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Alumna Returns to Tout Small School Experience

Alumna Returns to Tout Small School Experience

Our most recent “Saints Off the Hill” speaker, Saraah Cardwell ’17, loved her college experience so much that she was excited to return to Canterbury and tell us all about it.

And it is no wonder she looks back fondly on her college days. Saraah’s alma mater, North Carolina A&T—one of 107 institutions identified by the U.S. Department of Education as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)—reminded her in many ways of her time as a Saint.

“I really loved it at Canterbury,” she told the students, faculty, and staff gathered in Maguire Auditorium. “I realized that a lot of the things I experienced here also applied to my HBCU, and I found that extremely helpful.”

After sharing a brief description and history of HBCUs, Saraah spoke of the five reasons North Carolina A&T was so advantageous to her—personalized attention, opportunities for leadership and involvement, diversity and inclusion, preparedness for careers, and a strong alumni network. She graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies.

“Personalized attention is just another way of saying ‘small classrooms,’ which is similar to what you have here at Canterbury,” she told students. “You can interact more with your fellow classmates, and that definitely helps. It was important to cultivate those relationships as well as those with the A&T professors—similar to what you do here with your teachers. You get to know them on a personal level. They get to know your work ethic and who you are as a person.”

Saraah also touted the opportunities for leadership and involvement at A&T. “Many campus organizations have mandatory community service hours,” she said. “I have been involved in food banks, a Trunk or Treat at a local elementary school, and a program where students of immigrants come to A&T after school. We would help them with tutoring and anything they needed for a few hours to get them around people who looked like them. HBCUs love leadership. Once you get there, they make sure you know how to step up when you need to.” 

She also described how her college was very diverse and inclusive: “There are a lot of clubs and organizations, so there is a place for you. They have work fairs twice a semester where you can meet people who represent your interests and find your family at the school.” 

Most important of all to Saraah was how North Carolina A&T offered strong career preparation for its students. “They drill it into you here as soon as you step on campus. There is a Career Fair once or twice a semester,” she recalled. “The Career Center offers résumé checks and Personal Statement checks. Someone is always looking out for you.” 

And she stressed how important the faculty was to that process. “Many professors there are at the top of their industry, so if you have a good relationship with them and they trust you, they will put your name out there or, if they know someone, may even get you a job!” 

Plus, A&T’s strong alumni network is a significant advantage for students, and that network extends to other HBCU graduates as well. “Similar to Canterbury, people love where they graduated from,” she shared. “When you earn your degree—regardless of whether or not you went to the same HBCU—alumni will see it and go out of their way to make sure you are comfortable, prepared, and get whatever you need for whatever career path you are on.”