Recent Graduates advancing in their fields and communities

Categories: General News Tags: Alumni

UNC Charlotte’s graduates of the last decade are advancing in their fields and communities. Ten outstanding alumni were recognized recently at the sixth annual 10 Under Ten Awards ceremony sponsored by the UNC Charlotte GOLD Alumni Network in a ceremony held in the Popp Martin Student Union.

The 10 Under Ten Awards recognize alumni who have graduated within the past 10 years and who are succeeding in their professional lives and are actively involved in community volunteerism and philanthropy. This year’s honorees are:

Kim Baker ’17 is a seasoned communications and marketing professional with experience in communications, social media, nonprofit fundraising and event planning. She currently serves as marketing chair for the Hospitality House of Charlotte Young Professionals Board and is a member of the College of Humanities and Earth & Social Sciences Alumni Council. Baker earned a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, in communication studies and recently completed the Applied Business Science course with a concentration in digital marketing certification from UNC Charlotte’s School of Professional Studies.

Curtis Bobray 13, a senior disability services counselor at Central Piedmont Community College, has helped hundreds of students obtain equitable access, keeping their independence while maintaining their dignity. He published a gratitude journal, “Finding Peace,” available on Amazon and created “The Spark: A Relationship Brand,” with his wife, Jowette ’13. Bobray serves on UNC Charlotte’s Black Alumni Chapter Board of Directors and is involved with Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. He completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University; his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy is from Capella University.

Nancy Bullard 14 M.Ed. is a K-5 science lab teacher at Huntingtowne Farms Elementary school in Charlotte, NC. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she created Instagram and TikTok accounts called “Mrs. B TV” to creatively engage her students. TikTok named her as one of the “100 Most Prolific Female Creators” in March 2021, and she was featured as the cover story in Charlotte Magazine’s December 2022 “Charlotteans of the Year” issue. Bullard’s videos have been featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show, E! News, Lad Bible and more and have reached millions of people around the world. She has won Teacher of the Year, the CATO Award for Excellence in Science Teaching, the Piedmont Natural Gas STEM Superstar Award and was a finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. Bullard’s bachelor’s in education is from Wake Forest University, and her master’s degree in education is from the Cato College of Education.

Emily Francis 10, 12, 13 M.Ed. is a nationally recognized English as a Second Language teacher at Concord High School in Concord, NC. Originally from Guatemala, she is a native Spanish-speaker. Francis serves as a professional development facilitator, motivational speaker and keynote and served as teacher liaison to the Cabarrus County Board of Education as Teacher of the Year 2016. She is the author of If You Only Knew: Letters from an Immigrant Teacher and serves the UNC Charlotte Cato College of Education’s Advisory Board. Francis completed a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the College of Humanities and Earth & Social Sciences, a gradate certificate in teaching and a master’s degree in education from the Cato College of Education.

Alex Highsmith 20 was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. He has recorded 148 solo tackles, 29 and a half sacks, eight forced fumbles and three interceptions during the past four seasons with the Steelers. In 2020, he established the Alex Highsmith Family Foundation to support youth programming in physical fitness, nutrition, athletics, academics, social and emotional services and family involvement. In 2023, Highsmith hosted the third annual youth football camp in Wilmington, NC, and his first-ever charity golf tournament with all proceeds benefiting his foundation. Last fall, he was selected as an honorary football captain in recognition of his on field contributions to the 49ers football program. HIghsmith earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the College of Health and Human Services

Hannah Javidi 18 is a scholar, psychologist, educator, advocate and engaged community member working in adolescent sexual health promotion. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University’s School of Public Health, where she is continuing Ph.D. research aimed at developing and implementing effective intervention strategies to ultimately enhance adolescents’ sexual health and quality of life. Javidi’s passion is sexual consent education and working to reduce sexual violence on a broad scale, specifically among LGBTQ+ youth, and recently received a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to support her work in this area. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish from the College of Humanities and Earth & Social Sciences and a Ph.D. in applied social and community psychology from N.C. State University.

Walker Mehl ’15 is a prominent radio host in the Charlotte market. He began his on-air journey with ESPN 730, where he was an intern starting with his junior year. Mehl’s time with the ESPN affiliate spanned nearly seven years. In November 2022, he launched a new midday show on WFNZ, Charlotte’s premier sports station, cementing his position as a trusted voice in the local sports scene. Mehl has been the face and voice behind the “Locked On Hornets” podcast since 2018, giving fans in-depth coverage of the Charlotte Hornets. He completed a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from the College of Humanities and Earth and Social Sciences.

Michelle Boone Pass 20 Ph.D. is an associate teaching professor and director of undergraduate programs in the Department of Biological Sciences at UNC Charlotte. She is the co-founder and co-instructor for the Education in Charlotte and Lagos Program, which represents the first global learning course in the Department of Biological Sciences. The program provides a collaborative research experience and cultural exchange for students in biological sciences at UNC Charlotte and students in medical microbiology at the University of Lagos in Nigeria. Pass is the faculty advisor for the Black Students in Science organization and serves as advisor to Biology Graduate Student Outreach, connecting graduate biology students with area high school students to provide hands-on laboratory experiences. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from N.C. State University, a master’s degree in biological sciences from North Carolina A&T State University and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in urban education from the Cato College of Education.

Deep Patel 19 began his career as a corporate and investment bank risk associate with Wells Fargo in New York City, and since 2021, he has served as an equity finance sales analyst with the bank. Even amidst the demands of beginning a career on Wall Street while studying for, and successfully obtaining, his Series 63 and Series 7 trading licenses, he has made giving back a priority. In 2021, Patel established a scholarship, supporting students who demonstrate financial need in the Belk College of Business. He completed a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Belk College of Buisness.

Steven Serio 15 is a vice president in the CFO group at Bank of America helping to drive operational excellence through providing cost transparency in processes performed by the bank. He also serves on the leadership team for the Bank of America Alumni Network helping to connect the more than 2,000 UNC Charlotte alumni at the firm with each other and the University. Serio has been a member of the Belk College of Business Alumni Council since 2018 and actively recruits students to join the bank’s finance management program. He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Belk College of Business.

Photo: Left to right are Steven Serio, Nancy Bullard, Hannah Javidi, Emily Francis, Walker Mehl, Michelle Boone Pass, Kim Baker and Curtis Bobray.