BOONE, N.C. — Scholarships paved the way for senior Karolyn Martin, of Whispering Pines, to thrive and pursue new opportunities at Appalachian State University.
Martin, an Honors College student majoring in communication studies with a marketing minor, expects to graduate in May — almost debt-free.
Upon acceptance to App State, Martin was awarded the Diversity Scholars Program Scholarship and the Whitney Elizabeth Hunter Memorial Scholarship for Honors Students, a program established in memory of former Honors College student Whitney Hunter. Scholarships Martin earned as a competitor in the Miss America Organization have further supported her educational costs.
The App State scholarships determined her decision to become a Mountaineer, Martin said. “My parents both earned advanced degrees and were paying off their loans into their 50s — something I knew I didn’t want to happen to me. When I was offered the scholarships to attend App State, my decision was made,” she said.
Martin had the opportunity to meet Joe Hunter — father of Whitney and the benefactor of his daughter’s memorial scholarship — and his wife, Nancy. Joe shared memories of his daughter with Martin, she said.
“The scholarship is special to me because I’ve been involved in theater, student government and the Honors College — things Whitney was also invested in. I’m grateful to be part of her legacy,” Martin said.
In her time at App State, Martin has discovered new interests, mentored and educated others and developed skills that will help her in building her career. Some of her activities and accomplishments include:
- Serving as a senator in App State’s Student Government Association (SGA) during her first and second years.
- Campaigning for student body vice president with SGA during her sophomore year.
- Building relationships with incoming App State students as a volunteer with Appalachian Orientation Leader Corps (Appol Corps) — a role she has served in since her sophomore year.
- Publishing a cookbook, “The Self Kare Kitchen: Dorm Meals for the Healthy College Student,” which promotes positive wellness and nourishing habits.
- Competing in the Miss America Organization, placing second runner-up in the Miss North Carolina Scholarship Competition in summer 2021. Martin also received the Quality of Life Award at the competition for her community service.
Finding her voice for wellness
Music and theater have been lifelong passions of Martin’s. She has shared her vocal talent through several venues — at an App State men’s basketball game, where she sang the national anthem, on stage in theater productions and in competitions.
She has also found her voice as a role model, speaking to groups of K–12 students across the state as a representative of the Miss America Organization to promote body positivity and wellness.
“I struggled with my body image as a young girl,” Martin admitted. “But I was also an athlete and learned about the importance of nutrition and how to fuel my body to be its best.”
Martin added academic focus to her social initiative work in her Honors College thesis, studying the effects of social media and marketing on eating habits and body image.
The support she has received from faculty in App State’s Honors College helped her develop the confidence to speak out to others, Martin said. She recalled advice from Dr. Jefford Vahlbusch — dean of the Honors College and professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures — delivered during the Honors College convocation ceremony her first week at App State.
“He told us to introduce ourselves to at least one faculty member that week, so they could get to know us,” Martin said. She heeded the advice and introduced herself to Vahlbusch later that day. “We’ve had a wonderful relationship ever since,” she said, citing how he has advised and encouraged her over the years.
Martin said she believes the community she has found on App State’s campus has set her up for success. “I have been supported by people who care about me, not only as a student but as a person outside of the university,” she said.
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About the Department of Communication
One of seven departments housed in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the Department of Communication at Appalachian State University focuses on preparing students to succeed in the varied fields within the communication industry. The department offers five majors – advertising, communication studies, electronic media/broadcasting, journalism and public relations – and a minor in communication studies. Graduates work in a wide range of positions in media, corporate, agency, government and nonprofit organizations. Learn more at https://communication.appstate.edu.
About the College of Fine and Applied Arts
Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theatre and Dance. Learn more at https://faa.appstate.edu.
About the Honors College
More than 500 students are enrolled in Appalachian State University's Honors College, which serves a diverse group of high-achieving, high-potential, highly motivated students from all majors. The Honors College helps students develop independent and creative thinking and high-level research skills; promotes interdisciplinary inquiry; and nurtures cultured and caring exchanges of ideas. The college’s enhanced academic experience prepares students for success in graduate or professional school and for leadership roles in their lives, communities and careers. Learn more at https://honors.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.