BOONE, N.C. — Once he arrived at Appalachian State University, alumnus DeJon Milbourne ’20 was able to find himself and explore his identity in ways he had not, he said. As he became more involved on campus, he began to view App State, his “dream place,” as more of a vision, he said — one he could help shape as a Black student leader.
Milbourne, of Fayetteville, led his peers as student body president for two consecutive terms and represented students as a voting member of App State’s Board of Trustees. He was also vice president of operations for the Alpha Alpha Rho Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma and a member of App State Chancellor Sheri Everts’ Student Advisory Board for Diversity Recruitment, which is co-advised by the Division of Enrollment Management, the Chancellor’s Office and App State Chief Diversity Officer Willie Fleming ’80 ’84.
Milbourne earned his Bachelor of Science in business administration (BSBA) in accounting and BSBA in risk management and insurance from App State in August 2020. In September 2020, he began working as an assurance associate at the Charlotte office of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an international professional services firm.
Of his App State Experience, Milbourne said “App State taught me that even though this world has many issues, there are still opportunities for people like myself to lead change in our world. I got a real-world experience that will prepare me to navigate the systems in this country effectively to positively impact those around me. I was provided the resources to get a job and start my career. I was also able to meet a lot of really good people who truly care about this world and the people in it.”
Shaped by scholarships
Milbourne was the recipient of two signature scholarships that he said shaped his App State Experience.
He was among the first four recipients of the full-tuition Dr. Willie C. Fleming Scholarship to graduate from the university and an ACCESS Scholar. ACCESS — the Appalachian Commitment to a College Education for Student Success Scholarship Program — is a comprehensive program of academic and personal support that ensures first-year students from low-income families in North Carolina can attend App State debt free.
Milbourne said the Fleming Scholarship, named in honor of App State’s chief diversity officer, provided “an opportunity to connect with Black alumni and prospective App State students — an experience that allowed me to give back in a small way to our university by representing what App State has to offer incoming students.
“Being an ACCESS Scholar, I was instantly immersed in a community of scholars from similar backgrounds as myself. I learned how to get involved, how to balance that involvement with academics and also how to balance those important things with my spiritual, mental and physical health,” Milbourne said. “The ACCESS program also helped with incidental expenses; when I needed my first pair of new dress shoes for job interviews, they were there for me.”
Learning to lead, listening to learn
When Milbourne arrived at App State, he quickly became involved on campus because of student leaders he met through the L.E.A.D. program (now known as the ASCEND program) and the Student Government Association (SGA).
“Seeing the SGA president and vice president — who happened to identify as African American males like me — in their leadership positions and watching what they were able to do for students really changed how I viewed the rest of my time at App State,” Milbourne said.
When he assumed office as SGA president — a role he held during the 2018–19 and 2019–20 academic years — Milbourne and his cabinet advocated for diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus, as well as wellness and prevention services and campus safety.
During his second SGA presidential term, Milbourne said he was able to expand upon his work as a student leader by continuing to advocate for student-led goals and initiatives, as well as educating his peers on how they can add their own diverse perspectives to campus life.
This advocacy, Milbourne said, didn’t stop at App State but continued throughout the state. “I was able to travel to other schools in the University of North Carolina System to talk about the issues we were all facing across the state. It allowed me to see that many UNC System schools — in fact, many schools across the nation — are facing similar issues to what we desired to address.”
“I cannot tell you what the rest of my story will hold or how long it will be, but I can tell you that it will be one that is filled with advocating for this world to be a place where we can all have an equitable opportunity to live a peaceful and fulfilling life,” Milbourne said.
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About the Dr. Willie C. Fleming Scholarship
The Dr. Willie C. Fleming Scholarship is designed to support students from underrepresented populations, with selection based on their desire to promote cultural diversity. In addition to covering full in-state tuition and fees, the renewable scholarship provides mentorship by alumni, the opportunity to participate in inclusivity-focused events, and networking and team building within each cohort of recipients. It was established to honor Dr. Willie C. Fleming ’80 ’84, who founded the Appalachian Gospel Choir and the Black Student Association, was a founding member of the Black Faculty and Staff Association and was also instrumental in bringing black Greek life to the university. Learn more
About the Walker College of Business
The Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University delivers transformational educational experiences that prepare and inspire students to be ethical, innovative and engaged business leaders who positively impact our community, both locally and globally. The college places emphasis on international experiences, sustainable business practices, entrepreneurial programs and real-world applications with industry. Enrolling approximately 3,000 undergraduates in 10 majors and 175 graduate students in three master's programs, the Walker College is accredited by AACSB International – the premier global accrediting body for schools of business. Learn more at https://business.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.