Christopher Gremillion ’15: Helping transfer students succeed

Christopher Gremillion (photo by Kristen Chavez)
Christopher Gremillion (photo by Kristen Chavez)

Christopher Gremillion offers this piece of advice for transfer students: Try stuff.

Gremillion, a 33-year-old Carolina senior, entered UNC in fall 2013 as part of the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP) at Craven Community College. His wife, Terri, and 12-year-old daughter, Bodhi, have cheered for him every step of the way. Bodhi has accompanied her dad to FallFest, Week of Welcome and sporting events.

“I came here with two pieces of Carolina gear — a hat my daughter gave me for Father’s Day and a C-STEP shirt. And now I probably have 35 shirts and hats, lanyards, key chains, bottles, stickers and so many buttons,” he said, pointing to the colorful badges pinned to his backpack. “You get all of this from trying things. Be involved in something.”

Gremillion, a biology major and first-generation college student in the College of Arts and Sciences, has certainly taken his own advice to heart.

Gremillion has been a member of the C-STEP Leadership Group, the Transfer Student Success Committee, the Undergraduate Bulletin Committee and the Advising Peer Focus Group. He has served as a C-STEP peer mentor and UNC student orientation leader and was a speaker at the 2014 C-STEP kickoff event. At Craven Community College, he won the Dean’s Excellence Award for Campus Service — twice.

“One of my favorite experiences at Carolina was bumping into students for whom I had been their summer orientation leader and then seeing them succeed,” he said.

Growing up as part of a military family, Gremillion “lived all over the place” but spent his teen years in Havelock, N.C. He said in high school he was never really pushed to be a good student. He worked various odd jobs after graduation, including a number of years at a home improvement store. He met his future wife there, and her educational pursuits took them to London for a few years so she could finish her doctorate degree.

Gremillion worked in a pharmacy while living in London and entered Carolina with the goal of applying to pharmacy school. But he started having doubts after his first semester at UNC.

“While I was in England, it was never really the behind-the-counter aspect that I liked. It was when the pharmacists came out to talk to customers and ask, ‘How are things going?’” Gremillion said.

He realized his true passion was in student affairs, helping other transfer students like himself. He has been accepted into Appalachian State University’s master’s in higher education program, where he will pursue a concentration in community college and university leadership. His family will stay behind in the Chapel Hill area, supporting him from afar.

“Chris has managed to juggle all of his academic and family commitments while giving back to campus,” said Kim Nelson, senior academic adviser for fine arts and humanities. “He is a shining example of the Carolina Way. We are most certainly a better institution because he choose to attend Carolina.”

As he prepares to graduate, Gremillion offered parting tips for transfer students:

  • “Connect with all the students around you in class. You never know who will be able to help you and who you will be able to help.”
  • “Live on or near campus if possible.”
  • “Take time to just be. Don’t let everything while you’re at Carolina pass you by. It’s such a vibrant campus with beautiful people.”
  • “Realize that professors are instilling in you the ability to take material and dissect it and come up with new ideas about it. You might discover the next miracle drug.”

By Kim Weaver Spurr