focus on becoming a better scholar, a better community member and hopefully a better person. The opportunities afforded to me by the Levine Scholarship are not confined by the four years of college, however. As of today, many respectable law schools have admitted me and several have made offers of much needed financial assistance. This is no small part due to the Levine–specifically the mentorship, reputation, and programmatic support that the scholarship provided. All I can hope for now is to pay forward the Levines’ generosity and embody the program’s spirit of civic engagement by pursuing a career in public interest law. 

To be a Levine Scholar is an enviable distinction, and one that I could not recommend more highly. As grandiose as it might sound, it has changed my life trajectory, and given me the invaluable opportunity to strive to become and not simply fight to be.